Captain Marvel

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 6/11/19;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $425.98 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language.
Stars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg.

The 21st film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, is the most entertaining backstory for a pager you’re likely to see.

First and foremost, the film answers the question of who Nick Fury was contacting in the post-credits sequence of Avengers: Infinity War as half of all life in the universe was turning to dust as a result of Thanos’ snap. And in doing so, it provides the introduction of a key hero who would otherwise be considered little more than a deus ex machina in Avengers: Endgame.

The film serves as a prequel for the rest of the MCU (aside from the World War II setting of Captain America: The First Avenger), and its 1995 setting is a big indicator of what direction the humor and soundtrack are going to go.

It starts off as something of a space opera, shades of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” focused an alien task force that includes the warrior Vers (Brie Larson). The team is helping the Kree Empire (the blue aliens seen in other MCU movies and the TV series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) fight a war against the shape-shifting Skrulls.

When a mission goes awry and Vers finds herself captured by the Skrulls, she escapes to Earth, where the Skrulls are searching for a mysterious power source.

After encountering S.H.I.E.L.D., she learns she is really Carol Danvers, a human test pilot believed killed several years before in a crash that in actuality was an attack that left her with superpowers and no memory of her previous self.

Carol’s abilities in the film have been frequently compared with a hero from” rival DC Comics: Superman, which is interesting considering that Danvers” is also the last name of Supergirl’s human alter ego. She also wouldn’t even be the first Captain Marvel to be compared with Superman — that would be the Fawcett Comics Captain Marvel from the 1940s that was eventually acquired by DC Comics and renamed Shazam to avoid confusion with the Marvel Comics version of the character. (That the Shazam! movie would finally hit screens just a month after Captain Marvel is one of cinema’s great coincidences.)

Captain Marvel attempts to fiddle with the tropes of the superhero origin story by using a flashback mystery structure, which is a nice exercise in technique even if Vers’ true identity will only be a mystery to anyone who hasn’t seen the film’s trailers beforehand or has any passing familiarity with her comic book history (or has already seen the movie, of course). There are other surprises to be had and some subversion of expectations, which balances it all out.

It’s a perfectly entertaining adventure that doesn’t rise beyond more than mid-level Marvel at best (which in the greater scheme of things is still pretty good). It has fun filling in some pieces of the larger Marvel franchise, though it could use a lesson in subtlety.

The film is at its strongest when it involves Carol on her mission, be it as part of the Kree Starforce, or paired with the younger version of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, effectively de-aged by the magic of computers) in a kind of buddy cop movie.

The film is ultimately a piece of bright, cheery fun that will light up HD TV screens with warm colors and the kind of razzle-dazzle we’ve come to expect from Marvel’s cosmic adventures.

This was also the first MCU movie released after the death of Marvel legend Stan Lee, and contains one of his best cameos in the franchise, calling back to what he was actually up to in 1995. That’s in addition to the touching opening tribute that presents the Marvel Studios logo with video from his various cameos over the years.

These are the only tributes to Stan Lee on the Blu-ray, though, as there isn’t a separate bonus feature devoted to it, aside from a mention in the commentary track from co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.

Otherwise, the commentary is a fairly typical back-and-forth in which they discuss various behind-the-scenes challenges, story points and their enjoyment of working with certain actors.

The movie also comes with an optional two-minute introduction by the directors.

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The Blu-ray includes a two-minute gag reel, nine minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, and six behind-the-scenes featurettes that total about 24 minutes of viewing time.

The seven-minute “Becoming a Super Hero” and three-and-a-half-minute “Big Hero Moment” deal with Larson taking on the role and the significance of having a superhero movie fronted by a female lead, while “The Dream Team” is a three-minute video about the directors.

“The Skrulls and the Kree” offers a three-and-a-half-minute primer on the primary conflict of the film.

The three-and-a-half-minute “The Origin of Nick Fury” gets MCU stars from other movies to discuss his character’s appearance over the years.

Finally, there’s “Hiss-sterical Cat-titude,” a tongue-in-cheek three-and-a-half-minute propaganda video about the cat named Goose that serves a central role in the story.

The digital copy of the film includes a seven-minute visual effects featurette, and a five-minute exploration about crafting an action scene for a Marvel movie. There are also galleries of set photos and concept art.

Vudu has an additional digital exclusive, a three-minute vignette called “Her Story,” which seems like a promotional piece cobbled together from video used in the other featurettes.

Director Flies Classic ‘The Seagull’ With Star Power

Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss and Brian Dennehy are a just a few of the top actors that Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer was able to assemble for the latest film adaptation of the Anton Chekhov Russian classic The Seagull.

The film is available on DVD and digital from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“Annette literally made the film happen because it was her signing on that made the project attractive to the other actors,” Mayer said. “Also, I asked Annette to do it, and then Stephen Karam could write with her voice in his head.”

Tony-winning playwright Karam adapted the film from Chekhov’s play about the obsessive nature of love, the tangled relationships between parents and children, and the toll of making art.

“We had an idea to do a contemporary feeling film,” Mayer said.

It was a hectic shooting schedule of just 21 days, so “it was helpful to have so many theater actors in these roles,” he said.

Ronan, recently nominated for an Oscar for her lead performance in Lady Bird, also signed on.

“Saoirse did an early reading of the screenplay, and she was incredible,” Mayer said. “I loved working with her. She brings great truth and bravery to her work.”

Moss, currently starring in the award-winning “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “was fantastic to watch and direct,” he said, while Dennehy “is a living legend and gave so much of himself.”

“The whole company was a joy to work with,” he said. “It was fast and furious and great fun.”

Corey Stoll, Mare Winningham, Jon Tenney, Glenn Fleshler, Michael Zegen and Billy Howle also star.

Another character in the film was the setting, a house on a lake that reflected the play’s Russian roots.

“It’s a house on a lake in upstate New York that is owned and operated by Russian Americans,” Mayer noted. “Our production designer, Jane Musky, who is of Russian descent, spent summers at the house when she was a young girl and remembered it when we went scouting.”

Bonus features include the Tribeca Film Festival cast and crew red carpet and a Q&A with Mayer and Bening.

‘The Seagull’ Coming on DVD, Digital Sept. 25 From Sony

The Seagull, starring Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan, will come out on DVD and digital Sept. 25 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Based on the play by Russian author Anton Chekhov, The Seagull is brought to the screen by Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer and Tony Award-winning screenwriter Stephen Karam.

One summer at a lakeside Russian estate, friends and family gather for a weekend in the countryside. While everyone is caught up in passionately loving someone who loves somebody else, a tragicomedy unfolds about art, fame, human folly and the eternal desire to live a purposeful life.

In addition to Bening and Ronan, the film stars Corey Stoll (“House of Cards”), Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Mare Winningham (Georgia), Jon Tenney (“Scandal”), Glenn Fleshler (“Barry”), Michael Zegen (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Billy Howle (Dunkirk) and Brian Dennehy (“Death of a Salesman”).

Special features include cast and crew red carpet interviews and a post-screening Q&A from the Tribeca Film Festival with director Michael Mayer, Bening, Ronan, Stoll, Winningham, Tenney, Fleshler, Zegen, Howle, Dennehy and Karam as well as a City Cinemas Q&A with Mayer and Bening.

Talent Talk: Romance With Hollywood Star Changes Young Man’s Life in ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’

To Hollywood, she was an aging star from the 1950s known for playing femme fatales.

Though she was decades his senior, to a young Peter Turner in Liverpool in the late 1970s, she was a fascinating woman and lover who changed his life.

Based on a true story by Turner, that romance between a young actor and Oscar-winning film star Gloria Grahame is the basis for the romantic drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, available now on digital and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“I was 28. She was in her early 50s,” recalled Turner. “That was quite a big age gap at the time. It was quite unconventional.”

The film stars Annette Bening as Graham and Jamie Bell as Turner. Julie Walters and Vanessa Redgrave also star. It received three BAFTA Film Award nominations, including Best Leading Actress (Bening), Best Leading Actor (Bell) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Matt Greenhalgh), in addition to its four British Independent Film Award nominations, including Best Actor (Bell) and Best Supporting Actress (Walters). The San Francisco Film Critics Circle and London Critics Circle Film Awards each nominated Bening’s performance, with her winning Best Actress at the AARP Movies for Grownups Awards.

Bening’s portrayal also gets high marks from Turner, who said, “She made the role her own.”

“There’s no impersonation involved,” he said. “Annette was very clear that she wanted to inhabit the essence of the woman, the truth of Gloria, the soul of Gloria. She didn’t want to put on a phony walk or flip-of-the-hair kind of thing or have a kind of big makeup job. She just wanted to have a kind of truthful portrayal.

“She said to me, ‘Peter, I might not be exactly the Gloria that you knew, but I will be, I promise you, the Gloria that I now know through you.’”

Of the real Grahame, Turner recalls knowing and loving a very singular individual.

“She was just very unique,” he said. “I’d never met anyone like her before or since really. She had this sort of natural kind of aura. She was funny. She was very, very clever and just a wonderful actress, and there was also a sweet vulnerability about her that was very endearing. She had a great sense of humor, and we just connected.”

Though she was typecast often as a femme fatale, the real person wasn’t like that, he said.

“She was quite quiet really,” he said. “She wasn’t boisterous.”

While known in her prime as very glamorous Hollywood royalty — in 1953 she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Bad and the Beautiful — Turner noted she found it hard to do her makeup and hair.

“She never really nailed it, how to dress or how to do her makeup, because of course at the studios it was all done for her,” he said. “She liked to be very natural.”

Turner noted the age difference never bothered him during their romance, and wonders at the double standard that makes the love affair so unusual.

“If I had been in my early 50s and she was 20 no one would have batted an eye,” he said.

All that matters, he said, is human connection.

“Love doesn’t kind of know age really,” he said. “I think that the most important thing in any relationship of any kind of endurance is the love and the connection in the relationship, and I was very lucky to have shared that time of my life with such a wonderful, enlightened, beautiful, sensual, clever woman, and I shall always be grateful for everything that she gave me.”

The DVD release of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool includes the music video for “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way” by Elvis Costello; film commentary with director Paul McGuigan, producer Barbara Broccoli and Turner; and four featurettes: “Elvis Costello Performance & Conversation,” “Making of the Music Video: ‘You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way,’” “In Conversation with Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Paul McGuigan & Peter Turner,” and “Annette Bening on Gloria Grahame.”