The Marvels

4K ULTRA HD REVIEW:

Street Date 2/13/24;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $84.5 million;
$29.99 DVD, $36.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for action/violence and brief language.
Stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton, Gary Lewis, Seo-Jun Park, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Samuel L. Jackson.

There’s no disputing it anymore. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has lost its way.

The Marvels, the 33rd film in the MCU, is just the latest stumbling block for a franchise trying to rediscover its creative focus following the immense success of the “Infinity Saga” that concluded with Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Almost all the films of the three phases that constituted the Infinity Saga were notable for being able to not only introduce new characters and ideas to the audience, but also tell compelling stories that were also clearly building into a larger narrative in a way that excited viewers and fueled anticipation for the next installment. With that first big story arc having concluded, the attempts to follow it up have been muddled at best, lacking in a discernable direction or stakes to sufficiently fuel the fans’ enthusiasm. Further diluting the brand with a string of television projects that vary widely in quality hasn’t helped. In fact the best MCU content the past few years has been either largely unconnected to the wider franchise or wrapping up loose ends from the Infinity Saga.

Primarily a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel, The Marvels is the 10th MCU movie since the beginning of “Phase Four,” otherwise known as the “Multiverse Saga.” But it’s also a sequel to several of the MCU’s Disney+ limited series, including 2021’s WandaVision, 2022’s Ms. Marvel, and last year’s awful Secret Invasion, which might as well not exist given how much its storylines are ignored by The Marvels. Even so, that’s a lot of background material for casual viewers to keep track of.

The main thrust of The Marvels is to team Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), aka Captain Marvel, with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), seen as a kid in Captain Marvel but imbued with photonic powers in WandaVision, and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), the title hero from Ms. Marvel who is empowered by a magical bracelet of mysterious origins.

They meet due to the entanglement of their powers causing them to switch places following some manipulation of an interstellar travel network by the Kree villain Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), who wants to restore her homeworld, which was devastated by a civil war caused by Captain Marvel in the 1990s-set aftermath of her solo movie. Her plan is essentially the plot of Spaceballs — steal the air and resources from other planets to rebuild her own.

With some coordination by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the three marvels are able to team up to confront Dar-Benn and put a halt to her campaign of collateral damage.

The movie eventually gets to where the MCU needs it to go in terms of setting up future storylines, but it’s not a smooth ride to get there. Dar-Benn ends up being one of the most forgettable antagonists in the canon, the tonal shifts of the story are jarring, and too many of the key setpieces are just plain goofy. First, there’s a planet where the population communicates through musical numbers, which just seems like the writers being too clever for their own good. Then, later in the film comes a comedic subplot involving alien cats that doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose other than keep Nick Fury, Kamala’s family and the rest of the supporting cast busy.

The most memorable aspect of The Marvels is the chemistry between the three heroes as they reluctantly learn to act as a team, the highlight being the endearing energy exuded by Vellani as Kamala, a die-hard fan of Carol who just seems happy to be involved. Ultimately, the film’s best assets are a pair of epilogue scenes that tease an expansion of the MCU that fans have been anticipating, including a cute callback to Iron Man that begins to address the slew of younger heroes being gradually introduced the past few years. Hopefully with some time to reassess Marvel can coalesce these threads into the higher tiers of entertainment quality the studio has proved capable of in the past.

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The Blu-ray of The Marvels includes a smattering of extras that give viewers the gist of the making of the film. The 11-minute “Entangled” is the primary behind-the-scenes featurette, supplemented by five minutes of production diaries focused on amusing stories from the set.

Director and co-writer Nia DaCosta joins VFX supervisor Tara DeMarco for a feature-length commentary track punctuated mostly by comic book fan DaCosta’s excitement for the project.

There are also four decent deleted scenes that run a total of about six minutes, and a two-minute gag reel.

In the 4K combo pack, the commentary is included on both the 4K disc and the regular Blu-ray, while the rest of the extras are contained on just the Blu-ray.

Interestingly, the Disney+ streaming service includes an hour-long making-of The Marvels documentary as part of its “Marvel Studios: Assembled” series that, while using some common footage, offers a lot more detail than the featurettes included on the disc.

Disney’s ‘The Marvels’ Tops Weekend Box Office Despite Record-Low Opening

Disney/Marvel Studios’ The Marvels, the sequel to the 2019 blockbuster Captain Marvel, topped $47 million in estimated North American ticket sales through Nov. 12 to lead all theatrical releases over the weekend.

It was a muted achievement, considering the opening is the worst-ever for a Marvel Studios superhero theatrical release. The 33rd Marvel Cinematic Universe feature film opened lower than the MCU’s previous underachievers The Incredible Hulk ($55.4 million) in 2008 and Ant-Man ($57.2 million) in 2015.

The Marvels also lagged woefully behind the openings for this year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania ($106 million) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 with $118 million, respectively.

The performance underscores Disney’s inability to market the movie due to the actors’ strike, which ended on Nov. 10, and suggests market saturation of the Marvel brand, which continues to launch original series on Disney+. It’s a far cry from pre-pandemic 2019, when Marvel movies comprised the bulk of Disney’s record $11 billion box office tally.

Disney CEO Bob Iger perhaps foreshadowed the result on this week’s fiscal call when he said the studio business had “lost some focus” in 2023.

Meanwhile, Universal Pictures/Blumhouse’s horror film Five Nights at Freddy’s added another $9 million in ticket sales to finish No. 2 and up its three-weekend North American tally past $127 million — a significant result, considering the movie have been streaming for free on the Peacock platform.

Rounding out the podium was the Taylor Swift / The Eras Tour concert movie with nearly $6 million in ticket sales. The Swift-produced film has generated $172.5 million at the North American box office, topping Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One ($172 million) and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts with $157 million in ticket sales. The concert doc now ranks as the 12th biggest domestic release of the year, just behind Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, according to Box Office Mojo.

Disney’s ‘The Marvels’ Looks to Boost Superhero Brand, Weekend Box Office

Disney’s The Marvels, expected to lead the box office take for the weekend through Nov. 12, is the latest Marvel Comics blockbuster in a franchise that is showing its age of late.

The first time Brie Larson donned superhero gear as Captain Marvel, the movie catapulted the 2016 Oscar winner (Room) to the box office A-list, generating a $153 million opening weekend en route to a $1.13 billion global theatrical run.

But times have changed since 2019, and box office superhero billionaires have become a scarce commodity due to market saturation and streaming video.

Larson is back as Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel, with Disney’s The Marvels, Marvel Studios’ 33rd theatrical release following Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. This time, Captain Marvel partners with two other heroines, Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) and Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), to take control of a destabilized universe.

While Larson has not been able to market the movie due to the just-ended actors’ strike, the actress is all over the television selling Nissan cars and headlining “Lessons in Chemistry” on Apple TV+.

The Marvels is projected to sell north of $42 million in tickets through Nov. 12, according to new data from Box Office Pro. The movie generated about $6 million in Thursday special screenings. That should be enough to easily win the weekend, holding off previous polesitters Universal Pictures’ Five Nights at Freddy’s (with a projected $7.6 million for the upcoming weekend) and Taylor Swift/The Eras Tour concert movie ($7 million).

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Paramount Pictures/Apple Studios’ Killers of the Flower Moon is projected to sell another $5 million worth of tickets, just ahead of Sony Pictures’ new faith-based movie Journey to Bethlehem (a projected $4 million), and A24’s Pricilla Presley biopic Pricilla ($3.6 million).

Other releases include Focus Features’ The Holdovers (a projected $2.3 million), Paramount’s Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie ($1.6 million), Pantelion Films’ Radical ($1.4 million), and Universal/Blumhouse’s The Exorcist: Believer ($1.3 million).

Fast X

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/8/23;
Universal;
Action;
Box Office $145.96 million;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, $34.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some suggestive material.
Stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Rita Moreno, Leo Abelo Perry, Jason Statham, Jason Momoa, Charlize Theron.

As over the top as Fast X may be, at least they don’t go into space this time. New franchise director Louis Leterrier brings the action back down to Earth a bit while finding new ways to push the audiences’ suspension of disbelief to its limits.

As shown in the bonus material, Leterrier seems excited for the chance to put his stamp on a franchise that has had a tenuous relationship with verisimilitude for a number of films, if only for the excuse to bring to life action concepts ruminating in his head since he was a child.

The story stems from the events of Fast 5, which set the stage for the series’ outlandish change of course with its ridiculous heist climax featuring two muscle cars dragging a multi-ton vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The villain of Fast 5 was killed during that final chase, and 10 years later his son, Dante (Jason Momoa), wants revenge.

Setting out with the flamboyancy of a 1960s Batman villain, Dante must first level-up his resources in order to go toe-to-toe with Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family, who since that film have morphed from simple street racing hustlers to global secret agents. To demonstrate how dangerous he is, the film has him take over the high-tech operations of Charlize Theron’s Cipher, the villain of the last couple of “Fast” films, and arranges to split Team Toretto apart on different missions. From there Dom and his family are subjected to an elaborate series of death traps around the world designed to make them suffer until he can maneuver them into one final improbable battle.

Almost lost among the spectacle is that the massive cast has managed to bring together two actors who have played Aquaman — in addition to Momoa, there’s Alan Ritchson, who portrayed the master of the sea on “Smallville,” on hand here as an Agency supercop whose skepticism of Team Toretto’s loyalties provides another wrinkle to the plot.

This film was touted is the beginning of the end for the franchise, as the first part of a grand finale for the characters, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the film ends with a series of cliffhangers and teases for more movies to come.

Still, as exhausting as Fast X can be at times, it can at least be admired for the sheer audacity of the stunts we are expected to believe are happening within the realm of a real physical world. The mayhem looks great in 4K, though the vivid explosions and the exploits of Dom’s seemingly indestructible super-car tend to verge on the cartoonish side.

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In addition to a solo commentary from an enthusiastic Leterrier, the Blu-ray also includes a five-minute gag reel, two forgettable music videos, and nearly 75 minutes of informative (but repetitive) behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The general making of the film is covered in the 35-minute “This Is Family.” Additional featurettes include the 13-minute “Xtreme Rides of Fast X” that profiles the vehicles in the film (which are actually described as the superhero suits to the films’ characters); the seven-minute “Belles of the Brawl” that looks at how the women of the film prepared for their action scenes; the five-minute “Tuned Into Rio” looks at the film’s connections to Fast 5; The two-minute “Jason Momoa: Conquering Rome” focuses on the actor’s role in the franchise, his stunts and a key sequence set in Rome; the three-minute “Little B Takes the Wheel” takes a look at Leo Abelo Perry joining the franchise as Dom’s son; and the minute-and-a-half “A Friend in the End” looks at the film’s post-credits sequence.

Finally, there’s a nearly eight-minute segment of Leterrier breaking down specific action scenes.

Apple TV+ to Bow Original Brie Larson Drama ‘Lessons in Chemistry’ on Oct. 13

Apple TV+ May 31 announced its upcoming limited drama series “Lessons in Chemistry,” starring and executive produced by Academy Award winner Brie Larson, will make its debut with the first two episodes on Friday, Oct. 13.

Based on the best-selling, debut novel of the same name from author, science editor and copywriter Bonnie Garmus, the show — set in the early 1950s — follows Elizabeth Zott (Larson), whose dream of being a scientist is put on hold in a patriarchal society. When Elizabeth finds herself fired from her lab, she accepts a job as a host on a TV cooking show, and sets out to teach a nation of overlooked housewives — and the men who are suddenly listening — a lot more than recipes. New episodes will debut weekly on Fridays through Nov. 24.

Co-stars include Lewis Pullman (Top Gun: Maverick, “Outer Range”), NAACP Image Award winner Aja Naomi King (“How to Get Away with Murder,” The Birth of a Nation), Stephanie Koenig (“The Flight Attendant,” “The Offer”), Kevin Sussman (“The Big Bang Theory,” “The Dropout”), Patrick Walker (“Gaslit,” “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey”), and Thomas Mann (“Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” Me and Earl and the Dying Girl).

The series is produced for Apple TV+ by Apple Studios. Six-time Emmy Award nominee Lee Eisenberg (“We Crashed,” “Little America”) serves as showrunner. Academy Award nominee Susannah Grant (Unbelievable, Erin Brockovich) executive produces alongside Larson. Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan (“Ozark,” “A Teacher”) executive produce for Aggregate Films. Natalie Sandy executive produces through Piece of Work Entertainment alongside Eisenberg. Louise Shore also serves as executive producer.

Drama ‘Just Mercy’ Coming to Home Video From Warner

The drama Just Mercy, based on a true story, arrives on digital March 24 and Blu-ray and DVD April 14 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther) and Oscar winners Jamie Foxx (Ray, Baby Driver, Django: Unchained) and Brie Larson (Room, Short Term 12, Captain Marvel) star in the story of young lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan (Jordan) has his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the main testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings, as well as overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds — and the system — stacked against them.

The film, which earned $45.1 million at the global box office, is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle, Short Term 12) from a screenplay he co-wrote, based on Bryan Stevenson’s bestselling memoir.

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The cast also includes Rob Morgan (Mudbound, TV’s “Stranger Things”) as Herbert Richardson, a fellow prisoner who also sits on death row awaiting his fate. Tim Blake Nelson (Wormwood, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) as Ralph Myers, whose pivotal testimony against Walter McMillian is called into question. Rafe Spall (The Big Short, The Ritual) as Tommy Chapman, the district attorney who is fighting to uphold Walter’s conviction and sentence. O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Anthony Ray Hinton, another wrongly convicted death row inmate whose cause is taken up by Bryan, and Karan Kendrick (The Hate U Give, Hidden Figures) as Walter’s wife, Minnie McMillian, who stands by her husband.

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Special features on Blu-ray include “Making Mercy,” “This Moment Deserves,” “The Equal Justice Initiative” and deleted scenes. The DVD includes “Making Mercy.”

(UPDATE 3-17-2020: Warner moved up the digital release date to March 17)

Avengers: Endgame

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 8/13/19;
Disney/Marvel;
Action;
Box Office $857 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rene Russo, John Slattery, Tilda Swinton, Hayley Atwell, Natalie Portman, Marisa Tomei, Taika Waititi, Angela Bassett, Michael Douglass, Michelle Pfeiffer, William Hurt, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Josh Brolin.

A satisfying ending is a beautiful thing.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe began as one of the boldest gambits in movie history: a comic book company financing its own movies, based on relatively unknown characters, with the hope of someday uniting them in a crossover.

While no one could have predicted that 2008’s Iron Man would be as big a hit as it was, the other early films of the MCU were much more modestly received, and it wasn’t until the first Avengers film in 2012, the sixth in the MCU canon, that the true potential of what they were trying to pull off came into focus.

With Avengers: Endgame, the 22nd film in the MCU, that effort has resulted in the highest-grossing film of all time worldwide. Say what you will about the corporate structure of Hollywood and the surging dominance of all things Disney, which owns Marvel, but the industry-shattering creative forces of producer Kevin Feige and his team simply have to be admired for their shear audicity.

Avengers: Endgame brings together just about every notable character to play a role in the previous 21 MCU films to close out a number of storylines that have been weaving through the films for 11 years.

Foremost among them was the aftermath of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, which ended with one of the biggest cliffhangers in the history of cinema, as the villainous Thanos (Josh Brolin) assembled all six Infinity Stones and caused half of all life in the universe to disappear with a snap of his fingers.

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Like the best series finales, Endgame manages to capture the essential elements of what fans love most about these films, providing both a feeling of nostalgia and a sense of how far things progressed from the beginning to now, all while giving the characters a sense of closure that honors who they are and what they’ve fought for.

And yet, Endgame is not the end of the MCU. The currently in theaters Spider-Man: Far From Home provides a nice little epilogue to it, and Feige at Comic-Con showed off a roadmap of the MCU’s next phase. However, Endgame is certainly a well-earned conclusion for several chapters of it.

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Avengers: Endgame is a testament to narrative efficiency despite its three-hour running length.

The Marvel movies have hit upon a winning formula of consistency, and Endgame is really no different. There are certain things the audience expects of it, but that’s not to say it approaches these goals in expected ways. The screenplay manages to defy expectations in its plot twists but remains true to the characters and provides a number of emotional payoffs that will particularly hit home for fans who have managed to follow the story arcs through all the films. This is simply a level of catharsis that stems from a 20-film journey that simply cannot be matched by most other cinematic achievements.

Endgame perfectly balances its sense of seriousness and tension with appropriate levels of humor and fun, resulting in a brisk pace that keeps the viewer eager to see what comes next. The film also warrants multiple viewings just to absorb the level of detail layered into the film.

The story is something of a love letter to the fans in the way it ingeniously re-visits some of the previous MCU films from a new perspective, deepening those films in small ways retroactively. Yet it wouldn’t be an “Avengers” film if it didn’t also culminate in what has to be the ultimate big-screen superhero battle.

The Russos have become masters of visual storytelling, which is a rather important quality to have when the goal is to adapt a comic book. Endgame is perhaps the biggest comic book movie ever made in terms of its scope, and the Russos are especially adept at framing their shots for maximum impact. It comes as no surprise that the film looks great on Blu-ray, with bright colors and sharp visual effects.

Another challenge brushed off with aplomb is balancing the sheer number of characters involved in a story of this magnitude, especially given the assemblage of performers of the magnitude the MCU has the clout to get. The closing credits of Endgame include the names of at least eight Oscar winners, and five of them appeared together in one of the film’s key scenes. Needless to say, the performances all around do not disappoint.

The film’s effectiveness is also given a huge boost by a phenomenal musical score by Alan Silvestri, who is perhaps the greatest living film composer who has yet to win an Oscar. Unlike Infinity War, in which the primary musical identities were Thanos and the Avengers as a group, Endgame revisits several character themes from the previous films, resulting in a deeply satisfying musical narrative. This approach only heightens the emotional connection between the audience and the characters, particularly when it comes to Captain America (unsurprising, since 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger was Silvestri’s first MCU effort).

These are details that, when combined, make it easy to overlook those parts of the film (and the MCU) in general that probably shouldn’t be thought about too much, and instead appreciate what the film has managed to accomplish.

The Blu-ray provides a great feature-length commentary from the Russos and the screenwriters as they reflect on their long MCU careers, analyze the various moving parts of the franchise, and provide some great insights on the making of the film and the challenges of cleanly telling a story that is complicated by its nature. The Russos also offer a short introduction to the film.

There are also 36 minutes of featurettes, many of which shine a light more on the history of the MCU and how things evolved into this particular film. There are spotlights on the story arcs of Captain America, Black Widow, Thor and Iron Man (the latter also including Robert Downey Jr.’s screen test for the role). The Russos and their impact on the MCU is the subject of another featurette.

There’s a vignette that celebrates the many female heroes of the MCU. Also, the disc includes a seven-minute tribute to Stan Lee and a look back at his many cameos in the MCU movies.

Other extras on the Blu-ray include a funny two-minute gag reel and six deleted scenes, which offer a mix of fun and poignancy, especially the ones that make light of perceived plot holes from earlier movies. The excised footage features unfinished visual effects and runs about five minutes.

Digital versions available at Movies Anywhere and many digital retailers, such as Vudu, offer these extras as well as a six-minute featurette about the relationship between Captain America and his true love, Peggy Carter.

‘Captain Marvel’ Soars on FandangoNow Chart

Disney’s superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel was the top film purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended June 16.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

Captain Marvel, which earned $426.8 million in theaters, stars Brie Larson as the Marvel Comics character Carol Danvers.

Universal’s horror film Us landed at No. 2. Writer-director Jordan Peele’s followup to Get Out, the film stars Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss. It earned $175 million at the box office.

Another Universal title, The Upside, took the third spot. The comedy stars Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston as an out-of-work ex-con and a wealthy quadriplegic who unexpectedly come together and help each other bring back their zest for life. It earned $108.2 million in theaters.

In fourth place was Lionsgate’s romance Five Feet Apart, about two teens with cystic fibrosis who fall in love but are forced to stay apart because of their illness. It made $45.7 million in theaters.

Rounding out the top five was Paramount’s animated adventure Wonder Park. It’s the story of a young girl named June who makes an incredible discovery — the amusement park of her dreams has come to life filled with wild rides operated by fun-loving animals. It features the voices of Jennifer Garner, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Kenan Thompson and Ken Jeong, among others, and made $45.2 million at the box office.

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The top 10 films purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended June 16 were:

  1. Captain Marvel * (Disney)
  2. Us* (Universal)
  3. The Upside * (Universal)
  4. Five Feet Apart * (Lionsgate)
  5. Wonder Park * (Paramount)
  6. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral * (Lionsgate)
  7. Captive State * (Universal)
  8. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World * (Universal)
  9. The Mustang * (Universal)
  10. The Kid * (Lionsgate)

*Available in 4K

 

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.

‘Captain Marvel’ Soaring to Digital May 28, Disc June 11 From Disney

Captain Marvel will fly to digital in HD and 4K Ultra HD (including Movies Anywhere) May 28, and land on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray June 11 from Disney, Direct to Consumer and International.

The home release dates were revealed during the May 8 espnW Summit NYC, at which Marvel Studios hosted a Captain Marvel panel.

The film, which has surpassed $1 billion at the box office worldwide, chronicles the origin story of the female superhero.

The release includes featurettes that highlight the transformative journey of Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) and her character’s impact on audiences around the globe; the influence of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) on significant events within the Marvel Cinematic Universe; the pairing of directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck; the ongoing conflict between the Skrulls and the Kree; and the talent behind the feline named Goose. Viewers also gain access to six deleted scenes, director commentary, a gag reel, and never-before-seen concept art and production photography.

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The digital release includes two exclusive features, including a behind-the-scenes visit with the visual effects team and an inside look at the team effort that goes into an action sequence in a Marvel Studios film.

At the panel, Marvel also unveiled a new trailer.