It's a huge week for physical releases as "Avengers: Endgame" arrives along with 4K releases of the Iron Man trilogy and the first two Thor films. There's also a fantastic martial arts film called "Shadow," if you're looking to be a little more adventurous. This week also sees the digital release of "The Last Black Man in San Francisco," one of my favorites of 2019.
What more can be said about "Avengers: Endgame" that hasn't already been said? It was well received by critics and beloved by fans who helped to make the film the biggest money maker of all time. Zhang Yimou's "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" were gorgeous martial arts adventures. "Shadow" is as beautiful and quite possibly the best of the three as it presents an epic story of deception and subterfuge. The cinematography and art design is second-to-none and the choreography is flawless.
All three Iron Man films and the first two Thor films are getting 4K upgrades this week ("Thor: Ragnarok" was already available). I haven't had the chance to see any of the Marvel MCU 4K catalog releases. I'm more than a little afraid that there will be a massive MCU 4K set to go along with the holiday season and the "Spider-Man: Far From Home" release later this year. Best Buy has some cool steel book versions for those who are completists. Reviews have been generally positive for Marvel's 4K re-releases with the biggest difference in quality coming from the improved color range.
"All Is True" explores the last years of William Shakespeare's life as he turns away from being a playwright and returns home to face the sadness of the loss of his child. Despite the title, there's no promise that any of the events in the film actually happened, but its still a fantastic watch with a cast that includes Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian McKellen. "Rafiki" is a Kenyan LGBTQ+ themed film that was initially banded in its homeland due to its favorable and hopeful portrayal of two women in love in a country where same-sex relationships are forbidden. "Vault" is loosely based on a heist from 1975 where a group of men set out to steal $30 million from the mob.
On television front we have the seventh season of the espionage thriller "Homeland" with Clair Danes starring as Carrie Mathison, a former CIA agent. The series is set to wrap up after its eighth season in 2020. Ryan Eggold as Dr. Max Goodwin, the medical director of stories hospital in the medical drama "New Amsterdam. " ABC's "Pan Am" was launched with a fair amount of hoopla featuring Christina Ricci and the relatively unknown Margot Robbie as Pan Am stewardess in the 1960s. The film tried to tackle the sexism of the era, but failed to find an audience in America. Internationally the show was a hit that had Amazon flirting with bringing the series back for a second season after ABC passed. Unlike many one-season series the producers were given the chance to tie up the major plot points.
We also have the sixth season of "Blacklist," the popular thriller featuring James Spader as Raymond "Red" Reddington, a good guy gone bad looking for some reception by turning evidence on some of the world's most dangerous criminals and Megan Boone as Elizabeth "Liz" Keen, the FBI agent that he demands to work with. Lastly, we have the third season of "Riverdale," the contemporary take on the classic Archie comics.
The documentary "The Inland Sea" was Inspired by author Donald Richie's 1971 travelogue of the Japanese islands of the Inland Sea. Two decades later director Lucille Carra traces Richie's steps to rediscover what he original found. "The Ugly American" is a cold war drama that sees Marlon Brando starring as an American ambassador who travels to Southeast Asia to observe a culture's struggle between communism and democracy.
Based on "Cyrano de Bergerac," 1987's "Roxanne" is a romantic comedy that charmed critics and audiences thanks largely to Steve Martin's performance as fire chief C.D. Bales. !989's "True Believer" is a courtroom drama starring James Woods and Robert Downey Jr. The script was loosely based on journalist K. W. Lee's coverage of an immigrant who was framed for a gangland killing in San Francisco's Chinatown. Jan-Michael Vincent stars in this trucker drama about a young man who takes on the corruption of the long-haul industry.
I wasn't particularly impressed by "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" as it had some promising ideas, but never really explored them. Maybe its time for Hollywood to admit that they don't quite understand Godzilla as a character and cultural icon. "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" was one of my favorite films from this year's Sundance Film Festival and seven months later its still one of the best film's I've seen in 2019. The story finds two life-long friends who are struggling with the regentrification of the San Francisco they identify with. There are elements of magical realism and a cast of unique characters that makes the experience joyous. I wasn't a big fan of "The Secret Life of Pets," its sequel, however, was a far better experience. It feels a bit like three stories stapled together, rather than one cohesive story, but Harrison Ford's turn as an old country dog is great.