As someone who grew up watching animated series featuring the likes of Batman, Superman and Green Lantern, I've been dismayed to see so many of my favorite superheroes flop around on the big screen without much of a pulse.
If you look at 2016's dead-on-arrivals Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, it may be difficult to believe Warner Bros. could make a good superhero movie again. But to welcome surprise, Gal Gadot dons a pair of indestructible bracelets with the Lasso of Truth firmly in hand to save the day in Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman (4.5 stars) Rated PG-13, 141 minutes. Available Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD and Digital HD.
Patty Jenkins (Monster) directs a wonderfully wrought origin story that will both unite fans of what's already come with those who may have rolled their eyes at DC Comics' previous outings. Her rendition of Wonder Woman is a movie that should be celebrated and honored, not for just being a good movie for the DC Extended Universe, but a good one in general. It's a strikingly bold and confident piece of blockbuster filmmaking that also happens to be thrilling and emotionally powerful.
Set during World War I, Wonder Woman takes us back to the beginning of our titular heroine's story. It shows Diana Prince (Gadot) growing up on Themyscira, a mystically hidden paradise island that's home to a race of immortal warrior women. But when a soldier (a charming Chris Pine) washes ashore, Diana realizes there’s a world beyond her home island that needs saving.
Like the best of its superhero competitors, Wonder Woman excels the most when it asks decidedly human questions such as doing "something or nothing" in a time of terror. This is a movie that wisely chooses to exist in its own vacuum and not be a part of Batman v. Superman director, Zack Snyder's shortcut to capture Marvel's glory. It's a strong standalone achievement that is sure to influence and encourage many young women out there to step up and be brave. We are entering a new chapter in film history, and I'm so proud to be here to witness it.
Extras: The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release includes an epilogue, several director’s vision featurettes, a behind-the-scenes look, extended scenes and a blooper reel.
The Big Sick (4.5 stars) - Real-life couple Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and Emily V. Gordon (The Meltdown) turned their too-good-to-be-true love story into a movie. Producer Judd Apatow (Trainwreck) and director Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris) captures how Pakistani-American comedian Nanjiani (playing himself) ignored his parents’ wishes to be in an arranged marriage to instead fall for a white, non-Muslim woman (portrayed by Zoe Kazan in the film).
So much of The Big Sick strikes truth. While we all may not come from the same backgrounds, the film relatably approaches themes of love and family through its specificity. For all its originality and humor, it's the kind of romantic comedy that will make you fall in love with the genre all over again. Even romance movie veteran actors Matthew McConaughey and Hugh Grant would crack a smile.
Rated R, 120 minutes.
Extras: The Lionsgate Home Entertainment release includes a making-of, the real story, the 2017 South by Southwest festival panel, cast and filmmaker commentary, deleted scenes and special featurettes that include more laughs.
The Hero (2.5 stars) - Brett Haley directed the bittersweet movie I'll See You in My Dreams, starring Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott. It centered on the story of a widow who was forced to face her fears of love, family and death.
Haley's follow-up, The Hero, also starring Elliot, pushes that idea further by exploring death and legacy on a deeper level. The only problem is, while the performances are worthy of note and the film presents a promising storyline about an ailing Western icon confronting his past, it doesn't handle its themes with the grace and care they deserve. The admirable scenes of drama are too short-lived and too much of what happens feels unearned, making this feature a major step back for Haley.
Rated R, 97 minutes.
Extras: The Lionsgate Home Entertainment release includes an audio commentary with Haley and Elliot, and a photo gallery.
Also available this week: Arrow: Season 5, The Bad Batch, Cartels, Certain Women (2016): The Criterion Collection (see our review next week), Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 40th Anniversary Edition, The Devil’s Candy (see our review next week), Firefly: The Complete Series and Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars.
FEATURED IMAGE: Gal Gadot stars in a scene from Wonder Woman. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Entertainment via AP)