Into space: 'Captain Marvel,' 'Lost in Space' reboot

By Tom Von Malder | Jun 10, 2019
Photo by: Marvel Studio Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and Jude Law star in "Captain Marvel."

Owls Head — Captain Marvel (Marvel Studio, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 123 min.). Set in 1995, this is not only the origin story of Captain Marvel, but also touches on the beginnings of The Avengers, Agent Coulson and Nick Fury with S.H.I.E.L.D. Growing up, I was much more into DC Comics than Marvel, so I was totally unfamiliar with Captain Marvel. Thus, the film was much better than I expected, with some good action sequences, usually effective humor and a cute cat. There is a solid performance by Brie Larson as the title character, who goes on a journey of discovery.

As the film opens, Vers (Larson) is continuing her Kree training with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) as part of the Starforce, who are battling the Skrull, a race of shapeshifters. Vers has suffered memory loss, with only snatches of her past appearing as dreams and the society's artificial intelligence, the Supreme Intelligence, which appears to each Kree as someone central to their life, appears as a woman (Annette Bening) whom Vers cannot remember. During a rescue mission against the Skrulls, Vers is captured, but escapes -- using her extraordinary energy powers -- only to crash land on Earth (through the roof of a Blockbuster video store amusingly enough). On Earth, she quickly encounters Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and rookie Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg).

An attack by a shapeshifting Skrull leads to an exciting chase aboard a Los Angeles metro train, while Fury and Coulson follow below in a car. Teaming with Fury, Vers eventually gains knowledge of her past on Earth, connecting with an old friend (Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau) and discovering who the woman was that the Supreme Intelligence was using when meeting her and learning that woman's mission.

Some of the film's humor comes from the shapeshifting -- Ben Mendelsohn plays Talos, the Skrull leader -- but a lot involves the cat, Goose. All in all, the film is a fun ride. Captain Marvel was introduced in Marvel Comics in 1967. The film opens with a loving visual tribute to the late Stan Lee, who makes his usual cameo in the film as a train rider.

Extras include audio commentary by co-writers-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (in all, five writers are credited on the story, with three of them working on the screenplay). There are six deleted scenes (8:47); a gag reel (2:02); and six featurettes. Other than showing some wire work, there is very little in the featurettes about making the film and special effects. However, downloading the movie digitally adds two featurettes, "Journey into Visual Effects with Victoria Alonso" (7:20) and a look inside  the "Mind Frack" (4:27) that address the special effects. The featurettes with the Blu-ray are: on becoming a superhero with the directors and Larson (6:40); a look at Captain Marvel's character (3:31); a look at Nick Fury through several of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films (3:33);  a look at the two directors, but nothing about their previous efforts (2:44); a look at the thousands-year Kree-Skruill conflict (3:31); and a closer look at Reggie, the cat that plays Goose (3:23). Grade: film 3.75 stars; extras 2.5 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Captive State (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 109 min.). The film is like a long involved joke for which the payoff is not worth all the effort. That said, the film is not trying to be funny. Rather it is trying to portray an alien invasion after the fact, showing the consequences it has had on Chicago and the efforts of a small group to stage a deadly protest in hopes it will trigger world-wide rebellion. The aliens themselves are barely seen at all. Mostly we see their local law enforcement agent (John Goodman as William Mulligan).

Much of the film is told from the viewpoint of young Gabriel Drummond (Ashton Sanders of "Moonlight," "The Equalizer 2"), whose older brother Rafe (Jonathan Majors) went missing, presumably dead, after the invading Legislators violently put down a rebellion in Wicker Park. It now has been nine years since the aliens arrived and subdued the Earth, supposedly for the benefit of mankind by bring peace to our warring planet. Apparently, there are family connections between Gabriel and Mulligan. However, co-writer-director Rupert Wyatt takes the approach of having the story go off and follow another character  when the new character crosses paths with the previous main focus.

Not much happens until late in the film, which often tries too hard to be mysterious, such as Mulligan's visits to a prostitute (Vera Farmiga of TV's "Bates Motel"). A rebel attack and plan is executed at Soldier Field, but the Legislators send in hunters from off-world. The film is a total misfire for me.

Extras include audio commentary by Wyatt and co-producer David Crockett; a making-of piece in which Wyatt said he was inspired by "Army of Shadows," a 1969 French film by Jean-Pierre Melville about the Resistance in World War II (5:20); and a look at the gritty Chicago locations used (5:10). Grade: film 1.5 stars; extras 2.25 stars

Lost in Space: The Complete First Season (20th Century Fox, 3 Blu-rays or 4 standard DVDs, NR, 551 min.). This is the 10-episode Netflix reimagining of the classic 1965-68 Irwin Allen TV series. The basic characters -- the five-member Robinson family -- remain the same, but Dr. Smith is now female and Don West is a lowly mechanic they encounter midway through the season. A major change is the Robinsons are part of a group colonization mission aboard the Resolute spaceship when it is attacked by aliens and the Robinsons are among several smaller Jupiter ships that are forced to crash land on an unknown planet, without the ability to communicate with the mother ship. Another change, and the most exciting one, is making the Robot that bonds with Will Robinson be an alien weaponized construct.

The Robinson family dynamics are different too, with some estrangement between the parents. Maureen (Molly Parker of TV's "House of Cards") resents the fact that husband John (Toby Stephens of TV's "Black Sails") reenlisted in the military instead of helping her raise their three children. The children are Judy (Taylor Russell of TV's "Falling Skies") from Maureen's previous marriage, Penny (Mina Sundwall) and Will (Maxwell Jenkins of TV's "Sense8"). Maureen, a physicist, had to bribe someone to get Will qualified for the mission. Judy has recently become a doctor.

Dr. Smith is now the stolen alias of Parker Posey's ("Scream 3," "Dazed and Confused") character, who previously stole her twin sister's identity to get a place aboard the Resolute. Dr. Smith is a major manipulator and a character one instantly comes to hate. Midway through the season, one is practically shouting at the screen for the characters to pool their knowledge about her so they can realize how devious Dr. Smith is. Don West (Ignacio  Serricchio of TV's "Bones," "Witches of East End") is now in the Han Solo mode, but with more of a dollar-first attitude.

The marvel is the sell-repairing Robot (Brian Steele in a suit) who can go from learning to toss a baseball with Will to a fierce, heat ray-packing, fighting machine. The Robot's design is outstanding and, yes, it still basically only says, "Danger, Will Robinson."

The dangers on the new planet come fast and furious and include one Robinson being trapped in frozen water, creature attacks, a tar pit, earthquakes, explosive geysers and, of course, Dr. Smith's machinations. The Robinsons do interact with some of the other stranded teams, providing a possible spark of romance between Penny and Vijay Dahr (Ajay Friese of Netflix's "The Order," "ReBoot: The Guardian Code"). Episode eight ends with a terrific cliffhanger, which episode nine then squanders away. Overall, though, the series is entertaining and just wanting to see what happens to Dr. Smith pulls the viewer along. Thankfully, the show will be back for a second season, as season one ended with a surprise cliffhanger. The show updates, but still uses John Williams terrific original theme music.

Extras are minimal and include three deleted scenes (3:42); a look at designing The Robot (5:20), whose growing relationship with Will is at the heart of the series (5:20); a conversation between Bill Mumy, the original Will, and Jenkins, the new Will, about the similarities and changes between the originals series and this new one, including how new character names honor the original cast members (10:10); and Mumy is given a sour of the Jupiter 2 space pod (7 min.). There also is a "sizzle" reel (3:38). The set also includes a colorized version of the Irwin Allen-directed original series pilot, set in 1997, that never aired (52:12). This unaired pilot also was part of the 2015 box set, "Lost in Space: The Complete Adventures," also from 20th Century Fox. Grade: season 3.5 stars; extras 2 stars

Doctor Who: Resolution (BBC, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 60 min.). Instead of the traditional Christmas special, this past season "Doctor Who" had a New Year's special, featuring Jodie Whittaker ("Broadchurch") as the new, first female doctor, along with companions Ryan (Tosin Cole), Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Yaz (Mandip Gill). The villain is a Reconnaissance Dalek that has reassembled itself and built a hand-made outer casing after being cut into three pieces and each piece buried secretly in a remote location. The show begins in the past with those pieces being buried by three ancient clans; well, two are buried, while the other courier is attacked near modern-day Sheffield, England.

A subplot introduces Ryan's long-absent father (Daniel Adegboyega) showing up to try and make amends for missing his ex-wife's funeral and neglecting his son..

This was perhaps the most entertaining episode of Whittaker's first season. It even includes a car chase. Bonus features include a look back at the whole season with the actors, including shooting in South Africa and working Rosa Parks into an episode (11:05); a making-of featurette (12:33), including replicating a huge sewer on set; a look at the Dalek (6:56: the first Daleks appeared in 1963, very near the beginning of the long-running series); and a closer look at the episode (6:11). Grade: episode 3.5 stars; extras 2 stars

London Kills: Series 1 (Acorn TV, 2 Blu-ray or 2 DVDs, NR, 238 min.). Created for television and co-written by Paul Marquess ("Suspects," "Footballers’ Wives"), this is the second original series commissioned by Acorn TV. The 10 episodes have been divided into two seasons. The series has a complete series arc dealing with the disappearance -- possible murder? -- of the wife of veteran Detective Inspector David Bradford (Hugo Speer of "The Full Monty," "Father Brown"), as well as a separate murder in each episode. Nonetheless, some of the individual cases turn out to be linked in some way with her disappearance.

On Bradford's elite murder investigation team are Detective Sgt. Vivienne Cole (Sharon Small of "Inspector Lynley Mysteries"), who is more intuitive in solving cases and to whom Bradford frequently acts harshly; DC Rob Brady (Bailey Patrick of TV's "Good Omens," "EastEnders"); and trainee DC Billie Fitzgerald (Tori Allen-Martin), who has the most compassion towards those affected by the cases. Those cases include the murder of a an MP's son, made to look like a suicide; a man killed outside of a pub during his stag night (this is the most interesting of the cases); a man found dead on his boat by his married mistress; and a body that washes ashore from The Thames. The fifth episode provides an excellent set-up for the next five episodes of Series 2, which should resolve what has happened to Bradford's wife and why the murder disguised as suicide was set up the way it was.

The show is not big on production. There are mostly scenes of London streets, visits to apartments and suspect interviews back at the station. It mostly is a documentary look, including in-car camera views. The only extra is a behind-the-scenes look (46:46) with creator Marquess, the actors talking about their characters and portions of a table read of the first two episodes. The 10 episodes were filmed over 11 weeks. Grade: season 3.25 stars; extra 2.5 stars

Delicious: Series 3 (Acorn TV DVD, NR, 185 min.). The disc presents four more episodes of the British drama, filmed on the Cornish coast. The set-up is that the Penrose Hotel has been left by the late Leo Vincent (Iain Glen of "Game of Thrones") to be run by his ex-wife (Dawn French of "French& Saunders" as Gina) and his widow (Emilia Fox of "Silent Witness" as Sam). The two women have resolved their differences, but now a handsome restaurateur (Vincent Regan), who has a reputation of gobbling up smaller businesses, has arrived. The series also stars Aaron Anthony ("Doctors"), Tanya Reynolds ("Sex Education") and Sheila Hancock ("The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"). The sole bonus feature is a behind-the-scenes featurette (13 min.).

South Park: The Complete Twenty-Second Season (Comedy Central/Paramount, 2 Blu-rays or 2 DVDs, NR, 223 min.). This set contains all 10 episodes from the show's latest  season. In the episodes, Cartman, Kenny, Stan and Kyle have a memorable Halloween, have super cereal with Al Gore and try to win top prize in the town's bike parade. The show also covers legal weed in Colorado and desensitization to school shootings. The season ends with a two-parter about Amazon coming to South Park, with an appearance by Jeff Bezos as an alien. The episodes come with mini-commentaries by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, social commentary (on-screen tweets) on each episode on the Blu-ray edition and deleted scenes (8:15). Grade: season 3.5 stars; extras 2.5 stars

Sinatra in Palm Springs: The Place He Called Home (Shout Factory, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 92 min.). Leo Zahn acted as producer, director, cinematographer and editor on this documentary about singer Frank Sinatra's love for Palm Springs and nearby Rancho Mirage, both places where he built homes as he liked to be away from the bustle of Los Angeles and being able to golf. The Compound in Rancho Mirage was built next to the Tamarisk Country Club, a golf course co-founded by the Marx Brothers. (Sinatra's last wife, Barbara, who is interviewed here, used to be married to Zeppo Marx.)

While there is no interview footage with Sinatra, those who are interviewed include Barbara Sinatra; Snake Jagger, son of George Jacobs, Sinatra's personal valet from 1953-1966; singer Trini Lopez, the 1960s pop star who signed an 8-year contract with Sinatra's Reprise Records; comedian and close friend Tom Dreesen, who toured with Sinatra and provides many personal stories here; Bill Marx, the son of Harpo Marx; and the owners and maitre d's of several restaurants. There also are tours of the Sinatra homes and plenty of vintage photographs. Sinatra is only heard singing in two film and one video concert clips. The male singer of several songs on the soundtrack is not identified.

What comes across most in the documentary is Sinatra depicted as a man who was kind and generous. We are told he helped  the ordinary people who came upon hard times. He would read the local Desert Sun newspaper every morning and if there were a story of someone who needed help, he would pick up the phone and have his people "take care of it." One time that was paying for a busboy’s medical bills, while another was replacing a single mother’s mobile home that had been destroyed by fire. His philanthropy also supported the local synagogue and Catholic church.

Bonus features include nine short additional interview bits (about 27 min.). Grade: film 3 stars

The Brady Bunch: 50th Anniversary TV & Movie Collection (1969-1974, 1981, 1990, CBS/Paramount, 30 DVDs, NR, 74+ hours). This massive collection includes the first DVD release of "The Bradys" (1990) and "The Brady Brides" (1981). The former followed the trials and tribulations of the grown-up Brady children, now married and with kids of their own, while "The Brady Brides" has Marcia (Maureen McCormick) and Jan (Eve Plumb) get married to their significant others in a joint wedding and decide to buy a house together, although their husbands, Jerry Houser as Wally and Ron Kuhlman as Phillip, respectively, find it challenging to get along.

The bulk of the set is the original, complete series of all five seasons, with commentary by Sherwood Schwartz on "The Honeymoon," commentary by Barry Williams (Greg), Christopher Knight (Peter) and Susan Olsen (Cindy)  on "A-Camping We Will Go" and "The Hero," and the featurette "Coming Together Under One Roof." The show also starred Robert Reed as widower Mike Brady and Florence Henderson as Carol Ann, whom he marries. Both had three children. The other child was Bobby, played by Mike Lookinland. Ann B. Davis played quirky housekeeper Alice. The family dog was Tiger.

The set also includes the movies "A Very Brady Christmas" (1988; with the original cast), "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995) and "A Very Brady Sequel" (1996), both starring Shelley Long and Gary Cole; "Growing Up Brady" (2000), based on Barry Williams' book; and "The Brady Bunch in the White House" (2002), also with Long and Cole.

Additionally, there are the 22 episodes of the animated "The Brady Kids" from 1972-73, with the kids forming a touring pop group. Grade: box set 3.5 stars

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