Marvel Studios

Avengers Endgame, Shadow: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Blu-rays to Watch

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Well, the biggest damn movie of the year – or, domestically (and not adjusted for inflation) any year is available on disc and demand today, and it’s worth seeing, mostly. More adventurous moviegoers may want to check out another epic, this one from a Chinese master, or one of this week’s new-to-Blu-ray classics. And if you’d like to mark the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, PBS has just the documentary for you.

ON NETFLIX / PBS:

PBS Distribution on YouTube

Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation: Director Barack Goodman (Oklahoma City) is very good at telling history that’s more than just history, and his latest documentary – just in time for the event’s 50th anniversary – is a look back at the 1969 Woodstock Art & Music Festival. But it’s not just about the fest. He takes the time to fully set the scene: the music, the politics, the drugs, and most of all, the anti-establishment air that fueled that seminal event. “We were looking for answers,” an attendee explains. “We were looking for people who felt the same way that we did.” And at its best, Woodstock gets at how that idea of community manifested itself for those three days. Goodman doesn’t quite stick the landing – he pastes together some platitudes and then it’s over – but the interviews are enlightening, the archival footage is marvelous, and the music, of course, is priceless. (Also streaming on pbs.org.)

ON 4K / BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD:

Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Avengers: Endgame: The capper to the latest phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and inevitable reversal of last year’s Infinity War) is worth recommending for its marvelous middle hour, in which the remaining Avengers and their Avenger-adjacent heroes team up for a “time heist” to reassemble the “Infinity Stones” to allowed Thanos (Josh Brolin) to wipe out half of the human race five years earlier. And thus they end up revisiting the earlier movies, a clever, Back to the Future Part II-style storytelling flourish that gives the picture a delightful, light playfulness. But to get there, you have to sit through all the mopey shoe-leather of the first hour, and then endure an endless, weightless battle sequence, followed by a not-altogether-earned emotional catharsis (and so, so many goodbyes) in hour three. There’s a lot to like here, particularly the engaging performers (Paul Rudd and Mark Ruffalo are my personal MVPs, though your mileage may vary). And it’s not like my complaints are going to keep anyone away from this one anyway. (Includes deleted scenes, gag reel, and featurettes.)

ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD:

Well Go USA

Shadow: The latest from director Zhang Yimou (Hero, The Great Wall) is a mixture of martial arts, mysticism, and gobsmacking images that I’d put among his best works. It showcases a beautifully, fully realized vision: he tells his story in the blacks and whites of traditional ink drawings, in sharp contrast to the sumptuous saturation of something like Curse of the Golden Flower. Of course, those blacks and whites are offset in the back half by the copious splashes of scarlet blood, which he also yields less like a fight choreographer than a visual artist — the battles are as much about patterns on the “page” as they are about hits and bruises, as much about aesthetics as they are about acrobatics. It’s a beautiful blast. (Includes featurettes.)

ON BLU-RAY:

The Criterion Collection

The Inland Sea: Filmmaker Lucille Carra both dramatizes and contextualizes Donald Richie’s poetic travelogue, turning it into a combination of documentary and exploration, with the author reading (and, occasionally, amending) his text in voice-over. His prose is thoughtful, curious, and lovely, exquisitely complemented by Carra’s evocative photography, and what sounds like a peculiar experiment or indulgent exercise is instead a freewheeling snapshot of a particular time and place. (Includes new and archival interviews.)

Touchez Pas au Grisbi: KL Studio Classics’ recent run of French New Wave classics continues with this 1954 effort from director Jacques Becker (Le Trou, Casque d’Or), whose title translates roughly to Honor Among Thieves. It’s a ruthless little thriller, in which an impatient gangster (Jean Gabin) is forced to clean up several messes – often brutally – connected to the eight stolen gold bars in the boot of his car. Becker’s pacing is taut and Pierre Montazel’s black and white photography is crisp as a potato chip. But the biggest draw here is Gabin, whose world-weary tough guy is a can’t-stop-watching piece of work. (Includes, audio commentary, interviews, and trailer.)