On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 16, 2019

Shazam! immediately sets itself apart from its comic book brethren by opening the film not with a flashback to that of the titular heroes origin, but to that of the origin of its main villain; an antagonist that very easily could have been the protagonist and caused this story to be quite different had one slight outcome been different. Maybe slight is the wrong word as Mark Strong's Dr. Sivana takes a certain defeat to heart and dedicates his life from this point on to figuring out why he wasn't worthy of dawning the Shazam suit. The point being, director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle Creation) and screenwriter Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) begin their movie by filling in the blanks of the bad guy and immediately set-up the audience with an understanding and empathy as to how the rest of the events we see unfold do in fact unfold in the manner they do. This is a key ingredient in a recipe that is repeated so often these days with so many super hero and comic book films saturating the market. Such is the case that filmmakers, studio heads, and whole creative teams alike have essentially been forced to find ways to differentiate their hero from the next studio's hero. While personally, I'm as sincere a fan of both sides of the studio rivals as I could imagine to be Shazam! does a pretty damn good job of making a full-length, fun feature out of what could arguably be one of the corniest super heroes ever put to panel. Shazam is a super hero that is actually a kid and is costumed like a hero out of a 1940's serial series wearing his cape with pride and his spandex with dignity as the large, luminescent lightning bolt that is the symbol of his heroism shines brightly at the costume's core. While most modern super hero films will tend to dial back the costumes that graced the pages of the source material so as to ground the film and the character in more of a familiar reality, Shazam! embraces the corniness whole-heartily and then balances it with a true threat in the aforementioned villain, true tension in that villain's master plan, and real stakes that aren't cataclysmic in nature, but more personal both in relation to the characters we come to know and invest in as well as in making the film feel more like a small movie made for a specific group of people rather than the big movie that appeals to everyone it so very clearly is. Full review here. Video review here. B

In this faith-based film with what is actually a fairly stacked cast that includes This is Us' Chrissy Metz, Topher Grace, Josh Lucas, Mike Colter, and Dennis Haysbert Breakthrough follows a young man named John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) who drowned in Lake Saint Louis and was dead for nearly an hour. When his faithful mother prays for him to come back from the brink of death and be healed though, interesting things begin to happen. With a $50 million worldwide gross on a $14 million production budget, this Fox release may not have gotten as far into the black as one of those Alex and Stephen Kendrick productions (War Room, Courageous), but I doubt anyone was too upset with its financial performance. Given the 59% rating on Rotten Tomatoes it doesn't seem this might be as unbearable as those films either.

Starring Elle Fanning, Teen Spirit serves as the directorial debut of Max Minghella, a young character actor who one might recognize from films like The Social Network or The Ides of March as well as his recurring roles on The Mindy Project and The Handmaid's Tale. Serving as writer and director of this film though, Minghella chronicles Violet, a shy teenager who dreams of escaping her small town and pursuing her passion to sing. With the help of an unlikely mentor, Violet enters a local singing competition that will test her integrity, talent and ambition. Driven by a pop-fueled soundtrack, Teen Spirit acts as a spin on the Cinderella story that, while receiving tepid reviews out of its Toronto premiere last year, still has enough elements to intrigue me to follow-up on it.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and David Strathairn star in this original film written and directed by Julia Hart (Miss Stevens) along with famed producer Jordan Horowitz (La La Land) as Fast Color follows a woman who is forced to go on the run when her superhuman abilities are discovered. Years after having abandoned her family, the only place she has left to hide is home.

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