Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Wonder Woman

"The Big Sick" and “The Hero” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

There is one striking, obvious aspect about Wonder Woman/Diana Prince that separates her from her Justice League colleagues Batman and Superman. That aspect is, of course, the fact that she kills people. Whereas Batman and Superman have codes of conduct that prevent them from taking a life unless absolutely necessary, Wonder Woman (Gal Godot) has no such code. From the time of her first battle against World War I German soldiers after saving the life of American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), it’s clear that shooting an arrow or plunging a spear into someone’s chest is not a problem for our heroine. In fairness, she only kills in the defense of herself and others who are under attack, so her actions aren’t completely unjustified.

It’s interesting to think what kind of a movie “Wonder Woman” would be if Diana was forbidden to kill, given that her mission in the movie is to kill Aries, the ancient Greek god of war. Not knowing what Aries looks like, she believes him to be German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston), a cold-hearted man who develops poison gases with his chief scientist Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) in order to prolong what at that time was called “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars.”

If there’s an element of “Wonder Woman” that’s a bit shaky, it’s the fact that this is an origin story that’s fuzzy on the origins. Diana lives on the island of Themyscira, which is hidden away from the rest of the world—by a shroud created by Zeus, king of the Greek gods—and is entirely populated by Amazon warrior women. The leader of the warriors is Diana’s aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), and Diana’s mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) is queen of the Amazons. There are no men on the island until Trevor crash lands there, and when Diana asks her mother where she comes from, Hippolyta responds that she made Diana out of clay and asked Zeus to breathe life into her. These are the kinds of details that raise just as many questions as they answer. My advice is to just roll with it. Though I really do want to find out why Diana doesn’t grow older after she reaches a certain age.

“Wonder Woman” isn’t all about fighting and super powers either. The love story between Diana and Steve Trevor is palpable, and Gadot and Pine play well off of each other. In addition to being a great warrior, Diana also has a great intellect. She knows a lot about history and science, and she can speak several languages. Even her philosophy is well-reasoned and grounded in compassionate ideals. One of the best moments in the movie is when she gives an elitist British general a piece of her mind.

This is not to say that Diana is perfect in a painfully boring Mary Sue kind of way. Far from it. Diana makes mistakes, including one major one that leads to the huge climax of the movie. She also has a lot to learn about the day to day business of the outside world off of her hidden island. There’s an amusing interlude in which Trevor’s secretary Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) takes Diana shopping for a dress that will help her to blend in with London society. Practical as ever, Diana asks, “How do your women fight in these clothes?” and soon finds out that her sword and shield, which went well with her Amazon warrior outfit, don’t go as well with a full length skirt.

The suits at DC Comics studios must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when “Wonder Woman” was such a huge critical and commercial hit this past summer ($411 million!). Their superhero movie franchise is back on track, and audiences are now primed and ready for “Justice League” to hit theaters on November 17.

Not only is DC revitalized thanks to this movie, but we now finally have a great female-led superhero movie (Note to those who think “Cat Woman” and “Electra” are good movies: You’re wrong. Very wrong). No matter what happens going forward to DC, or Marvel, or superhero movies in general, we’ll always have “Wonder Woman.” This is a great superhero movie that will surely earn its place in movie history and stand the test of time—much like Diana Prince herself. Buy it on Amazon: Wonder Woman (2017) (BD) [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week

The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani is one of my favorite comedians. As I’ve stated before, what draws me to him is his intelligence. He’s a guy who, in any given conversation, is already ten steps ahead and knows what you’re going to say as well as all of the possible directions the conversation is headed.

We get glimpses of this in “The Big Sick,” an autobiographical (the tagline for the movie is “An Awkward True Story”) account of the blossoming of Nanjiani’s relationship with his wife Emily, who is played in the movie by Zoe Kazan. Nanjiani plays himself. However, rather than stinging people in the biting, edgy way he normally does, Nanjiani takes a softer approach. There are times when he is even the butt of the joke, such as when a nurse tells him to go the security desk to get a visitor’s pass. She informs him that the security desk is the thing he passed as he came in that says “Security Desk.” So, Nanjiani reasons, the security desk is at the security desk. Makes sense.

Nanjiani is not alone in great performances either. Emily falls terribly ill and has to be put into a medically-induced coma. Her parents, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, fly in to be with her. Both actors do a lot of heavy lifting as worried parents who do their best to cope with the situation. Hunter’s Beth is more fiery and aggressive, while Romano’s Terry is more soft-spoken and rational—but can explode when the situation calls for it. It’s a dynamic that works well along with Nanjiani, who is just the boyfriend trying to do his best and make things right.

“The Big Sick” is a funny, dramatic, and ultimately heartwarming movie that shows off Nanjiani’s gift as an actor as well as a comedian. There’s a scene in the movie where he looks at an old year book photo and says he had Hugh Grant hair. This is fitting, since his role in this movie is very much like the romantic comedy roles of Hugh Grant in years past. Nanjiani could very well be the next Hugh Grant, if he wants to be. If he does, that’s fine, but I hope he doesn’t dive so far deep into it that he loses his edge. He’s too talented to allow himself to be type cast. Buy it on Amazon: The Big Sick [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital].

The Hero

Sam Elliott turns in one of the best performances of his career—and of the year—in “The Hero.” Elliott stars as Lee Hayden, an aging actor known for a hit western movie made forty years ago. After finding out that he has pancreatic cancer, Lee takes a hard look at his life and examines the meaning of it. He thinks about his priorities and what truly matters—as well as what doesn’t.

As great as Eliiott’s performance is in “The Hero,” the movie sags a bit in the middle. This is due to the predictability of the script by writer-director Brett Haley and his co-writer Marc Basch. They took the formula outline for the hero’s journey, classic three act structure, and wrote it out beat for beat. I can envision the writers counting the pages to make sure that each beat hits at just the right time, based on the formula. It’s that kind of script. So, once one thing goes bad for Lee we know we’ve hit the turning point and all things for the next few scenes will go bad for him. That is, until he has a wake up call and turns things around again.

In spite of the grindingly by the numbers plotting, there are some good bits of dialogue and a fantastic speech that Lee delivers while accepting a lifetime achievement award. Thank goodness for that, and for Sam Elliott giving the movie the emotional gravity it needs in order to work. Rent it.

More New Releases: “The Bad Batch,” love story set against the back drop of a cannibal community in Texas, starring Keanu Reeves, Jason Momoa, and Suki Waterhouse; and “Cartels,” starring Steven Seagal as a government agent taking on an Eastern European drug cartel.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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