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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Avengers: Endgame

“Unplanned” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The “Avengers: Endgame” movie doesn’t mess around, so neither will I. After picking up exactly where the previous installment, “Avengers: Infinity War,” left off and giving Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) some devastating consequences from the infamous “snap” done by Thanos (Josh Brolin), we see Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) trying to make the most of being stuck adrift in space. The situation looks grim, but hope comes in the form of new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) addition Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).

This is part of what makes the MCU so captivating, and why “Avengers: Endgame” works so well. The pieces of all 22 movies (including this one) over the past eleven years fit together like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. Each piece, i.e., each movie, is necessary to make sense out of the whole. In this case, you need to have seen “Captain Marvel” in order to understand who she is, where she comes from, what she can do, and why she’s there. Okay, so the “why” isn’t explained all that well in “Endgame” as she does seem to come out of literally nowhere, but it’s less confusing to at least know who she is and not be asking that question when she comes on screen and saves the day. It’s also a genius move on the part of Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who should be credited for having the grand vision to make this all come together. He set up the franchise to guarantee that fans will see every movie so they won’t have any questions going in to the next one.

Another requirement is “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which ended with Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) getting trapped in the quantum realm. By the time a rat haphazardly steps on the exit button for him, five years have gone by. However, as he explains to Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), for him it felt like five hours. This leads them to the idea of finding a way to travel through time to get the Infinity stones before Thanos finds them so they can snap their own fingers and put things back the way they should be.

After both Iron Man and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) blow my—and apparently also Ant-Man’s—childhoods out of the water by telling us “Back to the Future” was wrong about time travel, it gets figured out. Where they go and what they do needs to be seen, but it leads to some of the most rewarding cinematic moments of all time. This is more than just fan service. This is your prize for being a fan and for paying attention for the past eleven years. It’s also a great way to re-introduce beloved heroes, villains, and side characters who we thought were gone for good.

Even more amazing is that for a movie about beings with superpowers, aliens, and inter-dimensional travel, some of what we see is deeply personal. A seed was planted at Iron Man’s first press conference in the very first “Iron Man” movie from 2008 that pays off in fulfilling way, and Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) experience while back in time resonated the most strongly with me, as I think it will for a lot of people.

Movies of this magnitude require music to match it, and composer Alan Silvestri does not disappoint. His score takes us to thrilling heights during the action, takes our breath away during the suspense, and makes our hearts ache during times of tragedy. A great sampling of the score plays over the end credits, which themselves are done in a very classy and respectful way. While there is no post-credit scene like in other MCU movies, there is an auditory cue at the very end that harkens back to where it all began eleven years ago, and it’s perfect.

Hitchcock once famously said that a good director will play the audience like a piano, meaning with varying pitches and tempos. Between Silvestri’s music, a brilliant and satisfying story, perfect performances by the cast, and the expert guidance of directors Anthony and Joe Russo, consider me very well played. Buy it.

Also New This Week

Unplanned

In the opening moments of “Unplanned” we see Houston, TX area Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson (Ashley Bratcher), one of the youngest in the nation, witness an abortion. In spite of the fact that she’s been at the clinic for eleven years and has counseled around 22,000 women on abortion in that time, and in spite of having gone through the procedure herself in her younger years, she never actually witnessed one out right. What she sees—and what is shown in compelling yet not too graphic detail—is the event that changed her mind and caused her to resign. We then see Abby’s story, which is based on a true story, starting as a volunteer in college and up through to the events of the opening scene and beyond.

The doctor performing the abortion in the opening scene Anthony Levatino, who is not an actor. That’s okay, because he doesn’t have to be since he is essentially playing a version of himself in “Unplanned.” Some may recognize Levatino from clips you can see here and there of his testimony before Congress on the horrors of the abortion process.

From his casting and the opening scene, it’s obvious that the movie has a point of view. That is undeniable, and what’s more, it’s perfectly acceptable. I will also submit that there is a difference between a movie maturely and compassionately expressing its point of view, as “Unplanned” does, and a movie which seeks to propagandize and ram an agenda down the audience’s throat. I’ll give two reasons why “Unplanned” is the former and not the latter:

First, the movie is aware that there are people on the pro-life side of the literal and figurative fence who are a public relations nightmare. They badger and belittle scared young women who believe they are doing the right thing, thinking it will make them change their minds. All behavior like that does is galvanize the pro-abortion side to dig their heels in on their point of view and make things more difficult for calmer, more rational people like Shawn (Jared Lotz) and Marilisa (Emma Elle Roberts). Both Shawn and Marilisa are members of an organization called Coalition for Life, and they present the more sympathetic and understanding pro-life point of view.

Second, there is no demonization of pro-choice advocates or of any woman who chooses to have an abortion. Conversely, a lot of time is spent inside the Planned Parenthood facility showing what takes place there. None of the patients are viewed with any judgment. As for the clinic, while their lies to patients may be unscrupulous, it’s portrayed as more of an institutional/cultural problem rather than one that has to do with the people there being bad, with the exception of the ambitious Cheryl (Robia Scott). However, Cheryl isn’t a bad person because of abortions—she would be awful in any setting. She represents the cut throat politics of corporate culture more than she does anything else.

Abortion isn’t an easy subject, but it is a major topic of debate in our culture. Such a serious subject deserves a serious movie, and “Unplanned” is it. Anyone interested in the debate, regardless of which “side of the fence” they’re on, should check this movie out. It may or may not change your mind, but Abby’s story is one worth watching. Rent it.

More New Releases: “True Believer,” smart and well-written drama from 1989 about a cynical former civil liberties attorney compelled to re-visit an eight-year-old murder case, featuring a stand out lead performance by James Woods and giving us a look at Robert Downey Jr. 30 years ago as the quintessential idealistic young lawyer fresh out of law school.

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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