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On demand: Cynthia Erivo shines in timely biopic ‘Harriet’

Matt Shiverdecker, Special to the American-Statesman
Cynthia Erivo stars in “Harriet.” [Contributed by Focus Features]

Here is an interesting new release available now from cable and digital providers as well as a title currently available for streaming.

Video on Demand

"Harriet": Kasi Lemmons ("Eve's Bayou") takes us back to the Civil War for a biopic about abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Tubman is played in the film by Cynthia Erivo, who earned a best actress nomination at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (and she is a dual Oscar nominee, thanks to co-writing and singing "Stand Up," which earned a best original song nod, as well). Ultimately, this is a story of a hard-fought journey to freedom, not just for Harriet but for her family members and friends, whom she risks her life to save on the treacherous Underground Railroad trip. This system of hiding and protecting runaway slaves heading north held the potential for betrayal at every turn, but Harriet did it over and over again to bring as many people as she could to a better life. The film was hobbled by controversy during its release, from people unhappy that British actor Erivo was portraying an American icon to the depiction of a brutal African American bounty hunter teaming up with white men to try and capture slaves on the run. Erivo's performance is enough to recommend the film, which serves as a stark reminder of the not-so-distant sins of our nation. (Cable and digital VOD, 4K Ultra HD available)

Also on streaming services

"Toy Story 4": Pixar had already crafted a pretty perfect trilogy out of this series, so the announcement of a fourth installment of "Toy Story" felt like overkill. Andrew Stanton (who co-wrote all four films) worked on this new screenplay with Stephany Folsom, and they incorporated a wide variety of story ideas from a team that included "Celeste and Jesse Forever" writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. The end result is another remarkable glimpse into the lives of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and all the toys who have been enjoying their time with a young girl named Bonnie after being donated to her by their former owner, Andy. As Bonnie enters kindergarten, she makes her own toy, dubbed Forky, out of a plastic spork at school. Forky becomes her new favorite companion. The rest of the crew tag along on a family road trip to make sure they aren't forgotten, and we meet a whole host of new toys at a carnival and antique store along the way, including a reunion with long lost friend Bo Peep. Perfectly balancing sentimental sweetness and laughter, don't be surprised if the success of this sequel keeps the franchise going a little longer. (Disney+, 4K Ultra HD available)