DVD Releases (for week of Feb. 11)


STARTING THIS WEEK (New releases):

“ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.”: One of the most enjoyable things about Denzel Washington’s career has been to watch him tackle surprising characters with his expected dedication, and he does so again with his Oscar-nominated work in writer-director Dan Gilroy’s (“Nightcrawler”) drama about an unconventional attorney who has to alter the way he does business – in some ways, at least – when a heart attack incapacitates his partner. He’s initially on shaky ground as he starts anew with another lawyer (Colin Farrell, doing solid work as well) whose firm does much bigger business. Though it’s a procedural in part, the film also is a rich character study, with co-star Carmen Ejogo also fine as a woman Washington’s title character becomes involved with … despite his very evident lack of social graces. DVD extras: three “making-of” documentaries; deleted scenes. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)



“WONDER”: From the “don’t judge a book by its cover” category comes this affecting drama about a homeschooled youngster (played by Jacob Tremblay of “Room”) who has a facial deformity – making his entry into a mainstream elementary school a challenge, not only for himself but also for his deeply caring parents (Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson). The effect that the youngster has on virtually everyone around him, as he meets and overcomes various hurdles, is sizable. Mandy Patinkin and Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton”) also appear in what qualifies as a fine family film. DVD extras: “making-of” documentary; audio commentary by director-screenwriter Stephen Chbosky and author R.J. Palacio; music video. *** (PG: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“THE SINNER: SEASON ONE”: Jessica Biel made a definite image gamble in her first return to series television since “7th Heaven,” and it paid off handsomely, earning her many positive reviews from those impressed by her dive into such emotional complexity. In the USA Network drama – based on a Petra Hammesfahr best seller – the actress plays seemingly content wife and mother Cora Tannetti, who suddenly erupts in murderous violence in public view on a beach, an event that puzzles an investigator (Bill Pullman, also excellent in an atypical role) determined to find out why she suddenly turned homicidal as she doubts her own sanity. Christopher Abbott (“A Most Violent Year”) also stars as her equally baffled husband. Biel was an executive producer as well on the project. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V)

“THE DEUCE: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON”: James Franco plays dual roles in the most certainly adult HBO drama series, created by George Pelecanos and David Simon (“The Wire,” “Treme”) – also executive producers here, along with Franco – about the birth of the pornography business in early-1970s New York. The title is a reference to the city’s 42nd Street, which was a haven for such activity at the time, and which draws in the twin brothers played here by Franco. As the harder-working sibling tries to help the other out of incurred underworld debts, he meets many of the area’s dwellers including a wise prostitute (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Franco directed some of the episodes of the show, which has been renewed for a second season and also includes Gary Carr (“Downton Abbey”), Emily Meade (“The Leftovers”), Michael Rispoli (“The Sopranos”), Ralph Macchio and “Wire” veterans Chris Bauer and Lawrence Gilliard Jr. in its cast. In addition to Simon and Pelecanos, novelist Richard Price is among the series’ writers.*** (Not rated: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)

“THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN”: Plenty of Western traditions are upheld in this saga of the title character (played by Bill Pullman), a dedicated friend and determined avenger out to even the score for the murder of his pal (Peter Fonda), the first senator elected in Montana. Enlisting unlikely helpers along the way, he ultimately has more to contend with when he finds himself accused of the killing. The physical look of the film also holds to the basics of the genre, with Brown’s pursuit of his quarry marked by open and vast landscapes. Kathy Baker and Jim Caviezel (“Person of Interest”) also are featured in writer-director Jared Moshe’s film. DVD extras: two “making-of” documentaries; audio commentary by Pullman and Moshe. *** (R: P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

“ADAM-12: SEASON ONE”: Though it first was released on home video more than a decade ago, one of television’s seminal police dramas now gets a relaunch on DVD. The series has the unmistakably straightforward stamp of executive producer Jack Webb (“Dragnet”) as it follows the cases of two Los Angeles patrol partners, veteran Pete Malloy and rookie Jim Reed – and it’s very much to the credit of stars Martin Milner and Kent McCord that they developed such a believable and enjoyable camaraderie while holding to Webb’s by-the-book approach. As with other shows of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it’s entertaining to see who had early jobs as guest stars here … including Harry Dean Stanton, Karen Black, Barry Williams (“The Brady Bunch”) and Tim Matheson. *** (Not rated: AS, V)


COMING SOON (Upcoming releases):

Mel Gibson, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow and Will Ferrell star in ‘Daddy’s Home 2’

“DADDY’S HOME 2” (Feb. 20): As Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell return, their characters welcome – if that’s the right word – their own dads, played by Mel Gibson and John Lithgow. (PG-13: AS, P)

“JUST GETTING STARTED” (Feb. 27): A retirement-community resident (Morgan Freeman) gets a rival (Tommy Lee Jones) who later becomes an ally. (PG-13: AS, P, V)

“MACGYVER: SEASON 1” (Feb. 27): Lucas Till has the title role in the CBS reboot of the series about a particularly inventive adventurer; George Eads also stars. (Not rated: AS, P, V)

“MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS” (Feb. 27): Also the film’s director, Kenneth Branagh heads an all-star cast as detective Hercule Poirot probes the title crime in the classic Agatha Christie mystery. (PG-13: AS, V)

“THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI” (Feb. 27): A woman (Frances McDormand) takes an unusual step to try to get her daughter’s murder solved; Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson also star. (R: AS, P, V)

“THOR: RAGNAROK” (March 6): The Norse god (Chris Hemsworth) has family problems and a showdown with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) as he tries to save his home world. (PG-13: V)

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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