This week, Denzel Washington again plays a lawyer in our top pick coming to Blu-Ray and DVD. Now, it’s not one of the year’s better films, but this is a bit of a rough slate today, so we’ll have to make do. It’s one of two high profile releases, both of which ended up somewhat surprise Academy Award nominees. Nominees by any other name are still nominees though, so they deserve some credit for that. Anyway, onward with the column!
PICK OF THE WEEK
“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
Denzel Washington plays the most unique character of his career in this uneven feature from Dan Gilroy. That the man who gave us the modern gem “Nightcrawler” could also turn in this legal drama is endlessly fascinating. Moreover, while Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo couldn’t become nominees for that flick, Washington scored for this one. It’s such a hit or miss performance, within a hit or miss film, that it becomes more a curiosity than anything else. From our mixed review here on the site:
The selling point of “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” is seeing Denzel Washington attempt something new. He’s not completely successful, but he’s always watchable.
“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” mainly will appeal to these who were dying to see what Gilroy did next. The same goes for Washington fans. In a less week like this, it more or less takes the crown by default.
Special Features: N/A
Total Box Office: $11,958,929 (and counting)
Major Awards: Nominated for Best Actor (Washington) at the Academy Awards
In honor of this week’s release of “Black Panther,” the pick today is the previous film from director Ryan Coogler. It’s the absolute knockout (no pun intended) “Creed,” which is so much better than anyone expected. In fact, it’s the best “Rocky” sequel and stands tall with the original classic. Coogler brings energy to the franchise and revitalizes Sylvester Stallone, while Michael B. Jordan gave one of the best performances of the year. It’s just amazing. Our rave review on the site had this to say:
It’s something special, a tale of legacy, mortality, and finding your place in the world.
“Creed” should have seen Coogler and Jordan become Oscar nominees for their work. Alas. Still, revisit this riveting achievement before diving into their Marvel outing this weekend!
OTHER FILMS BEING RELEASED
Here’s a look at what else is hitting shelves today, besides the barely recommended title “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”:
“The Ballad of Lefty Brown”
Bill Pullman gets a rare starring role to chew on with this western from A24. Unlike many of their other 2017 releases, this one was largely ignored. Those who saw it did seem to take kindly to it. Reviews were pretty strong too. The Hollywood Reporter had one such take, as you can see:
Though slow to get rolling, it eventually builds into a worthy showcase for Pullman, who himself has too rarely stepped out of support roles.
If you’re a Pullman fan, this could be worth seeking out.
Box Office: $7,856
This documentary about blind magician Richard Turner never really caught on, despite intriguing subject matter. This is another case where a solid doc just doesn’t find an audience. Variety really dug it though, putting forth the following in their review at the time:
Here’s the deal: Luke Korem’s documentary is a fascinating portrait of a blind card mechanic.
Card sharks likely are the ultimate audience, but do as you see fit.
Box Office: $30,414
A surprise box office smash, this melodrama wound up becoming a big of an out of nowhere blockbuster. Oscar nominated in a technical category (though many thought it would slip into Best Adapted Screenplay), it seemed to unabashedly set out to make you cry. According to Entertainment Weekly, it very much succeeded in that manipulative yet effective endeavor:
You’re guaranteed to spend nearly two hours with a lump the size of a nectarine in your throat without resenting it.
Considering how it’s one of the Academy Award nominees, this is one to eventually get around to if you missed it in theaters.
Box Office: $131,318,350 (and counting)
Special Criterion Collection Section
“Night of the Living Dead”
Our first Criterion release today is a landmark zombie movie, one that essentially created the genre. George A. Romero mixed horror and social satire perfectly, crafting something that stands the test of time a half century later. 50 years has done nothing to dull its impact. The Collection makes a full throated pitch for this one like so:
Shot outside Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget, by a band of filmmakers determined to make their mark, Night of the Living Dead, directed by horror master George A. Romero, is a great story of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time.
If you love zombies, pay tribute to the late, great Romero this week!
“The Silence of the Lambs”
The other film joining the collection this week is another undisputed horror classic. In fact, this one also happens to be a huge Academy Award success story as well. Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, and Anthony Hopkins all deservedly took home Oscars for their work here. It’s a masterpiece by the late Demme. What more needs to be said about this one? Still, Criterion hammers home how amazing it is like so:
In this chilling adaptation of the best-selling novel by Thomas Harris, the astonishingly versatile director Jonathan Demme crafted a taut psychological thriller about an American obsession: serial murder.
Simply put, this is a must own.
“Animal Kingdom: The Complete Second Season”
“Broad City: Season Four”
“The Deuce: The Complete First Season”
“Doctor Who: The Complete Peter Capaldi Years”
“Doctor Who Special: Twice Upon A Time”
“Little House On The Prairie Complete Collection”
“Quincy M.E.: Season 1”
“The Sinner: Season One”