Fences is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Denzel Washington in a critically praised drama, Will Smith in a critically hated one, a sci-fi adventure with Chris Pratt and much more.
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During that ridiculous let's-bring-in-a-tour-bus-full-of-common-folk-to-the-Oscars bit a few weeks ago, host Jimmy Kimmel asked one of the tourists who her favorite actor was.  She pointed and simply said “him.”  I turned to my wife and said, “It's Denzel Washington.”  Of course it was.  Everybody loves Denzel Washington.  He’s one of the greatest living actors we have.  

He’s won all the awards.  He’s beloved by just about everyone - men, women, African Americans, Caucasians, liberals, and conservatives alike.  He happily mixes it up by playing in straight-up action flicks and small dramatic films.  Last year, he was in both The Magnificent Seven remake and Fences.  The first was critically derided and the second scored him yet another Academy Award nomination.

In Fences, Denzel plays Troy Maxon a working-class father trying to raise his family while coming to terms with the events of his life.  It's based on the August Wilson play (which won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award).  The film was nominated for Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actress.  It's got a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Its got Denzel Washington in it.  Now it's my Pick of the Week.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Ghost in the Shell:  Terrific mid-'90s animated sci-fi gets a really cool-looking Steelbook release.  Unfortunately, it comes with no extras and a borrowed transfer.  You can read my full review here.

The Lovers on the Bridge:  Kino Lober is giving this 1991 French film a high-definition upgrade.  It stars Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant as two homeless people who struggle to survive in Paris.  Expect a full review from me later this week.

Canoa: A Shameful Memory (Criterion Collection):  A group of urban university employees are attacked by residents of San Miguel Canoa who were manipulated by a corrupt priest into believing the employees were Communist revolutionaries.  Based upon a real incident, Felipe Cazals' overtly political film was highly praised when it was released in 1976 and now Criterion is bringing it to the world.

Romans Criminale: Season 1 & 2:  Italian series loosely based upon a real-life crime family that rose to power in the 1970s.  A couple of episodes in and I’m already hooked.  Expect a full review later this week.

The Love Witch:  Anna Biller wrote, directed, edited, designed the production, costumes, and music for this homage to all those low budget '60s and '70s international horror flicks that I love.  The reviews have been mostly good and it looks like a lot of fun.

Six: Season 1:  Walton Goggins stars in this History Channel action-heavy show about Seal Team Six and the black ops adventures they get into.

They’re Playing with Fire:  "80s slasher flick gets a new life courtesy of Kino Lobber.  I’ve never seen it but that movie poster is burned into my memory from all the times I stared at it lustfully as a pubescent teen.

Elle:  Paul Verhoeven’s latest stars Isabelle Huppert as a rape victim who seeks revenge in only the way one can in a Paul Verhoeven picture.

Collateral Beauty:  Will Smith stars in this drama about a man who suffers a great loss and starts writing letters to Love, Time, and Death.  When they answer back, you get a movie that has been universally derided by critics.

Passengers:  Sci-fi adventure starring Chris Pratt as a man traveling to a distant planet who accidentally gets awaken from his cryo-chamber 90 years too early.  He’s lonely so he wakes Jennifer Lawrence up too and they have good times until she realizes what he’s done.  That’s a cool concept and I like both actors a lot, but the movie was not good.  I felt like it has too many notes from a studio who wanted a summer blockbuster instead of an interesting science fiction film.

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