Topping this week's new DVD releases are films about people dealing with very unique problems.
"Wonder"; 3 stars: This is the kind of movie that should be shown to young and old as a life lesson about how to deal with people who appear to be different. It has a wondrous message about tolerance, acceptance, understanding and respect. There's no guarantee the message would register with all moviegoers, but social ignorance can be cured one person at a time.
Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) has been home schooled all his young life by his mom (Julia Roberts). That was necessary because of the physical complications the youngster was born with that required him to have a long string of surgeries to correct many of the problems. It's decided that middle school is the perfect time for Auggie to start attending classes with other children.
Too often films that offer such lofty visions are presented in a demanding way. "Wonder" is not one of those movies as director Stephen Chbosky ("The Perks of Being a Wallflower") manages to make some very important points while not sacrificing the entertainment elements. He does this through a script lovingly based on the best-selling book by R.J. Palacio and a cast that can deliver emotional moments without being melodramatic.
"Roman J. Israel, Esq."; 2 stars": The role Denzel Washington attacks with vigor is that of a lawyer with a brilliant and beautiful mind who is more comfortable poring over law books than dealing with social situations. When his law partner dies, Roman is forced to leave the comfortable environment he has enjoyed for decades to search for other work. He eventually ends up in a high-end law firm run by George Pierce (Colin Farrell), a former student of Roman's old boss. He has problems adjusting, however, and problems arise.
Dan Gilroy has worked as a writer for years, but "Roman J. Israel, Esq." is only his second film as a director. A more experienced hand likely would have known to pull Washington back a bit and realized the script -- especially its second half -- needed a major rewrite.
"The Deuce: The Complete First Season"; 3 stars: The HBO series about pornography and prostitution in New York in the '70s and '80s recalls a world that should be seen as one of America's great shames, but it's hard to ignore because out of it came so many political, social and business changes. Those behind "The Deuce" never show the dark matter as something of honor but as the unflinching, dehumanizing and destructive world that existed and remains a part of America's dark past.
The series offers no excuses, takes no prisoners and never apologizes. There are times when the darkness feels so overwhelming any relief would be welcomed. But, "The Deuce" draws strength on how this isn't a cushioned look at a sociological abyss but thrives on being as blunt and real as necessary.
ALSO AVAILABLE ON DVD FEB. 13
"Broad City: Season 4": The cable series finds Abbi and Ilana contending with gray hairs and the prospect of real relationships.
"The Sinner": Young woman commits an act of violence on a crowded beach for no apparent reason. Jessica Biel stars.
"Hellraiser: Judgment": Pinhead returns in the next chapter of the "Hellraiser" series.
"Blade of the Immortal": Immortal samurai uses his powers to avenge those who have been wrongfully murdered.
"Pokemon the Movie: I Chose You": Ash Ketchum is permitted to become a Pokemon Trainer.
"Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie": Arnold looks for his parents while on his class field trip to Central America.
"The Ballad of Lefty Brown": After his partner is murdered, Brown vows to avenge his friend's death. Bill Pullman stars.
"Line 41": Documentary about a Holocaust survivor who returns to Poland to learn what happened to his family.
"#artoffline": Manuel Correa's documentary looks at the crisis facing the contemporary art world.
"Animal Kingdom: The Complete Second Season": A family is in chaos when a grandmother takes in her 17-year-old nephew when his mother passes from a drug overdose.
"Paradise": Director Andrei Konchalovsky's story of star-crossed lovers during wartime.
"Ben 10: Villain Time": Includes the first 20 episodes from season one of the animated series about an alien-powered kid hero as he travels the country with his family and alien friends in tow.
"Drag Me to Hell": Woman has only three days to keep a dark spirit from stealing her soul before she is dragged to hell for eternity. This is a new HD master of the theatrical cut of the 2009 film.
"Hell or High Water": Two brothers rob banks to save their ranch. First time the 2016 film has been released on 4K Ultra HD.
"Brotherhood of Blades II: The Infernal Battlefield": Imperial guard looks for the truth behind a conspiracy that framed him and his partners.
Being released on Digital HD Feb. 23
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri": A mother goes to an extreme in an effort to get justice for her murdered daughter. Will be available on DVD Feb. 27.
"Coco": Animated tale of a young boy who must find a way to get back from the land of the dead. Available on DVD and Blu-ray Feb. 27.
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