(Ratings for each film begin with a "star'' rating -- one star meaning "poor,'' four meaning "excellent'' -- followed by the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and then by a family-viewing guide, the key for which appears below.)
"The Shape of Water": Able to boast the rare achievement of scoring 13 Oscar nominations including best picture, director Guillermo del Toro's striking-looking (thanks to cinematographer Dan Laustsen) fantasy-drama casts Sally Hawkins as a worker in a top-secret Baltimore government laboratory during the Cold War. Her isolated existence changes radically when she discovers a captured, amphibious creature (Doug Jones) and forms a relationship with it, planning to help it escape. The first-rate cast also includes Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nick Searcy and David Hewlett. Also of note is the smartly composed music score by Alexandre Desplat. DVD extras: theatrical trailers; four "making-of'' documentaries; "Guillermo del Toro's Master Class.'' **** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"I, Tonya": The Tonya in question is disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, superbly played by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie, in director Craig Gillespie's docudrama tracing her life throughout the years with her colorful mother ... a decidedly different kind of "Mom'' as evoked in another sterling, Academy Award-nominated performance by Allison Janney. Of course, the story takes a major turn with the attack on skating rival Nancy Kerrigan, involving others who were in Harding's circle at the time. The script by Steven Rogers also allows for juicy roles for Sebastian Stan (as Jeff Gillooly), Julianne Nicholson and Bobby Cannavale. Of note is that Robbie performed some of the skating herself, no simple feat given what Harding accomplished on the ice before she was banned for life by the United States Figure Skating Association. *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Call Me by Your Name": An Oscar nominee for best picture and actor (Timothee Chalamet), director Luca Guadagnino's drama examines a life-changing relationship. Adapted for the screen from Andre Aciman's novel by veteran filmmaker James Ivory -- who also was an Academy Award contender for the film -- the story casts Chalamet and Armie Hammer ("The Social Network'') -- as two men who meet in mid-1980s Italy and proceed to become very involved with each other. Michael Stuhlbarg also is featured, but as the picture's award-season trail has suggested, it's particularly notable for the star-making showcase it gives Chalamet. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries; audio commentary by Chalamet and Stuhlbarg; music video ("Mystery of Love'' by Sufjan Stevens). *** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Also Releasing this Week:
"The Handmaid's Tale: Season One": One of the series that have put streaming services in the map, through wide acclaim and many award wins, this Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel stars Emmy recipient Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men'') as an oppressed member of a future society. The atmosphere is so highly charged among different factions with their own agendas, any individual must tread carefully to survive ... certainly including Moss' character, who also is determined to find the daughter she's been separated from. Alexis Bledel ("Gilmore Girls''), Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski ("Chuck''), fellow Emmy winner Ann Dowd and Samira Wiley ("Orange Is the New Black'') also are in the cast of the intense drama, which is about to yield a second season. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries, **** (Not rated: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"The Disaster Artist": James Franco directed and also stars in this fact-inspired comedy, for which he recently earned a Golden Globe Award by playing Tommy Wiseau, the driving force behind what became a disaster of a movie titled ``The Room.'' He gets an acting-class acquaintance (Dave Franco, James' brother) to participate in the project with him, but neither sees just how much trouble lies ahead for them. The cast is loaded with Hollywood notables including Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Seth Rogen, Kristen Bell, Zac Efron and Megan Mullally, helping to add cred to the story being told. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber were Oscar-nominated for their screenplay. DVD extras: theatrical trailer; three "making-of'' documentaries; audio commentary by Franco, Wiseau and others; outtakes. *** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Pitch Perfect 3" (March 20): The singing Bellas reunite to take part in an international competition during a USO tour; Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson return. (PG-13: AS, P)
"Legion: The Complete Season One" (March 27): In the FX fantasy-drama series, Dan Stevens ("Downton Abbey'') plays a man who may be a mutant. (Not rated: AS, P, V)
"Mr. Robot: Season 3.0" (March 27): The discord between the title character (Christian Slater) and cyber-engineer Elliot (Emmy winner Rami Malek) deepens. (Not rated: AS, P, V)
"Molly's Game" (April 10): Oscar-winning writer Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut casts Jessica Chastain in the true story of a woman who ran an exclusive poker game. (R: AS, P, V)
Oldies But Goodies:
"The Big Chill" (1983): A reunion of college friends has different effects on the attendees; the superb cast includes William Hurt, Glenn Close and Kevin Kline. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"The Cutting Edge" (1992): A sidelined hockey player (D.B. Sweeney) reluctantly teams with a demanding figure skater (Moira Kelly) to pursue Olympic glory. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Superman: The Movie" (1978): Christopher Reeve makes an ideal Man of Steel in the adventure that also stars Gene Hackman as villain Lex Luthor. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending February 25, 2018, Courtesy of comScore)
2) "Daddy's Home 2"
3) "A Bad Moms' Christmas"
5) "Only the Brave"
6) "Roman J. Israel, Esq."
7) "Blade Runner 2049"
8) "The Star"
10) "American Made"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence