(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.)
"Fences": Denzel Washington and "How to Get Away With Murder'' star Viola Davis earned easily justifiable raves -- and Academy Award nominations, with Davis taking the best supporting actress award -- for bringing their earlier stage performances in the August Wilson work to the screen, in a version also directed by Washington. Also Oscar-nominated for best picture, the entry in the playwright's "Pittsburgh Cycle'' casts the clearly sterling stars as a 1950s couple beset by numerous problems, some financial, others about personal goals not met, and still others about the strife that can develop between parents and children ... and spouses. The cast also includes Jovan Adepo (also a standout as the couple's football-prone son), Stephen Henderson, Mykelti Williamson and Russell Hornsby ("Grimm''). **** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Passengers": Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, who reportedly pulled down very hefty paydays for their work here, are sent into deep space in director Morten Tyldum's ("The Imitation Game'') imaginative sci-fi drama. The stars' characters -- respectively, a writer and an engineer -- are among the 5,000-plus travelers aboard a starship on a 120-year journey to another planet. When the man accidentally is awakened from hibernation early, his loneliness prompts him to bring the writer out of her sleep ... and they grapple with issues of mortality and intergalactic survival, intensified by the damage done to the vessel by an asteroid. Michael Sheen ("Masters of Sex'') adds good moments as an android bartender in a cast that also features Laurence Fishburne and Andy Garcia. *** (PG-13: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Elle": A recent Oscar nominee for the film, veteran actress Isabelle Huppert earned a Golden Globe Award -- as did the movie itself, as best foreign langage film -- for director Paul Verhoeven's ("Basic Instinct'') controversial drama about a company executive whose cavalier attitude toward personal relationships changes after she is assaulted in her home. She becomes driven to avenge the attack, but being on a course that's so uncharted for her could foretell even more peril for her. Huppert also won honors for the picture from a number of critics' groups across the U.S., including the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Circle. DVD extras: "making-of'' documentary; American Film Institute tribute to Huppert. *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Collateral Beauty": Will Smith has alternated very commercial movies with much more personal tales throughout his career, and this underrated, all-roads-connect-themed drama qualifies as one of the latter. He plays an ad man whose daughter's death drives him to the brink, and as his actions threaten the future of his company, several colleagues (Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Pena) seek evidence about his mental health that they hope will put them in control of the firm's future. Their own backgrounds are revealed as they work with three actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore) enlisted in the quest. Recent "Moonlight'' Oscar nominee Naomie Harris and Mary Beth Peil ("Dawson's Creek'') also appear in the tale written by Allan Loeb ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps'') and directed by David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada''). *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Solace": He's not Hannibal Lecter in this case, but Anthony Hopkins does play a part bearing the title "Doctor'' in this melodrama. The character here is a psychically skilled FBI consultant (Anthony Hopkins) enlisted by an agent (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with whom he has a past, since finding a serial killer (Colin Farrell) evidently will take more than standard procedure. Abbie Cornish ("Limitless''), Xander Berkeley ("The Walking Dead''), Marley Shelton and Janine Turner ("Northern Exposure'') also star. DVD extras: "making-of'' documentary; audio commentary by director Afonso Poyart. *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Six: Season 1": As it wraps up the television run of its freshman season on History, the drama series about the celebrated SEAL Team Six counterterrorism unit makes its home-video debut. Walton Goggins ("Justified'') stars as a former member of the team who falls into the hands of an enemy organization, prompting his ex-colleagues to find and extract him. Barry Sloane ("The Whispers''), Kyle Schmid ("Copper'') and Edwin Hodge also star in the saga, which actually was filmed in North Carolina and California despite its predominantly foreign setting. The show's executive producers include William Broyles ("China Beach'') and his fellow-military-veteran son David. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"A Kind of Murder" (March 21): An architect's (Patrick Wilson) interest in an unsolved homicide leads him into danger; Jessica Biel also stars. (R: AS, P, V)
"Miss Sloane" (March 21): Jessica Chastain plays a lobbyist whose own past could influence her approach to a controversial issue. (R: AS, P)
"Master of None: The Complete First Season" (March 21): The Netflix comedy series casts co-creator Aziz Ansari in the saga of a New York-based actor. (Not rated: AS, P)
"A Monster Calls" (March 28): A troubled youngster (Lewis MacDougall) with an ill mother finds a very unexpected ally in a tree monster. (PG-13: AS)
"20th Century Women" (March 28): Annette Bening plays a woman who recruits others to help raise her son in the late 1970s; Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning also star. (R: AS, N, P)
"Lion" (April 11): Years after being adopted by an Australian couple, a man seeks his biological family; Oscar nominees Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman star. (PG-13: AS)
Oldies But Goodies:
"Firestarter" (1984): A new "Collector's Edition'' Blu-ray of the Stephen King story casts Drew Barrymore as a youngster who can set blazes simply by thought. ***
"Flight" (2012): Denzel Washington is superb as an airline pilot whose drug and alcohol addictions come to light after a traffic crash. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"The Pursuit of Happyness" (2006): Will Smith stars in the true story of a homeless man who interns as a stockbroker while raising his son (Jaden Smith, Will's real-life offspring). *** (Also on Blu-ray)
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending February 26, 2017, Courtesy of comScore)
1) "The Accountant"
3) "The Girl on the Train"
4) "Hacksaw Ridge"
5) "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"
6) "Keeping Up with the Jones"
7) "Manchester by the Sea"
8) "Boo! A Madea Halloween"
10) "Bad Santa"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence