On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 11, 2018

Denzel Washington is sixty-three years-old and will be sixty-four this coming December. I can recall taking note of this fact when writing about the first Equalizer film when Washington was about to turn sixty and how impressive it seemed that the guy had no intentions of slowing down. In the interim between that 2014 film and what is the first sequel one of the world's most charismatic actors has agreed to be a part of, Mr. Washington has still shown no signs of slowing down. Since The Equalizer Washington has already paired with director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) again prior to this latest entry with their remake of The Magnificent Seven which I found to be immensely entertaining as well as having adapted, starred in, and directed August Wilson's seminal piece of work in Fences for which he was shrouded in awards love. And again last year, the actor earned another Best Actor nomination for his work in Dan Gilroy's quirky, but largely effective Roman J. Israel, Esq. (which I probably liked more than you). The point being, each of these gave Washington the chance to continue to do what he loves as he flexed a different muscle in regard to each respective project, but the choice to return to the character of Robert McCall among every character Washington has played is a curious one. I enjoyed The Equalizer upon initial release and was happy to find it wasn't simply another case of an aging star attempting to cash in on the Liam Neeson-proven method of combining a once valuable name on the poster above a newfangled action-centric conflict. Of course, Washington was never relegated to being a star whose name ever lost any value. Denzel is Denzel and no matter what he does people typically turn out in fair enough numbers to justify his mid-range action projects and awards contenders. In fact, since 2009 (which accounts for Washington's last ten films), the star has never seen less than a $50 million lifetime gross with the exception of Israel last year with seven of those ten releases doing over $70 million worth of business during their theatrical runs. Denzel, the man, is typically all the brand recognition that is required and so it feels weird that Washington has been brought into this fold of sequels and franchises. Maybe it's just the first time someone has offered the actor a follow-up to one of his projects or maybe it's just a sign of the times. Whatever the case may be, The Equalizer 2 isn't exactly what one might hope for in a "first" from Denzel Washington, but more it plays into what the first did more to subvert in not being your by-the-numbers action flick as this sequel, with nowhere else to go, had no choice but to surrender to the trend. Full review here. D

Due purely to track record it's difficult to be excited for any animated movie not produced by Disney and/or Pixar and so, while there weren't exactly high expectations going into Smallfoot it more than surpassed how average I surmised it might be. The characters are charming (as is the famous voice cast, though I can't help but feel anyone could have voiced these characters whether a big name or not except for maybe Common), the animation is up to par with the new norm which is to say it's pretty fantastic, and much to my surprise there were a few genuinely catchy if not exactly memorable musical numbers thrown in for good measure.

Like Warner Animation's infinitely re-watchable 2016 film, Storks, this will surely go underappreciated despite being an equally clever and creative little tale about questioning those things that define our behavior and our society despite having little to do with our present reality. Yeah, the easy target here is religion and the Bible given the story revolves around the validity of ancient texts, but the film isn't so much about challenging a system for the sake of stirring up trouble (Tatum's lead character, Migo, is genuinely conflicted about questioning anything in his comfortable existence), but more Smallfoot explores how the only way to constantly be improving upon our world and existence is to accept change and face reality rather than steering clear of a truth simply because it contradicts the firm beliefs of the hierarchy. B

Peppermint is easily the most "early-2000s" movie of 2018. D+

"I can read you like the top line of an optometrist's chart."

Colette is a mixed bag of being both your standard period drama (gorgeous costumes and production design) while telling a story that feels all the more timely in regards to today's conversations (bisexuality, transgender individuals, etc.). If nothing else, Colette shows this conversation about gender and gender fluidity has been ongoing for much longer than some might care to admit.

What is unfortunate about Wash "Still Alice" Westmoreland's adaptation of these true events is a lack of any real narrative drive which, oddly enough, is Colette's husband's first critique of her first "Claudine" novel. That said, it's not hard to appreciate that Westmoreland allows his stars in Keira Knightley and Dominic West (both solid to great in certain moments) to define their relationship as one of genuine love and affection before sending it off the rails as the film details some rather weird and ultimately complex interpersonal dynamics between the two of them. It's all rather fascinating in terms of being the topic of a dinner conversation after the fact, but in the moment it never engages to the degree one is truly emotionally invested in any aspect of Colette's life as presented.

Westmoreland, Richard Glatzer, and Rebecca Lenkiewicz's screenplay does feature some rather excellent dialogue and the glaze of an interesting commentary on the societal expectations of men at the turn of the century and the glaring differences between what was thought of as a gentleman and what is actually a gentle man permeates throughout, but this idea is never fully fleshed out. In an early scene Knightley's Colette tells her mother (played by Mrs. Dursley herself, Fiona Shaw) that marriage and her life up until that point has been "nothing like she imagined" which comes to be rather ironic given Colette went on to turn every expectation she likely had for her life on its head. It's only too bad the film as a whole couldn't accomplish this as well.

Turn of the century Paris was crazy though, y'all. C

Kristen Stewart and ChloĆ« Sevigny star in Lizzie, a psychological thriller based on the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family with Sevigny playing the title character. Beginning in 1892, after the Borden family welcomes a new Irish maid called Bridget Sullivan (Stewart), she and Lizzie quickly become friends. The friendship between these women becomes something more, even as Lizzie's relationship with her own parents unravels at a frightening level. After premiering at Sundance to solid word of mouth and given the ever-evolving and intriguing career of Stewart my interest was piqued, but unfortunately the film never opened near me theatrically. Needless to say, I'll be checking this one off my watchlist soon.

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