Picks of the week
(R, 96 minutes, Lionsgate): Keanu Reeves can still tussle with the best of them, and he needs to in the title role of this action flick in overdrive. The movie is what you’d expect from two stunt choreographers turned directors (David Leitch and Chad Stahelski), with the addition of a few fun flourishes.
As the movie begins, Wick’s wife has just died after an illness. He is despondent, and the cinematography is cold and gray. But things warm up when Wick receives an adorable beagle puppy, a posthumous gift from Wick’s beloved, and the film takes a heart-melting turn.
Then there’s a fateful encounter at a gas station, and Russian hooligans break into Wick’s house to steal his 1969 Mustang, mercilessly beating him as well as the pup. What these young thugs don’t realize is that Wick is a retired hit man with a frightening reputation. The killing machine’s former employer, Russian mafioso Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), happens to be the father of the hooligans’ ringleader (Alfie Allen from “Game of Thrones,” again playing the idiot son).
Naturally, Wick plans to take the kid out, while Viggo tries to stop the inevitable retaliation.
Contains strong language, drug use and bloody violence throughout. Extras: Featurettes “Don’t F*#% With John Wick,” “Calling in the Cavalry,” “Destiny of a Collective,” “Assassin’s Code,” “Red Circle” and “NYC Noir.” On Blu-ray: commentary with Stahelski and Leitch.
‘Dear White People’
(R, 100 minutes, Lionsgate): Sam (Tessa Thompson), a hip film student, hosts a radio show called “Dear White People,” during which she recounts, with even-toned sarcasm, the ways she and her fellow students of color are routinely pigeonholed, stigmatized and condescended to.
“Satire is the weapon of reason,” one character tells another in the movie, which exemplifies that sentiment with a potent combination of playfulness and pointed cultural critique. This alternately thoughtful and hilarious comedy of campus manners is the bracingly candid brainchild of first-time filmmaker Justin Simien, who has created that rarity in American society: a movie that simultaneously sends up the national “conversation about race” while advancing the conversation itself.
Simien maintains a scrupulously light tone and deft touch throughout “Dear White People,” which takes place on the campus of a fictional Ivy League college called Winchester. There, African-American students – representatives of the “talented 10” percent – grapple with identity, expectations and ambition at a primarily white institution that congratulates itself for its liberalism.
Contains profanity, sexuality and drug use. Extras: A making-of featurette; “Get Your Life” music video; deleted scenes; outtakes; “Racism Insurance” skits; “The More You Know About Black People” (an online PSA series); “DVRS App: Black Friends When You Need Them” and a “Leaked: Banned Winchester U Diversity” featurette. On Blu-ray: commentary with Simien and another with Simien, Thompson and co-stars Tyler James Williams, Teyonah Parris and Brandon Bell.
(PG-13, 92 minutes, Universal): For a tantalizing half hour or so, it actually seemed like the underlying idea of “Dracula Untold” – an origin story drawing its DNA from superhero flicks, not monster movies – might go somewhere.
Unfortunately, in its search for fresh blood to rejuvenate the desiccated corpse of Bram Stoker’s hero, long since drained of narrative power, it goes places it shouldn’t. The film’s problems aren’t limited to liberal cadging from comic books. In fact, that’s precisely what’s best about the film, which occasionally boasts gorgeous visuals.
Contains violence, scary sequences and brief sensuality. Extras: “Day in the Life – Luke Evans” personal moments with the film’s star on set; “Dracula Retold” production featurette; “Slaying 1000” behind-the-scenes look at the making of Vlad’s epic battle against an army of thousands; commentary with director Gary Shore and production designer Francois Audouy. On Blu-ray: Alternate opening; deleted scenes; “The Land of Dracula” interactive map that explores Dracula’s mysterious world; “Luke Evens - Creating a Legend.”
‘The Best of Me’
(PG-13, 117 minutes, Fox): Novelist-turned-producer Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook,” “A Walk to Remember”), the reigning king of thwarted romance and tearful endings, resurrects the formula again with the usual trappings: a kissing scene in the pouring rain, a disapproving father, obstacles that lead to the wrong pairing.
In this case, the story follows high school sweethearts who lose touch. Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) and Dawson (James Marsden) are reunited after a mutual friend dies, and as soon as Amanda glimpses Dawson for the first time in 21 years, two things are clear: She’s very angry with him, and they’re totally going to get together. What Dawson did to make Amanda so angry is the mystery that drives the movie.