Picks of the week
May 5: (PG-13, 127 minutes, Paramount): Director Ava DuVernay has created a stirring, often thrilling, uncannily timely drama that works on several levels at once. Yes, it’s an impressive historic pageant, and one that will no doubt break the ice for similar-themed movies to come. But DuVernay – whose roots are in the indie world, having directed the films “I Will Follow” and “Middle of Nowhere,” has also rescued the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from his role as a worshiped – and sentimentalized – secular saint. The most riveting passages of “Selma,” which chronicles three marches King planned and finally led from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965, aren’t the speeches and skirmishes that led up to the marches but instead can be found in the meetings between King (David Oyelowo) and President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) as they argued the issue of voting rights. Oyelowo doesn’t mimic King so much as channel him: His voice, devoid of King’s familiar church-bell timbre, is his own, and he uses it to create a bona fide character rather than a superficial impersonation. Contains disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment and brief strong profanity. Extras: Commentary by DuVernay and Oyelowo; commentary by DuVernay, director of photography Bradford Young and editor Spencer Averick; deleted and extended scenes; featurettes “The Road to Selma” and “Recreating Selma” and a music video of the Oscar-winning “Glory” featuring John Legend and Common.
May 5: (R, 150 minutes, Sony): Timothy Spall grunts, groans, spits and sputters his way through this portrait of the 19th century British artist J.M.W. Turner, which is as suffused with watery light, ethereal feeling and striving for the sublime as one of its subject’s paintings. One of the most famous members of the Royal Academy of Arts, he was nonetheless reviled by Queen Victoria as his style of painting inched closer to abstraction. Structured by writer-director Mike Leigh as a series of vignettes, “Mr. Turner” isn’t comprehensive, and yet it feels all of a piece (the film roughly covers 1825 to 1851, when Turner died). Contains some sexual content. Extras: Commentary with Leigh, a deleted scene and a “Many Colours of Mr. Turner” featurette. On Blu-ray: “The Cinematic Palette” cinematography featurette with Leigh’s longtime cinematographer, Dick Pope.
‘Black or White’
May 5: (PG-13, 121 minutes, Fox): A grandfather (Kevin Costner) is suddenly left to care for his beloved granddaughter (impressively played by cute-as-a-button Jillian Estell). When her paternal grandmother (Octavia Spencer) seeks custody with the help of her brother (Anthony Mackie), things get ugly with finger-pointing, dirt-digging and accusations of racism. The girl, meanwhile, is torn between two families who love her deeply. The performances are fantastic, with Costner acting in his trademark low-key naturalistic style and Spencer as the picture of no-nonsense maternal love. But their efforts can’t make up for overly simplified characters, not to mention melodramatic exchanges that sound exactly like written dialogue. Contains brief strong language, drug use, drinking and a fight. Extras: A making-of featurette. On Blu-ray: Costner and “Family First” featurettes.
‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
May 8: (R, 125 minutes, Universal): This adaptation of E.L. James’ bestselling erotic novel about a kinky billionaire and a virginal college student is a better film than the source material deserves. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel stripped out the more idiotic dialogue, streamlined the preposterous plot and, most important, cast Dakota Johnson, the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, in the lead role. Johnson brings a steady stream of humor to the part of college senior Anastasia Steele, while also nailing the sexy ingenue vibe. Irish actor Jamie Dornan portrays the wounded moneymaker with such restraint that he never channels anything more than his own good looks. Contains strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and profane language. Extras: A behind-the-scenes look and a featurette that offers profiles of cast members. On Blu-ray: unrated version; profiles of Dornan and Johnson, and the characters they play (including shorts on their wardrobes, their apartments and “A Rich Man’s Toys,” Christian’s cars, the plane, the helicopter); an “E.L. James and Fifty Shades” featurette on James and the novel, including footage from the New York premiere; “The Pleasure of Pain” discussion with the film’s BDSM consultant and property master; 360° set tours of Christian and Ana’s apartments including the Red Room; and music videos from Skylar Grey, The Weekend and Ellie Goulding.
“Against the Sun”
“The Last Five Years”
“Amira & Sam”
“GoodFellas 25th Anniversary Edition”
“Great Figures of the Bible”
“Frank Sinatra: 5 Film Collection”
“Mad Max Collector’s Edition”
“Mahogany The Couture Edition”
“Masters of Sex: Season Two”
“Masterpiece: Mr. Selfridge Season 3”
“Dancing on the Edge”
“Masters of Sex: Season Two”
“Halt and Catch Fire: First Season”
“Sesame Street: Elmo The Musical Volume 2: Learn and Imagine”
“White Collar: Complete Collection”
“Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Surf’s Up Scooby-Doo!”
“Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Season 1.”