“The Fate of the Furious” (Universal, 2017, PG-13, audio commentary, extended scenes, featurettes). This is, of course, Fast & Furious 8, and I’m surprised the trailers don’t intone, “This time it’s personal.” They could, since Dom (Vin Diesel), for some reason, turns against his crew and joins forces with evil Charlize Theron. But his motivations and her endgame remain unclear for a while.
Everyone is back, including archenemies Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, who inexplicably become pals as they join Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Kurt Russell. It’s apparently forgotten that Statham wreaked lethal havoc in the previous installment, as we’re expected to check our brains at the door and enjoy all the impossible, physics-defying stunts. And honestly, on that level, the goods are delivered.
“The Lost City of Z” (Broadgreen, 2017, PG-13, audio commentary, featurettes). Charlie Hunnam is early 20th-century British explorer Percy Fawcett in this fascinating, low-key biography of the complex military officer and explorer. Fawcett is chosen to survey a portion of disputed land on the border of Bolivia and Brazil but he unexpectedly discovers evidence of an advanced civilization living in uncharted territory, and it becomes his lifelong obsession. The fine supporting cast includes Sienna Miller as Fawcett’s wife, bearded Robert Pattinson as his aide and Tom Holland (the new “Spider-Man”) as his son.
“A Quiet Passion” (Music Box, 2017, PG-13, featurettes, booklet). Cynthia Nixon delivers a remarkably controlled performance as poet Emily Dickinson in this staid biography that attempts to shed some light on how the revered poet’s 19th-century upbringing informed her later reclusive life, and especially her work, which wasn’t acknowledged until after her death. Jennifer Ehle is her younger sister and Keith Carradine is her stiff-necked father. It is written and directed by British filmmaker Terence Davies.
“Alive and Kicking” (Magnolia, 2017, not rated/probable PG, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette, trailer). Here’s a toe-tapping documentary that follows a group of competitive dancers, embracing the world of swing dancing, its history and why people are so passionate about it now. There’s also some discussion of how this infectious and joyous exercise has helped people power through troubled times.
“Song to Song” (Broadgreen, 2017; R for sex, nudity, drugs, language, featurette). Terrence Malick’s latest incomprehensible tone poem is set against the Austin, Texas, music scene and focuses (if that’s the word) on two couples (Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara, and Natalie Portman and Michael Fassbender) who are pursuing rock ’n’ roll fame.
“Smurfs: The Lost Village” (Columbia, 2017, PG, audio commentary, featurettes, music videos). Strictly for the small fry, this latest in the animated Smurfs franchise has Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) in search of the title village before evil Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) finds it. Other voices include Mandy Patinkin, Michelle Rodriguez and … wait for it … Julia Roberts!
“Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (Warner, 2017, not rated/probable G, feature-length cartoon, five episodes). The title tells all, as the battling cat and mouse meet up with Charlie Bucket when he finds the golden ticket and secretly follow him to Wonka’s chocolate factory. Also here are five episodes of various Tom and Jerry cartoon TV series.
“Spark: A Space Tail” (Universal, 2017, PG, featurettes). Spark, a wise-cracking monkey, and his pals, Vix the fox and Chunk the pig, take on an evil warlord who has taken over their planet in this Canadian animated production. The voice cast includes Jessica Beal, Hilary Swank, Susan Sarandon and Patrick Stewart.
“Game Changers” (Candy Factory, 2017, not rated/probable R for language). Bryan (Brian Bernys) and Scott (Jacob Albarella) are childhood pals who become eSports legends quite young, then as adults work together at an IT company owned by Bryan’s father. But Bryan is obsessed with reliving their childhood glories and Scott allows himself to be bullied into helping him. Bryan is so unpleasant that the first half of the film suffers, but it picks up when the focus shifts to Scott in this ultra-low-budget effort.
“London Heist” (Lionsgate, 2017; R for violence, language, sex, nudity). A violent criminal (Craig Fairbrass) is out for revenge after his father is murdered and the money from their Heathrow airport heist is stolen in this British thriller, set in London and Spain.