(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.)
"A Dog's Purpose": The subject of much discussion while it was in theaters because of a video that allegedly showed animal abuse on the set -- but ultimately determined to have been edited -- this seriocomic story, directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("The Cider House Rules'') and based on W. Bruce Cameron's same-named novel, traces the multiple lives of a canine that is reincarnated several times in the path to finding its true place in the world. Josh Gad voices the dog, with KJ Apa ("Riverdale'') and Britt Robertson ("The Space Between Us'') as the younger incarnations of two of the animal's owners. Dennis Quaid and Peggy Lipton play those characters in later years, with Juliet Rylance, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Pooch Hall also in the human cast. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The Comedian": Though some may deem this Robert De Niro's return to familiar turf, given his famous role in "The King of Comedy,'' this Taylor Hackford-directed comedy-drama casts him not as a hopeful but as a veteran comic who's struggling to stay relevant. After a run-in with an audience member, his sentence to perform community service introduces him to a woman (Leslie Mann) who might prove as much a salvation to him as he is to her. The impressive cast also includes Danny DeVito, Patti LuPone, Edie Falco, Harvey Keitel, Billy Crystal and Cloris Leachman. Among actual comedians who turn up in the film are Hannibal Buress, Jimmie Walker, Brett Butler, Richard Belzer and Gilbert Gottfried. DVD extras: "making-of'' documentary; deleted scenes; AFI Fest panel session. *** (R: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Gold": Matthew McConaughey certainly effects a much different physical look in this fact-inspired story from Stephen Gaghan (the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Traffic'') of a modern gold prospector who seeks his claim to riches in Indonesia. In tandem with a geologist (Edgar Ramirez, "The Girl on the Train''), he leaves his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) behind and sets off in search of wealth ... which the hunters actually find, but being able to hold onto it once they return to New York is another story. Corey Stoll ("House of Cards''), Bruce Greenwood and Stacy Leach also appear. DVD extras: three "making-of'' documentaries; audio commentary by Gaghan; deleted scene. ** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Rings": Naomi Watts isn't at the heart of this chapter, but the third thriller in the series that began with "The Ring'' -- and was adapted from a Japanese horror franchise -- casts Matilda Lutz as one of the latest people affected by a lethal videotape (yes, a VCR still comes into play here). Johnny Galecki ("The Big Bang Theory''), Aimee Teegarden ("Friday Night Lights''), Alex Roe and Lizzie Brochere ("Falling Water'') play others who come to regret having seen what they view on the tape, with Bonnie Morgan as the human manifestation of the terrifying imagery. Vincent D'Onofrio also is featured. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The Salesman": The latest Oscar winner for best foreign language film, this Iranian-French co-production -- which also earned honors at last year's Cannes Film Festival -- focuses on young spouses who, while working on a staging of Arthur Miller's classic "Death of a Salesman,'' have to find new quarters in Tehran after their accommodations become uninhabitable. The house they move into has a checkered past that's destined to impact their lives in the present. Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini play the principal roles for writer-director Asghar Farhadi ("A Separation''). DVD extra: interview with Farhadi. *** (PG-13: AS, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"I Am Not Your Negro": A recent Oscar nominee for best documentary feature, filmmaker Raoul Peck's project inspired by the unfinished James Baldwin book "Remember This House'' (and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson) encompasses several tragedies ... the assassinations of civil-rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The film draws heavily from Baldwin's words in linking the late activists' efforts to the era of the Black Lives Matter movement, also taking ethnic representation in modern Hollywood into consideration. The many notables appearing in archival footage (in addition to Baldwin himself) range from Sidney Poitier and Robert F. Kennedy to Ray Charles and Bob Dylan. **** (PG-13: AS, N, P, V) (Also on On Demand)
"Fifty Shades Darker" (May 9): Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) has conditions for meeting Christian Grey's (Jamie Dornan) desire to get back into her life. (R and unrated versions: AS, N, P)
"Orange is the New Black: Season Four" (May 9): Piper (Taylor Schilling) finds herself in very direct peril from other Litchfield inmates in this round of the seriocomic Netflix series. (Not rated: AS, P, V)
"Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" (May 16): Milla Jovovich is back one more time as Alice, trying to prevent the undead from erasing the last vestiges of mankind. (R: P, GV)
"The Space Between Us" (May 16): A teenager (Asa Butterfield) who was born on Mars comes to Earth to rendezvous with an ally (Britt Robertson). (PG-13: AS, P)
"XXX: Return of Xander Cage" (May 16): The superspy (Vin Diesel) sees action again when enemies try to use military satellites for sinister purposes; Samuel L. Jackson also returns. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
"The Great Wall" (May 23): Matt Damon plays a mercenary who's among the warriors battling fearsome creatures at the Chinese structure. (PG-13: V)
Oldies But Goodies:
"Dallas Buyers Club" (2013): Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar as a self-styled supplier of medication to AIDS patients; co-star Jared Leto also earned an Academy Award. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"The King of Comedy" (1982): A would-be comedian (Robert De Niro) kidnaps his idol (Jerry Lewis) in director Martin Scorsese's tale. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Saturday Night Fever" (1977): The John Travolta-starring, Bee Gees-scored musical drama's 40th anniversary is marked with a ``Director's Cut'' on Blu-ray. ***
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending April 16, 2017, Courtesy of comScore)
1) "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"
2) "Office Christmas Party"
4) "Patriots Day"
6) "Collateral Beauty"
8) "Guardians of the Galaxy"
9) "Marvel's Doctor Strange"
10) "Monster Trucks"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violenc