(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.)
"Mission Impossible - Fallout": While doing his promotional rounds for this picture, Tom Cruise said he just wanted to give the audience its money's worth -- and does he ever this time. For any and all complaints about needless sequels, this sixth round is a series-best, thanks to the know-how of Cruise and returning writer-director Christopher McQuarrie. The picture not only offers a jaw-dropping series of action sequences, it does a deep dive into the personhood of IMF agent Ethan Hunt, as those closest to him face threats of very bad things from an enemy. That alternately sways and doesn't sway Hunt from his mission to stop the theft of plutonium, to be used on very specifically chosen targets. Henry Cavill also stars as a CIA "frenemy,'' and back as well are Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Baldwin and others, with great additions in steely Angela Bassett and lethal Vanessa Kirby. However, this mission chiefly is owned by Cruise -- and you'll be very glad he chose to accept it. *** (PG-13: P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The Handmaid's Tale: Season Two": The sophomore round of the award-winning Hulu series, based on Margaret Atwood's novel, finds a pregnant Offred (Elisabeth Moss) continuing her fight to ensure a better world for her forthcoming child. She's determined not to have her offspring inherit the highly oppressive society known as Gilead, which Offred has had to oppose to maintain her own personhood. Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd and Max Minghella also star; the guest stars for the second season include Marisa Tomei, Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford and Clea DuVall. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries. *** (Not rated: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Westworld Season 2: The Door": Thandie Newton earned an Emmy Award for this second season of the HBO drama series, adapted heavily from a concept devised by Michael Crichton for a 1973 movie. Guests and others are threatened by the freed "hosts'' at an amusement park where humanoids rebel against their programmed responses and embark on their own, frequently lethal form of liberation. Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Luke Hemsworth, Louis Herthum, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward and Anthony Hopkins also are in the excellent cast. Among guest stars, Sela Ward (currently on "FBI'') turns up in a particularly telling role. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries. *** (Not rated: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Operation Finale": The true story of the pursuit of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann by Israeli agents benefits from typically good performances by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley and another Oscar -- Oscar Isaac -- plus a solid director in Chris Weitz ("About a Boy''). Isaac plays one of the Mossad operatives sent to Argentina to retrieve Eichmann and bring him back to Israel to stand trial for his extreme misdeeds. That's easier said than done, since once he's captured, spiriting him out of the country is complicated (involving a lengthy stint in a safe house). Kingsley does a fine job of depicting Eichmann as someone other than the monster he would be proven to be, and Isaac (also a producer of the film) is a smart match for him. It's also a treat to see veteran talent Peter Strauss ("Rich Man, Poor Man'') here. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Also Releasing this Week:
"The Happytime Murders": If you want to see puppets do everything puppets should not do, this movie is for you. That's really the idea behind the picture, and the adult and often profane novelty gets old before very long. The story borrows its main trick from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit,'' in which humans and cartoons lived beside one another. Here, it's humans and puppets, putting the sleuth played by Melissa McCarthy back in the company of her puppet ex-partner to stop the killings of the stars of a popular TV show. Elizabeth Banks is amusing as an exotic dancer in a cast directed by Brian Henson, son of puppeteering legend Jim Henson. Still, don't be fooled by the family name: This definitely is a different animal. ** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Yellowstone: The Complete First Season": He's done his share of Westerns in the big screen, but Kevin Costner put modern spins on the genre by making his television-series-starring debut in this Paramount Network drama. He plays the patriarch of a family that owns a massive cattle ranch, and having that much land leads to conflicts with neighbors ... and even with the National Park Service, which oversees some of that adjoining territory. Wes Bentley, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, and Danny Huston also are among the members of the regular cast. Guest stars include Jill Hennessy, Hugh Dillon ("Flashpoint''), Michael Nouri, Dave Annable, James Pickens Jr. ("Grey's Anatomy'') and series co-creator Taylor Sheridan. DVD extras: 14 "making-of'' documentaries. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Operation Finale" (Dec. 4): After the capture of war criminal Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), a Mossad agent (Oscar Isaac) finds getting him to trial a complicated mission. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
"The Equalizer 2" (Dec. 11): Boston-based CIA veteran Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) becomes determined to avenge a friend's murder. (R: AS, P, V)
"Lizzie" (Dec. 11): The legend of Lizzie Borden gets a reimagining in this version, casting Chloe Sevigny as the axe murderess; Kristen Stewart also stars. (R: AS, N, P, V)
"Peppermint" (Dec. 11): Jennifer Garner stars as a woman seeking revenge for the deaths of her husband and daughter. (R: AS, P, V)
"The House with a Clock in Its Walls" (Dec. 18): The title clock could end the world unless an orphan and his uncle (Owen Vaccaro, Jack Black) find it in time; Cate Blanchett also stars. (PG: AS, P)
"The Predator" (Dec. 18): An update of the premise finds a youngster accidentally luring alien enemies back to Earth; cast members include Olivia Munn and Sterling K. Brown. (R: AS, P, GV)
"A Simple Favor" (Dec. 18): A single mom (Anna Kendrick) is thrilled to make a dazzling new friend (Blake Lively), then is puzzled by her sudden disappearance. (R: AS, N, P, V)
Oldies But Goodies:
"The Black Windmill" (1974): A British spy (Michael Caine) is willing to do whatever it takes to find his kidnapped son in this Don Siegel-directed melodrama. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Mission: Impossibel" (1996): In the first of the feature-film versions, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) goes on the run after his team is double-crossed. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Westworld" (1973): Tourists are endangered by robots run amok at a resort in the original fantasy-thriller; Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin star. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending November 11, 2018, Courtesy of comScore, Inc)
1) "The Spy Who Dumped Me"
2) "Incredibles 2"
3) "Ant-Man and the Wasp"
5) "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation"
7) "Slender Man"
8) "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
9) "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again"
10) "Sicario: Day of the Soldado"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence