(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.)
"Flatliners": With co-star Kiefer Sutherland (in a different role here) as its most obvious link to the original 1990 version this melodrama updates the story of medical students who experiment with dying and then being revived, with Ellen Page and "The Vampire Diaries'' alum Nina Dobrev among the cast members now taking that test. A cyberspace component has been added this time, and once the subjects are brought back to life, their reality is altered a bit by something each brings back from their past -- and not in a good way. Though the first edition remains the better one, this reboot has the benefit of good performers who also include Diego Luna, Kiersey Clemons and James Norton. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Killing Gunther": After leaving politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger went back to acting with a vengeance (in addition to his season of overseeing "The Celebrity Apprentice'' on television), but he's eased up a bit on doing screen projects as steadily. This comedy about hired killers -- yes, you read that right -- was written and directed by Taran Killam, who also stars along with fellow "Saturday Night Live'' alum Bobby Moynihan as eager new assassins force a documentary crew to record them while they're working. Their aim is to prove themselves by pursuing and vanquishing the most legendary member of their profession (Schwarzenegger, of course), but their target turns the tables on them. Cobie Smulders, alias Mrs. Killam in real life, also stars. DVD extras: deleted scenes; outtakes. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Jeepers Creepers 3": Though the title of this many-years-later thriller (which has had telecasts on Syfy) suggests a sequel to the first two movies in the horror franchise -- and is that to a degree -- it's actually set between those two films. Lawmen try to eliminate the fearsome, homicidal Creeper for good, and you can tell how well they fare by the fact that the events of "Jeepers Creepers 2'' followed this story in the series' timeline. Still, for faithful fans, this serves up more of what's expected ... including a return appearance by Gina Philips as heroine Trish. Gabrielle Haugh plays one of the targets here, with Meg Foster as her mother. Those who are devoted to the "Saw'' chillers are likely to appreciate the variety of gruesome traps depicted here. ** (Not rated: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Manhunt: Unabomber": Discovery's limited drama series recalling the search for serial bomber Ted Kaczynski (played by Paul Bettany) logically makes the FBI profiler who led the case (portrayed by Sam Worthington) another pivotal character in the teleplay. An early leader in the use of forensics in federal cases, the agent met with resistance from others in the bureau who were wary of entrusting the case to an untested approach ... but the outcome served as verification of the technique. The impressive cast also includes Jane Lynch (as then-Attorney General Janet Reno), Chris Noth, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Mark Duplass and Michael Nouri. DVD extras: three "making-of'' documentaries. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"NOVA: Secrets of the Forbidden City": Recent ravages by nature, and surely those in the United States, have indicated just how fragile structures that might appear strong actually can be against the elements -- and then, there's Beijing's majestic Forbidden City, which remarkably has withstood five centuries of earthquakes and aftershocks. This episode of the science-oriented PBS series (originally televised in October) explores the engineering devised and implemented by innovators in Imperial China, which has enabled the region's palaces and temples to remain standing ... a truly amazing fact after so long. A model of such a building is constructed here, then subjected to seismic tests. *** (Not rated)
"American Made" (Jan. 2): Tom Cruise stars in the fact-based story of a pilot whose questionable, cartel-related activities were sanctioned by the CIA. (R: AS, N, P)
Brad's Status" (Jan. 2): Writer-director Mike White's comedy-drama casts Ben Stiller as a dad who takes his son (Austin Abrams) on a tour of colleges. (R: AS, P)
"Lucky" (Jan. 2): The late Harry Dean Stanton's next-to-last movie casts him as an aged atheist distressed when his independence is threatened. (Not rated: AS, P)
"Ten Days in the Valley" (Jan. 2): The ABC drama series stars Kyra Sedgwick as a television producer searching for her missing daughter. (Not rated: AS, P, V)
"The Foreigner" (Jan. 9): Determined to avenge his daughter's death, a businessman (Jackie Chan) targets a former IRA member turned politician (Pierce Brosnan). (R: AS, P, V)
"It" (Jan. 9): Extremely potent at the box office, Stephen King's chiller pits several Maine youngsters against the sinister clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). (R: AS, P, V)
Oldies But Goodies:
"A Christmas Story" (1983): Young Ralphie's (Peter Billingsley) quest to receive his most desired gift has kept this Jean Shepherd-inspired tale a holiday ``must'' in many households. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946): Director Frank Capra's classic, about small-town ne'er-do-well George Bailey's (James Stewart) journey of self-discovery, has been released on home video in a variety of editions. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"White Christmas" (1954): Incorporating elements of "Holiday Inn,'' this seasonal favorite boasts Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and a host of Irving Berlin tunes. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending December 1o, 2017, Courtesy of comScore)
1) American Assassin
2) "The Hitman's Bodyguard"
4) "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets"
5) "Logan Lucky"
6) "The Dark Tower"
7) "Cars 3"
8) "Girls Trip"
9) "Wind River"
10) "War for the Planet of the Apes"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence