(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.)
"The Equalizer 2": Denzel Washington never had done a sequel before this follow-up to his thriller based on the CBS series about an intelligence-agency veteran who's now a self-styled troubleshooter ... a term that's often quite literal in this case. Here, Robert McCall (Washington) becomes determined to avenge a friend's murder by picking up the case she was working on, which places her husband (fellow returnee Bill Pullman) in peril. Eventually complicating matters is a hurricane, possibly meant as a nod to one of Washington's most acclaimed films -- which happened to be called "The Hurricane.'' Director Antoine Fuqua and co-star Melissa Leo also are back from the first "Equalizer'' movie. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Smallfoot": The Bigfoot legend is reversed in this tuneful animated feature that poses what would happen if a Yeti sought a certain fabled human, instead of the other way around. Channing Tatum voices the creature, who meets with skepticism as he tries to convince others of his kind that a person known as Smallfoot actually exists. Other notables in the diverse voice cast include James Corden, Zendaya, Common, basketball icon LeBron James, Danny DeVito, Gina Rodriguez (``Jane the Virgin''), Yara Shahidi ("blackish'') and Patricia Heaton ("The Middle''). Director and co-writer Karey Kirkpatrick co-wrote the film's songs -- performed by just about every major cast member here -- with his brother Wayne. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Peppermint": "What's in your wallet?'' Jennifer Garner poses that question a lot, but here, it's easy to see what's in hers ... a membership card in the Screen Vengeance Club, reserved for characters determined to even the score with the fiends who did their families wrong. Garner plays a bank teller who loses her husband and daughter tragically, due to a family friend who's mixed up with the wrong people. She goes AWOL for several years, and by the time she resurfaces, she's ready to engage in battle on the level of Sydney Bristow of TV's "Alias.'' (Which is not difficult, since that role brought Garner to stardom.) As preposterous as much of the film is, it's good to see Garner literally back in action. John Gallagher Jr. ("The Newsroom'') also stars for director Pierre Morel ("Taken''). *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The Orville: The Complete First Season": Though this Fox sci-fi series largely is a tribute to "Star Trek'' under the guidance of creator, executive producer and star Seth MacFarlane, the Orville is very much its own ship four centuries from now. Directed by Jon Favreau ("Iron Man''), the pilot episode introduces MacFarlane as Ed Mercer, the new commander of the vessel ... whose first officer happens to be his ex-wife ("Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." alum Adrianne Palicki). Scott Grimes, Penny Johnson Jerald (''24``) and Norm Macdonald (in voice only) are among those playing other members of the crew, some of whom are human. Though the MacFarlane brand of humor is on board to a degree, the stories vary in tone and theme, and notable guest stars include Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson (both of whom also worked with MacFarlane on the movie ''A Million Ways to Die in the West"). This show's second season debuts at the end of the month. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Lizzie": The title refers to Lizzie Borden, she of the infamous axe murders of her father and stepmother -- and she's played by Chloe Sevigny ("Big Love'') in this drama that delves deeply into her psychological makeup before she turned lethal in late-19th-century Massachusetts. An extra wrinkle is supplied by Kristen Stewart ("Twilight'') as a maid who was hired by the Borden family and developed a mutually strong attachment to Lizzie, potentially exerting an influence that would result in actions that became legendary in history. Jamey Sheridan ("Homeland''), Fiona Shaw, Jeff Perry ("Scandal'') and Kim Dickens ("Deadwood'') also appear in the tale, which was featured at this year's Sundance Film Festival. DVD extra: "making-of'' documentary. *** (R: AS, N, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Instinct: Season One": After his run on "The Good Wife,'' Tony Award-winning stage and screen talent Alan Cumming returned to CBS as the star and an executive producer of this mystery series, a good showcase for him. Based on a novel by best-selling author James Patterson ("Kiss the Girls''), it casts Cumming as a spirited ex-CIA agent turned writer and professor whose first book motivates a serial killer. He then teams, somewhat reluctantly, with an NYPD detective (Bojana Novakovic) to stop the murders -- and their partnership brings them other cases as well, some very personal to them. Whoopi Goldberg has a recurring role in the show, which also features Naveen Andrews ("Lost'') and Sharon Leal ("Boston Public''), and which will return for its sophomore season in 2019. *** (Not rated: 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 Jerk" (Dec. 18): The Carl Reiner-directed comedy that established Steve Martin in movies gets "40th Anniversary Edition'' treatment on Blu-ray; Bernadette Peters also stars. (R: AS, P)
"Venom" (Dec. 18): Another Marvel Comics character gets the spotlight in this fantasy-adventure, casting Tom Hardy in the title role. (PG-13: P, V)
"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)
"Night School" (Jan. 1): A man (Kevin Hart) tries to complete the high school education he never finished by studying for the GED test; Tiffany Haddish and Taran Killam also star. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
Oldies But Goodies:
"Flight" (2012): Denzel Washington gives one of his best performances as an airline pilot whose addictions come to the surface during the probe of a crash. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
"GodenEye" (1995): Alan Cumming had one of his first major screen roles as a Russian computer genius who factors into James Bond's (Pierce Brosnan) pursuit of a satellite-hijacking enemy. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
"13 Going on 30'' (2004): A charming Jennifer Garner plays the adult incarnation of a youngster who's granted her wish to grow up fast. *** (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