(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.)
"Moonlight": Up for eight Oscars including best picture, director-screenwriter Barry Jenkins' gritty, widely acclaimed drama traces the life of a young black man at different stages in his struggles, which owe in large part to his troubled relationship with his crack-addict mother (Naomie Harris, in a stunning performance light years removed from her work opposite Daniel Craig's James Bond). An empathetic drug dealer (Mahershala Ali, also superb) becomes the youth's rather surprising counsel, with Janelle Monae a standout as well as the pusher's girlfriend. Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes share the central role. **** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Doctor Strange": A skilled but self-involved surgeon, played ideally by Benedict Cumberbatch, has to chart a new course for himself after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands in this compelling Marvel adventure fortified considerably by mind-bending special effects. He gets inspiration from Far East mystics (Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor), but also picks up an enemy who trails him back to New York with havoc in mind. Director Scott Derrickson's cast also includes Rachel McAdams as Dr. Stephen Strange's ex-girlfriend. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Allied": Brad Pitt and "La Vie en Rose'' Oscar winner Marion Cotillard generate their own take on many "Casablanca'' themes in this elegantly filmed (by cinematographer Don Burgess), reasonably effective romantic adventure from director Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump''). The stars play spies who have definite trust issues while teamed on a top-secret World War II mission, but they ultimately surpass their assigned charade by falling in love and marrying. That doesn't stop the suspicions, though, and professional duty may end up surpassing personal considerations for them. Also featured are Lizzy Caplan ("Masters of Sex''), Jared Harris and Matthew Goode ("Downton Abbey''). *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Rules Don't Apply": In his return to the screen -- after many years -- as director, screenwriter and star, Warren Beatty plays legendary billionaire Howard Hughes, an influential figure in general ... but, in the case of this story, more specifically where an aspiring actress and her chauffeur (Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich) are concerned in the Hollywood of the late 1950s. A relationship between the young couple is forbidden by Hughes' edict, but that doesn't stop their mutual attraction from taking root. The impressive cast also includes Annette Bening (the real-life Mrs. Beatty, of course), Matthew Broderick, Alec Baldwin, Candice Bergen, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen and Oliver Platt. DVD extras: "making-of'' documentary; music video; photo gallery. *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Shut In": A recently widowed psychologist (Naomi Watts) and her stepson (Charlie Heaton) find themselves terrorized at their New England home in this thriller. The young man has been left paralyzed by the accident that claimed the life of his father, and as if being on their own during a fierce winter storm isn't scary enough, they come to believe someone intends to do them harm ... and has gotten inside the house with them. Jacob Tremblay, a veteran of mother-and-child-in-peril tales thanks to "Room,'' and "Chicago Med's'' Oliver Platt (playing a doctor here as well) also appear. *** (PG-13: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Chronic": Tim Roth never takes the easy way out with his roles, and writer-director Michel Franco's drama -- which earned a Cannes Film Festival Award for its script -- stands as yet another testament to that fact. The actor plays a depression-battling private nurse whose dedication to his patients is all-encompassing, to the degree that he gets as much from them as they do from him ... and perhaps more. The cast also includes Bitsie Tulloch ("Grimm'') and actor-playwright Michael Cristofer ("The Shadow Box''), as well as the late Joe Santos ("The Rockford Files'') in his final screen role, but there's little if any doubt that this project belongs to the compelling Roth. *** (R: AS, N, P)
"The Eyes of My Mother" (March 7): An ex-surgeon (Diana Agostini) lives an isolated life with her daughter (Olivia Bond) until a visitor arrives. (R: AS, N, P, V)
"Incarnate" (March 7): A self-styled exorcist (Aaron Eckhart) mind-melds with victims of possession in trying to save them. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
"Jackie" (March 7): Oscar nominee Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of her president husband's assassination. (R: AS, P, V) "Moana" (March 7): The animated, Oscar-nominated Disney feature finds the daughter of a Polynesian island's ruler (voice of Auli'l Cravalho) trying to reverse a curse. (PG: AS)
"Solace" (March 14): A psychically skilled FBI consultant (Anthony Hopkins) goes up against a serial killer (Colin Farrell); Jeffrey Dean Morgan also stars. (R: AS, N, P, V)
"Master of None: The Complete First Season" (March 21): The Netflix comedy series casts co-creator Aziz Ansari in the saga of a New York-based actor. (Not rated: AS, P)
Oldies But Goodies:
"Pulp Fiction" (1994): Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer are chilling as robbers who cross paths with hit men (John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson) in Quentin Tarantino's modern classic. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Robocop" (1987): A brutally slain police officer (Peter Weller) is resuscitated and turned into a half-man, half-robot cop in director Paul Verhoeven's striking original version of the adventure. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
"We don't Live Here Anymore" (2004): All the stars are excellent in this drama about the relationships among two best-friend couples (Naomi Watts and Peter Krause, Laura Dern and Mark Ruffalo). ***
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending February 12, 2017, Courtesy of comScore)
1) "The Accountant"
2) "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"
3) "Deepwater Horizon"
4) "Boo! A Madea Halloween"
6) "The Secret Life of Pets Jason Bourne"
7) "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children"
8) "The Magnificent Seven"
9) "Jason Bourne"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence