(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 Snowman": Based on one of the mystery novels of internationally popular author Jo Nesbo, this intense thriller casts Michael Fassbender as his series-fueling detective character Harry Hole, whose search for a missing person eventually suggests that a serial killer -- who makes a snowman a motif for his crimes -- may be active again. The sleuth teams with another investigator (Rebecca Ferguson) as the pursuit forces the reopening of long-dormant cases that could be linked to the current one. Also featured are Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, J.K. Simmons, Chloe Sevigny and Toby Jones. Of note behind the scenes are the film's editors, Oscar-winning veterans Claire Simpson ("Platoon'') and Thelma Schoonmaker ("Raging Bull''). *** (R: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Crooked House": The mystery novels of Agatha Christie have been ideal inspirations to gather all-star casts in their screen incarnations -- as proven again recently by "Murder on the Orient Express'' -- and this Christie adaptation also provides evidence. After a rich family's patriarch is killed, one of its members asks her detective ex-beau (Max Irons) to determine who the culprit is before Scotland Yard gets involved. Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson ("The X-Files''), Terence Stamp and Christina Hendricks ("Mad Men''), Julian Sands and Stefanie Martini ("Prime Suspect: Tennison'') are in the cast of presumed "suspects.'' The screenplay was co-written by "Downton Abbey'' mentor Julian Fellowes. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries. *** (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand) (PG-13: AS) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Better Call Saul: Season Three": One of the most acclaimed series currently on television, AMC's "Breaking Bad'' prequel brings its latest round -- which earned 10 Emmy nominations -- to home video. Chuck's (Michael McKean) efforts to elicit a confession covertly pose potential problems for the professional image and duties of Jimmy and Kim (Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn), while Mike's (Jonathan Banks) hunt for a nemesis could have big repercussions. Giancarlo Esposito, Patrick Fabian and Michael Mando also star. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries; audio commentary by cast and crew members; outtakes; "Los Pollos Hermanos'' training videos. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Loving Vincent": A unique animation technique, executed in the style of oil paintings, is used by this story that involves Vincent Van Gogh a year after the legendary artist's death in the late 19th century. An undelivered letter written by him to his late brother is taken by the relatively unconcerned son of a postman (Douglas Booth, in what effectively is a motion-capture performance of sorts) to the village of a doctor who supposedly knew the painter well. There, the visitor becomes much more invested Van Gogh's history upon meeting people who inspired his work. Saoirse Ronan ("Lady Bird''), Helen McCrory ("Skyfall'') and Chris O'Dowd ("Get Shorty'') and "Poldark'' stars Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson are among other actors represented by the illustrations that make up the film. *** (PG-13: AS, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Happy Death Day": The premise of "Groundhog Day'' -- which is referenced very directly in the course of this film -- gets a melodramatic spin as a self-involved college student (Jessica Rothe, "La La Land'') ends her birthday by being murdered, only to find herself reliving the day again ... and again and again, as she gets closer each time to determining the identity of her killer. A classmate (Israel Broussard) tries to help her solve the mystery, but he also makes himself a target, causing the heroine to alter her approach as the investigation continues. Ruby Modine (the daughter of actor Matthew Modine), Rachel Matthews and Charles Aitken also appear. *** (PG-13: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Goodbye Christopher Robin" (Jan. 23): Domhnall Gleeson plays "Winnie-the-Pooh'' creator A.A. Milne, whose son (Will Tilston) was the real Christopher Robin. (PG: AS, P)
"Geostorm" (Jan. 23): The scientist (Gerard Butler) who developed a weather-controlling satellite system tries to correct its errors that are threatening the world. (PG-13: P, V)
"Jigsaw" (Jan. 23): Gruesome death traps abound again in the eighth chapter of the "Saw'' horror franchise; cast member Tobin Bell returns. (R: AS. P, GV)
"Thank You for Your Service" (Jan. 23): Several veterans of the Iraq War try to assimilate back into their daily lives; stars include Miles Teller and Amy Schumer. (R: AS, N, P, V)
"Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween" (Jan. 30): Perry's ever-sassy alter ego and others enter a haunted campground to retrieve a young partygoer. (PG-13: AS, P)
"Ray Donovan: The Fifth Season" (Jan. 30): A round of the Showtime series that features Susan Sarandon in a major guest role also sets up the Liev Schreiber-starring drama's forthcoming sixth year. (Not rated: AS, N, P, V)
"The Deuce: The Complete First Season" (Feb. 13): James Franco plays dual roles in the HBO drama series about the birth of the pornography business in early-1970s New York. (Not rated: AS, N, P, V)
Oldies But Goodies:
"Blade Runner" (1982): The original, Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi mystery holds up with its vision of a grim future; Harrison Ford plays a weary ex-policeman hunting replicants. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Macon County Line" (1974): Two drifters are targeted by a lawman (Max Baer, who also devised the story) after his wife is killed in this drama's Blu-ray debut. ***
"Shame" (2011): Michael Fassbender is excellent as a man whose secret life is exposed when his sister (Carey Mulligan) visits. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending December 31, 2017, Courtesy of comScore)
2) "Kingsman: The Golden Circle"
3) "Atomic Blonde"
4) "The Hitman's Bodyguard"
5) "American Assassin"
7) "Girls Trip" Logan Lucky"
8) "Logan Lucky"
10) "The Lego Ninjago Movie"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence