(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 Birth of a Nation": Referenced often at the time of the film's theatrical run, controversy over the past of writer, director and star Nate Parker likely had a box-office impact on this stirring historical drama. He gives a commanding performance as Nat Turner, the bible-educated slave who ultimately inspired a rebellion while being taken on a tour by his master (Armie Hammer) to preach to -- and supposedly subdue -- others who were owned. Also in the impressive cast are Aja Naomi King ("How to Get Away With Murder''), Penelope Ann Miller, Gabrielle Union, Jackie Earle Haley, Aunjanue Ellis ("Quantico'') and Roger Guenveur Smith. *** (R: AS, N, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The Accountant": The title identification of Ben Affleck's character is a bit deceptive in the case of this intriguing action-thriller, since the money-minded man also has to be physically adept to survive his knowledge of the holdings of some very dangerous people and organizations. A Treasury Department official (J.K. Simmons) is quite interested in the information maintained by the accountant, who gets a jolt to his professional position -- and his rather nonsocial life -- when a corporate whistleblower (Anna Kendrick) presents evidence of financial treachery within her firm. John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart, Jon Bernthal and Cynthia Addai-Robinson ("Shooter'') also are in director Gavin O'Connor's cast. DVD extra: "making-of'' documentary. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Deepwater Horizon": Anyone aware of news events of recent years likely recognizes the title of this true drama as the name of an oil rig wracked by an explosion in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Wahlberg plays a technician trying to survive the resulting catastrophe along with his co-workers, and director Peter Berg (who also appears in the film) does a masterful job of conveying both the chaos and the heroism. Kurt Russell lends solid support as a company executive torn between doing the profitable thing and the right thing in the moments before the mayhem. John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez ("Jane the Virgin''), Dylan O'Brien and Ethan Suplee also are featured. DVD extras: three "making-of'' documentaries. *** (PG-13: P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Homeland: Season Five": With the much-acclaimed Showtime suspense-drama's sixth season about to begin, the most recent round comes to home video and finds Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) left largely to her own inventions while working in Berlin in the private-security sector. She ultimately has to trust her own instincts in a big way, as factors from her past play into her current work and land her in the midst of a conspiracy that eventually could take a huge toll in terms of lost lives -- Carrie's among them. Staying quite topical, the story arc makes direct references to such subjects as ISIS and Edward Snowden. Returning co-stars include Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend and F. Murray Abraham, with Miranda Otto and Sebastian Koch joining the cast. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Mr. Robot Season 2.0": The sophomore round of the acclaimed USA Network show, starring Emmy winner Rami Malek and Christian Slater, comes to home video with every episode directed by series creator Sam Esmail. As the season begins, by keeping as low a profile as possible, expert hacker Elliot (Malek) tries to free himself from the grip of the title character (Slater) -- without much success -- while the cyber-savvy insurrection group society continues its campaign against E Corp. Grace Gummer ("Extant'') joins the cast as an FBI agent, and Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday also continue their roles. Sandrine Holt, who became a co-star of the new "MacGyver'' later, also appears. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V)
"The Girl on the Train" (Jan. 17): Emily Blunt stars as a troubled commuter who believes harm has come to a woman she frequently has observed. (R: AS, N, P, V)
"Ouija: Origin of Evil" (Jan. 17): A fake medium (Elizabeth Reaser) puts herself and her daughters in peril when she summons actual supernatural forces. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
"The Light Between Oceans" (Jan. 24): A childless, island-bound couple (Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander) claims an infant they find as their own. (PG-13: AS, P)
"The Man who Fell to Earth" (Jan. 24): The David Bowie-starring sci-fi classic gets "Limited Collector's Edition" treatment, with a vintage Bowie interview included. (R: AS, N)
"Masterminds" (Jan. 31): An armored-truck driver (Zach Galifianakis) becomes the fall guy for a thieving couple (Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson). (PG-13: AS, P, V)
"Queen of Katwe" (Jan. 31): Mastering the game of chess has a major effect on a Ugandan youngster (Madina Nalwanga); David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong'o also star in the true drama. (PG: AS)
Oldies But Goodies:
"The Departed" (2006): Mark Wahlberg earned an Oscar nomination for this Martin Scorsese-directed drama, also starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Scavenger Hunt" (1979): A cast of familiar faces participates in a contest for an inheritance; stars include Tony Randall, Vincent Price, Cloris Leachman, Roddy McDowall and Arnold Schwarzenegger. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Transformers" (2007): Autobots and Decepticons bring their battle to Earth in director Michael Bay's toy-inspired adventure; the human cast includes Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending December 25, 2016, Courtesy of comScore)
1) "Suicide Squad"
2) "Ben Hur"
3) "War Dogs"
4) "Finding Dory"
5) "Kubo and the Two Strings"
6) "Bad Moms"
7) "Mechanic: Resurrection"
8) "Pete' Dragon"
9) "Magnificent Seven"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence