(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.)
"Kong: Skull Island": It's a given who the true star of this latest take in one of most classic monster movies is. The human part of the story tries to go deeper by involving aspects of the Vietnam War, which has ended recently as the tale opens, by taking military veterans -- led by Samuel L. Jackson -- and a journalist ("Room'' Oscar winner Brie Larson) to the uncharted title island. It doesn't take long for them to encounter you-know-who, as well as other fearsome and lethal creatures. Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins ("24: Legacy'') and a particularly good John C. Reilly also star. Vietnam actually was among the filming locations, along with Hawaii and Australia. DVD extras: six "making-of'' documentaries; audio commentary by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts; deleted scenes. *** (PG-13: P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Free Fire": It's a big home-video week for Brie Larson, since she also turns up in this action tale -- executive-produced by Martin Scorsese -- that relies much more on literal firepower than on special effects. She and Armie Hammer ("The Social Network'') play business colleagues in 1970s Boston who try to broker a black-market weapons sale ... but the situation quickly goes awry, everyone pulls his or her own firearm, and it's anyone's guess who will make it out alive as the bullets fly. Sharlto Copley ("District 9''), Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor also star. DVD extras: "making-of'' documentary; audio commentary by director and co-writer Ben Wheatley. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The Promise": In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a couple's (Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon) mutual attraction generates problems. Though the man has made an arrangement to finance his medical education by promising to marry his benefactor's daughter, he falls for the woman, who is romantically linked to a reporter (Christian Bale). The path of history affects them all in the course of the attempted rescue of a group of orphans amidst the tumult. Shohreh Aghdashloo ("The Expanse'') and Rade Serbedzjia also star for director Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda''). *** (PG-13: AS, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Buster's Mal Heart": Widely acclaimed for his work on television's "Mr. Robot,'' Emmy winner Rami Malek also tackles challenging material in this sci-fi drama, the deeply psychological saga of a man on the run. As he reviews the circumstances that have made him a fugitive existing on what he finds in the empty homes of wealthy vacationers, the effect isn't far-removed from the approach of Malek's series. DJ Qualls, who made a rather memorable exit recently on "Fargo,'' and horror-genre staple Lin Shaye also star for writer-director Sarah Adina Smith ("The Midnight Swim''). *** (Also on Blu-ray)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Resident Evil: Vendetta": The sci-fi franchise continues with this computer-animated chapter that had only an extremely limited theatrical release. Kevin Dorman and Matthew Mercer continue their voice roles from earlier animated adventures in the series, playing off the now-familiar premise of the battle to stop a virus that could impact a huge population -- in this case, the residents of New York -- if spread by evil forces. The character Rebecca Chambers makes her screen debut here, voiced by Erin Cahill. DVD extras: audio commentary by director Takanori Tsujimoto, executive producer Takashi Shimizu and writer Makoto Fukami; sketch gallery. *** (R: GV) (Also on Blu-ray)
"T.J. Hooker: The Complete Series": As iconic as he is for "Star Trek,'' William Shatner actually had a longer television run with this police drama from genre-veteran producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. Hooker is a no-nonsense ex-detective who returns to a regular Los Angeles beat with a rookie partner (Adrian Zmed). Heather Locklear -- who was working on "Dynasty'' for Spelling at the same time -- and James Darren joined the regular cast in the second season. As one might anticipate with Shatner as the star here, Leonard Nimoy turned up in a second-season episode (and also directed another one); Sharon Stone guest stars in a Season 4 story meant as the pilot for a spinoff series that didn't happen. *** (Not rated: AS, V)
"The Boss Baby" (July 25): Alec Baldwin voices an infant whose arrival means less attention to his older sibling in this animated comedy. (PG: AS)
"Ghost in the Shell" (July 25): Scarlett Johansson stars in the live-action version of the Japanese manga series about a rebelling uber-soldier. (PG-13: AS, V)
"Billy Jack: The Complete Collection" (July 25): Even the pre-"Billy Jack'' drama "Born Losers'' is included in this set; Tom Laughlin plays the maverick hero. (PG: AS, P, V)
"Gifted" (July 25): A young math prodigy is at the crux of a struggle between her uncle (Chris Evans) and her grandmother (Lindsay Duncan). (PG-13: AS, P) "Unforgettable" (July 25): A woman (Katherine Heigl) is determined to get her ex-husband's (Geoff Stults) new love (Rosario Dawson) out of his life ... forever. (R: AS, N, P, V)
"Big Little Lies" (Aug. 1): Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley star in the HBO drama about secrets among women in a coastal California town. (Not rated: AS, N, P, V)
"Going in Style" (Aug. 1): Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin -- Oscar winners all -- star in the remake of the comedy about senior-citizen bank robbers. (PG-13: AS, P)
Oldies But Goodies:
"King Kong" (1976): "Introducing'' Jessica Lange as the apple of the ape's eye, this big-budget remake supplies some fun; Jeff Bridges also stars. ***
"Room" (2015): Brie Larson leaped into the major league of actresses with her Oscar-winning portrayal of a kidnap victim who bears a son while held prisoner. **** (Also on Blu-ray)
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979): William Shatner arguably made his biggest big-screen splash in the first feature-film iteration of the classic sci-fi series. *** (Also on Blu-ray)
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending July 2, 2017, Courtesy of comScore)
2) "John Wick: Chapter 2"
3) "Saban's Power Rangers"
4) "Get Out"
5) "The LEGO Batman Movie"
6) "Beauty and the Beast"
7) "Fist Fight"
9) "A Dog's Purpose"
10) "The Shack"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence