(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 Zookeeper's Wife"': The screen version of Diane Ackerman's nonfiction book casts Jessica Chastain as the wife indicated by the title. She and her husband (Johan Heldenbergh) are both running the Warsaw Zoo when World War II erupts, and the animals face some of the same threats as people do as Hitler's edicts are carried out. Daniel Bruhl ("Rush'') plays the Berlin Zoo chief sent to execute -- in a very literal sense -- such orders, and the couple formulate a plan to save not only as many of the creatures they tend to as they can, but also Jewish citizens. Niki Caro ("Whale Rider'') directed the film from a screenplay by Angela Workman ("The War Bride''). *** (PG-13: AS, N, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Song to Song": Acclaimed writer-director Terrence Malick sets this relationship drama against the backdrop of the Austin, Texas, music world ... and gives it authenticity by including such actual musicians as Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Anthony Kiedis and Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine. Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling play would-be songwriters who professional trials, while Michael Fassbender portrays a recording titan with an interest in a waitress (Natalie Portman). DVD extra: "making-of'' documentary. *** (R: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Awakening the Zodiac": The true-life Zodiac killer, who held San Francisco in a grip of terror in the late 1960s, gives this melodrama its basis. Supposedly, the criminal has started to commit murders again in the present day, and spouses (played by Shane West and Leslie Bibb) decide to cash in by learning the felon's identity. They follow the clues they find in vintage film reels, but their plan ultimately backfires and puts them in direct peril. Matt Craven and Canadian acting stalwarts Nicholas Campbell, Kenneth Welsh and Stephen McHattie also appear. *** (R: AS, P, V)
"Drone": A CIA man (played by Sean Bean) who commits drone attacks via remote control becomes the target of a vengeful Pakistani man (Patrick Sabongui) in this thriller. A release of covert operatives' identities suddenly leaves many agents exposed -- and wanting to even the score for the "collateral damage'' his loved ones became, the visitor threatens not only the drone pilot, but also his wife and son (Mary McCormack, Maxwell Haynes). *** (Not rated: P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
Also Releasing this Week:
"Homicide: Life on the Street - The Complete Series": One of television's most acclaimed dramas gets a relaunch on home video in its entirety. From executive producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana ("Oz'') -- who based it on a book by David Simon ("The Wire'') -- the 1990s police saga focuses on a Baltimore squad and is unsparing in its gritty realism, which was particularly commendable for a broadcast-network show (NBC in this case) in the days before such an approach became more the norm. The superb ensemble cast includes Andre Braugher, Melissa Leo, Yaphet Kotto, Ned Beatty and Richard Belzer (who moved his John Munch character to "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit'' afterward). Among notable guest stars are Robin Williams, Rosanna Arquette, James Earl Jones and Paul Giamatti ("Billions''). **** (Not rated: AS, P, V)
"Yankee Doodle Dandy": As a special bonus for the week of Independence Day, we include one of the most patriotic and popular movies ever made. Also one of the true Warner Bros. classics, this 1942 biography of master "born on the Fourth of July'' showman George M. Cohan boasts one of screen history's truly iconic performances as James Cagney -- rightfully awarded an Oscar for his work here -- does alternately energetic and, particularly in the home stretch, quietly affecting work. The film was released just a few months before Cohan's death, and it's said that he saw and enjoyed Cagney's portrayal. Joan Leslie and Walter Huston also are in the cast for director Michael Curtiz ("Casablanca''). DVD extras include: theatrical trailers; "making-of'' documentary; photo galleries; "James Cagney: Top of the World'' documentary; two "Looney Tunes'' cartoons. **** (Not rated) (Also on Blu-ray)
"The Fate of the Furious'' (July 11): A mystery woman (Charlize Theron) turns Dom (Vin Diesel) against his crew; cast newcomers also include Helen Mirren. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
"The Lost City of Z" (July 11): Explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) vanishes while investigating evidence of an unknown civilization in the Amazon. (PG-13: AS, N, P, V)
"Free Fire" (July 18): A weapons deal devolves quickly into an armed battle among those involved; Brie Larson, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley star. (R: AS, P, V)
"Kong: Skull Island" (July 18): In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, a group of explorers encounters the enormous ape; Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson star. (PG-13: P, V)
"T.J. Hooker: The Complete Series" (July 18): William Shatner plays the veteran police officer, with Adrian Zmed and Heather Locklear as the rookies he's teamed with. (Not rated: 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)
"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)
Oldies But Goodies:
"Days of Heaven" (1978): Terrence Malick's visual masterpiece casts Richard Gere and Brooke Adams as turn-of-the-century laborers scheming to make a better life for themselves. ****
"1776'' (1972): The screen version of the stage musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence stars William Daniels, Ken Howard and Blythe Danner. ***
"Zero Dark Thirty" (2012): Jessica Chastain's excellent performance as a conflicted CIA agent fuels director Kathryn Bigelow's drama about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. ****
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending June 18, 2017, Courtesy of comScore)
1) "John Wick: Chapter 2"
2) "Beauty and the Beast"
3) "Fist Fight"
4) "A Dog's Purpose"
5) "Fifty Shades Darker"
6) "The Shack"
8) "The Great Wall"
9) "XXX: Return of Xander Cage"
10) "Hidden Figures"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence