By Jay Bobbin Zap2it
(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.)
"Money Monster": Well-known to be good friends, George Clooney and Julia Roberts reunite from the "Ocean's'' crime capers in this tense, tightly told (in real time) melodrama directed by Jodie Foster. Clooney plays a television financial guru -- think Jim Cramer -- whose advice ends up costing an investor (Jack O'Connell, "Unbroken'') big-time, prompting the vengeful man to take the celebrity hostage while on the air. The program's producer (Roberts) tries to figure out a way to defuse the situation before a widely watched tragedy results. Dominic West ("The Affair''), Caltriona Balfe ("Outlander'') and Giancarlo Esposito also are in the cast, but the tale largely boils down to a two-man show between Clooney and O'Connell, and their teamwork pays off. DVD extras: three "making-of'' documentaries; deleted scenes; music video. *** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"Now You See Me 2": The magicians known as the Four Horsemen are back -- though one has been replaced, with Lizzy Caplan ("Masters of Sex'') succeeding the original film's Isla Fisher -- in another clever caper, taking them around the globe and forcing them to help a tech wizard ("Harry Potter'' himself, Daniel Radcliffe) who wants to appropriate their special skills to avenge the theft of his idea. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco are back as the rest of the magic-making quartet, with Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine also returning to the cast. Veteran illusionist David Copperfield lent his expertise to the picture as both a technical consultant and a co-producer. DVD extras: "making-of'' documentary; audio commentary by director Jon M. Chu. *** (PG-13: P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story": One of the most acclaimed programs of the past season -- named program of the year by the Television Critics Association, and currently nominated for 14 Emmy Awards -- this 10-episode FX drama from executive producer Ryan Murphy ("American Horror Story'') looks back 20 years at the trial of football icon, sportscaster and actor Simpson, who was accused of the murders of his ex-wife and one of her acquaintances. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Simpson, but the saga unfolds largely from the standpoints of the attorneys on both sides of the case who became household names ... including Robert Shapiro (John Travolta), Johnnie Cochran (Courtney B. Vance), Marcia Clark (a stunning Sarah Paulson) and Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown). The superb cast also includes David Schwimmer, Nathan Lane, Connie Britton, Jordana Brewster and Robert Morse. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries. **** (Not rated: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"All the Way": Now up for four Emmy Awards -- including one for Bryan Cranston, reprising his Tony-winning stage performance -- this HBO offering recalls the multiple challenges President Lyndon B. Johnson faced during his early months in office after the assassination of predecessor John F. Kennedy. One of his biggest undertakings also involved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Anthony Mackie) in a congressional struggle over the passing of the Civil Rights Act. Melissa Leo is up for an Emmy as well as Lady Bird Johnson, and the Robert Schenkkan script returns co-star Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing'') to the setting of the nation's capital as Hubert Humphrey. Frank Langella and Joe Morton ("Scandal'') also appear. *** (Not rated: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray)
Also releasing this week:
"The Meddler": The title describes Susan Sarandon's character in this seriocomic tale, which casts the veteran actress (also an executive producer here) as a widow determined to shower attention on her screenwriter daughter (Rose Byrne) upon moving to Los Angeles ... whether the latter likes it or not. She often doesn't, and when she draws the line, Mom finds other outlets for her generous manner. Those include an unexpected romance, with J.K. Simmons ("Whiplash'') playing the beau. "Saturday Night Live's'' Cecily Strong, Jerrod Carmichael ("The Carmichael Show''), Jason Ritter and Michael McKean also are in writer-director Lorene Scafaria's cast. DVD extras: two "making-of'' documentaries; audio commentary by Sarandon and Scafaria; outtakes. *** (PG-13: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)
"The Darkness": Though it's a popular vacation destination, some people may think twice about visiting the Grand Canyon after seeing this thriller. A family returns home from the site, unaware that they've brought back with them a supernatural presence that generates terror by preying upon their innermost fears. Kevin Bacon, no stranger to such tales thanks to "Stir of Echoes,'' and Radha Mitchell play the heads of the household; David Mazouz ("Gotham'') and Lucy Fry portray their offspring, with Ming-Na Wen ("Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.''), Paul Reiser and Jennifer Morrison ("Once Upon a Time'') also in the cast. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray)
"Captain America: Civil War" (Sept. 13): Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) lead opposing factions of Marvel superheroes. (PG-13: P, V)
"The Conjuring 2" (Sept. 13): A spectre-plagued mother (Frances O'Connor) is the next person helped by paranormal experts (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga). (R: AS, P, V)
"Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" (Sept. 20): The comedy sequel finds a couple (Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne) facing the same problems they had with a next-door fraternity from a sorority. (R: AS, N, P)
"Teenage Mutat Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" (Sept. 20): The heroes on the half-shell battle Shredder as well as a new foe, Krang. (PG-13: P, V)
"Free State of Jones" (Sept. 20): A fugitive (Mathew McConaughey) from the Confederate Army returns to Mississippi and forms his own force in a secession bid. (R: AS, V)
"Miami Vice: The Complete Series" (Oct. 4): Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas star as detective partners Crockett and Tubbs in the Blu-ray debut of the trendsetting drama. (Not rated: AS, P, V)
"X-Men: Apocalypse" (Oct. 4): The younger incarnations of the Marvel heroes try to save mankind from a more malevolent mutant; Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy star. (PG-13: AS, P, V)
TOP 10 DVD & Blu-Ray Rentals
(Week ending August 21, 2016, Courtesy of comScore)
1) "Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice"
2) "Angry Birds Movie"
4) "Mother's Day"
5) "London Has Fallen"
6) "Kung Fu Panda 3"
7) "Meet the Blacks"
9) "Miracles from Heaven"
10) "The Divergent Series: Allegiant"
FAMILY VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence