Vertical Entertainment

Low-budget crime saga about mobster John Gotti (John Travolta) who, director Kevin Connolly and screenwriters Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi would have the viewer believe, was mostly a misunderstood family man, attentive  according to his own lights  to his wife (Kelly Preston) and two sons (Spencer Lofrano and Nico Bustamante). Other than the occasional murder, his first was in 1973, he might as well be any other striver on the corporate ladder, hoping to impress his mentor in the Gambino crime family (Stacy Keach) and earn a promotion. Impatient, he eventually felt the need to have the lugubrious head of the syndicate (Donald John Volpenheim) whacked in a sordid yet theatrical rubout that set the pattern for his long career as a tabloid celebrity. What’s here is too ineptly written and performed to constitute a whitewash of the man. But a reluctance to incorporate any moral viewpoints by any of its characters makes for a weak, poorly seasoned stew. Much gun and physical violence, pervasive rough language. A-III; R

Sicario: Day of the Soldado


After evidence suggests Mexican drug cartels have aided jihadi terrorists to enter the United States, a federal agent (Josh Brolin) and a lawyer-turned-hitman (Benicio Del Toro) set out to provoke a war among the gangs by kidnapping a kingpin’s preteen daughter (Isabela Moner), an act they hope will be blamed on a rival syndicate. But the operation goes awry with consequences that test the main characters’ most fundamental humanity. The artistic intent of director Stefano Sollima’s follow-up to 2015’s “Sicario” is clear, though returning screenwriter Taylor Sheridan tries to have it both ways, inviting viewers to revel in the down-and-dirty tactics and gritty tough-guy milieu, then appealing to their sense of basic decency. Yet what puts the film completely out of bounds is a climactic sequence so stomach-turningly gory and gruesome as to be unjustifiable by any dramatic context. Excessive bloody violence, at least one use of profanity, constant rough and crude language. O; R

Ant-Man and the Wasp


There’s plenty of humor and action in this fast-paced sci-fi adventure. What’s lacking is any exposition or guidance for those not already familiar with the characters and their relationships from 2015’s “Ant-Man” and 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War.” Approaching the end of a sentence of house arrest, Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, who also co-wrote the script) is anxious to focus on serving his time and raising his young daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Instead his predecessor as size-shifting Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), aka the Wasp, draw him into their quest to rescue Hope’s mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Wasp, from her decades-long captivity in the Quantum Realm, a kind of subatomic limbo. To achieve this, the trio will have to do battle both with a petty gangster (Walton Goggins) out to profit from Pym’s technological breakthroughs and a victim (Hannah John-Kamen) of Pym’s past misdeeds. Altruism and family bonds are showcased in director Peyton Reed’s Marvel Comics adaptation, which also sends a clear message about ends not justifying means. But viewers of faith will be less impressed that the central romance between Scott and Hope comes in the wake of his split from Cassie’s mom (Judy Greer). Possibly appropriate for older teens. Much stylized violence, acceptability of divorce, a couple of uses each of profane, crude and crass language, several milder oaths, occasional wordplay. A-III; PG-13

The First Purge


A love of violence for its own sake, a profoundly dishonest attempt to disguise itself as a political allegory and reverse racism characterize this despicable bit of slaughter porn. In presenting the origin story of its wretched franchise, this fourth film in the series, set on Staten Island, focuses on the fortunes of a community activist (Lex Scott Davis), her younger brother (Joivan Wade) and her gang leader ex-boyfriend (Y’lan Noel) during a night when all crimes are to be permitted in the borough as a social experiment. While the researcher (Marisa Tomei) who masterminded the harebrained project eventually has qualms, all the other white characters in director Gerard McMurray’s flick, scripted by returning screenwriter James DeMonaco, are unredeemable villains in the demise of many of whom the audience is invited to exult, even as the script ultimately turns Noel’s drug-dealing lowlife into a hero. But viewers will have to look past the waves of spurting blood on screen even to notice these details. Excessive gory and gruesome violence, including a sexual assault, graphic aberrant sexual activity, drug use, brief partial nudity, several profanities, a few milder oaths, pervasive rough and crude language. O; R

Uncle Drew


Mostly harmless sports comedy, based on a Pepsi ad campaign, in which a basketball coach (Lil Rel Howery) whose players have deserted him on the eve of a prestigious tournament turns for help to the title character (Kyrie Irving), an elderly and elusive legend from the Harlem hoops scene of the 1960s. Together they hit the road to recruit the various members of the old man’s former team (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller and Nate Robinson) in hopes of thwarting the obnoxious rival (Nick Kroll) who enticed the trainer’s original squad away from him. Director Charles Stone III blends court heroics with riffs on everything from Howery’s physique to the quirks of the aged and even throws in a spontaneous dance competition. But the sum of his ingredients is not overly satisfying, especially given the hard-to-swallow premise. Teamwork and self-confidence are celebrated in Jay Longino’s script which also offsets the fun it pokes at Pentecostal exuberance with brief affirmations of Christian faith. A glimpse of aberrant bedroom behavior played for laughs, fleeting male rear nudity, cohabitation, references to promiscuity and premarital relationships, some sexual and mildly irreverent humor, at least one use each of profanity and crude language, numerous milder oaths, a bleeped F-word, several crass terms. A-III; PG-13

USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting


A-I – General patronage

A-II – Adults and adolescents

A-III – Adults

A-IV – Adults, with reservations

L – Limited adult audience

O – Morally offensive

Motion Picture Association of America ratings:

G – General audiences; all ages admitted

PG – Parental guidance suggested; some material may not be suitable for children

PG-13 – Parents are strongly cautioned to give special guidance for attendance of children under 13; some material may be inappropriate for young children

R – Restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian

NC-17 – No one under 17 admitted