The House With a Clock in Its Walls

Universal

After his parents are killed in an accident, a 10-year-old boy (Owen Vaccaro) goes to live with his eccentric uncle (Jack Black), who turns out to be a warlock. Having mastered some of the rudiments of his new guardian’s craft, the lad assists him and his best friend (Cate Blanchett), a nice witch, in trying to locate and stop the timepiece of the title, a doomsday device with the capacity to turn the calendar back before the advent of humanity. For all its spells and incantations, director Eli Roth’s adaptation of the first in a series of books by John Bellairs lacks magic, though some of the humor works. Too scary for tots, the film is acceptable for most others, despite the quasi-profanities that occasionally and, given the target audience, needlessly crop up in Eric Kripke’s screenplay. Occult themes, considerable peril, some scatological humor, a few mild oaths. A-II; PG

A Simple Favor

Lionsgate

Lurid thriller in which a mild-mannered young widow (Anna Kendrick) strikes up an unlikely friendship with the sophisticated, hard-bitten mother (Blake Lively) of one of her son’s classmates. But when her new pal mysteriously disappears and she tries to track her down, she discovers just how little she really knew about her. Director Paul Feig’s glossy screen version of Darcey Bell’s 2017 novel, which also features Henry Golding as the missing woman’s husband, is undeniably ingenious. Yet the dark doings, both past and present, that drive the plot involve repellent behavior that, while not exactly endorsed by Jessica Sharzer’s script, is not condemned either. Instead, the taboo-breaking is treated as spice to lure jaded viewers. Gunplay and other violence with little gore, drug use, strong sexual content, including a semi-graphic scene of incest and an off-screen aberrant act, brief rear female and partial nudity, about a half dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and frequent crude language. O; R

Assassination Nation

Neon

Writer-director Sam Levinson’s messy teen-age satire devolves into a heavy-handed morality tale about our online lives, dark sexual secrets, scapegoating, public shaming and mass mayhem. The film, which evokes the witch trials in 17th-century Massachusetts, stops short of being exploitative, but not by much. The leader (Odessa Young) of a jaded group of teen girls (Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse and Abra). is blamed for a series of hackings that expose her town’s seamy side and becomes the target of mob rage. Considerable violence with some gore, involving gunplay, torture and suicide, drug use, strong sexual content, including two implied nonmarital encounters, aberrant behavior and an adultery theme, a pornographic image, explicit dialogue, frequent rough language. L; R

Life Itself

Amazon/Stage 6

Pretentiousness and sentimentality weigh down this drama from writer-director Dan Fogelman. It’s a collection of interlocking, intergenerational stories that begins with a couple (Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde) happily expecting the arrival of a daughter, then follows the baby’s life as both a child (Kya Kruse) and a grown-up (Olivia Cooke) and links her destiny to that of a Spanish family (parents Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Laia Costa and son Alex Monner) through a fateful visit they pay to her native New York. Instead of allowing the sometimes-melodramatic events, in which Antonio Banderas also figures in the guise of a wealthy gentleman farmer, to speak for themselves, Fogelman heavy-handedly tries to drive home a message about what they mean. Along the way, he includes a few plot developments with which even some adult viewers may be uncomfortable. Brief scenes of suicide and accidental death with gore, mature themes including abortion, drug use, a premarital situation, an ambivalent treatment of marriage, a few uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths, pervasive rough and much crude language. A-III; R

Night School

Universal

The purpose of this fitfully funny comedy from director Malcolm D. Lee is to allow Kevin Hart, playing a high school dropout seeking to pass the GED exam to secure a promising job, to trade barbs with Tiffany Haddish in the role of his feisty teacher. A few of their exchanges work. But when attention shifts to his predictably eccentric classmates (Rob Riggle, Romany Malco, Al Madrigal and Mary Lynn Rajskub among them), his ongoing rivalry with an old high school adversary (Taran Killam) or his romance with his fiancee (Megalyn Echikunwoke) laughs and interest both lag. Given the unpleasant nature of some of the gags and the abundance of vulgar talk in the script, which Hart co-wrote with five others, viewers may want to play hooky instead. Much sexual and some scatological humor, partial nudity, about a dozen profanities, several milder oaths, pervasive crude and crass language, mature references, including to homosexuality. L; PG-13

 

USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting

classifications:

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