Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween


Weak follow-up to the 2015 original revolves around two boys (Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris) who find an old manuscript by R.L. Stein (Jack Black)  the real-life author of the “Goosebumps” books  and, by opening it, unleash an evil ventriloquist’s dummy (voice of Mick Wingert) who proceeds to cause Halloween chaos by bringing to life all the macabre holiday decorations in the small town where the lads live. As a headless horseman, a trio of witches and a mummy  among many others  run amok, screenwriter Rob Lieber and director Ari Sandel mostly spin their wheels. Too frightening for the youngest, the film includes a few touches even the parents of teens may not especially appreciate along the way to a wrap-up that unconvincingly promotes family solidarity. Occult themes, some peril amid thoroughly stylized violence, brief scatological humor, a mild oath, a bit of mature wordplay. A-II; PG

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest
Serial Killer


Powerful dramatization of the Philadelphia police investigation (led by Dean Cain) and state prosecution (headed by Sarah Jane Morris) that finally ended the infamous, decades-long career of abortionist Kermit Gosnell (Earl Billings) who, besides legally slaughtering the unborn, frequently perpetrated infanticide and endangered his adult clients with filthy conditions. Screenwriters Phelim McAleer, Ann McElhinney and Andrew Klavan, adapting McAleer and McElhinney’s 2017 bestseller, keep the focus on the deceptively avuncular and weirdly unflappable Gosnell’s breaches of current statutes, though they do indict the political bias that shielded and enabled him. As directed by Nick Searcy, who also plays Gosnell’s hard-driving defense attorney,  their script mostly leaves it to viewers to recognize the wholly arbitrary distinction between extinguishing life within the womb and doing so, perhaps only moments later, outside it. Some parents may see in this sobering and informative film too good an opportunity for reinforcing pro-life values in older teens to let the relatively few objectionable elements it includes stand in the way. Mature themes, images of body parts and medical gore, a couple of mild oaths, about a half-dozen crude terms.
A-III; PG-13

The Hate U Give


Real-life issues of racial justice are explored in this compelling drama, adapted from Angie Thomas’ novel for young adults by screenwriter Audrey Wells and director George Tillman Jr. An African-American teen (Amandla Stenberg) divides her time between her mostly black working-class neighborhood and the predominantly white private school she attends, adjusting her personality and behavior to suit each environment. But her uneasy equilibrium is thrown off balance when she witnesses the shooting of a childhood friend (Algee Smith) by a white police officer (Drew Starkey), an event that affects her relationship with one of her two best pals (Sabrina Carpenter) and with her boyfriend (K.J. Apa), both of them white. As an activist (Issa Rae) urges her to go public, a move that would put her at odds with the local drug kingpin (Anthony Mackie), for whom the dead lad was working, she looks to her wise parents (Russell Hornsby and Regina Hall) for guidance. Although passionate in tone, the film maintains credibility by its evenhandedness and ultimately points toward a solution to the problems it portrays that viewers committed to Gospel morality will easily endorse. Brief graphic violence with some gore, nonlethal clashes, a narcotics theme, a scene of urination, numerous mild oaths, at least one use of the F-word, pervasive crude and crass language. A-III; PG-13



Some interesting exposition exploring the long-term psychological effects on the heroine (Jamie Lee Curtis) of the eponymous 1978 slasher classic of her near-fatal encounter with masked madman Michael Myers (Nick Castle) during the first of his many blood-soaked rampages soon gives way to an orgy of gruesome and, in at least one instance, nauseating mayhem in this direct sequel to the long-ago kickoff. What might have been a thoughtful study of the impact of evil across time and generations  both the original victim’s grown daughter (Judy Greer) and teen granddaughter (Andi Matichak) have had their relationships with her strained by her fears and apparent paranoia, while the psychiatrist (Haluk Bilginer) who has had charge of the captive killer for decades has become obsessed with him  instead reverts to the franchise’s default mode of reveling in wanton murder. The result, as directed and co-written by David Gordon Green, is a nasty bit of nostalgia patrons of taste will sensibly shun. Excessive gory violence, drug use, brief upper female and partial nudity, a few uses of profanity, frequent rough and occasional crude and crass language. O; R

Hunter Killer


Far-fetched but reasonably entertaining military potboiler puts scowling macho man Gerard Butler at the helm of a U.S. submarine during a potentially war-triggering crisis in relations with Russia. To avert a nuclear holocaust, he must not only do some fancy maneuvering but gain the cooperation of a Russian counterpart (Michael Nyqvist), despite the numerous objections to this apparently collaborationist plan of his conventionally minded executive officer (Carter MacIntyre). Back on land, the skipper gets support from a level-headed admiral (Common) and an equally sensible presidential security adviser (Linda Cardellini) who together also dispatch a team of Navy SEALs (led by Toby Stephens) to the Kola Peninsula to see what’s going on at Russia’s naval headquarters. Director Donovan Marsh’s screen version of George Wallace and Don Keith’s 2012 novel “Firing Point,” which also features Gary Oldman chewing the scenery as the fuming, trigger-happy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is crowded, somewhat laborious and hard to swallow. But, while it includes too much bloodletting and sailor slang for youngsters, the film ultimately promotes the need to take chances for peace. Much violence with considerable gore, several uses of profanity, a few rough terms, frequent crude and crass language, a couple of vulgar sexual references. A-III; R

The Old Man & the Gun

Fox Searchlight

Writer-director David Lowery’s adaptation of David Grann’s New Yorker magazine profile of bank robber Forrest Tucker, who died in prison in 2004, is driven by the conceit of a career criminal as a jaunty old coot. During a wide-ranging spree of heists in 1981, Tucker (Robert Redford) works with two partners (Danny Glover and Tom Waits), and their modus operandi is always nonviolent. He also finds time to woo a widow (Sissy Forrest) who’s struggling to hold on to her horse ranch. But a police detective (Casey Spacek) is doggedly on the thief’s trail. Viewers hoping to identify a point or moral to the story won’t locate one, but some may enjoy the loping drive around the American Southwest. Others will find it soporific. Benignly viewed larceny, fleeting rough language. A-III; 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