Motherless Brooklyn

Warner Bros.

Edward Norton wrote, directed and stars in this adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel and the result is a top-notch crime drama. Norton plays a private detective in 1950s New York whose Tourette’s syndrome is offset by a phenomenal memory for detail. After his friend, mentor and senior partner (Bruce Willis) is murdered while investigating shady real estate deals, he pursues the case and crosses paths with a Robert Moses-like civil servant (Alec Baldwin), a community activist (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) opposed to the bureaucrat’s latest project, a down-on-his-luck architect (Willem Dafoe) and a gifted trumpet player (Michael Kenneth Williams). As the movie’s plot twists and turns over a long running time, viewers will appreciate its evocation of film noir atmospherics, its powerful jazz score, the innocence of its central romance and the pro-life sympathy Norton wins for its afflicted but good-hearted protagonist. They will be less impressed by the script’s gritty vocabulary. Stylized violence with occasional gore, semi-medicinal drug use, frequent profanities, a few milder oaths, pervasive rough and crude language. A-III; R

The Current War: Director’s Cut

101 Studios

Intriguing historical drama recounting the bitter contest between inventor Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and industrialist George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) as they raced to spread electricity across the United States in the last decades of the 19th century, with Serbian-American tech whiz Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) supporting first one then the other. Although director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film occasionally drags, overall the high stakes, a sophisticated exploration of moral themes, the colorful period settings and impressive performances, especially from Cumberbatch, make this an appealing retrospective. Probably acceptable for mature teens. Brief gore, a few profanities, several mild oaths, a crass term. A-III; PG-13

Arctic Dogs

AMBI Group

This animated feature, directed and co-written by Aaron Woodley, follows the exploits of a fox (voice of Jeremy Renner) who dreams of joining the top dogs (voices of Michael Madsen, Laurie Holden and Donny Falsetti) who work for his hometown’s delivery service. Achieving his ambition, he crosses paths with a walrus (voice of John Cleese) bent on destroying the community and must work with a local engineer (voice of Heidi Klum), on whom he’s always had a crush, to try to save it. Although the values in this action-packed but unoriginal film are suitable for everyone, the “be true to yourself” message has had better vehicles. One crass term, a few instances of bathroom humor. A-II; PG

Last Christmas

Universal

Awkward and problematic blend of romantic comedy and drama tells the conversion story of a selfish, thoughtless young woman (Emilia Clarke), a childhood refugee from ex-Yugoslavia living in London, whose life is transformed after she meets and falls for a mysterious, sensitive stranger (Henry Golding). Her reform benefits the stern but good-hearted owner (Michelle Yeoh) of the yuletide merchandise store where she works, her war-scarred mother (Emma Thompson) and put-upon dad (Boris Isakovic) as well as her successful attorney sister (Lydia Leonard). As written by Thompson and Bryony Kimmings and directed by Paul Feig, the film is aesthetically flawed and a moral grab bag. The heroine’s original personality is so grating that it’s difficult to take much of a shine to her, and the twist ending is a whopper only the most sentimental will swallow while positive messages about welcoming foreigners, caring for the poor and the power of love to ennoble people are offset by a frivolous attitude toward emotionless encounters and homosexual relationships. Approach with caution. A benign view of casual sex and a lesbian relationship, about a half-dozen uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths, occasional crude and crass language. L; PG-13

Midway

Lionsgate

Vivid fact-based epic recounting the period from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, to the Navy’s decisive victory in the battle of the title in June 1942, a triumph that turned the tide in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The ensemble drama follows, among others, top brass, including Adms. Chester W. Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid) and Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa), a brilliant intelligence officer (Patrick Wilson), two daring pilots (Ed Skrein and Luke Evans) and Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) whose air raid on Tokyo in April 1942 was a major propaganda coup for the Allies and helped lay the groundwork for the positive outcome at sea less than two months later. As this partial list suggests, director Roland Emmerich has a lot of personal story lines to keep bound together with the result that the details of his film are sometimes confusing. But there’s a good balance in Wes Tooke’s script between action scenes and human interest and the patriotism, courage and tenacity on display go a long way to maintain attention. Possibly acceptable for older teens despite a lot of realistic sailors’ talk. Frequent stylized violence with little gore, brief gruesome images of a burned corpse, about 10 uses of profanity, an equal number of milder oaths, at least one rough term, considerable crude and crass language. A-III; PG-13

Terminator: Dark Fate

Paramount

There’s a feminist cast to this average sci-fi action picture, intended as a continuation of the first two films in the franchise that began in 1984. The target (Lina Hamilton) of the original time-traveling Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) unites with an enhanced human from the future (Mackenzie Davis) to protect a young Mexican woman (Natalie Reyes) who will one day play a vital role in the survival of humanity from the relentless robot (Gabriel Luna) who has been dispatched to murder her. Themes of teamwork, conversion, forgiveness and self-sacrificing dedication are worked into the story, though the real agenda in director Tim Miller’s film is to have dust ups between mighty good guys and villains. A serviceable diversion for grown fans of the genre. Much violence, some of it gory, a few gruesome sights, rear nudity, at least one profanity, a couple of milder oaths, numerous rough and crude terms. A-III; R

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