— Michael O'Sullivan
“The Kissing Booth 2” picks up where the 2018 original left off, with Elle and Lee’s senior year, and Noah’s freshman year of college. Elle (Joey King) once again struggles to reconcile her relationships with Lee (Joel Courtney) and his rebellious older brother, Noah (Jacob Elordi): Does she chase her and Lee’s shared dream of attending the University of California at Berkeley, or does she apply to Harvard University to be with Noah? Elle’s jealousy and constant recollection of Noah’s playboy past puts strain on their long-distance relationship. Enter Marco (Taylor Zakhar Perez), her hot dance competition partner. While the kissing booth again serves as a tangential plot device — in both films, Elle and Lee run one for a school fundraiser — noticeable changes suggest co-writers Jay Arnold and Vince Marcello (who also directed) responded to criticism directed at the original. Noah’s rage and borderline abusive tendencies have dissipated, replaced with homesickness and, from what he tells Elle, unflinching loyalty. Misogynist currents are scrapped in favor of a story line empowering Lee’s girlfriend, Rachel (Meganne Young). If “The Kissing Booth 2” is watchable, viewers have Elle to thank; King remains the strongest component of a now-franchise that, quite frankly, might be beneath her. TV-14. Available on Netflix.
132 minutes. Read the full review at washingtonpost.com/entertainment.
— Sonia Rao
The feature directorial debut of Dave Franco, the horror film “The Rental” plays on what you might call Airbnb anxiety: the fear that the private weekend getaway you booked isn’t as private as it looks, and that you’re under surveillance by owner. That’s what appears to be happening when two couples (Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Jeremy Allen White and Sheila Vand) rent a gorgeous cliff-side house in Northern California. Franco, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Swanberg (“Digging for Fire”), stirs in the familiar components of many a slasher: a creepy caretaker (Toby Huss), sexual tension, a character with a history of flying off the handle and drugs. There’s not much done to refresh these ingredients, and the suspense is slow to kick in. But once it does, “The Rental” is exactly the kind of dumb, fog-shrouded late-summer fun that genre fans should expect. R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains violence, strong language throughout, drug use and some sexuality. 88 minutes.
In the indie comedy “Babysplitters,” two couples hatch a plan to conceive and raise one child between the four of them. According to Variety, “The trials and travails of impending parenthood are captured through [writer-director Sam] Friedlander’s highly comedic filter, giving birth to enough dazzling wit to sustain the gimmick.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 119 minutes.
An Orthodox woman whose son is injured in a terrorist attack bonds with a young Arab woman as they wait in a Jerusalem hospital in the drama “Between Worlds.” Unrated. Available at jxjdc.org. In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. 84 minutes. The JxJ Film Club will host a virtual discussion of the film on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
“Blood Vessel” is a nautical vampire flick set during World War II and centering on the survivors of a torpedoed hospital ship whose life raft comes across a seemingly abandoned German minesweeper. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 93 minutes.
A real estate developer’s plans to build on a site once used for human sacrifice turn deadly when construction disturbs the cursed soil in “A Deadly Legend.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 97 minutes.
“The Grand Unified Theory of Howard Bloom” is a documentary portrait of Bloom, a former music publicist for such musicians as Michael Jackson and Prince, who reinvented himself as an author, publishing several books on evolutionary psychology and humanity’s role in the cosmos. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 67 minutes.
Jeff Daniels plays a Pulitzer-winning playwright in “Guest Artist,” a drama based on a play — by Daniels — about an aspiring playwright (Thomas Macias) who is disillusioned when he meets his hero (Daniels). According to the Hollywood Reporter, Daniels “brings a strong ear for language to his exploration of jaded experience in collision with openhearted innocence.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 84 minutes.
Known for his controversial, sexualized photographs of women — which some have called objectification — the late German photographer Helmut Newton is the subject of the documentary “Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful.” Unrated. Available at theavalon.org and afisilver.afi.com. 89 minutes.
After taking a hit of a mysterious aerosol, a queer dominatrix acquires the ability to talk to dead people in “Holy Trinity.” “Despite its unapologetic focus on what some might call the dark arts of BDSM and kink,” the Hollywood Reporter writes, “every single frame is bright, bursting with color and lightness in the cinematography, production design and costuming. These elements give it an avant-garde vibe that stimulates the senses.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 98 minutes.
In the fact-based thriller “Most Wanted,” Josh Hartnett plays an investigative reporter who uncovers a conspiracy to sentence a man to 100 years in a Thai prison. R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains drug use, strong language throughout and some violence. 125 minutes.
The third film in a trilogy of Spanish supernatural crime thrillers based on the best-selling books, “Offering to the Storm” features a detective investigating mysterious infant death and horrific rituals. TV-MA. Available on Netflix. In Spanish with subtitles. 139 minutes.
The New York Times calls “Olympia” a “fawning” documentary about actress Olympia Dukakis. At times, the paper writes, filmmaker Harry Mavromichalis himself seems star-struck, “to the extent that he can’t distinguish the disarming from the banal.” Unrated. Available at theavalon.org.and jxjdc.org. Contains some disturbing violent content and terror. 100 minutes.
The documentary “Target: Philadelphia” tells the story of a 1985 incident in which Philadelphia police dropped a military-grade explosive on a residential building to end a standoff with members of the Black liberation group MOVE, in which 11 people were killed. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 56 minutes.
“The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion” takes a documentary look at the evolution of hip-hop-inspired style. Unrated. Available on Netflix. 66 minutes.
Olga Kurylenko (“Quantum of Solace”) and Kevin Janssens (“Undercover”) star in “The Room,” a horror film about a couple who discover a magical secret room in their new home that grants wishes. “Come for ‘The Room’s’ infinite possibilities,” writes Flickering Myth. “Stay hooked into a narrative that expands upon the one diversion you least saw coming.” Unrated. Available on shudder.com. 99 minutes.