A search for long-lost family, forbidden love, a fun-loving island deity and a naughty St. Nick are among what's headed to theaters this week in Allied, Bad Santa, Moana, Rules Don't Apply, Lion and Miss Sloane.
Read on to find out what The Hollywood Reporter's critics are saying about the week's new offerings, and click here to see how they're expected to perform at the box office.
A noticeable amount of passion and connection is missing from this movie, whose central theme is based on a secretive, passionate love, writes THR film critic David Rooney. Starring Brad Pitt as Canadian special agent Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard as fellow operative Marianne Beausejour, the film tells the true story of a secretive romance between the two during World War II. "Sluggish pacing throughout saps most of the tension, but the real issue is the absence of a solid foundation for the central romance," writes Rooney. "Since the love between Max and Marianne never generates real sparks, the possibility that their alliance is built on duplicity unfolds in frenetic late-action plotting without much emotional investment." Read the full review here.
Billy Bob Thornton is back in the saddle, or in this case, back in the sleigh. More than a dozen years after the original, this sequel aims and succeeds at outdoing its predecessor. "Even more inappropriate physical gags, foul-mouthed dialogue and outrageous situations all contribute to raising the stakes, as Waters pushes the cast to amiably outdo the original," writes THR film critic Justin Lowe in his review of the film. "Fans could respond just as enthusiastically as they did in 2003, when the first release reaped $60 million domestically." Read the full review here.
Two teams of two directors - Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid and Aladdin), and Chris Williams and Don Hall (Big Hero 6) - bring Disney's traditional storytelling methods to the big screen in what's being called a tropical Frozen. Enlisting the voice of Dwayne Johnson, the film follows Motnui villager Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) as she teams up with feared semi-diety Maui (Johnson) to stop an ecological crisis from destroying her island home. "Effectively interweaving those Samoan, Tahitian and Fijian oral traditions with their own distinct sensibilities, screenwriter Jared Bush, who also penned this year's Zootopia, and the quartet of directors manage to work in plenty of offbeat humor at every inventive turn," writes THR film critic Michael Rechtshaffen. The film also includes music co-written by Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda. Read the full review here.
Bringing to the screen a more than 40-year-obsession, Warren Beatty directed, wrote and stars in his rendition of a Hollywood era dominated by the eccentricities of aviation mogul Howard Hughes. Unlike Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, the subject of focus is not Hughes himself, or at least it's not supposed to be. Instead the source of drama is the forbidden love between Frank Forbes and Marla (Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins), employees of Hughes. "The two innocents, both of whom are at Hughes' beck and call but mostly have nothing to do, quickly bond, in the spirit of the times, over the matter of their mutual sexual inexperience," writes THR film critic Todd McCarthy. "Unfortunately, with the increased focus on Hughes comes a fraying of attention on Frank and Marla, who are set up from the outset as the primary objects of the audience's emotional involvement, even if Hughes soon emerges as a figure of greater interest." Read the full review here.
Saroo Brierley was separated from his family 25 years ago when, while looking for work with his brother, he climbed a stationed train and accidentally fell asleep. When he woke, he found the train to be moving. Its destination: Calcutta, 1,600 kilometers away from home. "Luke Davies' admirably measured screenplay, adapted from Brierley's memoir A Long Way Home, brings the innocent gaze of a child to its most harrowing episodes, and then later, the hard-won maturity of a young man who has struggled to know himself despite being grateful for the life he has been given," writes THR film critic David Rooney. "Onscreen text at the end of the movie reveals that 80,000 children go missing in India every year, and the knowledge that Saroo's experiences make him one of the luckier ones gives the conclusion enormous resonance." Read the full review here.
Read more: 'Lion' Wins Golden Frog at Camerimage
The last film to focus on the crooked process of congressional lobbying was Thank You For Smoking in 2005. That film, while addressing the corruption of lobbying, was lighthearted. This film is sobering. Jessica Chastain takes on the role of Elizabeth Sloane, a fierce lobbyist whose goal of the film is to take on the looming and powerful gun industry. "The bulk of first-time screenwriter Perera's adroitly shuffled narrative is devoted to the crafty chess moves on both sides of the heavily charged issue," writes THR film critic Todd McCarthy. "Along with the many politicians in the NRA's pocket, there are others compromised in one way or another, and the film keeps a careful tally of the realities pertaining to the longshot bid to stiffen regulations; 20 senators are judged as being in play." Read the full review here.