Abattoir (R) Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw) directs this horror film about an investigative reporter (Jessica Lowndes) looking for a motive behind the murder of her sister’s family. Also with Joe Anderson, Dayton Callie, Lin Shaye, Bryan Batt, and Michael Paré. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Befikre (NR) Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor star in this Indian romance about a couple who fall in love in Paris. Also with Elisa Bachir Bey, Julie Ordon, and Hugo Diego Garcia. (Opens Friday)
The Bounce Back (PG-13) Shemar Moore stars in this comedy as a relationship expert who falls for a therapist (Nadine Velazquez) who questions his methods. Also with Michael Beach, Matthew Willig, Kali Hawk, Vanessa Bell Calloway, and Bill Bellamy. (Opens Friday)
Burn Country (NR) James Franco stars in this thriller as a burned-out war reporter who finds himself in danger while reporting for a local newspaper. Also with Melissa Leo, Rachel Brosnahan, Dominic Rains, James Oliver Wheatley, and Thomas Jay Ryan. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Contract to Kill (R) Steven Seagal stars in this thriller as a federal agent trying to stop an Islamic terror plot at the Mexican border. Also with Russell Wong, Jemma Dallender, Mircea Drambareanu, Ghassan Bouz, and Andrei Stanciu. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Dhruva (NR) Ram Charan stars in this Indian cop thriller as a detective determined to bring down the country’s most corrupt individual (Arvind Swamy). Also with Rakul Preet Singh, Navdeep, Ranadhir, and Upen Reddy. (Opens Friday)
Frank & Lola (NR) Michael Shannon portrays a Las Vegas restaurant chef who swears revenge upon the man who raped his girlfriend (Imogen Poots). Also with Justin Long, Michael Nyqvist, Emmanuelle Devos, Suteara Vaughn, and Rosanna Arquette. (Opens Friday)
Menorca (NR) Tammy Gillis stars in this Canadian film as a dissolute suburban mom who goes on a strange voyage of self-discovery. Also with Sheila E. Campbell, Talia Pura, Dorothy Carroll, Logan Creran, Jason Wishnowski, Aaron Merke, and Krystle Snow. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Nocturnal Animals (R) A poison pill of a movie, slow-acting and effective. Amy Adams stars in this adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan as an L.A. art gallery owner who receives the manuscript of a long-delayed novel by her estranged ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). Writer-director Tom Ford (A Single Man) starts this off with a shocking montage of naked, morbidly obese women dancing and uses the embedded plot of the novel to capture the fallout of a bombed-out marriage. The novel’s violent thriller plot becomes a way of demonstrating what an empty sham the antiheroine’s life has become, and Adams plays her with deadly chill. This movie is a ferocious enigma, untameable and hard not to approach even if you know you’ll get mauled. Also with Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Armie Hammer, Ellie Bamber, Andrea Riseborough, Jena Malone, Michael Sheen, and Laura Linney. (Opens Friday)
Office Christmas Party (R) The team of Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory) directs this comedy about an office manager (T.J. Miller) whose plans for a holiday work party get way out of hand. Also with Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Courtney B. Vance, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Randall Park, Karan Soni, Jamie Chung, Matt Walsh, Ben Falcone, Adrian Martinez, and Abbey Lee. (Opens Friday)
Sadie’s Last Days on Earth (NR) Morgan Taylor Campbell stars in this comedy as a teenager who believes the world is about to end. Also with Helene Joy, Munro Chambers, Ricardo Hoyos, Lola Flannery, and Paula Brancati. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Super Parental Guardians (NR) This Filipino action-comedy stars Vice Ganda and Coco Martin as a gay man and a straight man who are stuck caring for the children of a murdered friend. Also with Awra Briguela, Onyok Pineda, Matet de Leon, and Assunta de Rossi. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Sword Master (NR) Derek Yee’s remake of the 1977 martial-arts film Death Duel stars Lin Gengxin as a fighting master whose place is threatened by a challenger (Peter Ho). Also with Jiang Yiyan and Jiang Mengjie. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Accountant (R) Terrifically entertaining, until it disintegrates in the final third. Ben Affleck stars in this thriller as an accountant whose high-functioning autism makes him a genius in his field, and whose elite martial-arts and weapons skills help him survive working for terrorists and crime lords. He also needs the latter to protect a low-level accountant (Anna Kendrick) who stumbles onto malfeasance at her high-end tech firm. Kendrick gives some warmth and charm to this potboiler, but she’s shunted largely out of the picture in the final third, which becomes overstuffed with backstory and an unbelievable coincidence that resolves things. It all defeats this enviable cast and director Gavin O’Connor. Also with J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert C. Treveiler, Jean Smart, John Lithgow, and Jeffrey Tambor.
Allied (R) This World War II romance is all empty gestures and tedious lack of imagination. Brad Pitt portrays a Canadian intelligence officer who falls for and marries a French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard), only to find out that she’s suspected of being a Nazi spy. Things go fairly smoothly in the opening act set in German-occupied Morocco where the two carry out an assassination plot, but the movie loses its momentum when it gets to England. Director Robert Zemeckis can’t bring out the tension in a husband examining his wife’s every word and deed for traces of disloyalty, and Pitt is sorely miscast as a man with roiling passions underneath his stoic facade. It’s as if the filmmakers watched a bunch of World War II movies and learned how to make theirs look like one but missed their romantic essence. Also with Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Betts, Thierry Frémont, August Diehl, Simon McBurney, and Matthew Goode.
Almost Christmas (PG-13) A cast full of capable comic actors makes this warmed-over holiday dish palatable. Danny Glover stars as the recently widowed patriarch of an Alabama family who invites his five kids, their significant others and kids, and his sister-in-law (Mo’Nique) for a Christmas weekend and tries to keep them from killing each other. The script by writer-director David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim) may be full of predictable situations and gags, but solid ad-lib contributions from Mo’Nique, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove, Jessie T. Usher, and John Michael Higgins keep you off-balance, and keep the comedy from drowning in homilies about family and helping the less fortunate. It’s an inoffensive time. Also with Kimberly Elise, Romany Malco, Omar Epps, Nicole Ari Parker, D.C. Young Fly, Keri Hilson, and Gladys Knight.
Arrival (PG-13) Amy Adams saves the world and this science-fiction epic. She plays a linguistics professor who’s brought in by the government when the aliens land to try to communicate with them. Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners) adapts this from Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” and does well by the nonlinear source material, as the heroine starts having flash-forwards of her life to come. Unfortunately, the script’s attempts to inject some conventional dramatic tension through human-alien hostilities fall flat, and Villeneuve offers chilly virtuosity where a more emotional approach might have suited the material. He’s bailed out by the great Adams, displaying loneliness, vulnerability, decency, courage, and much-needed warmth at the center of this. Also with Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien, Tzi Ma, and Forest Whitaker.
Bad Santa 2 (R) Billy Bob Thornton returns for this sequel to the 2003 comedy, as the drunken ex-convict Santa reunites with his old partner in crime (Tony Cox). Also with Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen, and Mike Starr.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (R) A misfire. Ang Lee’s movie about the Iraq War stars Joe Alwyn as the title character, who, after a televised firefight is brought back to America for a triumphant promotional tour, culminating in a halftime show at a Thanksgiving football game in Dallas. Based on Ben Fountain’s novel, the movie is cynical about pop culture’s relationship to the military and tries to find something tragic in the disconnect between soldiers and civilians who can’t possibly understand what they’ve been through. Unfortunately, Lee and writer Jean-Christophe Castelli have neither Fountain’s gift for a surprising phrase nor his aptitude for painting American life in garish, satirical colors. Billy himself comes off as a cipher in the hands of British newcomer Alwyn. Some good performances can’t make this into the meditation on war that it wants to be. Also with Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, Makenzie Leigh, Arturo Castro, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Mason Lee, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Beau Knapp, Barney Harris, and Steve Martin.
Bleed for This (R) Miles Teller stars in this biography of boxing champion Vinny Pazienza. Also with Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Ciarán Hinds, and Ted Levine.
Boo! A Madea Halloween (PG-13) We don’t need Tyler Perry the filmmaker anymore. Maybe we never did, but ten years ago he filled a niche, however badly, for an audience that was underserved. Now, African-American crowds have films about themselves that feature intelligence, subtlety, and craftsmanship. In his latest outing, Perry plays the old lady who gets stuck taking care of her teenage granddaughter (Diamond White) during one Halloween when the girl just wants to go to a frat party. Set piece after set piece falls flat, and the whole thing devolves into the usual Perry Sunday-sermon preachiness. Perry is much easier to take as an actor when he’s out of the old-age makeup playing the girl’s father. If he devoted himself to acting full time, that would be better for all of us. Also with Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely, Yousef Erakat, Andre Hall, Tyga, and Bella Thorne.
Desierto (R) Not as timely as it seems. Jonás Cuarón makes his directorial debut (after co-writing Gravity with his dad Alfonso Cuarón) with this thriller starring Gael García Bernal as one of a group of Mexican immigrants who are preyed on by a racist with a rifle (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) after they illegally cross the U.S. border. The filmmakers aren’t trafficking in subtlety here; the migrants barely exist as characters and the bad guy is a Confederate flag-waving caricature. Cuarón shows some skill in some of the set pieces, including the climactic one on a butte, but he strains too hard for the monumentality of classic Westerns as he films the desert landscape. He sucks all the fun out of this setup, where somebody like Robert Rodriguez would have reveled in the trashiness. This is too high-minded to work as “Mexploitation,” and too weak to work as anything else. Also with Alondra Hidalgo, Diego Cataño, Marco Pérez, Oscar Flores, and David Lorenzo.
Doctor Strange (PG-13) Benedict Cumberbatch is more or less perfectly cast as the latest Marvel superhero, a brilliant bastard of a neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands, travels to Nepal to heal, and winds up discovering his role as a protector of the Earth from extraterrestrial threats. The English leading man is whip-smart, arrogant, and funny, and he centers the movie even when director/co-writer Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) gets lost in the weeds while delving into the spiritual aspect of the story. You sense that Derrickson always wanted to stage extended fight sequences in a world whose landscape is shifting like a kaleidoscope and rotating à la Inception. It’s enjoyable even when it doesn’t make sense. Also with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Benjamin Bratt, and an uncredited Chris Hemsworth.
The Edge of Seventeen (R) Hailee Steinfeld gives one of the performances of the year as an awkward loner of a teen who goes into a spiral when her brother (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson). Writer and first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig nails the vibe of many scenes and does some terrific comic writing for our heroine and her sarcastic history teacher (Woody Harrelson), and the acting is good across the board. (Watch for newcomer Hayden Szeto as a perfectly uncool love interest.) Yet you can’t take your eyes off Steinfeld, who displays an impeccable sense of comic timing and plays the role with such energy and physicality that her character’s teenage hormones go spilling all over the screen. She makes the whole movie buzz. Also with Kyra Sedgwick, Alexander Calvert, and Eric Keenleyside.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (PG-13) The Harry Potter saga goes to America for this prequel, and it’s an inauspicious beginning. Eddie Redmayne stars as a wizarding-world animal conservationist who travels to the States after being kicked out of Hogwarts. Writing directly for the screen for the first time, J.K. Rowling tries to squeeze an entire novel into the film. As a result, her themes about racism and terrorism come out muddled. We don’t spend enough time with the scary anti-magic religious zealots, and neither Redmayne’s absent-minded professor vibe nor Katherine Waterston as the U.S. magic official who keeps tabs on him are enough to center the movie. You realize how much the original series depended on its lead actors’ skill and charisma. Also with Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Alison Sudol, Carmen Ejogo, Dan Hedaya, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight, and Johnny Depp.
Hacksaw Ridge (R) This movie could have been great at 100 minutes. Too bad it runs 131. Mel Gibson’s biopic stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, a World War II soldier whose Christian beliefs made him a devoted pacifist but also spurred him to rescue 75 wounded American soldiers in one night on Okinawa. The depiction of Desmond’s early life in Virginia is as unsubtle as you’d expect from this director, and the subplot with Desmond meeting his future wife (Teresa Palmer) is so cutesy that it’s cringe-inducing. Gibson’s touch is so heavy-handed that war might be the only subject suited to him, and his rendition of the battle scenes and Desmond’s heroism is worthy of its subject. The film was shot in Australia, Gibson’s career troubles closing off Hollywood to him. Also with Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Luke Bracey, Luke Pegler, Ben Mingay, Richard Roxburgh, Sam Worthington, and Vince Vaughn.
Incarnate (PG-13) An intriguing setup yields nothing of lasting importance in this horror movie starring Aaron Eckhart as an exorcist who tries to expel an evil spirit from a boy (David Mazouz). This movie has a flash of inspiration in making its hero into a hard-drinking, wheelchair-bound, embittered atheist who behaves like a down-at-the-heel private eye and goes about his exorcisms like the crew of Inception, journeying into the subject’s mindscape. Unfortunately, that’s where the inspiration stops, as Eckhart is too clean-cut to portray a scuzzy antihero and director Brad Peyton (San Andreas) can’t spin any scares or invention out of the exorcist’s battle with Satan’s demons or his own. Also with Carice van Houten, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Emjay Anthony, Matt Nable, Keir O’Donnell, Breanne Hill, and Tomas Arana.
Inferno (PG-13) Tom Hanks and Ron Howard reunite for a third visually beautiful and exquisitely dull outing adapted from a Dan Brown novel. The redoubtable Prof. Robert Langdon here battles head trauma and amnesia as he runs around Italy with an ER doctor (Felicity Jones) who has an improbable interest in Dante’s poetry, trying to dodge assassins and solve a riddle that will help them avert a global pandemic. Hanks remains an intelligent and conscientious presence at the center of this, but the character touches are no more than perfunctory and the puzzle-solving is uninspired and needlessly obscure. Also with Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ana Ularu, Ida Darvish, and Ben Foster.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (PG-13) I’m not sure any of the filmmakers appreciates the irony of calling a sequel Never Go Back. Tom Cruise returns in this proficient but forgettable adaptation of Lee Child’s novel as an ex-military officer who works to clear the name of his old unit’s current commander (Cobie Smulders) after she’s framed for espionage. This involves punching lots of people. Director Edward Zwick does an acceptable job with the action sequences, but he and his co-writers can’t give any shading to these characters, and the gambit with Jack protecting a moody teenager (Danika Yarosh) who might be his daughter is ill-conceived and -executed. For all this movie’s efforts, it doesn’t accomplish very much. Also with Patrick Heusinger, Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany, Madalyn Horcher, Jason Douglas, and Robert Knepper.
Loving (PG-13) A well-intentioned film muffled in cotton wool. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star in Jeff Nichols’ account of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case, which legalized interracial marriage across America. Edgerton remains an inert presence on screen, but the problems here run far deeper. Nichols (Midnight Special, Mud) wants to do justice to the quiet, nonconfrontational sort of people that the Lovings appear to have been, but in doing so, he’s made his movie so polite that it never takes off. Nor does it connect the Lovings’ fight for recognition to the freedom that has recently been expanded to LGBT people. Negga is particularly fine, and Nichols does well to show us how oppressive the Lovings find city life, but this movie needed more than that. Also with Marton Csokas, Nick Kroll, Jon Bass, Will Dalton, Alano Miller, Sharon Blackwood, Christopher Mann, Bill Camp, Matt Malloy, and Michael Shannon.
Man Down (R) This post-apocalyptic thriller stars Shia LaBeouf as a U.S. Marine desperately searching for his son. Also with Jai Courtney, Kate Mara, Clifton Collins Jr., Jose Pablo Cantillo, Charlie Shotwell, and Gary Oldman.
Moana (PG) Not the most innovative Disney musical we’ve seen, but more than likable enough. Set on a Pacific island in the past, this is about a teenage girl (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) who defies her tribe’s orders and sails out into the wider ocean to find the trickster demi-god Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and restore the balance to the waters. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid) stick so closely to the Disney template that you can predict where the song about the heroine’s deepest desires will land. Still, the 16-year-old Cravalho is funny and a fine singer, Johnson may just have the role of his career as the full-of-himself deity, and the songs are by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. This one’s for all the Polynesians. Additional voices by Temuera Morrison, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, and Jemaine Clement.
Moonlight (R) The great gay romance of African-American cinema. Barry Jenkins’ film tracks the life of its hero as a young boy growing up rough in Miami (Alex HIbbert), a high-school student (Ashton Sanders) falling in love for the first time, and a drug dealer (Trevante Rhodes) trying to heal all the scars from his past. The movie is stuffed with great performances from Rhodes, Sanders, Mahershala Ali as a kind drug dealer who acts as a father figure, Naomie Harris as a crack-addicted mother, and André Holland as an ex-lover who’s full of remorse. Jenkins’ control over this is absolute, as he knows when to be unfussy and when to be flamboyant, and makes the sun and waves of south Florida seem an integral part of these characters. The scene with the hero and his ex staring at each other while “Hello Stranger” plays in the background is as breathtaking as the rest of the movie. Also with Jharrel Jerome, Patrick Decile, and Janelle Monáe.
Rules Don’t Apply (PG-13) Reportedly Warren Beatty waited 40 years to make this biopic of Howard Hughes. In all that time, he seems to have forgotten what the movie was about. Also, Martin Scorsese beat him to the punch by more than a decade. Besides directing his first movie in this century, Beatty also stars as the reclusive billionaire, who tries to oversee his business empire while his personal driver (Alden Ehrenreich) carries on a secret courtship with one of Hughes’ contract Hollywood starlets (Lily Collins). Ehrenreich and Collins make a charming couple, but they’re stuck in a weird, bloated vehicle that can’t decide whether it wants to be a charming little romance or a Great Man biography. Also with Haley Bennett, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen, Paul Sorvino, Hart Bochner, Megan Hilty, Paul Schneider, Taissa Farmiga, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Oliver Platt, and Annette Bening.
Suddenly Seventeen (NR) Not to be confused with The Edge of Seventeen. This Chinese comedy directed by Zhang Mo stars Ni Ni as a 28-year-old obsessed bride who’s magically transported back to her adolescent years. Also with Wallace Huo, Ma Su, and Darren Wang.
Trolls (PG) This animated musical has wall-to-wall music and a voice cast filled with exceptional singers. How could it go wrong? Oh, just you watch, or better yet, don’t. Justin Timberlake is the voice of a perennially grumpy troll who’s at odds with his tribe of happy trolls. He has to work with the tribe’s princess (voiced by Anna Kendrick) to rescue their fellow trolls from a race of much larger beings who eat trolls because it’s the only way they can feel happiness. This garish mess wanders round and round without ever coming to a point because it’s so busy waiting for the next musical number. The songs are painfully obvious and overproduced and nobody in the cast distinguishes themselves, a fairly amazing accomplishment. Additional voices by Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, Christine Baranski, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Gwen Stefani, Rhys Darby, Quvenzhané Wallis, John Cleese, and Jeffrey Tambor.
The Eagle Huntress (PG) Otto Bell’s documentary about an 11-year-old Mongolian girl seeking to be the first female eagle hunter in her family.
Evan’s Crime (NR) David Tung’s drama stars Douglas White as a young man threatened with decades in prison for selling marijuana and cocaine. Also with David Arquette, Annika Noelle, James Moses Black, Jason Kirkpatrick, Bernard Hocke, and Caleb Spillyards.
Manchester by the Sea (R) The latest film by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) stars Casey Affleck as a man who suddenly finds himself appointed legal guardian to his orphaned teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). Also with Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol, Heather Burns, Anna Baryshnikov, Tate Donovan, and Matthew Broderick.
Sky on Fire (NR) The latest Hong Kong thriller by Ringo Lam (City on Fire) stars Chang Hsiao-chuan as a security guard trying to keep an experimental cancer treatment from falling into the wrong hands. Also with Amber Kuo, Leon Lai, Daniel Wu, Zhang Jingchu, and Simon Yam.