Moana, Allied, Rules Don't Apply, and more movie reviews | EW.com

Movies

Critical Mass: Moana soars, Rules Don't Apply a so-so return for Warren Beatty

Find out what the critics are saying about this week's new releases

(Daniel Smith; Jan Thijs; Disney; Francois Duhamel)

Thanksgiving is a time for stuffing your plate, but it’s also a time to indulge the hungry moviegoer in you. With healthy servings of awards-bound fare like Rules Don’t ApplyLion, and Miss Sloane to big-budget studio offerings like Moana and Allied, there’s more than enough to feast your eyes on at the multiplex this week.

Check out what the critics are saying about this week’s hottest new releases in the review excerpts below.

Moana

Now playing.

EW’s Devan Coggan says:

Moana has a lot of the hallmarks of your classic Disney adventure — the goofy animal sidekicks, the feel-good messages — but its heroine is something new, a smart and fiery deviation from your standard European lovestruck princesses. (Thankfully, Moana doesn’t have a love interest.) The result is a pitch-perfect addition to the animated Disney canon. A-

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Metacritic: 80

Allied

Now playing. 

EW’s Chris Nashawaty says:

Pitt, of course, has played in this sleeping-with-the-enemy sandbox before, in 2005’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith with Angelina Jolie. That film was snarky where this one is more square. But Pitt and Cotillard’s chemistry is just as charged and combustible. You may know exactly where a movie like Allied is leading you, but its two smart, smoldering leads make you want to take the ride. Here’s looking at you, kids. B+

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Metacritic: 60

Bad Santa 2

Now playing. 

EW’s Christian Holub says:

[The film’s] level of vulgarity (and there’s much more where that came from) certainly isn’t for everyone. Luckily, it seems unlikely that anyone averse to such humor will somehow be tricked into watching Bad Santa 2. “I’m not politically correct,” is one of Bates’ very first lines. As long as you know what you’re in for, the film is a hilarious good time, a respectable continuation of what made the first Bad Santa so fun. Though Marcus’ height and Thurman’s vaguely-defined mental disorder are sometimes used as the butt of jokes, most of the film’s insults are saved for the main characters themselves, and the horrible life choices they’ve made. And it just so happens that a film of people acting awful to each other feels extra real in our chaotic, insane times. B-

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 27%
Metacritic: 40

Rules Don’t Apply

Now playing. 

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

For a fuller portrait of Hughes’ glory days and descent into mental illness, you’ll have to look to Martin Scorsese’s lush 2004 epic, The Aviator; here he’s already adrift, an addled agoraphobe more fixated on banana-nut ice cream and his beloved daddy’s legacy than the daily running of his billion-dollar empire. Maybe that’s why Beatty ultimately sidelines his subject, and his own starring role, for such a sweetly forgettable trifle of a love story. B

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Metacritic: 59

Miss Sloane

Opens Nov. 25. 

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Chastain fully commits to her boss-bitch persona, even if we only obliquely learn why she might have chosen such a lonely, mercenary life. And veteran director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) pulls smart turns from his supporting cast, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a vulnerable team member scarred by a school shooting, Jake Lacey as the male escort Sloane keeps on the payroll for strings-free sex, and Allison Pill as her watchful would-be protégé. He also sows just enough doubt in Sloan’s motivations that the ending comes as a genuine jolt—a series of last-minute turns so gleefully pulpy that they hardly need to stand up to closer examination, as long as they stay faithful to her favorite credo: “It’s about making sure you surprise them. And they don’t surprise you.” B

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Metacritic: 67

Lion

Opens Nov. 25. 

EW’s Darren Franich says:

Complex ideas about race, identity, and class are brought up, then forgotten. Saroo mournfully clicks through Google Earth, while tantalizing, overused flashbacks remind you how good this movie used to be. Lion sticks the landing, however. Where Saroo goes and what he finds there left me in tears, but you feel that a complicated true story has been airbrushed into a postmodern legend. As the story of a boy from one country becoming a man in another and trying to find a home in two hemispheres, Lion is a celebration of global citizenship — or, given the year we’ve had, a eulogy. B

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Metacritic: 68

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Now playing. 

EW’s Chris Nashawaty says:

The film, directed by seasoned Potter pro David Yates, unspools like a kiddie version of the X-Men flicks. The xenophobic Muggle population (or No-Majs, as they’re called Stateside) live in rabid suspicion of the hidden world of hocus-pocus. And like those films, its phantasmagorical special effects are easy on the eyes. So why does Fantastic Beasts feel so oddly lifeless? Why doesn’t it cast more of a spell? First, there are the performances, which aside from Redmayne’s are surprisingly flat. And second, the thinness of the source material gives the whole film a slightly padded feeling. Rowling, who also wrote the script, nimbly lays out her world, but that world isn’t nearly as rich as the world of Hogwarts. And the villains (chief among them Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves) are stock cinematic baddies. Fantastic Beasts is two-plus hours of meandering eye candy that feels numbingly inconsequential. Maybe this is all necessary table-setting that will lead to bigger payoffs in chapters 2 through 5. I hope so. Because for a movie stuffed with so many weird and wondrous creatures, there isn’t nearly enough magic. B-

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Metacritic: 68

Doctor Strange

Now playing.

EW’s Chris Nashawaty says:

When you strip away the Secrets of the East mumbo jumbo and psychedelic special effects, Doctor Strange is a formulaic Marvel origin story, but it’s done with high-IQ wit, all but name-checking the myth of Sisyphus and the kaleidoscopic architectural origami of M.C. Escher. (We’re a long way from the blunt-force shenanigans of HYDRA here.) Doctor Strange is thrilling in the way a lot of other Marvel movies are. But what makes it unique is that it’s also heady in a way most Marvel movies don’t dare to be. It’s eye candy and brain candy. B+

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Metacritic: 72

Trolls

Now playing.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Chef’s surprise raid forces Poppy to enlist Branch (Justin Timberlake), the only naturally unjolly Troll she knows, to get her friends back — he’s been predicting the Bergens’ deadly return, and pessimism comes as naturally to him as not singing. (At least initially; three guesses how that plot twist turns out.) Their plan isn’t exactly Argo, but it does offer excellent showcases for supporting characters, including Zooey Deschanel’s dreamy, snaggletoothed scullery maid, Russell Brand’s droll Creek, and a high-fiving cumulus called Cloud Guy. Trolls doesn’t reach for the emotional resonance of DreamWorks’ more ambitious efforts; its lessons of loyalty and kindness are standard-issue, and tear ducts remain untapped. Still, the movie’s serotonin pumps like a fire hose. It’s almost impossible not to surrender to the bliss. B+ 

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Metacritic: 56

Arrival

Now playing.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Arrival’s endgame can seem obtuse and its emotions submerged, suggesting a film as chilly as its palette of Pantone blues and grays. But it’s all in the service of building to its final revelation — and also of conveying Louise’s enormous loss. She’s her own kind of lonely astronaut, set adrift from everything that once defined her: parent, partner, teacher. With these creatures at least she’s needed; in fact, the fate of the world may rest on it. That’s the movie’s greatest feint, though: Ultimately, it’s far less interested in galactic destiny than the infinite, uncharted landscape of the human heart. A- 

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Metacritic: 81

Almost Christmas

Now playing.

EW’s Devan Coggan says:

The story focuses on Walter’s four children — Jessie T. Usher as a college football player with a secret, Gabrielle Union as a recently divorced law student, Romany Malco as an aspiring congressman, and Kimberly Elise as a dentist with a boneheaded husband (JB Smoove) — as the siblings try to cope with their wacky relatives, appease their father, and deal with the still-painful loss of their mother. Like most holiday comedies of its kind, Almost Christmas oscillates between rapid-fire jokes and schmaltzy, occasionally heartwarming lessons about the importance of family. Mo’Nique is responsible for most of the laughs as the wisecracking, kimchi-eating aunt who spent the past few decades on the road as a backup singer and has the wild anecdotes to prove it. (In case there weren’t already enough chairs at the Christmas dinner table, there’s also a couple of precocious children, a sexy and single next-door neighbor, a meddling campaign manager, and a seductive grocery-store clerk.) In all, it’s a pleasant enough way to spend two quiet hours with the extended family, but Almost Christmas probably won’t be your next holiday tradition. B-

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Metacritic: 55