by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
FIRST LOOK MOVIES OPENING : Office Party; Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Venice International Film Festival debuts at Marquee Pullman Square and Marquee Southridge. Writer/director Tom Ford delivers a haunting romantic thriller of shocking intimacy and gripping tension that explores the thin lines between love and cruelty, and revenge and redemption. Academy Award nominees Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star as a divorced couple discovering dark truths about each other and themselves.

Critical acclaim has been stunning, yet cautionary.

"Trying to weigh this spellbinding film's multifaceted carnage is a mesmerizing experience that requires as much soul-searching as detective work," wrote one reviewer.

Called "a poison pill of a movie," its praised for "striking visuals" and an unsettling look at failed relationships. Labeled as this year's "Gone Girl" and certain Oscar material, one viewer stated: "Tom Ford's psychological thriller is unsettling from the opening frame and never lets the tension stop until the film's finale."

Or to cull from the opening of a New York Times review, "Joan Didion wrote that we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Sometimes, though, we tell stories to kill, to stick a stiletto in and watch the blood drain...."  This one is about the creation, conception, and power of art.

Warnings: Brutality may be unpleasant; opening scene bizarre nudity display

Opening wide, OFFICE PARTY, hopes to shake up  lackluster cinema attendance.

Actually, the drop off is not a new development. In days pre-multi and pre-mega plex, the two or three weeks PRIOR to Christmas were an auditorium ghost town time frame. Cinema owners often picked up some artsy stuff or a second run.

Studios reconfigured the 'bust' period by opening some blockbusters such as "Star Trek" and "Superman The Movie", a week or so before Christmas. When these films filled theaters in the shopping season, more and more studios jumped aboard. Theoretically, a crop of Thanksgiving offerings make it past Christmas and into January (i.e. "Frozen," "Hunger Games"), but some falter or struggle in a brisk release schedule.

Warner Bros. buoyed by favorable advance screenings tapped "We Are Marshall" as a potential near Christmas word of mouth , inspirational family flick. Ultimately, the competition included Will Smith "Pursuit of Happiness" and a reboot of "Rocky Balboa."

As a result, We Are Marshall got lost in the hype , especially outside Thunder Zones. However, it's a staple on cable. The McG directed film finished with a gross of about $45 million , which is so-so.

 

ENDS THURSDAY: Moonlihgt (Pullman Square) - this film of African American life has earned a #1 on the Top Ten movies of 2016. Last chance to see it.

THURSDAY EVENING DEC 8 PREMIERES: Office Party;

OPENS FRIDAY DEC 9: Office Party; Nocturnal Animals (Limited); Miss Sloane (Limited)

COMING DEC. 16: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; Collateral Beauty


COMING DEC. 23: Why Him; Passengers; Sing; Assassin's Creed;

 

 

WHAT'S NEW?


OFFICE PARTY

When the CEO tries to close her hard-partying brother's branch, he and his Chief Technical Officer must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in an effort to impress a potential client and close a sale that will save their jobs.

MISS SLOAN

In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. Known equally for her cunning and her track record of success, she has always done whatever is required to win. But when she takes on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds that winning may come at too high a price.


BELIEVE

In a small town going through tough economic times, business owner Matthew Peyton (Ryan O'Quinn) struggles between his desire for financial success and the responsibility of funding the annual Christmas pageant. Desperate business decisions ruin his popularity and angry employees seek their revenge. But when Matthew meets Clarence (Isaac Ryan Brown), a joyful boy who believes in miracles, he must make a choice: do what's best for himself or give faith a chance by opening his heart to help his new friend and his community.

INCARNATE

A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past.

MOONLIGHT

At once a vital portrait of contemporary African American life and an intensely personal and poetic meditation on identity, family, friendship, and love, MOONLIGHT is a groundbreaking piece of cinema that reverberates with deep compassion and universal truths. Anchored by extraordinary performances from a tremendous ensemble cast, Barry Jenkins's staggering, singular vision is profoundly moving in its portrayal of the moments, people, and unknowable forces that shape our lives and make us who we are.


ALLIED

The story of intelligence officer Max Vatan, who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war.

RULES DON'T APPLY

It's Hollywood, 1958. Small town beauty queen and devout Baptist Marla Mabrey, under contract to the infamous Howard Hughes, arrives in Los Angeles. At the airport, she meets her personal driver Frank Forbes, only two weeks on the job and also from a religiously conservative background. Their instant attraction not only puts their religious convictions to the test, but also defies Hughes' #1 rule: no employee is allowed to have an intimate relationship with a contract actress. But Hughes' absurd behavior intersects with Marla and Frank in very separate and unexpected ways, and as they are drawn deeper into his bizarre world, their values are challenged and their lives are changed.

BAD SANTA 2

Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is 'the kid' - chubby and cheery Thurman Merman, a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie's sliver of humanity.


DISNEY'S MOANA

A sweeping, CG-animated adventure about a spirited teenager who sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and fulfill her ancestors' unfinished quest. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demi-god Maui, and together, they traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous fiery creatures and impossible odds.

FANTASTIC BEASTS

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

BLEED FOR THIS

True story of one of the most inspiring and unlikely comebacks in sports history. Miles Teller stars as Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza, a local Providence boxer who shot to stardom after winning 2 world title fights. After a near-fatal car accident leaves Vinny with a severed spine, doctors tell him he may never walk again. With the help of renowned trainer Kevin Rooney, Vinny becomes a legend when he not only walks again, but miraculously returns to the ring to reclaim his title belt only a year after the accident.

EDGE OF SEVENTEEN

Everyone knows that growing up is hard, and life is no easier for high school junior Nadine, who is already at peak awkwardness when her all-star older brother Darian starts dating her best friend Krista. All at once, Nadine feels more alone than ever, until the unexpected friendship of a thoughtful boy gives her a glimmer of hope that things just might not be so terrible after all.



ARRIVAL

When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team - lead by expert linguist Louise Banks - is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers - and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.

ALMOST CHRISTMAS

A beloved patriarch asks his family for one gift this holiday season: to get along. If they can honor that wish and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another, it will be a Christmas miracle.

SHUT IN

Shut In is a heart pounding thriller starring Naomi Watts as a widowed child psychologist who lives an isolated existence in rural New England. Caught in a deadly winter storm, she must find a way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.


DR STRANGE

After his career is destroyed, a brilliant but arrogant surgeon gets a new lease on life when a sorcerer takes him under his wing and trains him to defend the world against evil.

HACKSHAW RIDGE

The extraordinary true story of conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss who saved 75 men in Okinawa, during the bloodiest battle of WWII, without firing a single shot. Believing that the war was just but killing was nevertheless wrong, he was the only American soldier in WWII to fight on the front lines without a weapon. As an army medic Doss single-handedly evacuated the wounded near enemy lines - braving enemy fire and putting his own life on the line. He was the first conscientious objector to ever win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

TROLLS

Poppy, the optimistic leader of the Trolls, and her polar opposite, Branch must embark on an adventure that takes them far beyond the only world they've ever known.


INFERNO

In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces: Dante's Inferno. When he wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Sienna Brooks, a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science.

 

PRICELESS

A powerful story of James Stevens who was, at one time, a good man with a great life -- but that was then and this is now. After the tragic death of his wife and losing custody of his little girl, James is at the darkest crossroad of his life. Angry, desperate, and unable to hold down a steady job, he agrees to drive a box truck on a shady, one-time trip cross country for cash -- no questions asked. But when he discovers what he is delivering is actually who, he is compelled to save two frightened sisters who are unaware of the danger that awaits them. This unlikely hero risks it all to save these women, confront the forces that oppose him and ultimately discover the life he was meant to live.

 

DENIAL

DENIAL recounts Deborah E. Lipstadt's legal battle for historical truth against David Irving, who accused her of libel when she declared him a Holocaust denier. In the English legal system, in cases of libel, the burden of proof is on the defendant, therefore it was up to Lipstadt and her legal team, led by Richard Rampton, to prove the essential truth that the Holocaust occurred.

 

I'M NOT ASHAMED

I've always been drawn to hands. I think it's because it's the way we touch people," Columbine High School student Rachel Joy Scott wrote in her journal. "If one person could go out of their way to show compassion, it could start a chain reaction." Growing up, Rachel knew the love of God, but she wasn't always ready to receive it. At times her faith was on fire - and at other times it was at odds with her everyday life. As she wrote in her journal: "I don't understand why having a walk with God is so hard for me. I'm so weak. At school, with friends, at work." Having reached a breaking point when her relationship with a non-believing boyfriend ended, Rachel found inspiration from her "big brother"....a former homeless teen she helped lead to Christ. After praying, "Father, use my life to touch the world and let your light shine through me," her renewed commitment to Jesus played out compassionately and powerfully at her high school... and around the world.

 

 

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

A suburban couple becomes embroiled in an international espionage plot when they discover that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are government spies.

 

TYLER PERRY'S BOO

Madea winds up in the middle of mayhem when she spends a hilarious, haunted Halloween fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists, ghosts, ghouls and zombies while keeping a watchful eye on a group of misbehaving teens.

 

OUIJA: Origin of Evil

Ouija: Origin of Evil tells a terrifying new tale as the follow-up to 2014's sleeper hit that opened at number one. In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their séance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by the merciless spirit, this small family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.

 

JACK REACHER NEVER GO BACK:

Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever

 

THE ACCOUNTANT

Christian Wolff is a math savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Behind the cover of a small-town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world's most dangerous criminal organizations. With the Treasury Department's Crime Enforcement Division, run by Ray King, starting to close in, Christian takes on a legitimate client: a state-of-the-art robotics company where an accounting clerk has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. But as Christian uncooks the books and gets closer to the truth, it is the body count that starts to rise.

MAX STEEL

16-year old Max McGrath has just moved to a new town - and is desperately trying to fit in - when he discovers his body can generate the universe's most powerful energy. Unbeknown to Max, a slightly rebellious and hilarious techno-organic extraterrestrial named Steel has been keeping an eye on him, hungry for his super-human energy. When they finally meet, they discover that together they form Max Steel, a superhero possessing powerful strength beyond anything in our world. These two unlikely friends soon find themselves hunted by sinister forces who want to control Max's powers, as well as an unstoppable enemy from another galaxy.

KEVIN HART WHAT'S NEW

Hart takes center stage in this groundbreaking, record-setting, sold-out performance of "What Now?" filmed outdoors in front of 50,000 people at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field - marking the first time a comedian has ever performed to an at-capacity football stadium.

 

MIDDLE SCHOOL: The Worst Years

Rafe has an epic imagination...and a slight problem with authority. Both collide when he transfers to an oppressive, rule-crazy middle school. Drowning in do's and don'ts, Rafe and his scheming best friend Leo hatch a plan to break every rule in the school's Code of Conduct. As their battle with Principal Dwight explodes into chaos, Rafe struggles to hide his misbehavior from Jeanne, the straight-A, overachieving girl of his dreams. At home, his mother's boyfriend -- a moochy, jack-of-no-trades named Bear -- threatens to become his stepfather.

 

GIRL ON A TRAIN

Rachel, devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. Based on Paula Hawkins' bestselling novel.

 

BIRTH OF A NATION

 

Set against the antebellum South, this film follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat's preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities - against himself and his fellow slaves - Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

 

DEEP WATER HORIZON

On April 20th, 2010, one of the world's largest man-made disasters occurred on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. This story honors the brave men and women whose heroism would save many on board, and change everyone's lives forever.

MASTERMINDS

The film tells the hilarious true story of David Ghantt, a half-brained driver at an armored car company who is led astray by his flirtatious work crush Kelly. Kelly and her buddy Steve convince David to do an inside job, and to everyone's surprise he manages to pull off one of the biggest bank heists in US History! With Steve conspicuously flashing the cash and the FBI closing in on them the plan starts to go south, then further south. Meanwhile Ghantt is hiding out in Mexico awaiting the money and Kelly, but an unexpected guest arrives in her place. With everyone out for themselves, things quickly start to fall, stumble and slip apart...

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans alternate realities and times, he uncovers a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As he learns about the residents and their unusual abilities, Jake realizes that safety is an illusion, and danger lurks in the form of powerful, hidden enemies. Jake must figure out who is real, who can be trusted, and who he really is.

QUEEN OF KATWE

"Queen of Katwe" is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.

 

MAGNIFICENT 7:

With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, the desperate townspeople employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns - Sam Chisolm, Josh Farraday, Goodnight Robicheaux, Jack Horne, Billy Rocks, Vasquez, and Red Harvest. As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money

STORKS:

Storks deliver babies... or at least they used to. Now they deliver packages for global internet giant Cornerstore.com. Junior, the company's top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when he accidentally activates the Baby Making Machine, producing an adorable and wholly unauthorized baby girl. Desperate to deliver this bundle of trouble before the boss gets wise, Junior and his friend Tulip, the only human on Stork Mountain, race to make their first-ever baby drop - in a wild and revealing journey that could make more than one family whole and restore the storks' true mission in the world.

SNOWDEN,

Snowden, the politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world. He is considered a hero by some, and a traitor by others. No matter which you believe, the epic story of why he did it, who he left behind, and how he pulled it off makes for one of the most compelling films of the year.

SULLY,

On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the "Miracle on the Hudson" when Captain "Sully" Sullenberger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.

 

BLAIR WITCH

A group of college students venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of James' sister who many believe is connected to the legend of the Blair Witch. At first the group is hopeful, especially when a pair of locals offer to act as guides through the dark and winding woods, but as the endless night wears on, the group is visited by a menacing presence. Slowly, they begin to realize the legend is all too real and more sinister than they could have imagined.