New movies this month include a brand new “Star Wars” installment, a Chipmunks road trip, and a “whale of a story,” directed by Ron Howard. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s new in theaters and on DVD and Blu-ray this month. Note that release dates are subject to change.
PG-13 for sequences of horror violence/terror, language and some drug material | In Theaters 12/4 | Ok for Kids 14+ | Universal/Legendary | Reel Preview: 3.5 of 5 Reels | Krampus
Like a little “scary” with your yuletide festivities? Then “Krampus” is for you. When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony) is disillusioned and turns his back on Christmas. Little does he know, this lack of festive spirit has unleashed the wrath of Krampus: a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers.
All heck breaks loose as beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own, laying siege to the fractured family’s home and forcing them to stick together to survive. Directed by Michael Dougherty, this thriller also stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette and Conchata Ferrell.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA
PG-13 for intense sequences of action and peril, brief startling violence, and thematic material | In Theaters 12/11 (2D/IMAX) | Ok for Kids 13+ | Warner Bros. | Reel Preview: 4.5 of 5 Reels | In the Heart of the Sea
In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by a whale of mammoth size and will, with an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” but that was only half the story. “In the Heart of the Sea” reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive.
Directed by Ron Howard, this movie stars Chris Hemsworth as the ship’s veteran first mate Owen Chase; Benjamin Walker as its inexperienced Captain, George Pollard; Cillian Murphy as second mate Matthew Joy; and Ben Whishaw as novelist Herman Melville, whose inquiries into the event 30 years later helped bring the story to light.
THE LADY IN THE VAN
PG-13 for a brief unsettling image | In Theaters 12/11 | Ok for Kids 13+ | TriStar/Sony | Reel Preview: 4 of 5 Reels | The Lady in the Van
Nicholas Hytner directs Alan Bennett’s adaptation of his critically-acclaimed West End hit, based on his own bestselling memoir. The real-life story centers on Miss Shepherd (Dame Maggie Smith, reprising her stage role), an eccentric woman of uncertain origins who “temporarily” parks her broken down van in Bennett’s London driveway … and proceeds to live there for the next 15 years. Also stars Alex Jennings as Bennett, as well as Dominic Cooper, James Corden and Jim Broadbent.
STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS
Not yet rated; likely PG-13 | In Theaters 12/18 (2D, 3D) | Ok for Kids 12+ | Disney/LucasFilm | Reel Preview: 5 of 5 Reels | Star Wars
Get ready for more thrills from a galaxy far, far away! This installment in the popular “Star Wars” franchise takes place 30 years after the Rebel Alliance’s victory over the second Death Star (“Return of the Jedi”). The galaxy is still at war, and a New Republic has arisen, but the First Order has sprung from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. Many of the heroes we all know and love – Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) – are still active and fighting in the Resistance against this group.
They’re joined in the fight by new heroes, including Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a starfighter pilot; Finn (John Boyega), a former First Order Stormtrooper who uses the lightsaber that once belonged to Anakin Skywalker and later Luke Skywalker; Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger; and a rolling droid known as BB-8. They’re opposed by powerful new forces, including Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) of the First Order and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a mysterious dark side user wielding a red lightsaber of unusual design. Directed by J.J. Abrams, this movie is written by Abrams, Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan based on characters by George Lucas.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP
PG for some mild rude humor | In Theaters 12/18 | Ok for Kids 6+ | 20th Century Fox | Reel Preview: 3.5 of 5 Reels | Alvin and the Chipmunks
Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin (voiced by Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) come to believe that Dave (Jason Lee) is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami — and dump them.
They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal, saving themselves not only from losing Dave, but possibly from gaining a terrible stepbrother. Directed by Walt Becker, this cute family comedy also stars Bella Thorne, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Kaley Cuoco, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate.
PG-13 for thematic material, including some disturbing images, and language | In Theaters 12/25 | Ok for Kids 13+ | Columbia/Sony | Reel Preview: 4 of 5 Reels | Concussion
The film is based on the David vs. Goliath story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), the forensic neuropathologist who discovered the first football-related brain trauma in a pro player and fought to bring awareness to the public. In his search for the truth behind the devastating malady, Omalu’s quest humanizes the price paid by professional athletes in impact sports, but also by people who challenge the status quo as it exposes the political, cultural and corporate interests that fuel the business of sports.
Directed by Peter Landesman, this movie also stars Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, David Morse and Albert Brooks.
NEW ON DVD/BLU-RAY:
PIGGY TALES: SEASON 1
Not Rated | On DVD 12/1 | Ok for Kids 5+ | Reel Review: 3.5 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
From the world of “Angry Birds,” follow the everyday lives of the mischievous pigs, who solve problems with their limited wisdom. In this unique, clay-style CGI animation, the loved and long-suffering Bad Piggies face a series of challenges and unexpected events, leading to comical solutions.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: REVENGE!
Not Rated | Release Date 12/1 | Ok for Kids 5+ | Reel Review: 3.5 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
This 2-Disc DVD contains the final 12 episodes of Season 3 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Episodes 67-78), including The Noxious Avenger, Clash of the Mutanimals, Meet Mondo Gecko, The Deadly Venom, Turtles in Time, Tale of the Yokai, Attack of the Mega Shredder!, The Creeping Doom, The Fourfold Trap, Dinosaur Seen in Sewers!, Annihilation: Earth!: Part 1 and Annihilation: Earth!
POWER RANGERS TIME FORCE: THE COMPLETE SERIES
Not Rated | On DVD 12/15 | Ok for Kids 5+ | Reel Review: 4.5 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
In the distant future, a team of Power Rangers known as the Power Rangers Time Force act as a time-traveling police force capturing and freezing criminal mutants. When the notorious criminal mastermind Ransik stages a daring escape, he fells the Red Time Force Ranger Alex and takes the entire cryogenic prison full of dangerous mutants back in time with him to the year 2001. seeking to unleash a new wave of crime against our modern world. In pursuit of Ransik, Pink Ranger Jen – grieving fiancée of Alex – leads a team of Time Force officers back in time to apprehend the escaped criminals. In modern times they ally themselves with Alex’s distant ancestor, Wes, whose shared DNA with his future descendant allows him to take up the powers of the Red Time Force Ranger.
THE GIANT KING
PG for action violence and mild crude humor | On DVD 12/22 | Ok for Kids 7+ | Reel Review: 4 of 5 Reels | Buy on Amazon
One thousand years after an epic robot battle, sworn enemies Zork and Pinky wake up with no memory of who they are or how they wound up chained together. In search of answers, they begin wandering the barren wasteland, looking for RAM, the creator of all robots – and making new friends, as well as a few enemies, along the way. But when they remember their past, will their newfound friendship prove to be stronger than an unbreakable chain? Voices include Bella Thorne, Russell Peters and Meg DeAngelis.
JANE’S REEL RATING SYSTEM
One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.
Images used with permission of the studios and distributors.