The Christmas/Channukah/Kwanzaa holidays are traditionally a time to get out and see a really good newly released movie. This year you have nine choices at your local Carmike Cinema. In alphabetical order, with their MPAA rating, critics consensus from Rotten Tomatoes, and a brief synopsis, they are:
Assassin’s Creed, PG-13, arguably better made (and certainly better cast) than most video game adaptations; unfortunately, the CGI-fueled end result still is still a joylessly overplotted slog. Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain.
Collateral Beauty, PG-13: When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death (Helen Mirren).
Fences , PG-13: Denzel Washington directed and stars in this adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which centers on a black garbage collector named Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh. Bitter that baseball’s color barrier was only broken after his own heyday in the Negro Leagues, Maxson is prone to taking out his frustrations on his loved ones. From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged — and still just as powerful.
Moana, PG: With a title character as three-dimensional as its lush animation and a story that adds fresh depth to Disney’s time-tested formula, Moana is truly a family-friendly adventure for the ages. A once-mighty demigod and a spirited teenager embark on an epic adventure across the ocean.
Office Christmas Party, R: Its cast of gifted comics is good for a handful of laughs, but Office Christmas Party’s overstuffed plot ultimately proves roughly as disappointing as its clichéd gags and forced sentimentality. Two co-workers throw an epic Christmas party to close a sale and save their jobs.
Passengers, PG-13, proves Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence work well together in an exciting action-thriller about two passengers who are on a 120 year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods wake them 90 years too early.
Rogue One, PG-13, draws deep on Star Wars mythology while breaking new narrative and aesthetic ground — and suggesting a bright blockbuster future for the franchise. Resistance fighters embark on a daring mission to steal the Empire’s plans for the Death Star.
Sing, PG, delivers colorfully animated, cheerfully undemanding entertainment with a solid voice cast and a warm-hearted — albeit familiar — storyline that lives up to its title. Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals.
Why Him? R: Solidly cast but overall misconceived, Why Him? offers the odd chuckle, but ultimately adds disappointingly little to its tired father-vs.-fiancé formula. Ned, an overprotective but loving dad and his family visit his daughter, where he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward billionaire boyfriend, Laird (James Franco).