While many are at home opening presents, Christmas Day is one of the biggest movie days of the year.
This year, there are 10 movies opening between Friday and Christmas and a bunch of other wide releases that have opened in the past week.
If you’re considering heading to the theatres, we’ve rounded up the wider releases that are worth checking out and have also included what you should skip. There are a lot of clunkers.
In theatres as of Wednesday, 12/21
1. Skip (at all costs): “Passengers”
What it’s about:Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are on a spaceship heading for another planet. Trailers make it seem like the pair’s hibernation pods open 90 years too early at the same time and then they fall in love and have to save the ship from danger.
Why you should skip: You would think that a Lawrence and Pratt team-up in space would be good, but the reviews tell a much different story. Peter Travers at Rolling Stone wrote, “what could have been a challenging moral provocation dissolves into sappy, feel-good pandering.“
One of the biggest complaints is that the movie is being marketed as a sci-fi thriller with two of Hollywood’s biggest stars when it’s actually a creepier story that glorifies Stockholm Syndrome. Pratt’s character wakes up alone and after being bored for a year and wanting some company, opens the pod of Aurora (Lawrence) who he’s been creepily obsessing over.
2. Skip: “Assassin’s Creed”
What it’s about: The Fox movie is the latest adaptation of a popular video game franchise. After learning he’s a descendant of a mysterious society called the Assassins, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) uses technology to experience the adventures of his ancestor in 15th Century Spain and take down a dangerous organisation.
Why you should pass: Hollywood just can’t make video game movies and “Assassin’s Creed” unfortunately proves no different. While reviews suggest it’s better than other video games adaptations, that’s not high praise. Many found it a confusing jumble of CG with no idea why big names like Fassbender and Marion Cotillard would attach themselves to the title. EW says these are the worst two performances Fassbender has given in a movie.
3. For the kids: “Sing”
What it’s about: Basically, it looks like “American Idol” in the form of a children’s movie. According to the film’s synopsis, it’s actually about a koala named Buster Moon trying to save his theatre by hosting a singing competition.
Why to see it: Other than “Moana,” there really isn’t any other feel-good animated movie out for kids. For parents who may have already taken their kids to see the Disney flick over the Thanksgiving break, this is something many kids may be asking to see for the bright, colourful, and wacky characters along with the music. Parents may have more fun trying to guess the A-list actors voicing the characters (Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Scarlett Johansson are just some of the names.)
Why to pass: If you’re hoping for “Zootopia,” that’s not what you’re getting here. You’ll probably see the ending of this one coming. Still, there are worse things you could see.
4. See it: “Patriots Day”
What it’s about: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, and Kevin Bacon star in this movie recounting the Boston Marathon bombing and the efforts taken by the community, police officers, and first responders afterwards.
Why to see it: Most audiences and critics agree that the movie balances telling the story from the point-of-view of the victims, officers, and perpetrators in a powerful tribute. This is one you may want to break the tissues out for. It will have a wider release on January 13.
In theatres as of Friday, December 23
5. Skip: “Why Him?”
What it’s about: When Ned (Bryan Cranston) and his family visit his daughter at college, they meet her billionaire Silicon Valley boyfriend Laird (James Franco). Covered in tattoos and unabashedly open about what he says, Ned freaks out when Laird says he wants to propose.
Why to skip: A James Franco and Bryan Cranston pairing sounds — and looks — hilarious, but apparently, the movie’s kind of a dud and not as funny as you hope. Adam Graham of the “Detroit News” said it reminded him of “Meet the Parents” “but littered with F-bombs.“
6. See it: “A Monster Calls”
What it’s about: A 13-year-old meets a tree monster who helps him cope with his mum’s terminal cancer.
Why to see it: Based on a children’s book, “A Monster Calls” is a dark and yet enchanting coming-of-age tale. Plus, it stars Felicity Jones, who’s currently starring in “Star Wars” movie “Rogue One,” Sigourney Weaver, and Liam Neeson voices the tree! Jason Guerrasio called the Oscar contender a tear-jerker over on our sister site Business Insider.
7. See it: “Silence”
What it’s about: Two Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) travel to Japan in search of their mentor (Liam Neeson).
Why to see it: Martin Scorsese has been trying to adapt Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel for about 30 years, and this has been called one of his best. Plan to spend some time with this one after it’s done. NPR referred to it as Scorsese’s “most punishing film since Raging Bull.” The movie opens wide January 6.
In theatres Christmas Day, December 25
8. See it: “Fences”
What it’s about: A former Negro League player struggles to provide for his family and raise his son in 1950s Pittsburgh.
Why to see it: The talent in this one alone makes it worth seeing. Denzel Washington stars in the film as the father who is holding his son back, but he also directed the film based on a play. Viola Davis co-stars as his wife.
9. See it: “Hidden Figures”
What it’s about: The film follows the overlooked story of three African-American women working at Nasa during the launch of astronaut John Glenn into space.
Why to see it: Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer deliver an inspiring story that touches upon social issues while delivering some humour, too. Plus, singer Janelle Monae is in it!
10. See it: “20th Century Women”
What it’s about: A single mum in 1979 enlists some of her young tenants to serve as role models to her teenage son.
Why to see it: Annette Bening shines in Mike Mills’ latest. Reviews agree that Mills’ latest is pleasurable and delightful next step for the director.
11. Skip: “Live by Night”
What it’s about: Set during the prohibition, the film follows the son of a Boston police cop, Joe Coughlin, who goes on to become a gangster involved in organised crime.
Why to skip: Despite a cast starring Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, and Sienna Miller, the majority of reviews agree this crime saga feels unoriginal and doesn’t completely come together.
Other movies out:
12. For the romantics/music lovers: “La La Land”
What it’s about: Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and (Emma Stone) navigate finding success in acting and music in old Hollywood while balancing a relationship.
Why see it: Who wouldn’t want to see a musical with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dancing and singing? The two have undeniable chemistry and Stone’s dresses are the envy of any fashionista. Be warned: This isn’t a movie with a happy ending. The whimsical film is dreamlike in its character’s aspirations, but realistic in its ultimate message.
13. See it: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
What it’s about: A group of rebels set out to steal plans for the ultimate planet killer, the Death Star.
Why to see it: Taking place between the prequel and original trilogies, “Rogue One” perfectly marries the older “Star Wars” movies to the newer ones without compromising any of the original storytelling. If anything, it adds to it. Even if you haven’t seen any “Star Wars” movies, “Rogue One” serves as a nice entry point into the series. And, yes, it has an awesome Darth Vader scene.
14. Skip: “Collateral Beauty”
What it’s about: After suffering a great tragedy, Howard (Will Smith) has difficulty bouncing back and has withdrawn himself from his work and friends.
Why to skip: Like “Passengers,” this is a case of another mis-marketed movie, which may make viewers feel a bit cheated once they realise what it’s actually about. Though Howard is being visited by these “spirits,” they’re actually all actors hired to get him back on his feet. Despite an all-star cast including Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, and Keira Knightley, the movie debuted as Smith’s worst-performing box-office opening.
15. If you’re looking for laughs: “Office Christmas Party”
What it’s about: When their boss threatens to shut down their company branch, Josh and Clay decide to throw the ultimate office Christmas party to try and land a big client and save everyone’s jobs.
Why to skip: If you’re not a fan of the comedy group from “Horrible Bosses,” you may be rolling your eyes at this one as Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman reteam for this one with some “SNL” cast members.
Why to see it: Not everyone will love this one, but I think the reviews are a bit harsh on it. “Office Christmas Party” is just fine, silly fun. Does it get a little over-the-top near the end? Sure, but T.J. Miller really helped sell this movie and add some laughs. If he wasn’t in the film, it would have been an instant snooze.
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