Seven big movies open between now and Christmas Day. What to see? Our critics rank them in order — from one powerful must-see Oscar contender to a few that will appeal mostly to cult or kid audiences, with two terrific biopics in between. Not a lump of coal in the bunch.
Fences (3.5 stars)
Fences, opening Christmas Day, is a searing and gut-wrenching adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer-winning play, set during the 1950s as the civil rights era is just dawning. Washington and Viola Davis reprise their leading roles from the 2010 Broadway production — she plays Troy's wife, Rose — and Washington directs.
Lion (3 stars)
Lion is a stunning and heartbreaking drama about a 5-year-old Indian boy who goes missing from his family, only to find them again more than 20 years later. Adapted from Saroo Brierley's best-selling 2014 memoir, A Long Way Home, the film recounts the Indian Australian businessman's amazing journey to track down his birth family in India. It opens Christmas Day.
Hidden Figures (3 stars)
Hidden Figures, opening Dec. 25, is as close to a Christmas miracle as Hollywood could possibly create. A feel-good family dramedy emboldened by a lighthearted touch of black-grrrl power, it celebrates African American female mathematicians at NASA who helped America win the race to the moon. The film gently touches on some of the most intractable social problems addressed by the civil rights movement while maintaining an infectiously buoyant vibe – not to mention a bouncy soundtrack.
Why Him? (2.5 stars)
Why Him? is an enjoyable (but long) romcom that's like Meet The Parentson LSD, laced with rat poison. James Franco plays Laird Mayhew, a grotesquely gregarious and heavily-inked Silicon Valley software magnate. Zoey Deutch is Stephanie Fleming, his young and beloved girlfriend. Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally are her straightlaced Midwestern parents. Cultures clash when they meet for Christmas. Boy, do they. It opens Dec. 23.
Assassin’s Creed (2.5 stars)
Sing (2.5 stars)
Sing is an amusing riff on genres - a Zootopia Idol, if you will.The film takes cues from shows like American Idol, The Voice, and X Factor, with an all-too-brief audition montage jam-packed with wonderful moments. The sound track includes well-known crowd-pleasers, deep cuts, and a catchy original song; the combination of pop music and cuddly animals will prove an addictive combination for children and adults alike. Opens Dec. 21.
Passengers (2.5 stars)
The Blue Lagoon meets 2001: A Space Odyssey in the new movie Passengers, an intense romantic drama about two lonely souls abandoned on a giant spacecraft. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, it's a small, intimate chamber piece with beautiful camerawork and gorgeous art direction ... until it loses its way in a wrongheaded bid for sci-fi greatness. Opens Dec. 21.