Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day.
Vitals: Director:Justin Kurzel. Stars: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 115 min., Action, Box office gross: $54.366
When a successful New York advertising executive 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. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.
Vitals: Director: David Frankel. Stars: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Ann Dowd.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 97 min., Drama, Box office gross: $30.982
Extras: "A Modern Fable: Discovering Collateral Beauty."
"Elle" is one of the most deliciously wicked and nasty films of the year, featuring a terrifically convoluted scenario, great performances (including a tour-de-force turn by Isabelle Huppert, who received this year's Golden Globe for Best Actress), and lots of off-kilter sex. It's a psychological thriller that casts a jaundiced eye at marriage, family, business, and relations between the sexes. Michele (Huppert) is the strong-willed head of a leading French video game company, divorced from her husband, having an affair with her best friend's husband, emotionally estranged from her narcissistic mother, and financially responsible for her wimpy son. Her emotional baggage includes being the daughter of an infamous mass murderer, who is soon coming up for a parole hearing. After being attacked and raped in her home by an unknown assailant, Michele's life gets more complicated. Leery of contacting the authorities because of her previous bad experiences with the police, she resolutely tracks the man down on her own, leading to suspicious and at times violent confrontations with those around her. Director Paul Verhoeven has lost none of the directing hubris that was so on display in such films as "Turkish Delight," "Soldier of Orange," "RoboCop" and "Basic Instinct." Here he presents a host of characters (Elle in particular) who are so amoral, mean and selfish that you have difficulty liking any of them — but like them you do. And, perversely, you get sucked into their lives. A stunning film.
Vitals: Director: Paul Verhoeven. Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, Virgine Aefira.
2016 — France, CC, MPAA rating: R, 130 min., Mystery/Thriller Box office gross: $1.107 million, Sony.
Extras: "A Tale of Empowerment: Making Elle," "Celebrating an Icon: AFI’s Tribute to Isabelle Huppert."
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Takes us to a new era of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, decades before Harry Potter and half a world away. The script was inspired by the Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” written by her character, Newt Scamander. There are growing dangers in the wizarding world of 1926 New York. Something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets, threatening to expose the wizarding community to the No-Majs (American for Muggles), including the Second Salemers, a fanatical faction bent on eradicating them. And the powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, after wreaking havoc in Europe, has slipped away … and is now nowhere to be found. Unaware of the rising tensions, Newt Scamander arrives in the city nearing the end of a global excursion to research and rescue magical creatures, some of which are safeguarded in the magical hidden dimensions of his deceptively nondescript leather case. But potential disaster strikes when unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski inadvertently lets some of Newt’s beasts loose in a city already on edge — a serious breach of the Statute of Secrecy that former Auror Tina Goldstein jumps on, seeing her chance to regain her post as an investigator. However, things take an ominous turn when Percival Graves, the enigmatic Director of Magical Security at MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), casts his suspicions on both Newt and Tina. Now allied, Newt and Tina, together with Tina’s sister, Queenie, and their new No-Maj friend, Jacob, form a band of unlikely heroes, who must recover Newt’s missing beasts before they come to harm. But the stakes are higher than these four outsiders—now branded fugitives—ever imagined, as their mission puts them on a collision course with dark forces that could push the wizarding and No-Maj worlds to the brink of war.
Vitals: Director: David Yates,. Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol , Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 133 min., Family Fantasy Adventure, Box office gross: $231.853 million, Company.
Extras: "Before Harry Potter: A New Era of Magic Begins!" behind-the-scenes featurette, five character featurettes, seven creatures featurettes, six design featurettes, 11 deleted scenes.
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. Both Washington and co-star Viola Davis won Tonys for their performances in the 2010 revival of the play.
Vitals: Director: Denzel Washington. Stars:
Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 139 min., Drama, Box office gross: $54.023 million, Paramount.
Blu-ray extras: "Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen," "The Company of Fences," "Building Fences: Denzel Washington," "Playing the Part: Rose Maxson," "August Wilson’s Hill District."
A searing and intimate portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Natalie Portman). The film places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband's assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a psychological portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband’s legacy and the world of "Camelot" that they created and loved so well.
Vitals: Director: Pablo
Larrain. Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John
Hurt, Billy Crudup, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant, Beth Grant.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 95 min., Bio-Drama, Box office gross: $10.902
Extras: "From Jackie to Camelot" featurette, audio commentary by director Pablo Larraín and Natalie Portman, gallery. (Fox).
Live By Night
What you put out into this world will always come back to you, but it never comes back how you predict. Taking fatherly advice is not in Joe Coughlin's (Ben Affleck) nature. Instead, the WWI vet is a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of
the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent. Joe's not all bad, though; in fact, he's not really bad enough for the life he's chosen. Unlike the Prohibition gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again — in business and in love. Driven by a need to right the wrongs committed against him and those close to him, Joe heads down a risky path that goes against his upbringing and his own moral code. Leaving the cold Boston winter behind, he and his reckless crew turn up the heat in Tampa. And while revenge may taste sweeter than the molasses that infuses every drop of illegal rum he runs, Joe
will learn that it comes at a price. Based on the award-winning best-seller by Dennis Lehane.
Vitals: Director: Ben Affleck. Stars: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 129 min., Crime Drama, Box office gross: $10.338
Extras: Deleted scenes. Blu-ray adds "Angels with Dirty Faces: The Women of Live By Night," "The Men of Live By Night," "Live By Night’s Prolific Author," "In Close Up: Creating a Classic Car Chase," director’s commentary.