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.
Animated musical adventure. Moana Waialiki (Auli’i Cravalho) is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island’s fishermen can’t catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess, Te Whiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Whiti’s heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific to find him. Together, they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds, and along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she’s always sought: her own identity. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology.
Vitals: Director: Ron Clements and John Musker. Voices: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Tudyk, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Temuera Morrison.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 103 min., Animated Family Box office gross: $233.822
Extras: Commentary; theatrical short “Inner Workings,” with introduction by the filmmakers, is the story of the internal struggle between a man’s pragmatic, logical side and his free-spirited, adventurous half; music
video “How Far I’ll Go” performed by Alessia Cara. Blu-ray adds Maui Mini-Movie: “Gone Fishing”; “Voice of the Islands” in-depth look at how Pacific Island people and cultures inspired the filmmakers to create the story of “Moana”; “Things You Didn’t Know About …” Q&A with the stars and musical team; “Island Fashion” costume design featurette; “They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana” featurette; “Fishing for Easter Eggs”; “The Elements of …” series of four mini-docs explores the technical achievements behind some of the effects used in the film: “Mini Maui – Meet Mini Maui,” Maui’s tattoo sidekick, “Water,” “Lava” and “Hair’; deleted song: “Warrior Face”; seven deleted scenes.
A Monster Calls
Based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel. Twelve-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss, and faith.
Vitals: Director: Juan Antonio Bayona. Stars: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 108 min., Fantasy Drama, Box office gross: $3.740
Extras: “The Making of A Monster Calls,” “Making of the Tales,” English feature commentary with writer Patrick Ness, Spanish feature commentary with director J.A. Bayona.
“Passengers,” a sci-fi yarn about an interstellar spaceship on a 90 year mission to a distant planet that malfunctions and wakes one of its hibernating passengers too early, is a B-film outing with an A-list cast and A-list special effects. The film begins as an existential journey when the Avalon, with some 5200 sleeping colonists and crew members headed across the galaxy, is bombarded by meteors, causing the computer to malfunction and awaken Jim (Chris Pratt), who, faced with nothing but robots and holograms, must eke out a lonely existence before figuring out a way to find companionship. That comes in the form of Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), a writer also on her way to the new world. The rest of the film revolves around their love story and their subsequent efforts to save the now deteriorating spacecraft from destruction. Viewers looking for a “Star Wars” actioner will have to look elsewhere for their sci-fi fix; this is basically a love tale between two gorgeous people, set on a spaceship. There’s solid acting by Pratt and Lawrence, and their chemistry holds the film together. Aside from the spectacular special effects that creates a “real” spaceship in “real” space, the film is fairly predictable.
Vitals: Director: Morten Tyldum. Stars: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Inder Kumar, Jamie Soricelli.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 116 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $97.986 million, Sony.
Extras: “Outtakes from the Set”; three featurettes: “Casting the Passengers,” “Creating the Avalon” and “On Set with Chris Pratt”; “Book Your Passage”: Looking for a new life? Learn more about the Homestead Company. See what awaits you. Blu-ray adds deleted scenes, “Space on Screen: The Visual Effects of Passengers” featurette.
In the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, Police Sergeant Tommy Saunderss (Mark Wahlberg) joins courageous survivors, first responders and investigators in a race against the clock to hunt down the bombers before they strike again. Weaving together the stories of Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) and nurse Carol Saunders (Michelle Monaghan) this visceral and unflinching chronicle captures the suspense of one of the most sophisticated manhunts in law enforcement history and the strength of the people of Boston.
Vitals: Director: Peter Berg. Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Melissa Benoist.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 133 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $30.965 million, Lionsgate.
Extras: “Boston Strong: True Stories of Courage” vignettes, “Researching the Day” featurette. Blu-ray adds “The Boston Bond: Recounting the Tale” featurette, “The Real Patriots: The Local Heroes’ Stories” featurette, “The Cast Remembers” featurette, “Actors Meet Real-Life Counterparts: A 2-Part Series”: John Goodman and Ed Davis and Jimmy O. Yang and Dun Meng.
Two Christian missionaries (Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) at a time when Christianity was outlawed. When they’re captured and imprisoned, both men are plunged into an odyssey that will test their faith, challenge their sanity and, perhaps, risk their very lives.
Vitals: Director: Martin Scorsese. Stars: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciarán Hinds.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 161 min., Drama, Box office gross: $7.100 million, Paramount.
Blu-ray extras: “Martin Scorsese’s Journey into Silence.”
Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, Buster Moon, a dapper koala, presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. Buster is an eternal — some, might even say delusional — optimist, who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.
Vitals: Director: Garth Jennings, Christophe Lourdelet. Stars: Voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Seth MacFarlane, John C. Reilly, and Tori Kelly.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: PG, 108 min., Animated Family Comedy, Box office gross: $265.533 million, Universal.
Extras: Three new mini-movies: “Gunter Babysits” (Gunter offers to watch all of Rosita’s 25 piglets for the night, trying to prove he’s the best babysitter ever), “Love at First Sight” (During a piano lesson with Johnny, Miss Crawly becomes nostalgic about the dancing and romancing of her youth. Johnny convinces her that it’s not too late to find someone and helps her setup a profile on a dating website); “Eddie’s Life Coach” (Eddie’s mom signs her slacker son up for a digital training seminar to get his life back on track); “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” music video starring Tori Kelly; “Making a Music Video with Tori Kelly” behind the scenes; “Faith” music video; “Faith” lyric video; “Set It All Free” lyric video; “The Making of Sing” behind-the-scenes documentary; “Finding the Rhythm: Editing Sing”; character profiles on the incredible cast; “Sing & Dance!” with celebrity choreographer Aakomon Jones, who takes viewers through a dance routine inspired by “Sing” and the song, “Faith”; “The Sing Network” offers the latest news and highlights of the business endeavors of the “Sing” stars: Gunter’s Dance Studio, The Moon Theater, Rosita’s Babysitting Gizmo, Mings each of the Moon Theater’s newest stars (Buster Moon, Gunter, Rosita, Johnny, Meena, Ash, Mike; “The Best Of Gunter” mash-up of all the best Gunter one-liners; “The Making of the Mini-Movies.”
20th Century Women
During the summer of 1979, a Santa Barbara single mom and boardinghouse landlord (Annette Bening) decides the best way she can parent her teenage son (Lucas Jade Zumann) is to enlist her young tenants — a quirky punk photographer (Greta Gerwig), a mellow handyman (Billy Crudup) and her son’s shrewd best friend (Elle Fanning) — to serve as role models in a changing world. The true-to-life story was inspired by writer-director Mike Mills’s (“Beginners”) mother.
Vitals: Director: Mike Mills. Stars: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann, Billy Crudup.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 118 min., Drama, Box office gross: $3.966 million, Lionsgate.
Extras: Audio commentary with Mike Mills, “Making 20th Century Women” featurette, “20th Century Cast” featurette.
Ned (Bryan Cranston), an overprotective but loving dad, and his family visit his daughter at college, where he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend, Laird (James Franco). A rivalry develops, and Ned’s panic level goes through the roof when he finds himself lost in this glamorous high-tech world and learns that Laird is about to pop the question.
Vitals: Director: John Hamburg. Stars: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally.
2016, CC, MPAA rating: R, 111 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $21.162 million, Fox.
Extras: Gag reel; “47 Minutes on the Can”; “Why Gustav?”; “Barb Fleming: America’s Mom”; “Lou the Entertainer”; “Richard Blais: Twisted Chef”; deleted scenes; audio commentary by director/co-writer John Hamburg, co-writer Ian Helfer and editor William Kerr; gallery; theatrical trailer.