From 'Fences' and '20th Century Women' to big-budget blockbusters like 'Passengers' and 'Assassin's Creed,' many movies are opening this weekend, so check out what the critics are saying about the new releases.

By Joey Nolfi
December 22, 2016 at 05:19 PM EST
David Lee/Paramount; Claire Folger/Warner Bros.; Jaimie Trueblood/Sony; Kerry Brown/Paramount

As 2016 comes to a close, studios are dropping their respective entries into the traditionally lucrative holiday box office arena. From awards contenders like Fences and 20th Century Women to big-budget blockbusters like Passengers and Assassin’s Creed, audiences have an unusually large offering to choose from across the next week. The critics have spoken, and the consensus skews toward the new crop of prestige titles from the likes of Denzel Washington, Mike Mills, Peter Berg, and Martin Scorsese. With so many movies hitting domestic screens, EW wants you to make the right choices at the multiplex this weekend, so check out what the critics are saying about this week’s new releases in the review excerpts below.

Fences

Now playing.

EW’s Chris Nashawaty says:

Wilson’s title refers to the fence that Troy is building around his backyard. It’s his way of keeping the harsh, unfair world out and protecting what’s his. But Troy can’t open his eyes — or his heart — enough to see that he’s also walling himself off from everyone who loves him. Washington and Davis’ performances do just the opposite. They invite us in to an intimate place that’s messy and painful and hard to shake. It’s as good as screen acting gets. A–

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

Metacritic: 78

Silence

Opens Dec. 23.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

The film is lushly shot by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and stocked with indelible supporting turns, including Yōsuke Kubozuka as a tragic Judas figure and Tadanobu Asano as a shrewd translator. But at 160 stately, glacial minutes, it’s also an endurance test — one that can feel like its own act of faith to pass. B

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

Metacritic: 83

Live By Night

Opens Dec. 25.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Live often feels like 10 pounds of narrative puppy crammed in a five-pound bag, rushing its fine cast — which includes Chris Cooper as a conflicted sheriff, Elle Fanning as a fevered young evangelist, and Zoe Saldana as the requisite second dame — through some side plots and abruptly wrapping up others. It also plays the hard-boiled game so faithfully that the genre’s guns-and-dolls tropes hardly get dusted. Instead, Affleck just films them real pretty, and gives us a story as comfortably worn and shady as an old fedora. B–

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 30%

Metacritic: 42

Assassin’s Creed

Now playing.

EW’s Darren Franich says:

Fassbender lets his weird instincts shine through just once, scream-singing an imitation of Patsy Cline’s rendition of “Crazy.” But he spends too much of this terrible movie being held up by a robot arm, which raises and lowers and shakes him in an attempt toward Zero-Gravity Action Ballet. It never doesn’t look stupid. Here’s a film that turns Michael Fassbender into a puppet, and oh, those strings hold him down. D

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 18%

Metacritic: 36

Passengers

Now playing.

EW’s Chris Nashawaty says:

To recap, 1.) Passengers is bad. 2.) Michael Sheen is great. 3.) As for the rest, save your money. D+

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 31%

Metacritic: 41

Sing

Now playing.

EW’s Devan Coggan says:

It’s hard not to compare Sing to another 2016 animated flick about animals learning life lessons in a multispecies metropolis, and the creatures of Sing never seem as introspective or innovative as their Disney cousins in Zootopia. But although the let’s-put-on-a-show story line feels familiar, there’s real heart to the critters’ desperate pursuit of their dreams. The eye-popping performances are meticulously animated, and a crowd-pleasing soundtrack helps keep this show on the road. Sing may be a melody we’ve heard before, but it still sounds sweet. B+

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%

Metacritic: 60

Why Him?

Opens Dec. 23.

EW’s Darren Franich says:

Like a lot of R-rated comedies, Why Him? lands on the most G-rated ideals. All family problems and economic struggles can be overcome: After all, it is Christmas. But Why Him? has no fun along the way its central conflict. It’s built on smoke and mirrors. Moose urine, too. C

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 34%

Metacritic: 37

Patriots Day

Now playing.

EW’s Joe McGovern says:

[Berg’s] scripted platitudes distract from the textured ensemble work by old pros John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, Michael Beach, and J.K. Simmons, though the females in Berg films are wives, sisters, and girlfriends (Michelle Monaghan pops up here to tell Wahlberg, “Baby, it wasn’t your fault”), Patriots Day’s best scene is a witness interrogation led by the volcanic Khandi Alexander (Scandal). Someone in Hollywood — Peter Berg, perhaps — really needs to give Alexander her own movie. This woman is Boss Strong. B–

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Metacritic: 70

20th Century Women

Opens Dec. 28.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Plotwise, Women is a wisp; as a mood piece, though, it’s almost irresistibly rich. Mills, who began his career in music videos, saturates the soundtrack with underground icons (one of the movie’s best scenes turns on a heated Black Flag–vs.–Talking Heads debate) and captures the shaggy, sun-dappled essence of ’70s Southern California in nearly every frame — a wry, tender tribute not just to a beloved parent, but a lost era. A–

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Metacritic: 79

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Opens Dec. 16.

EW’s Chris Nashawaty says:

Rogue One would have been a very good stand-alone sci-fi movie if it came out under a different name. But what makes it especially exciting is how it perfectly snaps right into the Star Wars timeline and connects events we already know by heart with ones that we never even considered. It makes you wonder how many other untold stories are waiting in the shadowy corners of Lucas’ galaxy far, far away. B+

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Metacritic: 65

Moana

Now playing.

EW’s Devan Coggan says:

Moana has a lot of the hallmarks of your classic Disney adventure — the goofy animal sidekicks, the feel-good messages — but its heroine is something new, a smart and fiery deviation from your standard European lovestruck princesses. (Thankfully, Moana doesn’t have a love interest.) The result is a pitch-perfect addition to the animated Disney canon. A-

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Metacritic: 81

Office Christmas Party

Now playing.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Aniston has a great time as the vampy, Krav Maga-ing Bitch Who Stole Christmas, and Miller’s willful idiocy is weirdly endearing. Once he decides to double down and deck the halls with bad decisions, his party feels pretty much like a real one does when it goes off the rails: rowdy, random, a little bit gross. But like most movies that supposedly aim to pee in Santa’s cornflakes, Office isn’t nearly as nihilistic as its veneer; beneath all the criminal mischief and baby-Jesus jokes, there’s still heart of gold, or at least a big ball of tinsel. B

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 44%

Metacritic: 42

Collateral Beauty

Opens Dec. 16.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

It’s not hard to see the big reveal coming, heralded as it is by all the red neon arrows and ah-ooo-gah horns. These actors are too good to be entirely sunk by the sheer silliness of the material (with the exception of Smith, who seems fully committed to playing the role of a human frown-face emoji). But for all good intentions, they can’t save a movie that so clearly wants to be something greater – It’s a Will-derful Life? Grief, Actually?—but mostly ends up a Collateral mess. C–

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 14%

Metacritic: 23

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Now playing.

EW’s Chris Nashawaty says:

The film, directed by seasoned Potter pro David Yates, unspools like a kiddie version of the X-Men flicks. The xenophobic Muggle population (or No-Majs, as they’re called Stateside) live in rabid suspicion of the hidden world of hocus-pocus. And like those films, its phantasmagorical special effects are easy on the eyes. So why does Fantastic Beasts feel so oddly lifeless? Why doesn’t it cast more of a spell? First, there are the performances, which aside from Redmayne’s are surprisingly flat. And second, the thinness of the source material gives the whole film a slightly padded feeling. Rowling, who also wrote the script, nimbly lays out her world, but that world isn’t nearly as rich as the world of Hogwarts. And the villains (chief among them Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves) are stock cinematic baddies. Fantastic Beasts is two-plus hours of meandering eye candy that feels numbingly inconsequential. Maybe this is all necessary table-setting that will lead to bigger payoffs in chapters 2 through 5. I hope so. Because for a movie stuffed with so many weird and wondrous creatures, there isn’t nearly enough magic. B-

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%

Metacritic: 65

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