By Joey Nolfi
January 20, 2017 at 10:39 AM EST
Sony Pictures Classics; George Kraychyk; Daniel McFadden; Universal Pictures

With mere days to go until Oscar nominations morning, the industry’s focus is set on prestigious awards season contenders like La La Land and Manchester by the Sea. Still, studios traditionally pack theaters with pulse-pounding counter programming at the top of the calendar year, and 2017’s offerings are stacking up to be surprise hits with film critics.

M. Night Shyamalan’s latest horror-thriller Splitabout three teenage girls kidnapped by a man with 23 different personalities, has generated some of its writer-director’s best reviews since The Sixth Sense debuted nearly two decades ago. Similarly, Vin Diesel’s action sequel xXx: Return of Xander Cage seems to be faring better with critics than 2005’s State of the Union did, earning better-than-expected reviews nearly 15 years after the franchise’s first installment premiered in 2002.

With so many new and holdover titles in theaters, EW wants you to make good choices when you head to the movies this weekend, so sift through our handy Critical Mass reviews compilation below to find the right title to satisfy your cinematic craving.

Split

Opens Jan. 20 in theaters nationwide.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Split’s giddy nonsense ultimately dissolves in a scrum
of half-realized ideas, but maybe that’s ­exactly Shyamalan’s goal: tipping his final scene with a perfect tease, to be continued. B

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

Metacritic: 64

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Opens Jan. 20 in theaters nationwide.

EW’s Joey Nolfi says:

“Though Vin Diesel has occasionally shown us different sides of that glistening, bald head during his two-decade career on the big screen, notably Saving Private Ryan and Sidney Lumet’s 2006 courtroom drama Find Me Guilty, the 49-year-old action figure is most at home flexing his muscles in movies like xXx: Return of Xander Cage, a rollicking shot of adrenaline that’s every bit as ludicrous as the word soup posing as its title.”

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 37%

Metacritic: 41

The Red Turtle

Opens Jan. 20 in limited release.

EW’s Joe McGovern says:

The film is gracefully directed by Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit (Oscar-winning short Father and Daughter), who favors long, ­luscious shots of the island, rich with more shades of blue and green than you’ll find in a paint store. Nighttime scenes are gorgeously monochrome. Beautiful motifs, such as an underwater cave that represents a rite of passage, are returned to. A woman and child eventually join the man (how, you’ll just have to see), and with supple gestures and tons of little tells, the story charts nothing less than the circle of life. And it invites us — as in, anyone who’s ever felt stranded — to consider our little spot in the world. Lavish with stunning imagery, the experience will ripple into your dreams. A

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

Metacritic: 89

The Founder

Expands Jan. 20 to theaters nationwide.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Director John Lee Hancock has some history with biopics, having directed The Blind Side and the Walt Disney/P.L. Travers two-hander Saving Mr. Banks, and The Founder’s blandly hokey first half feels a lot like a hagiography — corporate agitprop for a rainy day. As Kroc’s fortunes rise, though, the film’s tone takes a darker turn: Beneath his surface folksiness lies a man driven to the point of mania and increasingly disconnected from his humanity. Keaton does his best to make us care about a blank slate, as do the fine veteran actors around him. But it’s hard to swallow the aftertaste of a product so terminally, dispiritingly short on sustenance. C+

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

Metacritic: 67

Hidden Figures

Now playing.

EW’s Leah Greenblatt says:

Charged with streamlining Figures’ knotty real-life histories, director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) tends to paint too much in the broad, amiable strokes of a triumph-of-the-week TV movie. But even his earthbound execution can’t dim the sheer magnetic pull of an extraordinary story. B+

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Metacritic: 74

La La Land

Now playing.

EW’s Chris Nashawaty says:

There have been a handful of lavish, big-studio musicals in recent years. But for the most part, they’ve been bloated Broadway adaptations full of sound and fury. And some moviegoers may, no doubt, feel a little tentative about the genre. But La La Land is the anti-whatever those are. It’s more intimate and personal and affecting…more magical. My advice is to see La La Land and surrender to it. It will make you feel like you’re walking on air too. A

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Metacritic: 93

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: 70%

Metacritic: 59

The Bye Bye Man

Now playing.

EW’s Clark Collis says:

The result is thin gruel made only a tad more flavorsome by cameos from Carrie-Ann Moss, Faye Dunaway, and Insidious screenwriter Leigh Whannell. Maybe all will be explained in the sequel. If so, your writer is happy to remain uneducated. This isn’t farewell for now, nascent horror franchise—this is goodbye. C

Read the full review here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 27%

Metacritic: 37

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Now playing.

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

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