UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS Welcome to January, when movie studios release all their finest fare!

recommended Arrival
An ominous, thrumming, beautiful thing that starts out being about aliens who need a decoder ring. It ends up being about something quite different. ERIK HENRIKSEN

Assassin’s Creed
The Assassin’s Creed games have a history of appealingly wonky premises (stab templars in the Sistine Chapel!) marred by frustratingly botched play mechanics. (Get stuck in a bush outside the Sistine Chapel!) The movie adaptation, unfortunately, fails to find a happy medium between cool stuff and coherence. If a sequel somehow happens, it could conceivably include the part from the games where the hero gets in a fistfight with a superpowered pope! ANDREW WRIGHT

Cinema Project: A German Youth
The penultimate screening from Cinema Project is Jean-Gabriel Périot’s A German Youth, a 2015 film based on the far-left West German militant group the Red Army Faction. More at cinema project.org.

recommended Elle
Paul Verhoeven’s first feature since 2006’s Black Book is a breathtakingly twisted piece of work, utilizing a tremendous central performance by Isabelle Huppert that bridges some markedly taboo fault lines concerning power and sexuality. And somehow the damned thing is also funny, usually at the least opportune moments. ANDREW WRIGHT

Fences
Last night, while leaving a screening of the solid and engaging adaptation of August Wilson’s play Fences, which was directed by Denzel Washington, a man walking behind me said to the woman walking next to him that this is not the kind of Denzel film he likes. It’s too act-y, it’s all about the Academy Awards. Clearly, he wanted Washington to shoot more and talk less, but Fences has no guns and a whole lot of talking about life; it deals with failed dreams, race relations in mid-century America, marital problems, parenting problems, working-class problems, drinking problems, problems with debts, with mental health, and, ultimately, with death. And thank God! It is good to see a great actor take a break from his fall into the abyss of crap and produce something of social, artistic, and cultural value. CHARLES MUDEDE

Frank’s Song
David Bee’s documentary about PSU professor Frank Wesley. Q&A with Wesley following the screening.

recommended Hidden Figures
See review this issue.

recommended Jackie
Natalie Portman’s portrayal is nothing less than amazing, perfectly capturing Jacqueline Kennedy’s intense drive, strength, occasional pettiness, and overwhelming grief. Jackie is a stunning, heart-wrenching meditation on truth, the American ideal, and the incredible pressure on first ladies—women who represent just as much, if not more, than their husbands. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

recommended La La Land
A grand, over-the-top, razzly-dazzly love story that won’t make you puke one bit. MEGAN BURBANK

recommended Lion
The incredible true story of why you should never have children in India. Based on Saroo Brierley’s memoir A Long Way Home, the film, an inspiring drama that earns tears without jerking them, begins with five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) becoming separated from his mother and brother and ending up a thousand miles away in Calcutta. ERIC D. SNIDER

Manchester by the Sea
From Marlon Brando’s animalistic slow boil to Cary Grant’s Teflon-coated savoir-faire, movie icons have embodied the masculine inability to just say what they feel, for God’s sake. It is this rarified company to which Casey Affleck seeks admittance with his emotionally constipated performance in Manchester by the Sea. MARC MOHAN

A Monster Calls
See review this issue.

recommended Moonlight
Moonlight, if I can swoon for a moment, does what all true art aspires to do. It shares something unique but universal about what it’s like to be human. MARC MOHAN

Passengers
Passengers—in which a man (Chris Pratt) wakes up alone on a spaceship, and decides to wake up one of the other hypersleeping passengers (Jennifer Lawrence) to keep him company for the 90-year voyage—has great set-up for a creepy, Twilight Zone-style thriller that could dig into gender roles and class issues. That’s interesting, relevant stuff—so naturally, Passengers buries it under a glaze of bland romance. ERIK HENRIKSEN

The Prison in Twelve Landscapes
A documentary about America’s prison system, “focusing on the rippling effects into the outside world and the myriad forms that process of influence takes.”

recommended Rebellion & Revolution: Insurgent Cinema
See Film, this issue.

recommended Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One is a Star Wars story born of the present, but it ends in May of 1977. It’s a direct prequel to a movie made in response to Nixon’s reign, and it resonates all the more strongly for opening at the dawn of the Trump era. BOBBY ROBERTS

recommended Silence
See review this issue.

Ultraman Double Feature
Two Ultramans! The “special 50th anniversary film” Ultraman X the Movie AND Ultraman Ginga S the Movie! Ultramans!

Underworld: Blood Wars
The fifth (fifth!) installment in the Underworld saga finds Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fighting “to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the vampire faction that betrayed her.” God bless you, Kate Beckinsale. Shockingly, this film was not screened for critics.


recommended MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Theater locations are accurate Friday, January 6-Thursday, January 12, unless otherwise noted. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.