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Underworld: Blood Wars — Kate Beckinsale returns as a Vampire death dealer, simultaneously battling the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With Theo James, Lara Pulver and Charles Dance. Directed by Anna Foerster. Rated R, 91 minutes. — Los Angeles Times



Assassin’s Creed — Michael Fassbender plays a man who accesses his genetic memories via a new technology, learns he is descended from a secret society, the Assassins, and must battle their centuries-long adversaries, the Templar organization. Based on the game series. Rated PG-13, 108 minutes. — LAT

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magical creature zoologist who’s expelled from Hogwarts, arrives in 1926 New York for personal business and research for his book. Newt finds himself wrapped up in a tangled plot, involving loose critters from his own briefcase, witch hunts and an immense threat to the magical community. Rated PG-13, 133 minutes. — P.B.

Fences — Thunderous performances and a sharply adapted screenplay give third-time director Denzel Washington’s Fences some real bravado. But because its story of a pre-civil rights working-class black family is based on August Wilson’s award-winning stage play, Washington doesn’t broaden the scope of the movie to a cinematic level. Rated PG-13, 138 minutes. — P.B.

Hacksaw Ridge — In Hacksaw Ridge, Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man) plays American army medic Desmond T. Doss, a man of God who refused to carry a weapon while he made his way into one of World War II’s bloodiest battles. Much of Mel Gibson’s film falls into sap-filled land of Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) — most notably the film’s first quarter — but once the story takes to boot camp and the ridge itself, Gibson shows us the directing skills we’ve been missing in his 10-year absence. Co-stars Teresa Palmer, Luke Bracey and a scene-stealing Vince Vaughn. Rated R, 131 minutes. — P.B.

La La Land — As a follow-up to his Oscar-winning Whiplash, filmmaker Damien Chazelle offers a love letter to Hollywood and its dreamers with a charming musical about an aspiring actress (a lovely Emma Stone) and a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) who fall in love in Los Angeles. With its memorable musical numbers, vivid color palette and enchanting imagery, La La Land takes 2016 to a higher octave. Rated PG-13, 128 minutes. — P.B.

Manchester by the Sea — The film’s beautifully wrought story begins in Quincy, Massachusetts, where we find Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler, a man with a great deal of pain behind his eyes. The death of his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), sends Lee up the coast to face further news of his brother making him the sole guardian of his teenage son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Manchester by the Sea does a remarkable job of accurately portraying grief. Filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan knows when audiences need to laugh and lament. With Michelle Williams. Rated R, 137 minutes. — P.B.

Moana — Disney’s Moana shares the story of a young Polynesian woman (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) who uses her navigational strengths to save her homeland by sailing to a fabled island, with the help of a legendary demigod named Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). With its pitch-perfect casting and grand story of self-discovery, Moana is a family-fun, lesson-filled adventure to enjoy. Rated PG, 113 minutes. — P.B.

Office Christmas Party — Jennifer Aniston plays Carol Vanstone, the CEO of a data storage company called Zenotek. Her hard-partying brother, Clay (a very funny T.J. Miller), runs a branch in Chicago. But because their numbers are down, Carol is threatening to shut down the branch, unless Clay and his chief technical officer (Jason Bateman) impress a potential client (Courtney B. Vance) with an office party and close the sale to save all of their butts. Thankfully, Office Christmas Party finds a nice middle ground between holiday nostalgia and bleakness. Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck. Rated R, 105 minutes. — P.B.

Passengers — Aboard a spaceship full of passengers bound for a new planet, a mechanic named Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) finds himself waking up from induced hibernation 90 years too early. After flying solo through space over the course of a year, Jim takes it upon himself to wake up the prettiest female passenger — journalist Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) — to keep him company until the end of their days. Striking production sets, charismatic talent and the potential for a juicy horror movie may keep our attention, but rather than diving into the deeper, darker conversation at hand, the film instead distracts us with a Titanic-esque action tale that deserves to be lost in space. Rated PG-13, 116 minutes. — P.B.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — Director Gareth Edwards (2014’s Godzilla) proves to be a suitable leader to carry the torch of the beloved franchise with its first standalone feature. In Rogue One — set just before the events of 1977’s A New Hope — we follow a wayward band of Rebel fighters (Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang) who convene to carry out a daring mission: to steal the plans for the Death Star before it is used to enforce the Imperial reign and destroy all that is good in the galaxy. There’s something magnetizing about seeing regular Joes doing extraordinary things. The pace may be more slow-cooked and its tone may be bleaker than we’re used to, but the film’s nostalgic images, Michael Giacchino’s vigorous musical score and Edwards’ impressive action set-pieces make the force strong with this one. Rated PG-13, 133 minutes. — P.B.