Reel-View Ratings: The Bigger The Beard, The Better The Movie



There are two audiences Assassin’s Creed faces in the box office: those who have played the long-running video game series, and those who have not. Unfortunately, one outnumbers the other by a wide margin. And this lore-dense, explanation-lite romp through the Spanish Inquisition definitely is not for everyone. The film makes the unfortunate decision to base the majority of its runtime on the modern day, rather than the atmospheric past — the least fun parts of the games, and a miserable slog for a movie. The result is dull, confusing and self-serious to a fault. Even Michael Fassbender can’t save this one. At least the action sequences capture the thrill of the game, however brief. Opened Dec. 21 in wide release



August Wilson’s classic play about Troy, a proud, flawed black man in mid-century Philadelphia, does not translate as well to screen as it does to stage. There are odd gaps in the story, strange holes in the action that don’t fit quite right in the medium. But Denzel Washington (who stars and directs) and Viola Davis lead a powerful cast, turning Wilson’s words into magnificent, wrenching monologues that scourge the earth of racial injustice — a story about a man in the ‘50s, written in the ‘80s, performed now in the 21st century ought not ring so true. And yet, it does. Even better, Washington shifts the focus from Troy to his long-suffering wife, turning the story slyly on its head, and changing it ultimately for the better. Opened Dec. 21 in wide release



In a tech-oriented spin on a tired trope, Ned (Bryan Cranston) meets his daughter’s new boyfriend, Laird (James Franco) and takes an immediate, strong dislike to him. This is a natural reaction because Laird is an obnoxious man-child who throws around his Silicon Valley money like confetti and has no social manners at all (a running gag is his full-back tattoo of his girlfriend’s family). A tired-and-true formula can still be funny — and if anyone can take a bad situation and save it, it’s Cranston — but that does not happen here. The jokes veer into disgusting territory and never find the laughs. Viewers just feel vaguely uncomfortable, instead of moved. Consider this the latest (and hopefully last) entry in a year of unfunny comedies. Opened Dec. 21 in wide release