With only a little more than a month left in the year, studios are looking to end on a high note with what may be some of the best films of the year.
The holiday movie season is usually full of animated children’s movies, big blockbusters and those late-run Oscar hopefuls—and this year is no exception.
This Thanksgiving weekend alone boasts a variety of all of those, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug a film that will hopefully get some Oscar consideration early next year. If you somehow are able to find “Arrival” still in theaters after the sudden influx of big budget movies, check it out. The science-fiction drama is beautifully crafted in a way that so many films aren’t these days.
Likely because of the word of mouth and overabundance of critics cheering for it, “Arrival” did well above expectations at the box office its opening weekend. Though, with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” in theaters as well, you may be hard-pressed to still find the film in theaters with this newest batch.
Disney’s “Moana” will likely be the box office star this holiday weekend, giving audiences a new leading Disney figure and introducing some to a new culture with its Hawaiian setting.
Joining it is the Robert Zemeckis World War II film “Allied” with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, “Rules Don’t Apply” directed by and starring Warren Beatty, and sequel to the cult film “Bad Santa.” “Rules Don’t Apply” may show up again in Oscar prediction lists, especially for Beatty’s role as Howard Hughes.
Slated for a Friday opening this weekend is “Miss Sloane” with Jessica Chastain. The film puts Chastain in the role of a lobbyist who takes on the unpopular task against firearms. There’s plenty of star power in this, and Chastain is back in a “Zero Dark Thirty”-type command role that she has attracted (see also: “The Martian”). This could be another hit for her, especially considering the topic.
Past this weekend, the major players at the box office and Oscars come into sight in mid-December.
After almost a year of advertising, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” hits theaters Dec. 16. There’s a lot of hope for this film to take “Star Wars” in a new direction, as well as some concern that Disney may not fully let the film go into the war genre that director Gareth Edwards envisioned.
Still, it’s “Star Wars,” and it will be a hit in theaters. It will also jump start the every-other-year “off-shoot” films, with the young Han Solo film on the way after “Star Wars: Episode 9.”
Opening this same weekend is the Oscar frontrunner, “La La Land.” Critics who managed to catch the film early can’t stop talking about the musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Though it’s hard to tell how much interest moviegoers have in musicals (the previews have done an interesting job keeping that bit out for the most part), most critics believe this is the film to beat this Oscar season with its Hollywood heyday feel.
The almost-Christmas weekend of movies starts the following week on Wednesday, Dec. 21 and opens with the science-fiction film, “Passengers,” with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.
For those who haven’t seen the trailer for the film, I wouldn’t recommend watching it since I believe it gives something away that could be a twist or major plot point in the movie. Trailers make it hard to gauge the film (except for “The Space Between Us,” which basically showed the entirety of the movie), but this one for “Passengers” may indicate it’s a little more action-heavy than dramatic. That’s both a letdown in my eyes and understandable given that Pratt doesn’t usually pull a lot of dramatic weight in his roles.
Opening alongside “Passengers” is the video game adaptation “Assassin’s Creed” that somehow landed Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons and Cotillard.
Like “Passengers,” it’s hard to tell by the trailer if the film will be any good—a problem I also had with the animated flick, “Sing,” seemingly about animals singing pop songs “American Idol” style. Critics who saw the children’s movie, which also opens on Dec. 21, adored it—and were generally shocked that they did. This may be another surprise “Zootopia” hit with both critics and audiences.
Opening the Friday before the Christmas weekend is the likely forgettable comedy “Why Him?” (Why, Bryan Cranston?), and the movie that will most likely require an entire tissue box, “A Monster Calls.” The latter was moved to this more Oscar-friendly position with its story of a boy coping with the loss of his mother.
Also Oscar-friendly are two movies that are scheduled to be released on Christmas Day. Matthew McConaughey is looking to score another statue in “Gold,” about a man’s search for gold in Indonesia, and “Fences” looks like it will bring Oscar consideration for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, as well as for the film itself.
Though fervor and hype for “Birth of a Nation” has died down to a point where it is no longer on everyone’s Oscar predictions lists, other films starring black actors have since taken its place. “Fences” is one of the main contenders for Oscars, along with “Hidden Figures” that will open in wide release Jan. 6 about NASA’s space race, and with the independent coming-of-age film “Moonlight” about a young man’s journey and sexuality.
Even if you’re just looking for some mindless fun with “Office Christmas Party” on Dec. 9 or maybe something a little heavier (like “Arrival”; seriously, go see it), theaters may have a bit more interesting fare than the somewhat disappointing (if still profitable) summer season.