Disney-Star Wars

This file image provided by Lucasfilm shows a scene from the upcoming “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” expected in theaters in December.

Associated Press

Along with the holidays comes the chance to catch big budget movies, as well as films beginning their Oscar runs in theaters.

While superheroes have so far dominated the box office this month, there is a chance to see more than fantasy action on the silver screen.

The blockbusters

It’s not much of a gamble to say the biggest film of the winter will be “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

The previous film in the new trilogy, “The Force Awakens,” brought a renewed interest in the theatrical franchise, and that again was clear with last year’s release of “Rogue One.” While there’s still a question if “Solo: A Star Wars Story” will be more than its awful title showcasing the backstory of Han Solo, there’s little doubt that “The Last Jedi” will rake in millions of dollars at the box office when it opens on Dec. 15.

Disney has been making some waves with its strict and rather outlandish rules for theaters showing the film—leading some theaters to outright refuse to screen it—but it’s a safe bet that most area theaters will be carrying the blockbuster regardless.

Pixar is also a studio that often sees steady results. “Coco” opened Wednesday with little competition (save for last week’s release of “Justice League”). The film centers around a boy trying to understand his family’s ban on music. The look of the film seems a little to close to the 2014 animated film “The Book of Life,” but Pixar is aiming to bring its usually solid handle of children’s movies and combine it with Mexican culture.

There are a few other movies that could potentially be big hits or face the same type of disappointment movies saw this past summer.

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “The Greatest Showman” both open on Dec. 20.

The former is a sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams film and stars Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart as four characters stuck in the “Jumanji” video game. Director Jake Kasdan doesn’t have many hits to his name (“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Bad Teacher” and “Sex Tape”) and none involve big action sequences. However, Johnson and Hart tend to be a big draw for audiences and could make it a hit—regardless of what the critics may say when it’s screened in December.

“The Greatest Showman” is the film most likely to bomb at the box office. While in theory, a Hugh Jackman-led film about P.T. Barnum could have great results, musicals often don’t fair well at the box office. Add to that the less than stellar trailers featuring almost cringe-worthy music, and there may be few people willing to waste money on it during a busy Christmas season.

“Pitch Perfect 3” may fare better than its musical counterpart when it opens on Dec. 22, but the lackluster response to the second film may mean slightly less interest in seeing another movie. In the third—and presumably final installment—the Bellas are graduates who find themselves directionless and opt to undertake a final tour.

Also opening the same day is “Downsizing.” Director Alexander Payne has wowed critics with “Nebraska,” “The Descendants” and “Sideways,” though early comments from reviewers are sounding like it may not be in consideration for the Academy Awards. Still, the film stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis, along with the usual scene-stealer Christoph Waltz, and it features an unusual plot of “downsizing” one’s body in an effort to save money and the environment.

The contenders

Though “Downsizing” may not make the splash critics assumed it would, there are plenty of others jockeying for position in December to be considered for next year’s Oscars.

Whether or not you’ll be able to see all of them in December is another matter.

“The Shape of Water” will open only in New York on Dec. 1 before it is rolled out over the following weeks to wider theater audiences. Guillermo del Toro’s new period fantasy has been wowing critics with its unconventional love story between an aquatic creature and a mute woman. Though del Toro’s works have interested critics, including “Crimson Peak,” he hasn’t had much success at the Oscars, having only been nominated for an original screenplay award for “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

James Franco is looking for another Oscar nomination with “The Disaster Artist,” which depicts the making of what is considered one of the worst movies ever made—Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” from 2003. Critics are already saying its Franco’s best work. The film will also be released on a limited basis on Dec. 1 before expanding more widely on Dec. 8.

Three other films to consider this December will have wider release dates in January.

“I, Tonya” has already hit the film festival circuit with particularly good reviews for actress Margot Robbie. The offbeat film is about Tonya Harding, her career and the infamous incident with Nancy Kerrigan. There’s a split about how much critics liked the film, so an Oscar chance is most likely for Robbie than the movie as a whole.

What seems like a sure nomination is “The Post.” Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bradley Whitford, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Stuhlbarg, Matthew Rhys, Bruce Greenwood and David Cross, the film is almost already a shoe-in based on just the cast and director. Given the film also tackles the issue of a newspaper (The Washington Post) challenging the government’s directive about printing information, and you have a film that will make waves with academy members and potentially audiences.

One last film to keep an eye on is “Molly’s Game,” the directorial debut of writer Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network,” “Moneyball” and “Steve Jobs”). With Jessica Chastain leading the way as a woman caught in the FBI’s crosshairs for running a high-stakes poker game, it has the potential to bring both of them back to the Academy Awards ceremony, and possibly get Chastain the award she should have won for “Zero Dark Thirty.”

“Molly’s Game” opens in limited release on Christmas Day and wide release on Jan. 5.

Email Naomi Creason at ncreason@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason

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Online Editor

Online Editor at The Sentinel.

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