As the calendar gets ready to turn from November to December, it’s time for the next installment in our Fall movie preview series. Some of the big winners of November included Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which unsurprisingly made Warner Brothers a boatload of money; Arrival, the thinking person’s sci-fi movie starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner; and Moana, the latest Disney princess movie that featured Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and songs by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. This week we’ll be looking at all the movies that will come out in December. This includes perhaps the biggest release of the year: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Jackie: If this isn’t Oscar bait, then I don’t know what is. Let’s run down the list shall we? Oscar winner Natalie Portman (check—want to win an Oscar? It helps if you’ve already won one) plays Jackie Kennedy (famous historical figure—check) in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination (historical event meant to appeal to the Academy voters who tend to be old and white—check). The film details Jackie Kennedy’s efforts to deal with the aftermath of her husband’s death, define his legacy, and raise her young family. The question is how much will director Pablo Larrain interrogate the legend of the Kennedy White House. Will it be a nostalgic look back or will the film reveal what lay just beneath the myth of the Kennedy Camelot?
La La Land: The trailers to La La Land suggest that the movie is an old-fashioned throwback to the big-time Hollywood blockbuster musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (both of whom would have fit right into that era) play a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress trying to get their big breaks in Hollywood whilst in love. The film has an upbeat score and energy from director Damien Chazelle who previously directed Whiplash, a movie about an aspiring jazz drummer and his brutally harsh mentor. The curiosity factor alone is worth the price of admission.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out. Only this one isn’t telling the story of the Skywalker family, instead it’s about the group of rebels who steal the plans to original Death Star. Set just prior to the events of A New Hope, Rogue One is a bit of a risk for Disney. Will movie goers turn out for a standalone Stars Wars movie? Will it have the same cultural staying power as the adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewy? Did all those much rumored about re-shoots transform Rogue One from a war movie into a more family friendly adventure? We’ll see on December 16.
Passengers: Passengers seems to be flying under the radar a little bit despite the fact that it stars two of the biggest names in movies right now: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Taking a break from their franchise related duties, Lawrence (X-Men, Hunger Games) and Pratt (Marvel) play two passengers on a space ship on a 90 year journey to a distant colony who wake up early. While Passengers is a sci-fi drama, the buddy comedy potential of Lawrence and Pratt cannot be underestimated. Both have serious comedic chops—Pratt from his time on Parks and Rec and Lawrence in movies like American Hustle. Passengers is worth seeing just for the pairing of these two supremely talented actors.
Assassins Creed: This Michael Fassbender staring vehicle is based on a series of video games about a man who discovers that his ancestor was the member of a secret society of assassins and through some fancy time travelling mumbo-jumbo goes back and relives their experiences. The best parts of the game involved traipsing around on rooftops of medieval cities and jumping off of church spires and other heights into conveniently located piles of hay. Why anyone thought this would be a good movie is beyond me.
Patriots Day: Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg reteam for their second based on a true story movie of 2016 (following September’s Deepwater Horizon). In their third collaboration where Mark Walhberg plays a competent everyman (the first was Lone Survivor), Walhberg plays a Boston cop caught up in the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. Using his natural Boston accent, Walhberg offers sterling bits of dialogue like, “We gotta find these guys before they do this to someone else.” The film follows the FBI investigation of the bombing and the manhunt that followed. The manhunt material in the trailer suggests that there might be a good movie somewhere in Patriots Day, but the film’s focus on wringing every last bit of emotion out of a domestic terrorism attack threatens to undermine it.
Live By Night: Ben Affleck’s first directorial effort since 2012’s Argo is a prohibition era story about a gangster and his efforts to rise to the top of Boston’s criminal underworld. While Affleck stars in the movie, he has populated Live by Night with a stable of strong character actors including: Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleason, Titus Welliver, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, and Elle Fanning. Affleck also penned the screenplay based on a novel by Dennis Lehane. Lehane also wrote the novel Gone, Baby, Gone that was Affleck’s first film as a director. Other Lehane novels that have become films include Mystic River and Shutter Island, he also wrote several episodes of the HBO series The Wire. All of this talent is just enough to pique our curiosity.