Main      Site Guide    
Message Forum
Holiday Movie Preview, 2016
Posted By: Sam, on host
Date: Thursday, November 3, 2016, at 14:15:51

It's that time again!

November 4 - Doctor Strange

This psychedelic turn in the Marvel franchise is already making huge bank
overseas, even compared with other Marvel ventures. I keep expecting the
superhero craze to flame out (not die, just subside for a while), but there's
no sign of it happening yet. Benedict Cumberbatch, an unusually heady
actor for Marvel, plays the lead role.

November 11 - Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

It sounds like a football comedy or something, but it's more of a war
commentary contrasting the reality of war with how it is perceived and
sold back home. If I told you it starred Kristen Stewart and Vin Diesel,
you might not take its awards season gravitas very seriously, though both
actors have done occasional prestige work in the shadows of what they are
better known for. The director, on the other hand, is Ang Lee, whose last
film, Life of Pi, got him a Best Director Oscar. His filmography is
exceptionally varied (Crouching Tiger, Sense and Sensibility), but only
once failed to garner critical admiration (Hulk).

November 11 - Arrival

Denis Villeneuve is one of the more recent directors on my radar, starting
with Prisoners and Enemy. The most recent, Sicario, was brilliantly made
but a little too effective: it put me in a depressed funk for a while. Still,
I'm always ready to see what he's doing next. This time it's an unexpected
foray into science fiction: "A linguist is recruited by the military to
assist in translating alien communications." Amy Adams, who gets more
interesting with every role, and Jeremy Renner headline the show.

November 11 - Shut In

Naomi Watts plays a widowed child psychologist who is stranded in a remote
part of New England during a bad winter storm. Meanwhile, some badguys are
lurking about, and there's a boy in trouble somewhere. I don't know much
more about it, but I love the genre, and Naomi Watts is good at leading this
sort of thing.

November 18 - Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

This Harry Potter spinoff was inevitable, right? David Yates, who directed
the back half of the Harry Potter films, is back to make it a majority.
I didn't like his take on #5 and #6, but he redeemed himself with the two-part
finale. Obviously I'm looking forward to this, just like everybody else.

November 18 - Nocturnal Animals

I'm not sure why, but movies about art are so often good. Or do they just
appeal to me? To cherry pick a couple out of hundreds, Stranger Than Fiction
was wonderful movie that demonstrated a genuine understanding of the deep,
multi-faceted connection a novelist can have with her characters. The Best
Offer, quite a different sort of movie, demonstrates a similarly profound
understanding of how the appeal of art can run much deeper than an
affection for pretty pictures but speak to the core of our being, fulfilling
basic needs we all have but which nature left some of us ill-equipped to
fulfill in the usual ways. I stress, in case you have not seen these, that
these films are not philosophical ramblings, merely a lighthearted comedy
and a dark romance, respectively: but the fact that they are grounded in
an insightful understanding of how art works in our lives, they ring true and
are all the more compelling for it.

This is a longwinded lead-up to introducing a film that may not, for all I
know, demonstrate any kind of understanding at all. But the premise shows
the potential: it's a thriller about the owner of an art gallery who reads
her ex-husband's horror novel and interprets it as a threat against her.
That's two artistic disciplines and a dramatic psychological response right
there. The woman is played by Amy Adams, who recently starred in Big Eyes,
another film immersed in the art world.

November 18 - Manchester By the Sea

One Internet columnist called this a "male tearjerker." It's a pretty somber
drama that is the third film from director Kenneth Lonergan. The first,
You Can Count On Me, made a critical splash in 2000. The second, Margaret,
came and went without much fanfare. But this time around, people are talking
about this being one of the season's few true locks for a Best Picture

November 25 - Moana

You may not know directors Jon Musker and Ron Clements, but you know their
long line of Disney animated films: The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules,
Treasure Planet, and The Princess and the Frog. Incredibly, this is their
first foray into 3D animation. It's in many ways an old-fashioned adventure
film set in the Pacific. Looks like a lot of fun.

November 25 - Lion

An Indian boy gets lost at age 5 and winds up being adopted by an Australian
couple. As an adult, he sets out to find his lost family. There is great
anticipation for this, plus a lot of awards buzz. Although the subject
matter sounds heavy, the early word is that it's quite the crowdpleaser.

November 25 - Allied

Robert Zemeckis is back with this story of a romance between an intelligence
officer and a resistance fighter during World War II. But is one of them a
double agent? After spending a decade on motion capture films, Zemeckis
returned to live-action with the excellent Denzel Washington vehicle Flight.

December 2 - La La Land

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone headline this lavish musical from Damien Chazelle.
Chazelle hasn't made a musical before, but really his last film, Whiplash,
was more musical than most musicals. It was also my favorite film of 2014,
so of course I'm eager to see his follow up.

This is as good an opportunity as any to wax on about Whiplash. It's that
rarest of things in the world of cinema: a true original, nothing like
anything I'd ever seen before. I don't know how it got made: the script
couldn't possibly have suggested the wonder and power of the final film.
So much of the drama resides not in the words of the script but in the acting
and in the ebb and flow of the music as it is played and conducted by its
characters. But this is no mere concert film: the film pushes our emotional
buttons unashamedly, and we find ourselves desperately routing for our hero.
It all culminates in an incredibly suspenseful and emotional dramatic crescendo
that is uniquely cinematic. No other narrative form could do what Whiplash
does. Somehow, even cinema hasn't done it before either.

Anyway, Chazelle is obviously a brilliant guy, and I can see how he could make
one humdinger of a musical romance. So, apparently, can many others. After
Whiplash made a stronger than expected showing at the Oscars, La La Land is
primed for accolades of its own.

December 2 - Kidnap

After Halle Berry's son is kidnapped and the authorities prove unhelpful,
she takes matters into her own hands. From the trailer, it's clear Berry
isn't playing someone with a special set of skills, like Liam Neeson in
Taken, but an ordinary woman terrified beyond measure.

Though it's hard to tell from the trailer, the movie certainly doesn't look
groundbreaking, but it could possibly be a fun way to pass a couple of hours.
On the other hand, as the father of a young child myself, I've been having a
harder and harder time facing stories like this. Haven't decided yet if I'm
going to watch this one.

December 16 - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

While we're all waiting for Episode VIII, Disney, the new caretaker of the
franchise, is keeping us occupied with one-shot spinoffs set at different
times in the Star Wars universe. This one takes place just before the original
film and concerns the building of the first Death Star. Director Gareth
Edwards' previous film was the 2014 Godzilla remake. But I suspect the
choice of director for these films may not matter as much as it does for
most movies. (See also: Marvel, Disney's other big blockbuster franchise.)

December 16 - Collateral Beauty

David Frankel's filmography to date has a lot of nice, gentle movies that
are out of fashion these days and easily dismissed. But Marley & Me was
a lot better than it had any right to be, and I have a soft spot for The
Big Year, a comedy about, of all things, birders. (Don't call them
birdwatchers!) His films to date haven't exactly transcended established
genres, but he's done great work within them.

His next is a drama about a New York advertising executive (Will Smith) who
suffers a tragedy and copes with it by withdrawing from life and writing
letters to the universe. Then the universe starts to answer. It feels like
it has an It's a Wonderful Life kind of appeal, only with more modern

December 16 - A Kind of Murder

Patricia Highsmith's The Blunderer is the source novel on which this period
noir thriller is based. Highsmith's work, despite being rooted in its times,
has never really fallen out of fashion. After bursting to flame in the early
1950s thanks to Alfred Hitchcock's great adaptation of her first novel,
Strangers On a Train, her work has appeared on cinema screens ever since,
most notably with various adaptations of her Ripley novels and last year's
Carol. I suspect the reason her work hasn't aged even as the genres she
works in have is that it's always rooted in the psychology of its characters.
Once a character is psychologically compelling, it doesn't matter so much
what trappings you find them in.

December 21 - Passengers

A spacecraft is carrying thousands of people to a distant colony planet.
There's a malfunction and two passengers are awakened 90 years too soon.
There are a number of ways this could play out, some good and some bad.
One pitfall it has to dodge is being too existential and meditative without
the narrative pull to keep it engaging. Beyond that, a lot depends on the
chemistry of its stars, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. It's not
fashionable to like either these days, but I am unimpressed by the fickleness
of the moviegoing public. Lawrence is a genuine talent with an incomparable
screen presence, and Pratt, while untried in a project with gravitas, struck
just the right tone in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, two of the
best summer popcorn flicks in recent memory.

December 21 - Assassin's Creed

Beware video game adaptations! There should be more good ones than there are,
but there aren't. How many can you name?

December 21 - Silence

Martin Scorsese spent 20 years working on this film, about two Jesuit priests
who face persecution for their faith in 17th century Japan. Expect it to be
a factor in the awards race this year.

December 30 - Gold

Matthew McConaughey scours the Indonesian jungle for gold. He seems to like
to hunt for gold, as he's done it on two prior occasions (Sahara and Fool's
Gold). Anyway, this film, which sounds like an old-fashioned adventure film,
probably isn't: it appears to spend equal or better time in the world of high
finance back home, exploring the consequences of his sudden riches.

December 30 - Live By Night

Ben Affleck directs this tale of Prohibition-era gangsters. Affleck's
directorial career continues to amaze. While unreliable as an actor, there's
no reason to think his fourth directorial effort will break his perfect
winning streak that culminated in 2012's Argo, a fun caper that won the Best
Picture Oscar.

January 13 - Patriots Day

This account of the Boston Marathon bombing follows police commissioner Ed
Davis throughout the lead-up and the aftermath.

Replies To This Message

Post a Reply

RinkChat Username:
Email: (optional)
Link URL: (optional)
Link Title: (optional)

Make sure you read our message forum policy before posting.