December! The final month of the Annus Horribilis! At least there’s been some bright spots in the gloom, and this month is pretty thick with them, so let’s take a look!
- ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY – Dec 16, IMAX 3D, RealD 3D. This is huge. The first of the one-off STAR WARS films that will theoretically keep going forever, as long as there’s a thirst for them. What better start than a tale of rebellion that happens before the events of A NEW HOPE? Everything about this looks amazing, but are our expectations too high? Yes. Yes they are. But I think it’ll be a great film nonetheless.
- LA LA LAND – Dec 9? Damien Chazelle kicked a lot of ass with WHIPLASH, and he’s followed it up with an actual musical. It’s already making an impact in the early awards season, and it should be an absolute delight. It’s getting a slow rollout, so its actual release date will likely change.
- ASSASSIN’S CREED – Dec 21, RealD 3D. Justin Kurzel’s MACBETH didn’t get much attention but he convinced stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard to come along for this big-budget vidyer game adaptation. A man relives his ancestor’s memories through his own DNA and a crazy amount of tech. The series was always a very cinematic endeavor so a movie was pretty much inevitable. Knowledge of the series is absolutely unnecessary to get into the film. It could be something special, but my expectations are tempered. A little.
- PASSENGERS – Dec 21, RealD 3D. Two interstellar travellers are awakened ninety years early to deal with, um, issues with the ship. Obviously something nutty is going on. The early trailer had promise, but the latest one reportedly confused audiences about the tone. I haven’t watched that one yet, but worst case scenario you’ve got two of the biggest actors in Hollywood sharing the screen in a major sci-fi thriller. I’ll be there.
- JACKIE – Dec 9? Another one with a nebulous release date. Chilean director Pablo Larrain has made a very non-traditional biopic here, with Natalie Portman perfectly cast as the legendary Jackie Kennedy. It deals with the immediate aftermath of the JFK assassination and Jackie’s attempts to get her family through a very public mourning period. Enjoy being put through the emotional wringer!
- LION – Dec 9? Honestly, I assume all of these are actually coming out on the 9th, at least in Toronto. This one is another emotional rollercoaster with Dev Patel as a young man trying to find the family he lost in Calcutta when he was five. Google Maps plays a starring role. It could be treacly, but it’s handled very well and Patel carries the material like a champ.
- WHY HIM? Dec 23. Release dates for Holiday films are tricky. Too soon and audiences aren’t ready, too late and they’re burned out. This falls into the latter category, but it should be fun. Bryan Cranston finally gets a starring comedic role as a dad trying to accept his daughter’s new boyfriend (James Franco), a playboy millionaire game developer who swears he’s ready to settle down for her despite living a completely insane lifestyle. Writer/Director John Hamburg’s I LOVE YOU MAN will likely be your best indicator for style and sense of humour.
- A MONSTER CALLS – Dec 23. Man, there’s a lot of emotionally brutalizing films coming out this month. This one follows a young boy dealing with the inevitable death of his terminally ill mother by imagining a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who comes to his defence. Some reviews called it heavy handed, others found it quite affecting, so it’s walking a very thin line. Director J. A. Bayona’s last film THE IMPOSSIBLE took shit for putting a white family’s story at the front of the Sri Lankan tsunami, so he’s not above manipulating audiences.
- FENCES – Dec 28. Denzel Washington stars and directs this adaptation of a beloved Broadway play about a man in the 1950s and his troubled relationship with his wife and son. It’s YET ANOTHER emotionally devastating film fronted by amazing performances. Buy stock in Kleenex this year, folks.
- OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY – Dec 9. FINALLY, something that’s not going to break your heart. The minds behind THE HANGOVER take on the annual titular affair with their usual subtlety and aplomb. It’s a hell of a cast though, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, TJ Miller, Jennifer Aniston… it just keeps going. But will it be funny? The trailer is amusing but I don’t really see anything next-level happening here.
- SING – Dec 21, RealD 3D. I want to hate this, I really do. On the surface, it’s ZOOTOPIA meets THE VOICE. Funny animals sing like famous people in an attempt to be famous. They even tell you which niche each frontrunner is in, rocker, crooner, pop star, etc. The core idea is right out of a 1930’s musical, where a failing theatre owner needs to put on a big show to save the business. The ridiculous cast notwithstanding, it’s directed by Garth Jennings, who made the underappreciated HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY and SON OF RAMBOW, plus the early word has been incredibly positive. I’m just tired of being told to follow your dreams because you’re a special snowflake and are going to be rich and famous you just need to get on a reality show and WAAAAGH
- COLLATERAL BEAUTY – Dec 16. Oh, man. This friggin’ movie. Will Smith plays a man shattered by tragedy (AGAIN WITH THE TRAGEDY) who writes letters to Time, Death, and Love, and, um, meets Time, Death, and Love personified. Or maybe they’re actors hired by his friends to help him cope, I don’t know. This is Precious With A Capital P. They really want you to think you’re witnessing something special and life changing, but really it’s just a prestige film wannabe Oscar Bait that will likely implode on impact. Hopefully it will be howlingly bad so at least some entertainment can be had from it.
So, farewell 2016. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. I might have a Best Of list for the year later on, maybe not. I certainly haven’t seen enough really great films to justify a list, but we’ll see.