The past, the future, and one very questionable hair-piece collide in this month’s ten most-anticipated films.
Welcome to the final month of the year! It’s a big one too as in addition to celebrating a mash-up of capitalism (Christmas) and the birth of a superhero (Christmas) it’s also the last month for the foreseeable future guaranteed to end without a White House tweet triggering World War III. Impending apocalypse be damned though, we’re here for the movies.
Here’s how we rank the new movies of December 2016, from “Maybe See” to “Must See.”
10. Assassin’s Creed (12/21)
Pros: Rooftop chases never ever get boring. Michael Fassbender is a consistently engaging actor whose previous franchise efforts (X-Men) resulted in some great performances in some good to great movies. If he sees the same possibility here it’s worth giving him the benefit of the doubt. Director Justin Kurzel (Macbeth) makes attractive films.
Cons: Adaptations of video games haven’t exactly set the world ablaze critically or commercially, and two of the writers here are also responsible for Tower Heist, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and The Transporter Refueled.
9. A Monster Calls (12/23)
Pros: Director J.A. Bayona’s previous films, The Orphanage and The Impossible, show a sharp eye for visuals and atmosphere, so his future efforts will always be anticipated. This one looks to be a creatively heartwarming tale of grief and imagination.
Cons: Festival reviews have been generally positive, but tepidly so, with some negative takes criticizing its overly maudlin execution.
8. La La Land (12/9)
Pros: Director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to his excellent Whiplash has tore up the festival dance floor with universal praise and is already on track for multiple year-end awards. It’s by all accounts an exciting, visually delightful musical, and leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are an eternally energetic and bright pair.
Cons: Universal praise out of festivals can sometimes be deceptive. Musicals are a niche product that don’t always work for some viewers – ie me – as the focus on song and dance overwhelms character, story, etc.
7. Live By Night (12/28)
Pros: Ben Affleck’s three previous directorial efforts are varying degrees of terrifically entertaining (The Town, Argo) with Gone Baby Gone being one of the millennium’s best films. This one’s a period crime epic and is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone).
Cons: That first trailer did little for me beyond make it look like a very familiar story.
6. 20th Century Women (12/28)
Pros: Mike Mills’ (Beginners) latest has been getting rave reviews both for its female-focused story and its performances. The remarkable Annette Bening in particular has been singled out, but others including Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup are also sure to be great. Crudup of course is not a female, but the world could always use a bit more Crudup.
Cons: The trick with this one might be finding it in theaters near you as it’s an indie still flying a bit under the radar.
5. Fences (12/28)
Pros: Denzel Washington’s latest directorial effort is already being touted as featuring two of the year’s best performances – Washington and Viola Davis. The film, based on August Wilson’s acclaimed play, promises to be a hard-hitting, emotionally turbulent tale of race and generations in America.
Cons: Good gravy does this look depressing, and don’t even get me started on those of us with father issues.
4. Jackie (12/2)
Pros: Natalie Portman. I’ve been in the Portman bag since the days of Beautiful Girls and The Professional, but what she delivers here is a career-defining performance that sees her command the screen from beginning to end. Equally impressive and beautiful throughout is Mica Levi’s uniquely mesmerizing score proving that her work on Under the Skin was no fluke.
Cons: Pablo Larrain’s film is far from traditional as it focuses on the experience of grief through time jumps and character rather than tell a typical narrative. Expect some viewers to fail to connect and/or feel a drag despite the 99 minute running time.
3. Toni Erdmann (12/28)
Pros: A career-focused woman and her highly-eccentric father struggle to bond, and the results are at turns gut-busting and tear-jerking. Seriously, if you get the chance to see this German gem you really owe it to yourself to do so. It’s hilarious, awkward, painful, and immensely satisfying.
Cons: It’s also subtitled and nearly three hours long, so good luck finding someone to join you at the theater. Maybe just show them the pic above and say it’s the new Star Wars movie?
2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12/16)
Pros: I’m not beholden to the Star Wars films, but it’s hard to argue with a heist movie set in space and populated with a cast that includes Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Jimmy Smits, and Forest Whitaker. Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) knows how to craft spectacle too, so letting him loose in this galaxy should be a blast.
Cons: We know the outcome of the big story – they secure the plans to the Death Star, oh sorry, spoiler – so the smaller character/story arcs need to engage. As mentioned above, Edwards knows visuals, but his films have previously lacked much in the way of brains and heart.
1. Silence (12/23)
Pros: It’s a new Martin Scorsese movie dummy.
Cons: I suppose if you’re a Jesuit missionary you might want to skip this one.