Between Thanksgiving and New Year's comes a new rush of movies. Some have Oscar hopes; others merely set their sights on big box-office. Here's a guide to what's coming.
Here’s a funny thing about the holiday movie season: It happens after the holiday-themed movies have already opened. “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” and “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” opened weeks ago; now, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, comes a new rush of movies — featuring not sugarplums and Santas but superheroes and lovers and magical nannies. Some of these movies have Oscar hopes; others merely set their sights on big box office. If you’re planning on spending a little time this season at the multiplexes, here’s a guide to what’s coming; note that box-office dates are subject to change.
The one we’re all holding our breath for
When I first heard word, ages ago, of the planned Disney sequel “Mary Poppins Returns” (Dec. 19), I was, to put it mildly, not best pleased. How could a new movie capture the magic of the original, which was practically perfect in every way (and of whose songs I still retain word-perfect recall)? And how could anyone live up to that icon of everyone’s childhood, Julie Andrews? Then I started hearing more about the cast: Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, Lin-Manuel Miranda as a singing and dancing lamplighter, and appearances by Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Colin Firth, and (oh yes) Dick Van Dyke. And then I saw the first trailer, with its windblown leaves and forlorn kite and music that sounded so faintly familiar … and no, I wasn’t crying, there was just something in my eye. So yes, I have cautious hope for this film, and am eagerly awaiting a return to Cherry Tree Lane. But for now I’m going to go watch Julie Andrews again.
The Oscar bait
Barry Jenkins, whose beautiful “Moonlight” won the Academy Award for best picture in 2017, delivers his follow-up this holiday season: “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Dec. 25) an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel about a young Harlem couple’s romance and a false accusation of a crime; KiKi Layne, Stephan James and Regina King star. Julia Roberts plays the mother of an opioid-addicted son (Lucas Hedges, of “Manchester by the Sea”) in the drama “Ben Is Back” (Dec. 21). Adam McKay, writer/director of “The Big Short,” returns with the political drama “Vice” (Dec. 25) with Christian Bale and Amy Adams as Dick and Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfield, and Sam Rockwell as a young George W. Bush.
Felicity Jones plays the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg in “On the Basis of Sex” (Dec. 25), depicting the Supreme Court Justice’s early career as she argues a groundbreaking 1970s case of sex discrimination. Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar Isaac his fellow artist Paul Gaugin in the biopic “At Eternity’s Gate” (Dec. 7), directed by the artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”). Also based on a true story: Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule” (Dec. 14), with Eastwood himself playing a 90-year-old World War II vet and current drug mule for a Mexican cartel; Bradley Cooper, Taissa Farmiga and Andy Garcia co-star.
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Need some period costuming in your life? Here’s a potentially fabulous double feature: “Mary Queen of Scots” (Dec. 14) features frequent Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart and Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth I, with ornate costumes by Alexandra Byrne (“Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” “Doctor Strange”). “The Favourite” (Dec. 7), set in the early 18th-century British court and starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, features lavish frocks by Sandy Powell (“Carol,” “Cinderella,” “The Young Victoria”).
In the foreign-language-film department, anticipation is high for Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” (Dec. 7); a black-and-white drama set in 1970s Mexico City, it could be a prime contender in several Oscar categories: best picture, best foreign-language film, best director (a category Cuaron won in 2014, for “Gravity”). Japan’s foreign-film nominee, “Shoplifters” (Dec. 14) is from the great Hirokazu Kore-eda (“After the Storm,” “Our Little Sister,” “Nobody Knows”) and won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival last spring. Lee Chang-dong’s drama “Burning” (Dec. 7), winner of the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival, is Korea’s submission for the Academy’s foreign-language category. Lebanon’s “Capernaum” (early 2019), also a winner at Cannes, is directed by Nadine Labaki (“Caramel,” “Where Do We Go Now?”). And Poland’s official Oscar submission, Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” (Dec. 21), is a love story set in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris.
Jennifer Lopez makes a (let’s hope) triumphant return to rom-coms in “Second Act” (Dec. 21) alongside Milo Ventimiglia and Vanessa Hudgens. Zombies take over a small town at Christmastime in “Anna and the Apocalypse” (Dec. 7) — and by the way, it’s a musical. From the same director as “Forrest Gump,” and possibly sharing that film’s particular brand of feel-good warmth, is “Welcome to Marwen” (Dec. 21), the tale of a man (Steve Carell) recovering from trauma by creating an alternative world.
And for anyone fearful that there just aren’t enough film versions of Sherlock Holmes out there, here’s another: “Holmes & Watson” (Dec. 25) featuring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and absolutely no sign of Benedict Cumberbatch.
An all-animated Spider-Man adventure, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Dec. 14) will combine computer animation with hand-drawn comic techniques, and uses the voices of Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali and Lily Tomlin. “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” (Dec. 7) is yet another take on the Rudyard Kipling classic, featuring a starry voice cast including Cumberbatch (ah, there he is!), Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett.
Underwater superheroes? Jason Momoa plays the title role of “Aquaman” (Dec. 21), alongside Amber Heard, Dolph Lundgren and Nicole Kidman. Sardonic superheroes? “Once Upon a Deadpool” (Dec. 12), is a re-edited PG-13 version of “Deadpool 2,” which played in theaters earlier this year.
Kidman also stars in Karyn Kusama’s action/crime drama “Destroyer” (December, TBD), as a Los Angeles detective who finds herself thrown back into a case from her past. And two very different adventures feature young women on a quest: “Bumblebee” (Dec. 21), starring Hailee Steinfeld, takes place in 1980s California; “Mortal Engines” (Dec. 14), adapted from the Philip Reeve book by the “Lord of the Rings” screenwriters, takes place in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world.
Finally, a bonus documentary
Need something that’s just pure fun? Peter Bogdanovich’s tribute to the great comedian Buster Keaton, “The Great Buster” (Nov. 30), should be a kick. It includes interviews with the likes of Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke and Werner Herzog — and, in all likelihood, some very entertaining Keaton clips. Happy holidays to all!