Hol­i­day of­fer­ings in­clude ‘Star Wars film

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Mes­zoros mmes­zoros@news-her­ald.com @MarkMes­zoros on Twit­ter

“Star Wars.” Do we have your at­ten­tion?

Oh sure, the next cou­ple of months at the the­aters will of­fer fam­ily-friendly en­ter­tain­ment, hol­i­day-slanted come­dies and, most im­por­tantly, Oscar-con­tend­ing dra­mas.

But also more “Star Wars.”

OK, maybe you’re not as pumped for “Rogue One: A Star Wars” story as you were a year ago for “Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens,” but you’re still go­ing to check it out, right? Af­ter all, this movie brings back Darth Vader! (More on that in a bit.)

Here’s a look at much of what’s com­ing your way, in­clud­ing an ex­tremely well­made mu­si­cal that may just give some of th­ese dra­mas a run for their money when the Academy Awards roll around next year:

‘Moana’ (Nov. 23)

In the lat­est com­put­er­graph­ics-an­i­mated ad­ven­ture from Walt Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion Stu­dios, the two lead char­ac­ters — the daugh­ter of the chief of a proud is­land peo­ple and the on­cemighty demigod who long ago brought a curse upon those peo­ple — ar­gue about whether the for­mer is, in fact, a “princess.” She says she isn’t — and Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) is tough, ca­pa­ble and prob­a­bly has more in com­mon with “Merida” from “Brave” than with Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” — but, as Maui (Dwayne John­son) points out, she wears a dress and has an an­i­mal side­kick, so she’s a princess. While their quest to re­store glory to the is­land is fun and en­ter­tain­ing, we’ll have to wait to see whether it be­comes a “Frozen”-sized hit.

‘Al­lied’ (Nov. 23)

Brad Pitt por­trays an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer sta­tion in North Africa dur­ing World War II who meets a French Re­sis­tance fighter (Mar­ion Cotil­lard of “The Dark Knight Rises”) on a dan­ger­ous mis­sion in the lat­est ef­fort from direc­tor Robert Ze­meckis (“The Walk,” “Flight”). The ro­man­tic drama, penned by Steven Knight (“East­ern Prom­ises”), is said to be based on a real story of two as­sas­sins who are try­ing to kill a Ger­man of­fi­cial and fall for each other in the process.

‘Bad Santa 2’ (Nov. 23)

Billy Bob Thornton is back as the world’s worst Kris Kringle, and Kathy Bates joins the mix as the crook’s mother. Let’s just say the red-band trailer for the de­cid­edly R-rated com­edy will not be to all tastes.

‘Rules Don’t Ap­ply’ (Nov. 23)

We haven’t seen much of War­ren Beatty in re­cent years, but he’s the writer, direc­tor and cast mem­ber of this ro­man­tic com­edy set in late-’50s Hollywood.

Beatty por­trays Howard Hughes, while Lily Collins is Maria Mabrey, a Bap­tist and for­mer beauty queen who, of course, as­pires to be an ac­tress who falls into an af­fair with her driver (Alden Ehren­re­ich, the fu­ture young Han Solo). They both work for Hughes, and this is against his rules.

‘Man Down’ (Dec. 2)

Shia LaBeouf stars as a marine home from his tour in Afghanistan, where he went through a trau­matic event.

At home, he and his best friend (Jai Court­ney) search for his es­tranged son and wife (Kate Mara) The psy­cho­log­i­cal sus­pense thriller is di­rected by Dito Mon­tiel (“A Guide to Rec­og­niz­ing Your Saints”).

‘Nocturnal An­i­mals’ (Dec. 9)

A great cast, which boasts Amy Adams, Jake Gyl­len­haal, Michael Shan­non, Aaron Tay­lor-John­son and other no­ta­bles, prob­a­bly is enough rea­son to check out this drama about a di­vorced cou­ple dis­cov­er­ing dark truths about each other and them­selves. Also, though, it’s writ­ten and di­rected by the gifted Tom Ford (“A Sin­gle Man”), so it’s a must.

‘Manch­ester by the Sea’ (Dec. 9)

Casey Af­fleck (“The Finest Hours”) is get­ting a lot of Oscar buzz for his lead performance in this drama as a man with demons who sud­denly finds a de­mand on him to be­come the guardian of his late brother’s teenage son (Lu­cas Hedges).

As good as Af­fleck is, it’s the tal­ented Michelle Wil­liams, as Af­fleck’s char­ac­ter’s ex-wife, who ab­so­lutely crushes a scene late in the film from writer-direc­tor Ken­neth Lon­er­gan (“You Can Count on Me”)

‘Miss Sloane’ (Dec. 9)

Ready to dive back into the world of pol­i­tics? Jes­sica Chas­tain por­trays a pow­er­ful lob­by­ist who may have to pay too high a price in tak­ing on her most for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent yet in this drama from John Mad­den (“The Debt,” “Shake­speare in Love”).

‘Of­fice Christ­mas Party’ (Dec. 9)

A cast that fea­tures Ja­son Bate­man, Olivia Munn, Jen­nifer Anis­ton, T.J. Miller and Kate McKin­non will re­mind you what can hap­pen when you mix co-work­ers and al­co­hol. This could be more pub­lic-ser­vice an­nounce­ment than com­edy, re­ally.

‘Rogue One: A Star

Wars Story’ (Dec. 16)

This movie al­most cer­tainly won’t come out of hyper­space with the same im­pact as last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens.” None­the­less, it’s such a fas­ci­nat­ing an­i­mal.

Although it is, in essence, a pre­quel to 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope” — and this fran­chise cer­tainly has done pre­quels be­fore — it also is the first stand-alone or “non-saga” film in the se­ries. Even now, it’s tough to say whether Dis­ney-owned Lucasfilm has done enough to make clear to the gen­eral pub­lic that the movie — di­rected by “Star Wars” ob­ses­sive Gareth Ed­wards (2013’s “Godzilla”) — when “Rogue One” takes place.

To those who al­ready know this is the story of how the plans for the Em­pire’s orig­i­nal Death Star were stolen by Rebel spies, that is quite ob­vi­ous from the trail­ers.

But will ca­sual movie go­ers re­al­ize it is not the con­tin­u­a­tion of the story of Daisy Ri­d­ley’s Rey? (You’ll have to wait another year for the yet-to-be-ti­tled eighth saga episode for that.)

In­stead, we will get another tal­ented ac­tress, Felic­ity Jones (“The The­ory of Ev­ery­thing”), in the cen­ter of the ac­tion. Her Jyn Erso is re­cruited to lead the mis­sion in part be­cause her father (Mads Mikkelsen) helped de­velop the Death Star.

While Ben Men­del­sohn’s Direc­tor Or­son Kren­nic ap­pears to be the story’s lead vil­lain, the pre­view footage has made clear a cer­tain tall, dark and vi­cious type by the name of Darth Vader will make at least an ap­pear­ance or two.

May the Force be with this one.

‘Col­lat­eral Beauty’ (Dec. 16)

Some­times all you can do is hope you’re re­ally get­ting a mis­lead­ing vibe from a trailer. Hope­fully that’s the case with the pre­view for this drama star­ring Will Smith as a suc­cess­ful New York ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive who ex­pe­ri­ences a per­sonal tragedy and re­treats from life and be­gins to com­mu­ni­cate with hu­man rep­re­sen­ta­tions of time, love and death. Sorry, the whole thing feels like some­thing far too precious or ma­nip­u­la­tive. We’ll see, though, be­cause the in­sanely strong sup­port­ing cast boasts Ed­ward Nor­ton, Keira Knight­ley, Naomie Har­ris, Kate Winslet and He­len Mir­ren. David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada,” “Marley & Me”) di­rects.

‘The Space Be­tween Us’ (Dec. 16)

What’s more ro­man­tic than a boy com­ing all the way from Mars to see a girl? That’s part of the story in this teen ro­mance, with Asa But­ter­field (“Hugo,” “En­der’s Game”) be­ing born on the red planet but com­ing to earth and spend­ing time with a girl (Britt Robertson of “To­morow­land”) with whom he’d pre­vi­ously video chat­ted. Prob­lem is his body may not be equipped to spend much time on earth.

‘Pas­sen­gers’ (Dec. 21)

Jen­nifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are front and cen­ter in this sci-fi tale about two peo­ple who awaken 90 years early on a jour­ney through the stars to a new home. Their ship is lux­u­ri­ous, and they be­come at­tracted to one another, but soon enough they will be in dan­ger, as will the 5,000 still-sleep­ing trav­el­ers aboard the ship. Morten Tyl­dum (“The Imi­ta­tion Game”) di­rects from a script by Jon Spai­hts (“Doc­tor Strange”).

‘As­sas­sin’s Creed’ (Dec. 21)

Could this be the rare suc­cess­ful adap­ta­tion of a video game? It helps that pro­duc­ers locked down the tal­ented Michael Fass­ben­der (“X-Men: Apoc­a­lypse”) to por­tray Cal­lum Lunch, who through tech­nol­ogy ex­pe­ri­ences the ad­ven­tures of his an­ces­tor Aquilar in 15th-cen­tury Spain. As Cal­lum dis­cov­ers, he is de­scended from a mys­te­ri­ous se­cret so­ci­ety, the As­sas­sins, and must go to war against the pow­er­ful or­ga­ni­za­tion called Tem­plar in present day.

‘Sing’ (Dec. 21)

“Amer­i­can Idol” meets “The Se­cret Life of Pets” in an an­i­mated tale from Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment, the stu­dio be­hind “Pets” and the “De­spi­ca­ble Me” and “Min­ions” flicks. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Wither­spoon, Seth MacFar­lane, Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, John C. Reilly and oth­ers lend voices to a group of an­i­mals in­volved in a sing­ing com­pe­ti­tion that will have au­di­ences tap­ping their toes to scores of well known songs and “Faith,” an orig­i­nal num­ber by Ste­vie Won­der and Ari­ana Grande.

‘Lion’ (Dec. 21)

Based on the nonfiction book “A Long Way Home,” this drama stars Dev Pa­tel (“Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire”) as a man adopted at a young age by an Aus­tralian fam­ily who searches for his lon­glost fam­ily us­ing tech­nol­ogy.

‘Why Him?’ (Dec. 23)

This com­edy from direc­tor John Ham­burg (“I Love You, Man”) has Bryan Cranston (“Break­ing Bad”) as a dad try­ing to deal with his lovely daugh­ter (Zoey Deutch) fall­ing for an ob­scen­ity-spew­ing In­ter­net mil­lion­aire (James Franco) and try­ing to stop an im­pend­ing en­gage­ment.

‘La La Land’ (Dec. 25)

Don’t call this an of­fi­cial pre­dic­tion — there are too many movies still to be re­leased this year — but this nos­tal­gic mu­si­cal about life, love, the movies, jazz and, of course, Los An­ge­les, smells like a win­ner for the Oscar for best picture. It’s al­most sure to be nom­i­nated, at least. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, paired for the third time on screen (pre­vi­ously in “Crazy Stupid Love” and “Gang­ster Squad”), fall in love and light up the screen in the film from “Whiplash” direc­tor Damien Chazelle.

‘Fences’ (Dec. 25)

Based on a sin­gle view­ing of the trailer, it’s not hard to imag­ine Oscar nom­i­na­tions Den­zel Washington and Vi­ola Davis for their work in this adap­ta­tion of the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning play by Au­gust Wil­son. Wil­son’s 1983 work — part of his “Pitts­burgh Cycle” — is set in the 1950s and ex­plores the black ex­pe­ri­ence. In the film, also di­rected by him, Washington por­trays a one-time Ne­gro league base­ball player frus­trated with his cur­rent life, de­spite hav­ing a wife (Davis) who has stood by him and a son (Jo­van Adepo of HBO’s “The Left­overs”) who badly wants his ap­proval.

‘Gold’ (Dec. 25)

This based-on-trueevents drama of a man find­ing wealth and strug­gling not to lose the em­pire re­sult­ing from it looks like it’s try­ing to be this year’s “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Direc­tor Stephen Gaghan prob­a­bly isn’t Martin Scors­ese, but he did write the ac­claimed 2000 drug drama “Traf­fic.”

Matthew McConaughey, per­haps in search of more Oscar gold, adopts a bad hair sit­u­a­tion to por­tray a man who, with the help of a ge­ol­o­gist (Edgar Ramirez), finds a tremen­dous amount of gold in the jun­gles of a for­eign land.

‘Si­lence’ (Jan. 6)

As of this writ­ing, no trailer has been re­leased for this his­tor­i­cal drama that is said to be a pas­sion project for its direc­tor, the ac­claimed Martin Scors­ese. The film stars Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as young Por­tuguese Je­suit priests who en­counter vi­o­lence and more as they travel to Ja­pan in search of their men­tor (Liam Nee­son). The film is be­ing re­leased in se­lect cities in late De­cem­ber by Para­mount Pictures, sug­gest­ing the stu­dio be­lieves it has an Oscar con­tender on its hands.

‘A Mon­ster Calls’ (Jan. 6)

Sure, the movie fea­tures Sigour­ney Weaver, Felic­ity Jones and Liam Nee­son, but the star ap­pears to be the cin­e­matog­ra­phy and spe­cial ef­fects in this su­per­nat­u­ral drama from direc­tor J.A. Bay­ona (“The Im­pos­si­ble”). Young Conor (Lewis MacDougall), deal­ing with the fact his de­voted mother (Jones) is ill and that his father (Toby Kebbell) lives miles away, finds an un­likely ally when the Mon­ster (Nee­son, in performance-cap­ture and voiceover) ap­pears at his bed­room win­dow one night. An­cient, wild, and re­lent­less, the Mon­ster guides Conor on a jour­ney of courage, faith, and truth that pow­er­fully fuses imag­i­na­tion and re­al­ity. The film is open­ing in se­lect cities in late 2016 to get awards-sea­son con­sid­er­a­tions.

‘Hidden Fig­ures’ (Jan. 13)

Taraji P. Hen­son of “Em­pire” fame por­trays Kather­ine John­son, Oc­tavia Spencer (“The Help”) is Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monae is Mary Jack­son — bril­liant African-Amer­i­can women work­ing at NASA who were key in launch of John Glenn into or­bit — in what looks to be a crowd-pleaser from direc­tor Theodore Melfi (“St. Vin­cent”).

‘Live by Night’ (Jan. 13)

Ben Af­fleck stars as a Bos­ton gang­ster in the roar­ing ‘20s in his lat­est ef­fort as a direc­tor, a job he typ­i­cally does well. The styl­ized drama, adapted by Af­fleck from the 2012 novel by Den­nis Le­hane, also fea­tures Elle Fan­ning, Si­enna Miller, Zoe Sal­dana and Chris Cooper.

‘Pa­tri­ots Day’ (Nov. 13)

Mark Wahlberg por­trays a Bos­ton po­lice sergeant who joins the ef­forts to ap­pre­hend the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for the ter­ror­ist bomb­ing of the Bos­ton Marathon in 2013. If his­tory tells us any­thing, it’s that direc­tor Peter Berg (“Lone Sur­vivor,” “Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon”) will give us a mix of ex­cel­lent, be­liev­able scenes and oth­ers that smell Hollywood in­ven­tion.

There should be enough real-life drama here with which to work, and the film is be­ing re­leased in se­lect mar­kets in time for awards con­sid­er­a­tion, so we’ll hope for the best.

‘The Founder’ (Jan­uary TBD)

At some point, we may ac­tu­ally get to see the de­layed bi­o­graph­i­cal drama — it’s get­ting a mid-De­cem­ber re­lease in se­lect mar­kets af­ter be­ing bumped from the sum­mer sea­son to awards time — about Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton). The film from John Lee Han­cock (“Sav­ing Mr. Banks,” “The Blind Side”) ex­plores Kroc’s ma­neu­ver­ing to ac­quire the McDon­ald’s chain in 1961 for less than $3 mil­lion.


Felic­ity Jones por­trays Jyn Erso, the hero­ine of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”


Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling light up the screen in the up­com­ing mu­si­cal “La La Land.”


Maui, voiced by Dwayne John­son, and Moana, voiced by, Auli’i Cravalho don’t hit it off im­me­di­ately in “Moana.”


Will Smith and He­len Mir­ren share a scene in the up­com­ing film “Col­lat­eral Beauty.”

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