Holiday offerings include ‘Star Wars film
“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.”