Sleigh bells be damned. All we want for Christmas is movies! With cold weather driving us indoors and holidays meaning family time galore – which in turns means escape from family time galore – the movie theater becomes a quiet solace in which to bask in the creativity of other people. We’re cut through the stacks of Holiday offerings to give you the 10 December films we positively cannot wait for. Amongst them are big (and we mean big) blockbusters, a few little indie flicks, an adult stop-motion drama, new films from Alejandro González Iñárritu, David O. Russell and Quentin Tarantino and even a holiday horror for the scary movie fans. And of course, Star Wars. If all of them are as good as we’re hoping, it’ll be a Christmas miracle.
KRAMPUS (Dec. 4th)
Director Michael Dougherty delivered a holiday curve ball with the underrated (and largely awesome) Trick ‘r Treat back in 2007 and hasn’t really done much anything since. Krampus is set to put the cheer back in fear as Dougherty’s sophomore full length features a horned creature more liable to naughtiness than niceties attacking an unsuspecting family during their holidays. With a cast that includes Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Allison Tolman, Krampus could be that rare Christmas horror flick that actually delivers the goods. But, historically, holiday horrors are not often the best of the best so there’s reason to be nervous. We’d also be lying if we said that the fact that Krampus just recently received a PG-13 rating from the MPAA doesn’t make us a tad weary, although (of all people) M. Night Shyamalan proved with The Visit earlier this year, that’s not always a sign of disaster.
YOUTH (Dec. 4th)
An adult drama starring the always phenomenal Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel (who’s clearly in the hunt for a comeback) under the tutelage of Italian director Paolo Sorrentino – whose wonderful feature The Great Beauty won Best Foreign Language Film two years back – seems like the kind of underdog independent cinema that’ll be lingering long after curtains. Michael Caine is said to be in the Oscar hunt playing a retired conductor invited to play at a Royal Birthday by Queen Elizabeth herself. If Sorrentino’s prior efforts are any indication, we expect Youth to line thought-provoking philosophizing in with gorgeous cinematography (Luca Bigazzi is back working as Sorrentino’s DP). Genuine adult dramas can be hard to come by and can often be too stuffy for their own good. Here’s hoping that Youth bucks the trend and proves Sorrentino as a lasting talent.
MACBETH (Dec. 4th)
Shakespeare is historically hard to adapt to the screen. What with all the high-concept language (Shakespeare coined hundreds of words in his time) and perfunctory brain adjustment that comes with taking in Shakespeare, audiences tend to not flood the theaters for many adaptations of his works. However with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard offering their considerable talents to a Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders) project that looks visually resplendent from all angles, there’s hope that Macbeth could be that rare Shakespeare adaptation to break the mold. For those needing more proof, just take a look at the trailer.
IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (Dec. 11th)
In the Heart of the Sea was originally slated to open March 13 of this year and, at the last minute, was pushed back nearly nine months to take the open spot the week before Star Wars opens (and dominates everything in its path.) An odd move, especially considering that March is typically a pretty open playing field, especially for a movie that’s actually good. However the jump to December (rather than say January or February) almost implies another narrative, one in which the folks at Warner Bros are hoping that this might even have some awards legs under it. We personally don’t see it that way, but that doesn’t mean that Ron Howard’s loose re-telling of the Moby Dick story doesn’t look fairly epic. With Chris Hemsworth at the front and a supporting cast that includes a bulk of perennially under-sung talent, such as Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw and (new Spiderman himself) Tom Holland, this effects piece looks like it might have the heart of a winner and the dazzle of something truly memorable. We shall see soon enough.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Dec. 18th)
Perhaps the most obvious choice of the list is also the one that poised to make the most money. Already tracking to have the biggest opening weekend of all time (with pre-sale tickets already raking in over $50 million), there is no doubt that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be a box office behemoth. But will its critical acclaim match its monetary dominion? That is yet to be seen. Making a decisive (but divisive) move to not screen the movie for critic groups prior to its opening (allegedly to preserve the movie’s many secrets), a shadow of doubt has been at least somewhat cast over the quality of this seventh Star Wars film, and the first of a Disney-run era. But with the original cast set to join a stacked new generation of Star Wars newbies (including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie) all working under the often superlative vision of J.J. Abrams, Star Wars 7 is in a good position to be potentially great, if not even amazing. The nostalgia-heavy first looks have gotten fans riled up (to say the least) so let’s all hope that everything working in The Force Awakens’ favor can help it become a product truly worth going ga-ga over.
THE BIG SHORT (Dec. 23rd)
This one is a little bit of a cheat since we’ve already seen it (though our thoughts are embargoed until closer to release) but, thought inhibitors aside, we will still gladly include The Big Short on a list of movies worthy of being anticipated. An uncommon project that has a director with strong comedy chops but no dramatic experience under his belt, Adam McKay helms what may be one of the most loaded casts of the year. Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei and Steve Carell headline this surreptitious financial disaster docudrama that almost defies categorization at every turn. Definitely not a comedy, though willing to slip into full comedy mode, The Big Short is long on intrigue and brimming with American intent. Anyone wishing to understand the housing market meltdown and eventual economic crash of 2008 should consider it a must-see.
THE REVENANT (Dec. 25th)
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Emmanuel Lubezki. That stack of talent alone is enough to make us anticipate superb-looking The Revenant even before you throw in a bonkers narrative that involves fur trappers, bear mauling and a bloodthirsty quest for revenge. It’s like everything I ever wanted rolled into one big, fat, magnificent movie doobie. Anticipation is sky high so if The Revenant is not a doozie, expect us to be disappointed. The fact that Iñárritu – who last year directed the movie that bested our Top Ten list, Birdman – apparently went through hell and back to get The Revenant made, that Lubezki shot all with natural light, that Leo and Mad Max himself equated the filming of The Revenant to a form of torture, all makes it something absolutely brimming with intrigue. We see it tomorrow and we positively cannot wait.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT (Dec. 25th)
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth feature (is the title ironic or another Tarantino in-joke?) has already had a bit of a storied history before anyone has actually even seen it. The movie was tentatively canceled after a leaked script made its way online, before Tarantino himself staged a live read and eventually just decided to make the damn thing anyways. QT’s latest returns to the landscape of the Western (or whatever you call Tarantino’s version of a Western) to tell the story of sour bounty hunters holed up in a nasty blizzard. With a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Walton Goggins, Zoe Bell and Channing Tatum, The Hateful Eight is as loaded up with talent as any Tarantino film. To be completely honest though, there’s something about this one that seems like it might ultimately prove a disappointment (though we said that about Django Unchained before ultimately ranking it as our number one film of 2012) but it’s hard to get our fingers on exactly why. Maybe he seems to be riffing too much on his former glory? We’ll see this Christmas. And we’re still willing to be wowed.
JOY (Dec. 25th)
Though David O. Russell’s last film, American Hustle, didn’t quite continue his hot streak of truly excellent films (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook), it still earned its cast Oscar nominations in ever category and tallied up a total ten Oscar nominations. And this is O. Russell not at his best. He returns with Joy, again teaming up with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro to tell the story of Joy Mangano, who went from struggling single mom to moneyed CEO when she invented the Miracle Mop. Although the film has not yet screened for anyone, with everything we already know, you’d be foolish not to expect big things from Joy, especially from an Oscar standpoint. It’s as close to a sure thing as can be that Jennifer Lawrence will score her fourth Academy Award nomination but will she be able to ride it home to her second Oscar win? Let’s just say, we wouldn’t mind.
ANOMALISA (Dec. 30th)
Earning an Oscar-qualifying run by hitting limited release on the second to last day of the year is no new bag. A stop-motion passion project from acclaimed writer Charlie Kaufman (who earns directorial co-credit as well), on the other hand, is. The man who’s brought us such iconoclast mind-melts as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich is said to truly have knocked it out of the park (again) with Anomalisa, his almost ironically animated vision of a man going through an existential crisis of sorts. The name Charlie Kaufman alone is enough to get us amped up about a project and the response out of Telluride, Venice Film Festival, TIFF and so on and so forth, was nothing short of glowing. If we don’t get to see it until January, forcing it out of our Top Ten consideration, mark us down as #bummed.