The pumpkin ale is running out, the cobwebs are about to be cleaned-up, and we stopped wearing white two months ago, so it's time for the 20th Annual Holiday Movie Pool!
We've got just this week to get our picks in, so don't delay and tell me which films are going to have a Happy Holiday and which will have a Silent Night.
Will Doctor Strange be too weird for the casual comic-book movie fans? After four Hunger Games films of scowling, can we accept a Jennifer Lawrence movie where she actually smiles in Passengers? Can Rogue One: A Star Wars Story be the first of many successful stand-alone films or a sign there can be too much of a good things?
Make your predictions, cast your votes, and take a dip in the 2016 Holiday Movie Pool! It's the pool where all you have to do is guess the Top Five domestic moneymakers of the season. It's not like we're asking you to do anything hard like name all five Ice Age films off the top of your head and put them in sequential order. That’d be insane… and inane.
In case if you don't know what's coming out for the holiday season of 2016, here's a quick run-down of this year's crop!
- Doctor Strange
Benedict Cumberbatch steps into the shoes of Marvel's Marvel-ous Master of the Mystical Arts. While Doctor Strange has always been a, no question, strange one in the regular world of super-powered super heroes, this is a human world that loves Harry Potter, wizards from Middle Earth, and Game of Thrones. Whether you're using repulsor rays or spells, audiences just want a reason to cheer. Will this movie give them a reason or take itself too seriously?
Speaking of cheering, here's an animated movie of hairy, glittery, fun-loving, musical fur balls destined to have people dancing in the aisles thanks to Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake. That or this candy-covered concoction might have all the substance of cotton candy in the rain and a musical soundtrack that's more "Last Season Glee" than "First Season Glee."
- Hacksaw Ridge
I loved the first trailer that said "From the director of Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ" and never mentioned Mel Gibson as if no one who knew those films couldn't fill in the blanks. While hopefully his sobriety has helped clear some of his demons, this movie about a pacifist saving lives during WWII can't help but pull heartstrings. This could easily be this year's Unbroken, however the biggest battle in the this film might be opening the same weekend as a comic book legend and fuzzy-haired dolls.
Mysterious spacecrafts have landed on Earth and instead of them counting down our extinction on a clock only Jeff Goldblum can figure out, Amy Adams is the cunning linguist (as if there's another kind) who needs to track down their meaning before a war breaks out. Considering her role as Lois Lane in the latest Superman films, it seems all Amy does these days is talk to aliens.
- Almost Christmas
Maybe I should just do a movie marathon of all these annual holiday films with huge casts about crazy families who all just figure out how much they love each other after 90 minutes of fighting so I can finally see what I'm talking about when I preview these flicks. I think I just thought I'd only have to write this preview once and not just press cut-and-paste ten years in a row. Let's just assume this does about as well or as poorly as all the others and move on with our lives.
- Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Ang Lee's brought the latest digital camera technology to tell the tale of this soldier and his return back home after the war. A star-studded cast of Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin helps to paint the corners of this picture. Much like Hacksaw Ridge, this could be an amazing movie. I just wonder if it will drown in November instead of choosing to sail in the safer Academy season waters of December and January.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Though this may seem like a confusing film to muggles, the fact that no other big studio release is opening the same weekend as this film based on a J.K. Rowling penned screenplay says they're not confused at all. It's a movie in the Harry Potter universe without Harry Potter. This could create another wizarding world indeed or be just another money grab that irritates fans and makes casuals care even less where to find these fantastic beasts.
Disney Animation Studios is on its best roll in 30 years. Once Tangled started the party in 2010, they've continually been knocking it out of the park both commercially and critically with Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and this year's Zootopia. Their latest movie follows the adventures of a Pacific Island teenager as she goes on a quest to save her people. Who cares? It could be about a Polynesian Princess learning how to arrange flowers and I'd still be if they can keep making good movies.
- Bad Santa 2
Remember when Angelina Jolie had a husband before Brad Pitt? No, not Johnny Lee Miller from Hackers and now in Elementary. The other one, Billy Bob Thornton. Well, since the only film in 15 years anyone remembers from him is Bad Santa, I suppose it only makes sense that's the only one they'd make a sequel to. Let's just assume Billy Bob plays Santa (again), that he's bad (again), and less people will see this movie since if millennials don't like Presidential candidates in their 60's, they're not going to like their movie stars in their 60's.
Remember that one time Brad Pitt was filming a movie about married spies where there were allegations about him cheating on his real-life wife? Well this is the other movie where that happened. I get how some guys have a "type," but a type of movie? Here he and Marion Cotillard star as that fictional couple where Brad has to figure out if or if not his wife is a double agent. Meanwhile, I'm still bummed we now have an even less chance at a Mr. and Mrs. Smith sequel.
[By the way, have we ever had a weekend where two ex-husbands of the same wife have opened movies? Totally weird.]
- Nocturnal Animals
I get how this time can also be known as "Awards Season," but does that mean releasing mopey character studies on Thanksgiving Weekend is the way to go? What part of "thanks" giving don't they understand. Just look at this description from the web: "Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star as a divorced couple discovering dark truths about each other and themselves." Nice. Hey, grandma, ready to go to the movies with us?
- La La Land
Ryan Gossling and Emma Stone star in a romantic drama… musical? I loved me some Moulin Rouge back in the day, and I guess Ryan and Emma makes as much sense on the surface as Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman did 15 years ago, but I might need some convincing. A reunion video of Pink, Mya, Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim singing Still Lady Marmalading would be a great place to start.
- Office Christmas Party
When your sister is going to close your branch because you're the goofball brother, there's only one thing to do to save yourselves and the other losers with you… Be an even bigger goofball! In this case that means throw an epic office party to end all office parties to impress a new client. T.J. Miller plays the goofball (duh) with Jason Bateman as his henchman trying to thwart the only responsible person in this movie, Jennifer Aniston.
- Star Wars: Rogue One
Disney's plan to double down on the Star Wars cash cow starts this year with their first (of many planned) stand-alone movies in the same universe as the Episode movies, but not directly connected to them. While the whole concept of stand-alone sounds like it would perform worse than the regular films, when something's a little worse than $900 million, that's still not too shabby. Based on the success of The Force Awakens, it doesn't seem like this would be the film that flops first in the series.
- The Space Between Us
As parents we all worry about our children Skyping with strangers across the country and then road-tripping to try and meet them on their own. What if your teenager lived on Mars and hitchhiked his way to Earth to meet a girl? Oooh, he's going to get it!
- Collateral Beauty
Will Smith stars as tragically sad Will Smith after the loss of his child. When his friends worry about his inability to cope, process, and move forward, they find some "mysterious people" to personify emotions to help Will let go of the past. Maybe sort of It's a Wonderful Life without George lassoing the moon, the diabolical Mr. Potter, and Zuzu's petals. Then again, what the heck's the point of It's a Wonderful Life without George lassoing the moon, the diabolical Mr. Potter, and Zuzu's petals. Hee Haw.
Universal Animation had a big hit exposing The Secret Life of Pets as just as petty, backstabbing, and selfish as humans are (well done!) and now they want to share how the tired genre of reality singing contests would be like with, wait for it, pets! Ok, not pets, really, but animals. It's like Zootopia except the only character is Shakira singing Sia songs. I know it can take a long time to develop animated features, but both this and Trolls feel like something that would've been a better idea two Kelly Clarkson kids ago.
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in… Ah, who cares, it's Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt! We're in. Here they're the only two awake passengers on a hundred year space flight. Well, if you're going to be spending time with the last two people not on earth, you picked the right two.
- Assassin's Creed
Because we don't have enough evidence after Warcraft that anyone outside of China doesn't care about movies based on video games, we have another one on our hands. At least this one has an actual actor (Michael Fassbender) instead of just a CGI creation. Fassbender has to either learn the skills of his ancestral one-man killing machine to use them in his present situation or change his agent for landing him a gig that may cement his B-Level status. Jason Statham won't like him muscling into his territory.
- Why Him?
Bryan Cranston has parlayed his small screen success on Breaking Bad to be a part of Godzilla, next year's Power Rangers movie, and now this by-the-numbers "I can't let my daughter marry this guy because… reason" flick. Granted, that the guy is James Franco probably is all the reasons you need, but the we don't exactly live in a world where you're stuck forever with the wrong guy anymore. If Katy Perry can get away from Russell Brand, nothing's permanent anymore.
Matthew McConaughey takes a break from his Lincoln car commercials to make a movie about a prospector in the jungles of Indonesia and his true-story fight to keep his claim. This feels like something they could've worked a Tarzan or King Kong into to make it a little more compelling for those of us who need a more than a "based on a true story" to get our juices flowing.
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis revive their 2010 Broadway revival of the famous August Wilson play Fences for the silver screen. For high school drama classes who want a newer version to look at instead of the 1987 version with James Earl Jones, this should fit the bill. For those of us not in high school theater, we'll probably wait for the inevitable Masterpiece Theater on PBS presentation… and then watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians instead.
by Matt Neuenburg on 10/30/2016
Movies Mentioned in this Post:
Bad Santa 2,
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk,
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them,
La La Land,
Office Christmas Party,
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,
The Space Between Us,