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From comedy to drama, love stories to musicals, action to fantasy and everything in between, there’s something for everyone at the movies this month. Our guide to the top 20 picks will help you decide what to see.


SCI FI AND FANTASY

 THE SHAPE OF WATER
THE SHAPE OF WATER
December 8
 
The Cold War drama, monster movie and fairytale romance genres blend together in unexpected and intriguing ways in this Guillermo Del Toro’s film that’s earning major Oscar buzz for the picture, the director and stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Shannon. Set in 1962, it stars Hawkins as a lonely, mute janitor in a secret government lab where a strange amphibious creature has been brought for experimentation. “This is a time of racism, of inequality, of people thinking about the brink of nuclear war. In a few months, Kennedy will be assassinated. So in a way, it’s a horrible time for love, yet love happens,” says Del Toro. “I wanted to create a beautiful, elegant story about hope and redemption as an antidote to the cynicism of our times.” Mission accomplished.

 STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
December 15

The highly anticipated Episode VIII of the saga picks up right after the events of The Force Awakens, following familiar characters like Luke (Mark Hamill) Leia (the late Carrie Fisher in her last role), new generation heroes Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega), brand new characters played by Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro, plus a galactic menagerie of new creatures, including the very cute Porg. The movie, directed by Rian Johnson, delves more deeply into Rey’s life and her relationship with Luke. “This is very much about Rey trying to figure out how she fits into all this, much like any of us as we’re transitioning from childhood to adulthood,” he says. “You’re going to meet people who you think are going to help who don’t, and help is going to come from unexpected places.”

DOWNSIZING
DOWNSIZING
December 22

In a world facing a future of overpopulation and diminishing resources, scientists have come up with a solution: convincing people to undergo a miniaturizing procedure to live in a planned community where money goes a lot farther and happiness seems assured. It sounds good to Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), but it turns out that downsizing has its downside—there’s an economic divide, crime, poverty, social injustice and unhappiness in the little world too, and there’s no going back from the irreversible procedure. “There’s something very timely and brilliantly satirical about a man making himself small while the Earth’s population is expanding. I think now is the right time for this film because it speaks to the world we are living in,” says Damon. Directed and co-written by Alexander Payne, the sci fi dramedy also stars Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis Laura Dern, and Neil Patrick Harris.

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
December 22

When four teenagers find an old video game console while serving detention, they choose avatars and begin to play—and find themselves transported to the jungle in the bodies of their characters in this sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams hit. This means Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan are literally acting like insecure teenagers while trying to beat the game and get out alive. “As they are figuring out who they are in real life, they suddenly find themselves occupying other people’s bodies in this game--people who, on the surface, are nothing like them,” says director Jake Kasdan. “This is a time of self-discovery for them, but it plays out in this fantastical context.” Bobby Cannavale and Nick Jonas co-star in the adventure, which was shot on location in Hawaii.


REAL-LIFE STORIES

THE DISASTER ARTIST
THE DISASTER ARTIST
December 1

Considered by many to be the worst movie ever made, 2003’s The Room went beyond notoriety to achieve cult status. Greg Sestero, a friend of eccentric filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, wrote a book about it called The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, which is the basis for this Hollywood underdog story directed by and starring James Franco as Wiseau and his brother Dave Franco as Sestero. Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Megan Mullalley, Alison Brie, and Zoey Deutch co-star, and Lizzy Caplan, Bryan Cranston, J.J. Abrams, Zach Braff and Kristen Bell appear as themselves.

I, TONYA
I, TONYA
December 8

The infamous rivalry between Olympic figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding indirectly led to a shocking 1944 incident in which Kerrigan was maimed by an attacker hired by Harding’s ex-husband. Starring Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad. The Wolf of Wall Street, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) Craig Gillespie’s film covers Harding’s life, her relationship with her piece-of-work mother (Allison Janney), and the various conflicting accounts of the attack. “She was turned into a punchline,” Robbie says of Harding. “One of the coolest things about the movie is we see everyone has their own version of the truth.”

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN
December 20

Hugh Jackman stars in this rags-to-riches bio of circus impresario P.T. Barnum, an original musical featuring original songs by Oscar-winning La La Land composers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. It’s also a love story following the romance between a trapeze artist (Zendaya) and Barnum’s business partner (Zac Efron). Michelle Williams plays Barnum’s wife Charity, and Rebecca Ferguson plays Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind.

THE POST
THE POST
December 22

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have made four films together but had never directed Meryl Streep. In The Post, he brings the two Oscar winners together for the first time to tell the true story of The Washington Post vs. the Nixon administration in a battle over publishing the classified Pentagon Papers, which proved the government’s cover-up of military actions in the Vietnam War. Sure to be Oscar nominees, Streep plays Post owner Kay Graham and Hanks plays editor Ben Bradlee, with Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk. Bradley Whitford, Matthew Rhys in the supporting cast.

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD
ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD
December 22

In 1973, the abduction of oil billionaire J. Paul Getty’s 16-year-old grandson made headlines around the world, especially because the miserly tycoon refused to pay the $17 million ransom. Dramatizing these events and the family dynamics behind them, Ridley Scott’s movie stars Michelle Williams as the kidnapped teen’s desperate mother and Mark Wahlberg as the CIA agent turned Getty security advisor she enlists to find her son. In the wake of sexual abuse allegations that surfaced after the film was finished, Scott made the unprecedented decision to reshoot all scenes with Kevin Spacey as Getty, replacing him with Christopher Plummer.

MOLLY’S GAME
MOLLY’S GAME
December 25

When competitive skier Molly Bloom’s Olympics dreams were dashed in a devastating accident, she found thrills and success in another area: high-stakes poker. Bloom ran exclusive games in Los Angeles and New York for celebrities, billionaires, and Russian mobsters, which got her indicted on illegal gambling and money laundering charges. Based in part on Bloom’s memoir, the film stars Idris Elba, Kevin Costner and Jessica Chastain, who’s likely to earn her third Academy Award nomination (after The Help and Zero Dark Thirty) for her role as the brilliant, shrewd, complicated Molly. It marks the directorial debut of Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. “I saw this as an emotional story and the kind of story I like to tell, with a quixotic sense of right and wrong,” says Sorkin. Molly “could have been rich and famous simply by telling the truth, but she wouldn’t do it. I really admire that, and the movie admires that.”

FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL
FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL
December 29

Peter Turner was an aspiring actor in his late twenties when he met Gloria Grahame, a fading film star in her fifties. He had no idea who she was, but they struck up a friendship that became romantic, and their bond continued long after the romance ended. Their story comes to the screen starring Annette Bening and Jamie Bell, based on Turner’s 1987 memoir and told from his point of view. “The whole nature of the story and the unique, eccentric relationship that they had and what it meant to them and then how Peter wrote about it that always stayed with me,” says Bening, who spoke to Turner about Grahame and watched her films for research. The cast also includes two veteran Hollywood screen legends: Vanessa Redgrave and Julie Walters play Grahame’s and Turner’s mothers.


COMIC RELIEF

JUST GETTING STARTED
JUST GETTING STARTED
December 8

Two of acting’s most celebrated elder statesmen join forces in this comedy about free spirited retirees in an over-55 resort in Palm Springs. Morgan Freeman plays Duke, the affable manager, who’s great at pulling strings and keeping his past a secret. His top dog status is challenged by the arrival of a magnetic newcomer (Tommy Lee Jones), and the alpha males battle it out for status as well as the affections of Suzie, played by Rene Russo. But when Duke’s life is threatened, the two rivals reluctantly join forces. Director Ron Shelton was as eager to bring the pair together on screen. “Tommy is the tough, hard-nosed cowboy and very smart, and Morgan is roguish and charming and playful. I knew he and Morgan would bring their A-game for each other,” he says. “They really liked the dance of their two characters. And it was great, because they both really wanted to work together.”

PITCH PERFECT 3
PITCH PERFECT 3
December 22

In this third chapter in the Barden Bellas story, the a cappella gang is out of college and trying to make it in the real world, with less than scintillating results. So when the opportunity arises for them to perform with an overseas USO tour, they grab it—and find themselves outmatched by world-class bands that play instruments as well as sing. Stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, and Anna Camp were up for the challenge, which required a cappella and choreography boot camp, and for Wilson, fight training for Fat Amy’s latest misadventures. “I get two massive fight scenes, plus some other little high-jinx. I’ve always felt like I had it in me to kick butt, and here I get to show some of those skills. There have been a few bruises along the way, but it has been the best fun,” she says. “Look out, Tom Cruise.”

FATHER FIGURES
FATHER FIGURES
December 22

Fraternal twin brothers (Owen Wilson and Ed Helms) go in search of their biological father when their mom (Glenn Close), who’d told them that their dad died when they were young, admits she has no idea who fathered the boys. J.K. Simmons, Terry Bradshaw, Ving Rhames, and Christopher Walken are among the candidates they meet on their comedic paternity trip adventure.


EMOTIONAL DRAMAS

THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES
THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES
December 1

On the outside, the elite, gated community of Palos Verdes, California is a beautiful oceanside paradise, but for the family at the center of the story it’s anything but.  The marriage of Phil, a cardiologist (Justin Kirk), and Sandy (Jennifer Garner) implodes, and while has moved on with someone new, she becomes increasingly sad, angry, unhinged, an unable to cope. Their teenage twin children Jim (Cody Fern) and Medina (Maika Monroe) are deeply affected, with Jim turning to drugs and reckless behavior and Medina finding escape and solace in surfing while trying to be strong for her mother and brother. Based on the novel of the same name by Joy Nicholson, it’s told from narrator Medina’s point of view. Monroe shares her character’s passion for the ocean: she learned how to kite board when she was 12 and became the top ranked female kite boarder in the world.

WONDER WHEEL
WONDER WHEEL
December 1

Set in 1950s Brooklyn on the boardwalk of Coney Island, where beachgoers flocked to the amusement rides and carnival games in the sunshine, Woody Allen’s latest film focus on four characters whose lives fatefully intertwine in a story about love and betrayal. Kate Winslet plays Ginny, a failed actress-turned-struggling waitress trapped in a loveless marriage to a carousel operator (Jim Belushi), Juno Temple is his long-lost daughter on the run from the mob, and Justin Timberlake is an aspiring writer working as a lifeguard whose involvement with both women will ultimately have tragic consequences. “I’ve done mostly comedies, but whenever I’ve turned to a dramatic story, it almost always has been about women in critical situations,” says Allen, who grew up not far from Coney Island. The titular Ferris wheel not only dominates the scene, it’s a metaphor for the character’s lives. Adds the director, “The view is beautiful from the Wonder Wheel, but you’re going no place. It has an element of romance to it, an element of beauty to it, but ultimately, an element of futility.”

PHANTOM THREAD
PHANTOM THREAD
December 25

Ten years after Paul Thomas Anderson directed Daniel Day-Lewis to an Oscar in There Will Be Blood, the pair has reunited for this period drama, set in the glamorous fashion world of 1950s London. Day-Lewis plays couturier Reynolds Woodcock, who dresses the royal, the rich and the famous, an endless stream of beautiful women eager to wear his exquisite clothes. But only one woman is able to distract him from his work, and she becomes his lover and muse. Lewis researched for the role by watching footage of fashion shows of the time, reading about designers, and learning to sew for what is, for now, his last role. The 60-year-old actor recently announced his retirement from acting.


CRIME & PUNISHMENT

BULLET HEAD
BULLET HEAD
December 8

Following a botched heist, three thieves (Adrien Brody, John Malkovich, Rory Culkin) need to lay low. But they discover that the abandoned warehouse they’re hiding in isn’t as deserted as they thought. It’s the secret headquarters of an underground dogflighting ring (run by the menacing Antonio Banderas), and his most vicious canine—a fierce killing machine named De Niro, a 190 pound Presa Canario--is on the loose. Suffice it to say not all of them will get out alive at the end, but it’s an intense thrill ride getting there.

HANGMAN
HANGMAN
December 22

The word-guessing game hangman turns deadly in this tense crime drama, in which a serial killer carves letters of the alphabet into his victims and baits the police with clues to his grisly crimes. Al Pacino plays the veteran detective on the case who partners with a behavior profiler (Karl Urban) to hunt down the murderer before he kills again. Brittany Snow plays a reporter who helps them solve the case.

IN THE FADE
IN THE FADE
December 27

Acting in her native German, Diane Kruger (Troy, National Treasure, Inglourious Basterds, TV’s The Bridge) stars in this wrenching drama as an grieving wife and mother whose Kurdish husband and young son are murdered in a terrorist bombing by Neo-Nazis who are targeting foreign nationals. Her anguish is almost unbearable to watch as she listens to minute details about the bomb’s destructive effects on her loved ones’ bodies. When the justice system fails her, she decides to take revenge into her own hands.


www.Dishmag.com / Issue 198 - December 2017
Turnpage Blk


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