Holiday movie season is here ...
The sexual harassment and assault scandal triggered by the revelations about disgraced uber-executive Harvey Weinstein has impacted the holiday film season, with the December release "All The Money in the World" being partially reshot to eliminate Kevin Spacey. The scandal rightly overshadows everything else in Hollywood, and ideally it will result in better, fairer treatment of women in the film industry — and maybe even in the nation's workplaces, as well.
While this process unfolds there are movies to be seen, many of which hold considerable promise. 2017 has been a dismal year on many fronts, but the holiday season, and the holiday movies that adorn it, may bring a little needed cheer.
Release dates remain subject to change, and many Oscar contenders will emerge in New York and Los Angeles in late December to beat the nomination deadline and go wide to the Berkshires and most of the nation in January.
"Justice League" (which opened Friday) unites Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and other lesser superheroes of the DC Comics canon. This is essentially a sequel to last year's awful "Batman v. Superman," but this summer's terrific "Wonder Woman" offers a measure of hope that this film won't be another dud.
The follow-up to "Star Wars:The Force Awakens," "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" (Dec. 15) reintroduces us to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), a Jedi Master in self-exile when the far away galaxy needs him most. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, relative newcomers to the saga, return, and the late Carrie Fisher makes her last appearance as the iconic Princess Leia.
Two decades ago, "Jumanji" made $262 million in 1995 dollars, and on Dec. 20 comes the long-awaited sequel, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle." The Robin Williams' original was a pioneering special effects film, and in the sequel four high-schoolers are dropped into the bodies of four videogame avatars (Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan) and set loose in the jungle that once trapped Williams' character.
This is the time of the year when most of the Academy Award nominees make their debut. Early reviews and buzz from the film festival circuit have marked several of the holiday releases as likely Oscar contenders.
Nearly unrecognizable under layers of makeup and padding, Gary Oldman plays Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the early days of World War II in "Darkest Hour" (Nov. 22). Ben Mendelsohn has drawn good reviews for his performance as King George VI.
A teenager (Timothee Chalamet) becomes involved with his father's live-in assistant (Armie Hammer) in "Call Me By Your Name" (Nov. 24), a film in which sun-splashed northern Italy is said to share top billing. Frances McDormand is winning rave reviews for her performance as an angry woman pressuring an apathetic police department to pursue her daughter's murderer in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," (coming to the Berkshires Nov. 22). Martin McDonagh, the master of the brutal black comedy, writes and directs. Now in limited release, it arrives Wednesday in the Berkshires.
No movie attracted more buzz on the festival circuit than "The Shape of Water" (Dec. 1), the latest from fantasist Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth.") The film tells the story of a mute cleaning woman (Sally Hawkins) at a government facility circa 1960 who encounters an amphibian being held there (del Toro's go-to creature actor Doug Jones). Also on the 1st, James Franco is seen as an Oscar contender as both a director and an actor for "The Disaster Artist," in which Franco plays eccentric actor-director Tommy Wiseau, the auteur whose entertainingly terrible 2003 film "The Room" has achieved cult status.
Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg, three Academy Award heavyweights, team up for "The Post" (Dec. 20), which chronicles the paper's acquisition and release of the Pentagon Papers, which revealed years of deceit in the conducting of the Vietnam War. Hanks is editor Ben Bradlee and Streep plays publisher Katherine Graham in a film highlighting the importance of a free press that could not be more timely today.
This category is a mixed bag of the light and the heavy, exploring the adventures of everyone from Tonya Harding to John Gotti to Gloria Grahame to PT. Barnum — the latter in the season's only musical.
Audiences in Berkshire County, the home base of electrical pioneers and for many decades of a major General Electric plant, may have particular interest in "The Current War" (Nov. 24), which tells the story of the battle between George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) and Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) to determine whose electrical system would emerge dominant. GE's roots go back to Edison.
Writer-director Woody Allen has managed to keep making films in spite of allegations of sexual misconduct, but theaters in Boston told The Boston Globe they are considering not screening his latest, "Wonder Wheel" (Dec. 1). It stars Kate Winslet as the unhappy wife of James Belushi's carousel operator on the Coney Island of the 1950s who competes with her husband's estranged daughter from another marriage (Juno Temple) for the affections of Justin Timberlake's lifeguard.
Margot Robbie stars as Tonya Harding in "I, Tonya" (Dec. 8), which chronicles her life from her difficult childhood through the 1994 Olympics, where rival Nancy Kerrigan was kneecapped by a thug hired by Harding's ex-husband. On Dec. 15, "Gotti" explores the relationship between the presumably late crime boss John Gotti (John Travolta) and his son (Spencer Lofranco).
Hollywood musicals are rare, but one often shows up around the holidays. Last year, it was "La La Land" (which grasped the Best Picture Oscar for about three minutes) and this year it is "The Greatest Showman" (Dec. 20), staring musical veteran Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum and Anne Wheeler as the trapeze artist who falls in love with Barnum's business partner (Zac Efron.)
In "Downsizing" (Dec. 22), the latest social satire from Alexander Payne, Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Kristen Wiig live in a futuristic overpopulated world where scientists shrink humans to pocket size. Also opening on the 22nd, the above-mentioned "All The Money in the World" goes back to 1973 and the abduction of the 16-year-old grandson of J. Paul Getty, then reputedly the richest man in the world. Michelle Williams is the boy's mother, and Christopher Plummer is replacing Kevin Spacey as Getty, delaying the film's release by two weeks.
Jessica Chastain moves to the top of the male-dominated underground gambling scene in "Molly's Game" (Dec. 25). Also on Christmas Day, actor Daniel Day-Lewis and director Paul Thomas Anderson are reunited for the first time since 2007's "There Will Be Blood" for "Phantom Thread," in which Day-Lewis' couturier in 1950s London becomes obsessed with a young woman (Vicky Kneps).
"Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool" (Dec. 29) is based on the true story of the unlikely 1970s romance between a young actor (Jamie Bell) and aging, divaesque actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening).
The latest in the genre of old-guy comedies, "Just Getting Started" (Dec. 8) stars Tommy Lee Jones as a former FBI agent and Morgan Freeman as a former mob lawyer now in the witness protection program who set aside past differences to fight the mob.
Set in the bad hair days of 1983, "Permanent" stars Patricia Arquette, Rainn Wilson and Kira McLean in a story of a misfit family in rural West Virginia.
The singing Barden Bellas get the band back together in "Pitch Perfect 3" (Dec. 22), again starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow. Also on the 22nd, brothers Ed Helms and Owen Wilson embark on a road trip to find their real father after learning that their mother (Glenn Close) had a number of affairs in "Father Figures." Christopher Walken, J.K. Simmons and Terry Bradshaw playing himself are among the candidates they encounter.
Only two in this category, but one is the latest from Pixar, "Coco" (Nov. 22). Set around the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos, "Coco" finds a young boy accidentally transported to the land of the dead, where he encounters his ancestors and a variety of eccentric skeletons. Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal lead a cast of all-Latino voices.
On Christmas Day comes "Ferdinand," in which the title character, a ferocious-looking but quite gentle bull, rallies some unlikely allies to help him get home after he is taken away to become a fighter. Wrestler-actor John Cena appropriately voices Ferdinand, and Kate McKinnon, Bobby Cannavale and Gina Rodriquez are among a large cast that lend their voices.
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