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Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017 2 years ago

Critic's holiday film picks

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A look at our favorite movies coming out this holiday season.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for catching fabulous films. Distributors release the best of the best prior to the awards season which is rapidly approaching. So chill out, take a break from holiday frenzy and take in a great movie. Better yet, give the perfect and unique gift of total escape.

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

Director Michael Gracey explores the creation of P.T. Barnum’s iconic circus in this razzle dazzle musical with original contemporary scoring. Barnum (played by the multi-talented Hugh Jackman) managed to put together a traveling show chocked full of unusual performers (i.e. Michelle Williams, Zac Efron and Zendaya), which became a huge success in in the late 1800s. Dec. 22

DARKEST HOUR

Gary Oldman loses his identity and miraculously morphs into Winston Churchill in this film, which takes place in May 1940, when it looked as though Britain was losing the war with Germany. Expect an Oscar nod for Mr. Oldman. Also starring Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill’s wife, Clementine, and directed by Joe Wright. Dec. 22

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

In 1973, the richest man in the world was J. Paul Getty. When his 16-year-old grandson is kidnapped, Getty refuses to pay the ransom. In desperation the boy’s mother (Michelle Williams) teams up with Getty’s adviser (Mark Wahlberg) to save her son’s life. On Nov. 23, director Ridley Scott chose to entirely remove Kevin Spacey (who portrays Getty) from the completed movie and reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes with Christopher Plummer at a cost of $10 million dollars. Risky. And good on you, Mr. Scott. Dec. 25

HAPPY END

Director Michael Haneke is not known for happy endings (“Amour” and “Happy Games”), wherein lies the likely possibility of irony. Isabelle Huppert stars in this tale about a dysfunctional, affluent family with scads of skeletons in their closets. Tied to technology, their feeble attempts at interacting with one another are severely hampered. Rumored to have one of the best endings in Haneke’s career. Also starring Toby Jones and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Feb. 2

HOSTILES

Christian Bale plays a reluctant Army captain charged with escorting an Indian family from New Mexico to Montana in 1892. Pre-existing animus amongst the travelers makes for an arduous and dangerous journey. But the film’s tagline, “we are all hostiles,” suggests that they eventually find commonality with each other. Westerns typically don’t fare well at the box office but director Scott Cooper has assembled a killer cast including, Rosamund Pike and Timothee Chalamet, who could rally audiences. Jan. 19

DOWNSIZING

Society is put “under the microscope” in this quirky, sci-fi dramedy directed by Alexander Payne. When scientists discover a process that can reduce human being to a mere 6 inches tall, the ramifications are endless. On the plus side, it’s good for the environment and offers lots of financial perks. But greed and dashed expectations begin to take a toll on the wee wannabes. And there’s a catch. It’s irreversible. The trailer is incredibly funny and stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig and Christoph Waltz. Dec. 21

THE POST

In the current political climate this film stands as the poster child for relevance. Meryl Streep portrays Katharine Graham, one of the first female newspaper publishers who worked for the Washington Post. In 1971 she and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) took on Nixon during Watergate by publishing the Pentagon Papers, which resulted in his resignation. At a time when there was a power struggle for women to be heard, Graham fought fearlessly and won a great battle. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Jan. 12

PHANTOM THREAD

Thankfully, after a five-year hiatus, Daniel Day-Lewis is starring in a role that has already generated Oscar buzz. Set in 1950’s London, Day-Lewis portrays renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock who falls obsessively in love with his muse (Vicky Krieps). Lesley Manville plays Woodcock’s domineering sister and business partner, giving a whole new meaning to “three’s a crowd.” Lots of dressing and undressing ensues in this elegant drama being hailed as “a masterpiece.” Directed by the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson. Dec. 25

MOLLY’S GAME

In Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Jessica Chastain portrays former Olympic skier Molly Bloom, who ends up running an exclusive, high stakes poker game in Los Angeles. When she’s targeted by the FBI, Molly lawyers up with criminal defense attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba). Bloom and Sorkin co-script this electrifying biopic about a woman whose power is on a par with the A-listers who sit at her table. Also starring Kevin Costner, Michael Cera and Chris O’Dowd. Jan. 5

IN THE FADE

Diane Kruger won Best Actress at this year's Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of a woman hell bent on seeking revenge after her family is brutally murdered by neo-Nazis. When the German criminal justice system fails to convict the xenophobes who killed her Kurdish husband and young son, she takes matters into her own hands. Director Fatih Akin bases his film on race-hate attacks that occurred in Germany between 2000 and 2007. But sadly, these acts of terror are alive and thriving worldwide these days. Dec. 27

*Dates are subject to change. 

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