We are now a fair few days into December, but no new releases for the last films of the decade until today. So welcome to your lovely detailed look at films released this month. We have an Oscar contender, some obvious kid-friendly films (none targeted towards the season though). An ending to a trilogy and Tom Hooper’s first foray into horror. Let’s have a look!
Honey boy – 6th December
A young actor tries to reconcile with his father after surviving a turbulent childhood.
2019 will top off a terrific year for Shia LaBeouf. The Peanut Butter Falcon was a terrific film was very much worthy of its many plaudits and Honey Boy appears to be following that trend. Loosely based on LaBeouf’s own childhood and written during his stay in a rehab clinic in 2017, Honey Boy looks like a very cathartic film. You can’t get more cathartic than casting yourself as your own broken, destructive father. This should not be one to miss and should do very well when it comes to Indie nominations over awards season. It’s taken a little while, but it seems that we are finally we are getting the Shia LaBeouf we were promised years ago. Read our review of Honey Boy today
Ordinary Love – 6th December
Joan and Tom have been married for many years. There is an ease to their relationship that only comes from spending a lifetime together and a depth of love which expresses itself through tenderness and humour in equal part. When Joan is unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer, the course of her treatment shines a light on their relationship as they are faced with the challenges that lie ahead.
Not the Christmasiest film by that premise. But from all accounts, this is a film that is so much more than about how Cancer can devastate a family or a couple. There are no ulterior motives, this is just a film about a couple who love each other deeply dealing with an obstacle (yes a very massive one, but an obstacle all the same). This is a film that will resonate with you long after the fact, especially with the performances of the two leads. A must-see this Christmas (or Valentines Day if you are Stateside as Ordinary Love is released then.
Lucy in the Sky – 6th December
After an awe-inspiring experience in outer space, an astronaut returns to Earth and starts to lose touch with reality in a world that now seems too small.
Why this film is coming to us so late and in such a stacked weekend is beyond me if I am honest. Reviews have not been kind to this film, which on first glance appear to be a tad harsh. Lucy in the Sky is loosely based on the story of astronaut Lisa Nowak who went to some quite drastic measures to confront a rival. There are clever uses of aspect ratios in the film and of course, Natalie Portman will provide strong performance, but whether the direction and story can keep it going remains to be seen for UK audiences.
Motherless Brooklyn – 6th December
Lionel Essrog is a lonely private detective who doesn’t let Tourette’s syndrome stand in the way of his job. Gifted with a few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel sets out to solve the murder of Frank Minna — his mentor and only friend.
Edward Norton’s 10-year passion project finally makes it screen and if you are a fan of film noir, then this one is right up your street. Based on Jonathan Letham’s novel, we switch from a contemporary New York to a 1950s one. From interviews, Norton has gone to great lengths to recreate that era and has almost tried to make a film to sit alongside Chinatown. With a strong cast, this could be a great film to catch in an already full weekend. Hopefully, it is able to walk on the side of Chinatown (only a New York version) but at almost two and a half hours, is it a tad too long?
Black Christmas – 12th December
Hawthorne College is quieting down for the holidays. One by one, sorority girls on campus are being killed by a stalker. But the killer is about to discover that this generation’s women aren’t willing to become hapless victims as they fight back.
Scott, Black Christmas came out in 2006, you have made an error here! This is the second attempt at a remake of the classic 1974 film and as you can see from the synopsis, the sorority is fighting back. Personally, it is always better when the “victims” of the story are not merely helpless. It makes sense that if these people are being stalked and hounded, they would fight back and plan. Especially if there is a group of them! In North America, this has been rated PG-13, but from the UK trailers, it appears to be a potential 15. Will this slight twist in the tail bring folks in? It will be hard to tell, but it will be Friday 13th this year, so expect a lot of promotion on that aspect.
Jumanji: The Next Level – 11th December
When Spencer goes back into the fantastical world of Jumanji, pals Martha, Fridge and Bethany re-enter the game to bring him home. But everything about Jumanji is about to change, as they soon discover more obstacles and more danger to overcome.
The first trailer for this seemed as if there was simply just too much going on with the subplots. Though getting to see the actors perform differently is a nice switch. Jumanji had the fortune of playing very long at the box office with The Greatest Showman. With certain films on the horizon over Christmas. It may be tougher for it to reach the same box office revenue as before. But with some changes, it stands a chance. A perfect film to keep the family happy before Christmas.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – 19th December
The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.
It is finally the end of this trilogy and this portion of the Star Wars franchise. There have been enough trials and tribulations documented about this entire trilogy to fill a book. But we are at the end game now (no not that one) and it will be interesting to see if we finish with a flourish or a whimper. The Last Jedi wasn’t as good as it could or as it needed to be, and while A Force Awakens was good, it was very much a retread and didn’t capture the new audience as much as Disney wanted.
To say there is a lot of pressure on everyone involved is an understatement. We need a Rogue One situation, low expectations, high reward! Interestingly advance tickets sales have been getting mixed messages on whether they are doing well or below estimation. So who knows what’s going on. Being in the dark this soon to an opening is at the least, certainly intriguing! Does The Rise of Skywalker have enough to send everyone home happy? Cross all the fingers and all the toes that it does.
Cats – 20th December
From Academy Award winner Tom Hooper, director of Les Misérables and The King’s Speech. Based on the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
I am sure that when this film was pitched that it was met with a little scepticism from the studio. Tom Hooper is a good director and he possibly had carte blanche forever after Les Miserables. BUT, what in God’s green earth is this nonsense? The second trailer doubled down on how stupid everything looks and I know earlier in this piece I stated jokingly that this was a horror film, but it isn’t really that far off. I have spoken about this trailer personally before and not one part of it makes sense to be made theatrically.
What makes even less sense is that Tom Hooper has said in interviews that he does not understand the ridicule of the trailer and found it “entertaining”. It really shouldn’t be. The story barely makes it something suitable for film, but the effects are a disaster, nothing more and nothing less. Just a disaster. This could bomb very heavily at the box office and critically. What shouldn’t go unnoticed is the sudden rush of positive articles regarding the film over the past couple of weeks. Universal needs this to perform well in its first week as a counter programme against Star Wars as it will be swept aside on Boxing Day by Little Women. It is vital those first reviews are positive. If not… Well, The Razzies will await it with wide-open arms.
Little Women – 26th December
Following the lives of four sisters, Amy, Jo, Beth and Meg, as they come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. Though all very different from each other, the March sisters stand by each other through difficult and changing times.
Greta Gerwig is gunning for another Best Director, Academy Award nomination with this film and it will be deserved if what is being said from reviews is true. The reason I am worried for Cats is because of how strong Little Women I with the critics. Awards nominations and wins will fly in for this film and with such a strong cast, not many films on that side of Christmas will be able to touch it and in fact, if you look at the releases upcoming in January, it has The Gentlemen, Jojo Rabbit and 1917 to compete against. It is not until January 17th with Bombshell that it will receive any real competition. It could be a truly massive hit, with the audience, critics, box office and awards. Let’s just hope it lives up to the buzz.
Playing with Fire – 26th December
When straight-laced fire superintendent Jake Carson and his elite team of firefighters come to the rescue of three siblings, they quickly realize that no amount of training could prepare them for their most challenging job yet — babysitting. As their lives, jobs and depot get turned upside down, the three men soon learn that children — much like fires — are wild and unpredictable.
Some critics have ripped this family-friendly film to shreds and have in the audience’s minds, been quite harsh to it. Where it sits on 22% on Rotton Tomatoes, audiences have it at a very good 78%. The film obviously wasn’t intended for critics, but with more and more family targeted films getting poor reviews, to then get great audience ones. You have to wonder where the disconnect between the two lies. The cast is actually quite strong for this film and it plays directly into John Cena’s wheelhouse. It should make a decent amount, but it does have a challenger over the Christmas period. One for the kids? Sure, but that isn’t a bad thing.
Spies in Disguise – 26th December
Super spy Lance Sterling and scientist Walter Beckett are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is not. But what Walter lacks in social skills he makes up for in smarts and invention, creating the awesome gadgets Lance uses on his epic missions. But when events take an unexpected turn, Walter and Lance suddenly have to rely on each other in a whole new way.
There aren’t too many films targeting the younger family bracket releases this Christmas (sadly two released on the same day), but wisely there is a nice two-week gap between Spies in Disguise and Jumanji, so it should be fine. The film looks a good bit of fun and should be one to please everyone involved. Whether or not it goes long into January is another question, but as January is usually awards and adult orientated, it has a good chance to be in the top ten for a while. Not much has been released other than the trailers, but the premiere was a day or two ago, so expect critic noise soon.
That is all for December, not an overly packed month of films, but usually, we see films in this month play a bit longer. See you next decade!