“La La Land” and “Passengers”: Films to see in December

Wow folks, it’s December now. The final month of 2016. Absolutely crazy how the time flew by, right? Well, with this end of the year comes the end of new releases, but Hollywood tends to save the best for last. As such, this rundown is as strong as it has ever been. From Academy Award contenders to blockbusters in the making, it’s all here. Oscar will almost certainly take notice when it comes to most of these, so you should as well. Much like last month, even the honorable mentions are superb, so don’t sleep on ones that didn’t make my ten, like Assassin’s Creed, Collateral Beauty, Hidden Figures, Neruda, Paterson, and Toni Erdmann, to name a few. Now though, the cream of the movie crop…

Here are the very best cinematic bets for December:

10. A Monster Calls – I’ve seen this odd fairy tale of sorts and I’m not convinced it’s going to find an audience. It’s a good movie, mind you, but a tough sell. Felicity Jones is pretty good in a supporting role, but it’s too intense for kids and perhaps a bit too odd for prestige fare audiences. We shall see. Fans of the book will likely take a shine to it. It’s worth checking out, even if it won’t be for everyone.

9. 20th Century Women – One of the best things I saw at the New York Film Festival this year was this coming of age dramedy from Mike Mills. The star of the show is Annette Bening in her maternal role, though the entire ensemble is very strong. The ending especially packs as big a punch as anything in a while. Perhaps too quirky for widespread Academy acclaim (there’s a lot of Mills’ Beginners in here), it seems likely to at least get Bening another nomination.

8. Live by Night – Ben Affleck’s latest film is one that I’ve yet to see, though I’m hearing mixed things about it. Still, he’s three for three as a filmmaker in my book and that counts for something. If nothing else, it seems likely to be a hit, as big gangster tales are usually pretty popular. Call it a hunch, but this is probably the holiday movie your dad will most want to see.

7. Silence – Like everyone else, I’ve yet to see Martin Scorsese’s passion project, though I will hopefully before long. Once it’s seen, we’ll know just how big of an Oscar contender it is. For now, it’s a huge X factor, potentially steamrolling everything except the frontrunner, or just emerging with a whimper. Personally, I really can’t wait to find out, either way.

6. Patriots Day – Another movie I’ve seen, this is a surprisingly great procedural from Peter Berg. Mark Wahlberg and the entire cast is solid, while Berg delivers emotion on top of thrills. It’s as good as Lone Survivor, if not better (I lean towards better). Another contender that will make a ton of money, there’s a chance this becomes the American Sniper of 2016. Sleep on it at your own peril…

5. Fences – The buzz is deafening around this play adaptation. Denzel Washington has gotten solid reviews for his direction here, but it’s his acting that is dominating the conversation, along with that of Viola Davis. Both could wind up the frontrunners in their respective categories before long (and Davis already is in hers). I’ll be seeing it soon and can’t wait. Sit tight for more on it then!

4. Jackie – As I wrote about earlier in the week, this is a magnificent film. Natalie Portman is literally amazing in the title role. In all the ways this could have been a simple and unspectacular prestige project, it turned into an offset of the biopic genre in all the best forms. I was stunned by it when I saw it a few months ago, and still am stunned by it now. It’s damn near a masterpiece. Need I say any more?

3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – The first Star Wars spinoff hasn’t screened for anyone yet, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s Star Wars, and we’ll all be there. The hope is that this offers something a little grittier than the Saga entries, but hey, does it really matter? We’ll be here for it and Oscar likely will take notice in the tech categories, so expect an all around success.

2. Passengers – Another X factor is this unseen science fiction romance. I’ve read the script and really dug that, so there’s potential here. Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are expertly cast, so sparks should fly. Depending on what was changed, there’s a chance we have a late breaking contender. In all likelihood, it’ll just be well done popcorn entertainment. Nothing wrong with that.

1. La La Land – Believe the hype. Not only is the musical perhaps my favorite film of the year (it’s 1A and 1B between this and Hell or High Water), it’s certainly the frontrunner at the Oscars in a number of categories. Damien Chazelle outdid himself, which is hard after how amazing Whiplash was. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are the screen couple of the year. I’ll write more about this one very soon, but just know it’s probably even better than what you’ve heard. There, I said it.

Honorable Mentions: Assassin’s Creed, Collateral Beauty, Hidden Figures, Julieta, Neruda, Office Christmas Party, Paterson, Sing, Toni Erdmann, and Why Him?

passengers 2016 jennifer lawrence-chris pratt
Be sure to check out these various films all throughout the month of December!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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