Here we are, almost at the end of another year. 2019 has already given us a bounty of film goodies, no matter what your taste. But the biggest movie season of them all is now upon us as studios rush to pad their wallets and gear up for the Oscars.
Holiday Movie Season has now arrived, and brings with it the usual suspects of Christmas Day blockbuster contenders and late-year Oscar hopefuls. But it’s also a reflection of the year that was. Disney continues to dominate the box office schedule, with investments or distribution money in six of the current Top 10 box office earners for the year, and the studio is getting ready to launch its last two behemoths, “Frozen II” and “Star Wars: Episode IX — Rise of the Skywalker” in November and December, respectively.
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At this point, it’s also looking like Disney will finish the aughts having the year’s top-grossing film in seven out of 10 years. The only way to compete for that type of money is by making your own franchises, and this year’s holiday slate includes other studios releasing their fair share of remakes and Intellectual Property titles.
But this year’s schedule also features some of the most highly-anticipated films in recent memory, and if there’s any justice, a lot of the films listed here will go on to be Oscar contenders.
Read on to see what the next two months have in store at the box office.
“Doctor Sleep” — Nov. 8
“Doctor Sleep” is an adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 sequel to “The Shining.” King has long been vocal about his distaste for Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel (his main gripe: In the book, Jack Torrance’s slow descent into madness is understood to be a result of his genetic alcoholism [itself a reflection of King’s own fear of his own alcoholism] and the Overlook Hotel’s mysterious hold over its guests; in the movie, Jack Nicholson just makes Jack seem crazy from the get-go), but he seems excited about this adaptation of the sequel, even though this trailer cribs heavily from images used in Kubrick’s original.
The book “Doctor Sleep” follows Danny Torrance as an adult (Ewan McGregor) struggling with his own alcoholism and his place in the world, figuring out how to use his “shining” for good. When he meets another young girl just like him who is being hunted by vampire circus freaks (King’s later output is crazy, y’all), he has to use his powers to save her. The book was not one of my favorite King reads, but it was enjoyable enough. Director Mike Flanagan, he of the Netflix adaptations “Haunting of Hill House” (which I adored) and “Gerald’s Game” (another King property; I loved it but it was so eerie I’m never watching it again) is behind this one.
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I’m excited to see what he’ll bring to the story. Early reviews suggest this is the perfect marriage of King’s bleeding heart and Kubrick’s cold aesthetics.
“Last Christmas” — Nov. 8
Only this cast (Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emilia Clarke, Emma Thompson) and this writer/director team (Thompson and Paul Feig, respectively) could make me break my hard-and-fast “No Christmas movies or music before Black Friday” rule. This looks charming as all get-out.
“Midway” — Nov. 8
“In my dreams I’ll always see you soar across the sky…” oh wait, that’s from “Pearl Harbor,” which “Midway” looks an awful lot alike. This looks like it will benefit from direction from Roland Emmerich, he of action disaster movie greatness like “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”
“Honey Boy” — Nov. 8
In this semi-autobiographical film written by Shia LaBeouf, a child star navigates fame while dealing with his father, who lives vicariously through his son. LaBeouf stars as his own father, and Lucas Hedges stars as the adult Shia (it sounds like he’s got his vocal cadences down pat). This trailer also has an “Even Stevens” reference in it, which is always welcome.
“Charlie’s Angels” — Nov. 15
“Ford v. Ferrari” — Nov. 15
20th Century Fox is aiming for that Thanksgiving Dad demographic. Director James Mangold (“Logan,” the “3:10 to Yuma” remake) knows a thing or two about directing kinetic action setpieces, so this should be fun to watch. And in light of recent news about sportswriting employees getting screwed over by bosses and the Houston Astros’ World Series mishandling of sexist, abusive, egregious behavior by its management, this tale of battle between the corporations who sign checks and the workers who actually work to make that money in the first place feels timely.
“The Good Liar” — Nov. 15
A thriller/con artist caper starring Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren and directed by Bill Condon. I’ve heard there are more twists that this trailer lets on. Color me intrigued.
“Waves” — Nov. 15
As much as I like ambiguity in movies (not everything has to be in black and white!) I couldn’t stand the deliberate obfuscation Trey Edward Shults used in his horror film “It Comes At Night.”
His latest film, the family saga drama “Waves,” starring Sterling K. Brown, got rave reviews out of the Toronto Film Festival. This trailer alone makes me want to see it solely because it reminds me of “The Place Beyond the Pines,” another sprawling family saga.
“Frozen II” — Nov. 22
Ah, I see the “Gritty and dark=REAL” mode of thinking has extended even unto Disney’s “Frozen” empire. (Peep the “II” naming convention, instead of “2.”) After the first film made more than $1 billion worldwide, a sequel was inevitable. And yes, “Love Is An Open Door” is a subversive riff on the Disney princess formula. And I really liked the first one. But, uh…does this sequel need to exist?
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” — Nov. 22
Hot take: No fictional account of Mr. Rogers’ life will be better than the “Won’t You be My Neighbor” documentary from 2018, or the 1998 Esquire profile that “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is based on. (I’ve read that profile at least once a year since I discovered it and I cry every time.)
I usually like Tom Hanks, but I’m wary of his performance. It’s hard to do a Fred Rogers voice without crossing over into parody, and I’m detecting a bit of a Forrest Gump dialect at some point. But this does feature Enrico Colantoni (my man Keith Mars himself!) as Rogers’ assistant, so that’s a plus. I have a feeling by the time this comes out we’ll all need a reminder of the goodness humanity is capable of, though, so I expect this to do well at the Oscars.
“21 Bridges” — Nov. 22
This got bumped from a September release to a November release, which could mean that it’s a really good action thriller that is looking to corner the early-Thanksgiving market…or it got dumped here because its American distributor STX was in dire financial straits when the film was supposed to be released.
Either way, Chadwick Boseman doing his best Denzel Washington in a crime movie directed by the Russo Brothers? Yeah, I’ll probably see this one.
“Dark Waters” — Nov. 22
Mark Ruffalo is channeling his “Spotlight” energy in another ripped-from-the-headlines tale about corruption, this time fighting DuPont in West Virginia over contaminated water. Erin Brockovich + Spotlight = Success?
“The Irishman” — Nov. 27
Word on the streets is this is 3 1/2 hours long, which makes the Netflix financing all the more fascinating. When a studio doesn’t want to bankroll a long Martin Scorsese mob epic anymore, expect the streaming services to step in. This could be the future of auteur moviemaking if “The Irishman” does well.
“Knives Out” — Nov. 29
Rian Johnson’s first film since “The Last Jedi” is a whodunit in the vein of Agatha Christie starring a murderer’s row of talent, including Daniel Craig doing his best Foghorn Leghorn. I’ve watched this trailer approximately 100 times already and I probably will watch it a couple more dozen times before Thanksgiving.
“Queen & Slim” — Nov. 29
It took me two watches of this trailer to recognize Sturgill Simpson as the cop who gets shot because I was so captivated by Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith.
(Speaking of Kaluuya, what a run of films this guy has had. “Sicario.” “Get Out.” “Black Panther.” “Widows.” And now this, which looks like a singular vision.)
Melina Matsoukas makes her feature film debut with a script from Lena Waithe and James Frey (yes, that’s fabricated “A Million Little Pieces” James Frey) about a first date that turns deadly in a modern-day update to “Bonnie and Clyde.” This whole thing reads like a Mad Lib that shouldn’t work, but I hope it does.
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” — Dec. 6
I saw this trailer before a screening of “Parasite” this week and I feel like this, about the romance between a royal and her painter, might compete with South Korea’s “Parasite” at this year’s Oscars.
“Little Joe” — Dec. 6
They say plants can cure depression but I’m not sure this is what they had in mind. I’m loving the colors here.
“Midnight Family” — Dec. 6
Another foreign film I’m excited for is this fictional look at Mexico City’s ambulance problem — the city has 45 government ambulances to service a city of 9 million people (at least, according to the film’s promotional materials). In the wake of this deficit, a scuzzy underground industry of uncertified, for-profit ambulances has popped up. One exception is the family at the center of this film, who are struggling to make a living running an ambulance company when most of their patients have no money for health care.
“Jumanji: The Next Level” — Dec. 13
The Rock is playing Danny DeVito. That’s all I needed to hear, I’m there. The first installment was better than it had any right to be, so I’m hoping this will be as fun as that one.
“Black Christmas” — Dec. 13
This second remake of the film that arguably birthed the slasher genre (the original came out in 1974, four years before John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” a film that Carpenter has said was his attempt at ripping off “Black Christmas”) looks like a fun update to the original.
Two things in favor for this update: 1) It’s from Blumhouse, and 2) It’s written by Sophia Takal and April Wolfe. Wolfe, a film historian and podcast host, is a known fan of the original film and horror films in general. Check out her podcast “Switchblade Sisters,” where she talks to female genre filmmakers, and “Who Shot Ya?,” a film podcast she often guests on that prides itself on giving voice to women, minority and POC filmmakers and critics.
“Richard Jewell” — Dec. 13
Paul Walter Hauser (“I, Tonya” and “BlacKkKlansman”) stars as Richard Jewell, the Atlanta police officer and security guard who found a pipe bomb in Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics and was later accused of planting the bomb himself. The case was a landmark example of bias in media, and this trailer plays on that fact (“Say it again, louder”). Clint Eastwood’s later-career output has been prolific, to say the least. This looks like it could be vying for Oscar glory.
“Uncut Gems” — Dec. 13
Ladies and gentlemen, behold the film that will get Adam Sandler an Oscar statue. Every now and then, the man who gave us “Little Nicky” and “Ridiculous 6” puts in a performance that proves he still takes himself seriously, like in “Punch Drunk Love” or “Funny People.”
Here, he plays a gem dealer in New York’s Diamond District who is always trying to stay one step ahead of his debt collectors. This is just a trailer, but I can viscerally feel the Safdie Brothers’ patented frenetic paranoia energy here. If you want an indication of what this film will be like, check out their 2017 film “Good Time.”
(Also, Idina Menzel is in this and “Frozen II” in the same month?! What range.)
“A Hidden Life” — Dec. 13
Terrence Malick’s latest is an examination of WWII patriotism through pacifism. After a string of lackluster films following “Tree of Life” and “To the Wonder,” this looks like Malick’s return to big, elegiac filmmaking.
“Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker” — Dec. 20
The big one. The saga ends. Rey might discover her parentage. Threepio might die. Kylo Ren might secretly be a good guy. Who knows? At this point, you already know if you’re seeing this or not. Personally, I’m hyped as hell.
“Cats” — Dec. 20
Another film that people have already made up their minds on. This trailer is absolutely bananas.
Reader, I kid you not, after this trailer showed at the beginning of my matinee screening of “The Lion King,” the woman next to me murmured, “Oh…that shit ain’t natural, that ain’t right.”
Indeed, it ain’t right, and even though I have seen a community theater performance of “Cats” before (that I slept through), I have many questions about this movie. Namely:
- Why is the Taylor Swift cat wearing heels when the other cats look like they’re not wearing shoes?
- What is “digital fur technology”? Why does it look so scary? Will “Cats” be a horror film?
- Why does James Corden look like The Penguin?
- Why are the male cats clothed, but the female cats are shirtless? Are they naked? Why does Judi Dench’s cat, who I assume is covered in fur, wearing a fur coat? What does this imply about the cat ecosystem?
- Why are the sets so big?
- Do these cats know they’re cats?
- What kind of a “new life” are these cats running toward? What will we “believe” in when this film is released? Cats?
- What are these cats genuflecting at when the trailer ends? Some kind of cat deity? WHAT IS THE PLOT OF THIS MOVIE?!
- Why do I watch this damn thing every time it pops up in my Twitter feed? Why?
“Bombshell” — Dec. 20
Give the makeup team an Oscar already. Director Jay Roach has a track record with handling political and controversial material, like with “Trumbo,” “All the Way,” “Recount” and “Game Change.” This boasts a strong cast and a lot of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos, and I hope the finished product is written and directed as well as it’s acted. This could potentially be 2019’s “Vice” — a politically charged, well-acted movie with great makeup effects that gets mixed reviews.
On another note, I still can’t tell if scoring this trailer to Billie Elish’s “bad guy” is inspired or way too on-the-nose.
“Little Women” — Dec. 27
“Lady Bird” director Greta Gerwig collaborates with an all-star cast (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep) on an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless novel. Another future Oscar contender.
“1917” — Dec. 27
Looks like this whole film is going to be pulled off in one shot (or, rather, made to look as if it were pulled off in one shot). I love a good camera gimmick, especially if it’s done well. Director Sam Mendes sounds like the right man for the job. If war films as a genre are going to survive, they might do well to look more like this and not “Midway.”
“Spies in Disguise” — Dec. 27
This trailer has one of the biggest twists I’ve ever seen, I was not prepared for this. I want to say this got bumped but I think that’s just because this trailer has been EVERYWHERE for months, so who’s to say.
“Just Mercy” — Dec. 27
“Short Term 12” director Destin Daniel Crettin is back with another humanist story, this time about a man (Jamie Foxx) falsely imprisoned for murder. Michael B. Jordan’s lawyer takes up the case. Co-starring “Short Term 12” alum Brie Larson, Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall and O’Shea Jackson Jr., this will be gunning for some acting awards.
Check out more movie reviews and news below:
- No country for crooked cops: ‘Dragged Across Concrete’ review
- A treatise on purpose, from a film that didn’t need to exist: ‘Toy Story 4’ review
- Another biopic bites the dust: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ review
- Paranoir: ‘Under the Silver Lake’ review
- A fitting end, and a promising new beginning: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ review