December 2016 Movie Preview

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, folks! Well…maybe not in theatres in the U.K. because unlike America, the Oscar contenders are few and far between until January and February only leaving a handful of releases in December. We’ve still got a few things to look forward to this month but in keeping with what we should be doing at the end of a year we should be looking ahead to what 2017 has to offer.

But for now, let’s just dive right in and see what multiplexes will be offering this December to shelter us from the cold outdoors.

December 2nd 2016
Bleed For This – 
When it comes to boxing movies, you either get your inspirational true stories about an underdog like ‘Raging Bull‘ or your inspirational fictional stories about an underdog like ‘Rocky‘ or ‘Million Dollar Baby‘. ‘Bleed For This‘ is in the former category as it’s based on the true story of Vinny Paz who, in the 90s, won the world title for junior middleweight boxing. However, shortly afterwards he was involved in a car accident which resulted in his near-paralysis where he was told he’d never walk again let alone fight. Vinny had to wear a neck-brace and a metal frame was screwed into his skull, but he was so determined to keep boxing that he kept to his intense work-our regimen. He then went back into the ring for one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history.

This is a true story where it seems like the actual hook of the story is something that can be explained to you and shown in the trailer and while the talent looks good for ‘Bleed For This‘, it feels like I already know everything the movie has to offer. But, we have Miles Teller playing Vinny, Katey Segal as his wife and Aaron Eckhart as his coach. Director Ben Younger hasn’t made a feature length film in over a decade, so this could be something of a comeback for him as well, even though the film’s Oscar chances seem dead in the water at this point.

Moana –
It’s hard to know exactly what Disney’s biggest money-maker is at the moment apart from, y’know, EVERYTHING. In 2010 I would have said their Pixar films after ‘Toy Story 3‘ made a billion dollars. In 2011, I would have said the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise after their latest made a billion dollars. In 2012, it would have been their MCU after ‘The Avengers‘ and in 2013 their Princess Brand with ‘Frozen‘ etc. But in 2016 their Pixar and MCU branches BOTH made a billion with ‘Zootropolis‘ hitting that benchmark out of nowhere as well. If anything, it seems like their Princess Brand that was their staple for decades might actually be one of their smaller hits of the year.

Moana‘ will be getting by on the talent on board as opposed to its premise and novelty since its mythology is something not quite in the mainstream.  Composer and writer Lin-Manuel Miranda is doing the songs and Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson voices the “out-there” comic relief demigod. So ‘Pocahontas‘ meets ‘Aladdin‘ meets “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker”. This looks like a fun time at the movies and should appeal to fans of ‘Tangled‘ and ‘Frozen‘, even if it likely won’t be the money-maker that ‘Frozen‘ was.

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson –
Before you folks ask, ‘Sully: Miracle on the Hudson‘ is the U.K. title of the movie known as ‘Sully‘ in the States. With that out of the way…it feels like every year Tom Hanks leads a potential Oscar-contender, whether it’s ‘Captain Phillips‘, ‘Bridge of Spies‘, ‘Toy Story 3‘ or ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close‘. However, he’s not been nominated for any of those films because his incredible acting-talent is just accepted as standard. This time we have ‘Sully: Miracle on the Hudson‘ which tells the story of the aftermath of aircraft pilot Chesley Sullenberger crash-landing a commercial plane into the Hudson River.

The movie also has many eyes on it because it’s another from director Clint Eastwood (though after ‘American Sniper‘ me and Clint don’t quite see eye-to-eye right now) and with the biopic subject matter it’s sure to be a serious Oscar Contender. It’s an interesting approach to look at the inquest on Sullenberger as opposed to the actual crash, but it’s a story that’s not well known and deserves to have the spotlight shone upon it. Reviews have been good, the talent is there so this looks like a safe bet in December.

December 7th 2016
Office Christmas Party – 

With R-rated comedies being big business with the right talent and subject-matter, it only makes sense for adult-anti-Christmas-comedies to be on the rise with films like ‘Bad Santa 2‘ and ‘The Night Before‘ being greenlit. The latest film in that category is ‘Office Christmas Party‘ which is essentially a bunch of funny people holding a huge work-party for Christmas and hilarity allegedly ensues.

That’s basically it.

There’s a lot of funny people involved (though the directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck haven’t made much of note) and it’s one of those films that will surely cater to fans of these party-films. Just watch the trailer below and if it peaks your interest then have at it. But I doubt it’ll be able to reach the non-converted.

December 9th 2016
The Birth of a Nation – 
The Birth of a Nation‘ movie from 1915 is an uncomfortable piece of film-making history. Essentially a Ku Klux Klan promotional tool it’s also America’s first blockbuster movie and pioneered a lot of filming techniques that are common-place today. However, what filmmaker Nate Parker is doing is claiming that title and turning it against its propaganda-origins into a movie about Nat Turner; a slave in the 19th century who led a rebellion of other slaves against their owners.

A year ago, the movie would easily have been the frontrunner at the Oscars (partially because of the #OscarSoWhite controversy last year) but recent news concerning serious rape allegations against Parker and co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin have potentially changed that and have overshadowed the film whose merits have been shouted out by all who saw it pre-controversy at film festivals like Sundance. If you’re able to separate the artist from the art and are okay with harrowing subject matter then ‘The Birth of a Nation‘ could be a film worth seeing. For everyone else, this might not be ideal Christmas viewing.

I Am Not A Serial Killer –
And now for something quite different, here’s a very low-key December 2016 release. Based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Dan Wells, ‘I Am Not A Serial Killer‘ has been making modest waves on the independent horror-circuit. It focuses on a 16-year old boy played by Max Records (the kid from ‘Where The Wild Things Are‘) who has all the makings of a serial killer, even though he actually hasn’t done anyone any harm yet. However he must release his inner demons when an actual serial killer played by Christopher Lloyd (needs no introduction) makes himself known in his town.

It looks like an intriguing piece of Christmas counter-programming and while reviews don’t seem unanimous on its pros and cons, it’s been quite well received as a whole for its modest aspirations and mystery-angle. ‘I Am Not A Serial Killer‘ could be a stand-out film and will be a touch of darkness in an otherwise festive season.

Snowden –
Coming from ‘Platoon‘, ‘Wall Street‘ and ‘W.‘ director Oliver Stone we have another Oscar contender whose chances of winning seem to have dwindled in recent months. ‘Snowden‘, as the title suggests, is the story of Edward Snowden; a former C.I.A. employee who blew the whistle that the government was immorally spying on U.S. citizens without their knowledge or permission. The movie chronicles his early career working with the U.S. army to him (spoilers) being granted asylum in Russia after leaking government secrets.

Reviews have been decent, but not quite on the level that many people were hoping for with people praising Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as Snowden and how faithful it is to the true events but criticising how it plays it safe and feels rather low-budget despite it having an official price-tag of $40M. ‘Snowden‘ feels like a release that might be worth watching on impulse if you have seen almost everything else that’s currently released, though a potential last-minute awards-push could give it a second wind in early 2017.

December 16th 2016
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 

And now, for many people, we have the most anticipated movie of 2016; ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story‘. Taking place before the events of Episode 4, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story‘ details the un-seen story of the Empire’s Death Star plans being stolen and transmitted to Princess Leia, essentially setting into motion the events of the original trilogy. It’s also the first major attempt from the franchise at a non-episodic story outside of the Skywalker bubble.

Honestly, as much as I love the original “Star Wars” trilogy, I’ve not been massively hyped for this new era of the franchise. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ was pretty good but not mind-blowing and while the marketing for this film has been good, I’m just not feeling hyped right now. I love Felicity Jones but the trailers are painting her character as pretty bland, Gareth Edwards has yet to actually make a good movie and despite initially selling this film as a war movie, extensive reshoots and re-scoring suggest a different tone and approach to what we were promised. I’m not saying the film looks or will be terrible, I just don’t feel that excited for ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story‘. I’ll be seeing it opening weekend, but it’s got a lot to prove.

December 21st 2016
Passengers – 

And people say Hollywood isn’t making original films anymore (even though ‘Passengers‘ is the 3rd original film being previewed here and it’s not even the last). ‘Passengers‘ takes place in the far future where a portion of humanity are being transported across space in the Starship Avalon on course for a new human colony. The journey will take 120 years so the thousands of passengers on board are put in hibernation pods. But 30 years into the journey, two passengers played by Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence wake up early and are unable to go back to sleep.

It’s a great sci-fi concept that deals with themes that humanity may have to deal with in the future; colonising other worlds and transporting people there. It’s also an intimate story about people dealing with never being able to see that new world through random chance…or was there a reason the two woke up early? It’s a great idea from ‘The Imitation Game‘ director Morten Tyldum and the talent is up on screen and behind the camera, even if there seems to have been a ‘Passengers‘-backlash in recent weeks due to terrible marketing from Sony. Hopefully the movie delivers on its potential and a high-concept original film can make waves this month.

December 26th 2016
Collateral Beauty – 

Another original film, but my expectations are very different for ‘Collateral Beauty‘. Coming from the director of ‘One Chance‘ (*vomits a bit*) we have an Oscar-baitey movie that assembles a very talented cast working with such a ridiculously silly, but self-serious premise. Will Smith plays a New York advertising executive who loses his child and starts to retreat from the rest of the world. To help out, his friends played by Kate Winslet, Michael Peña and Edward Norton literally write letters to Love, Time and Death and in response Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore and Helen Mirren speak with Will Smith about life.

Where to start?

I’m sure the idea sounded profound when first pitched, but seeing the trailer and seeing serious actors play it out makes it very hard to take seriously, ironically. I don’t hold out much hope for ‘Collateral Beauty‘.

Monster Trucks –
The final movie being previewed in 2016 comes from ‘Ice Age‘, ‘Robots‘ and ‘Epic‘ director Chris Wedge making his live-action directorial debut. ‘Monster Trucks‘ follows Lucas Till as a high school senior who meets an alien monster who likes to hide in his truck. The intelligent, child-like and tentacled creature is able to pull off insane stunts in the vehicle like leaping, flipping, climbing up walls and more.

And sue me, because this looks fun.

Look, my expectations for ‘Monster Trucks‘ are at rock-bottom. I don’t expect this to be good, but as long as it’s honest to its younger target audience then I can’t see having much of a problem here. So yeah…’Monster Trucks‘ looks fun.

So, we’ve got a few interesting films to finish 2016, but this year is going to end quietly (well, not box-office wise thanks to ‘Moana‘ and ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story‘. My most anticipated (in no particular order) are;

  • Moana
  • I Am Not A Serial Killer
  • Passengers

What are you all looking forward to this December? Are there any other releases that I missed that you can’t wait to see? Be sure to sound off in the comments section below!

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Posted In: Movie Previews

Author: Trilbee

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Posted: 6th Dec 16