It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and this year that means several Hallmark-inspired romantic romps, more than one dark take on the holidays, and yes, Oscar-bait (to include a musical). Considering all that’s new this month, in theaters and at home, there may be something for everyone.
Streaming now on Netflix:
The Power of the Dog, a Western/drama from Jane Campion, adapted from the Tom Savage novel. It stars Kirsten Dunst as a woman who finds her new life on a ranch inhospitable, as her husband (Jesse Plemons, real life fiance)’s brother (Benedict Cumberbatch) is especially cruel. Kodi Smit-McPhee plays her son. I am very excited for this one.
Single All The Way, a (gay!) Christmas comedy. Michael Urie stars as a perpetually single problem his “family has to solve,” and convinces his best friend to come with him as pose as his boyfriend. I assume they fall in love at the end. At least we have Kathy Najimy!
The Whole Truth is a “mystical, hair-raising horror.” It reminds me of The Visit.
Cobalt Blue, an Indian drama: “An aspiring author and his free-spirited sister both fall for the enigmatic paying guest at their home, ensuing events rock their traditional family.”
Mixtape, a comedy about a quirky 12-year-old seeking a mixtape made by her deceased parents. The film is set in the last weeks of 1999. Looks fun!
New at the box office:
Descarrilados is a Spanish-language comedy. Three friends go on a multi-country journey by train to honor their recently-deceased friend.
Tadap is a Hindi romance about two star-crossed lovers.
Death of a Telemarketer stars Lamorne Morris as a desperate telemarketer who is held hostage by a man from the Do Not Call list.
Torn is a documentary. The son of Alex Lowe, a famed climber, seeks to find the spot where his father perished in an avalanche decades ago.
Benedetta is a drama from Paul Verhoeven, stars Virginie Efira as Benedetta Carlini, a 17th century nun who joins an Italian convent and has an affair with another nun. The overall reviews are not good, but Verhoeven is misunderstood, and people aren’t usually in favor of lesbian nuns.
Citizen Ashe is a documentary about tennis champion and humanitarian Arthur Ashe.
Twas the Night is a dark comedy. Nicole Pringle, David S. Perez, Paul Van Scott, and Lisa Panagopoulos star.
Silent Night is a Christmas-themed comedy horror. Matthew Goode and Keira Knightley star. Too soon.
Wolf is a horror movie. It’s nice that Lily-Rose Depp has been able to get so much work.
Try Harder! is a documentary about high school. Look, when that kid said he’d take the SAT every week if he could, I noped out of there. Because I felt that way too, and 17 years later is too soon.
Streaming Thursday on Netflix:
Asakusa Kid, a heartwarming biopic about Japanese comedian Takeshi Kitano.
New in theaters this Friday, December 10:
West Side Story, as directed by Stephen Spielberg. Look, I feel weird, and not because I hate musicals (I do). There are some missteps with the 1957 musical, I don’t think a white guy should be at the helm (again), I think Ansel Elgort is the worst choice for Tony, and yet! I am going to watch the hell out of this. Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her work as Anita will appear in the film, so there’s that. (And yes! I know it’s inspired by Romeo and Juliet!)
Red Rocket is a 2021 American comedy-drama directed by Sean Baker (Tangerine, The Florida Project). Simon Rex stars as a “washed up porn star” who returns to his small Texas hometown, “even though no one wants him back.”
The Hating Game stars Lucy Hale as a woman who falls in love with her sycophant coworker, who is also competing with her for a promotion. It’s based on a book, so it probably has a happy ending?
Streaming this Friday on Prime:
Encounter is a sci-fi drama co-written and directed by Michael Pearce and stars Riz Ahmed, Octavia Spencer, Janina Gavankar, Rory Cochrane, Lucian-River Chauhan, and Aditya Geddada. Ahmed is a Marine Corps veteran on the run from an alien invasion.
New this Friday on Netflix:
Anonymously Yours is a Spanish-language Mexican romantic drama.
Back to the Outback is an animated film about deadly Australian animals (and also a koala) who escape and head for the Outback, like Over the Hedge or Madagascar. The film features voices from Isla Fisher, Tim Minchin, Eric Bana, Guy Pearce, Miranda Tapsell, Angus Imrie, Keith Urban, Aislinn Derbez, and Jacki Weaver.
The Unforgivable stars Sandra Bullock as a woman who has been released from prison. Sentenced for committing a violent crime, she struggles to re-enter society. The film, which has a low rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is an adaptation of Sally Wainwright’s miniseries Unforgiven.
On the platform December 15:
The Hand of God, an Italian drama, had a limited release in theaters last month. The film has some buzz, having won the Grand Jury Prize at the the Venice International Film Festival.
Streaming December 16:
A California Christmas: City Lights is a sequel to A California Christmas, also on Netflix.
A Naija Christmas …it’s like if Succession were a Black family, with no daughters, and the prize was a home instead of some nebulous business.
And that day on Hulu:
Dead Asleep, a documentary about a man who killed his female roommate while sleepwalking (allegedly).
In theaters Friday, December 17:
Spider-Man: No Way Home, the third in the Tom Holland as Spider-Man series, stars, well, Tom Holland. Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, J. B. Smoove, Benedict Wong, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, and Rhys Ifans. People seem really excited to see Dafoe, Foxx, Molina, and Church return as their villains from the last several Spider-Man films.
Nightmare Alley, the latest from Guillermo del Toro, stars Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn. Cooper is an “ambitious carny” who “hooks up” with a dangerous psychiatrist. This is an adaptation of the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham; the novel was adapted previously in 1947 and starred Tyrone Power.
President is a documentary about Zimbabwe’s first presidential election since the ousting of Robert Mugabe. It follows Nelson Chamisa as he runs against ruly president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The Novice stars Isabelle Fuhrman as a college athlete determined to make the varsity team. I relate to this in a way that makes me think I shouldn’t see it! The reviews are very good, by the way.
The King’s Man, the third in the Kingsman series, is “a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions, one man and his protégé must race against time to stop them.” (They mean Rasputin and Matta Hari.) Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, and many, many more star.
Sing 2 is a “computer-animated jukebox musical comedy film.” Garth Jennins, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Nick Kroll, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, and Nick Offerman return. The singing animals, having proven in the last film that they are worthy, are told they aren’t good enough after all and have to prove themselves again.
The Velvet Queen is a nature documentary about wildlife on the Tibetan plateau. Renowned wildlife photographer Vincent Munier and novelist Sylvain Tesson explore the landscape. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis provide the soundtrack!
The Matrix Resurrections, which will also air on HBOMax, uh, resurrects the Matrix series.
Parallel Mothers is a drama by Pedro Almodóvar. Penélope Cruz and Milena Smit star as two women who befriend each other when the both give birth at the same hospital and learn they both became pregnant by accident.
’83 is an Indian Hindi-language biographical sports film about cricketer Kapil Dev.
Mother/Android, a dystopian thriller starring Chloë Grace Moretz as a young woman on the run with her boyfriend. The dystopia? Her country is at war with artificial intelligence.
Amazon Prime will release Being the Ricardos on December 21:
The drama stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It follows the couple during the production of I Love Lucy for a few days while they face a marriage-threatening crisis. Unfortunately, and I say this from the perspective of a Lucille Ball superfan, the film is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. I’m going to watch this, but I’m not going to be happy about it.
And on Netflix that day:
Grumpy Christmas is a Spanish-language holiday comedy.
On the platform Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24:
1000 Miles from Christmas which lacked a trailer at press time.
Don’t Look Up is a satirical science fiction film written, produced, and directed by Adam McKay, who makes prestige comedies, now. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence are two “low-level astronomers” on a failed media tour to warn mankind that an approaching comet will destroy Earth. Is my faith in humanity shaken in the pandemic? Hell yes. Do I think this is an overly cynic take on our country? Also yes. The Verge calls it an “emotional ride through the absurd.”
Minnal Murali is an Indian Malayalam-language superhero film. “A tailor gains special powers after being struck by lightning, but must take down an unexpected foe if he is to become the superhero his hometown needs.”
STAND BY ME Doraemon 2 is an anime film. A man travels to the future to introduce his bride to his grandma, only to learn that he has also fled his own wedding.
Vicky and Her Mystery is a French drama about a little girl who moves to Cantal with her father after her mother’s death and finds healing through the love of a dog. Like Fly Away Home (and about a dozen other movies in the ‘90s I was All About).
New in theaters December 25:
A Journal for Jordan, directed by Denzel Washington, is a war drama. Based on Dana Canedy’s memoir A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor, it stars Michael B. Jordan as a soldier deployed in Iraq who keeps a journal for his infant son. Chanté Adams stars as his partner.
The Tragedy of Macbeth is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth written and directed by Joel (but not Ethan) Coen. Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand (who serves as a producer!!) star. The film will stream on Apple TV+ next month.
American Underdog stars Zachary Levi as retired football player Kurt Warner. The religious drama follows his rise to football. I felt like we talked about this already?
Streaming on Netflix on Boxing Day, December 26:
Lulli, a Brazilian comedy about a self-centered med student who can hear people’s thoughts following an accident.
Coming to theaters December 29:
Jockey: “An aging jockey contemplates his legacy and aims for a final championship when a rookie rider arrives, claiming to be his son.”
New on Netflix December 30:
Hilda and the Mountain King, an animated film, follows a young girl who wakes up in the body of a troll. She “must use her wits and courage” to return to her human body, save her city, and get home.
And the day after, New Year’s Eve, December 31:
The Lost Daughter, an adaptation of the Elena Ferrante novel, directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film stars Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal, Dagmara Domińczyk, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ed Harris. A woman on vacation is unraveled by her memories of early motherhood.
Seal Team I fucking hate this.