Hollywood has always been full of two things: existing intellectual property adaptation and rebellion on behalf of original ideas. This December, two releases separated by budget (and probably box office) are united by these common causes. Both Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Disaster Artist are related to beloved cinematic landmarks born out of dissatisfaction with the system. But we must go through a couple of other movies before we get to those two.
Happy End (1st Dec) opens the month. Even though it has the distinction of being the Michael Haneke film the Cannes film festival didn’t lose its collective shit over, any new film by the arthouse Austrian auteur is a must watch. Plot wise, the film follows an affluent family having a crisis in Calais against the backdrop of the refugee crisis.
On the same day, Wonder (1st Dec) lands into cinemas. Jacob Tremblay gives a strong performance, especially under the heavy prosthetics required to play Augie, a boy with facial disfigurement who is starting his first year at school. Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts team-up as parents who look out for their son. Children can be cruel and Stephen Chbosky has crafted a sweet and winsome movie.
The sentiment carries over into The Disaster Artist (6th Dec), James Franco’s dramatisation of the making of The Room, infamously one of the worst movies ever made. Franco stars as the mysterious Tommy Wiseau, the cult legend who has his own underwear brand. Franco fills his cast out with his usual suspects (his brother Dave and Seth Rogan appear), and he never mocks what could be easily mockable. As a star, Franco has two modes: fun film star and artistic arsehole. His directorial efforts so far settle into the latter category. The Disaster Artist is his first attempt at blending the two, and by all accounts, he’s done it.
Franco’s Pineapple Express and Your Highness director David Gordon Green has also spent his recent career switching between crowd-pleasing comedies and indie dramas. With Stronger (8th Dec) he directs the on-fire Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, a man who lost both his legs in the Boston Bombing. Tatiana Maslany and Miranda Richardson offer support in the moving and unflinching look at putting your life back together again and rising up.
If you prefer to watch documentaries, renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s acclaimed Human Flow (8th Dec) provides a different story of struggle and survival. Captured over the course of one year in 23 countries, it’s an urgent and affecting exploration of the global refugee crisis. This is vital viewing for our times; an important film about freedom, tolerance, compassion and the power of the human spirit.
Here we go, the big one. The biggest film of the month and the year: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (14th Dec). The Skywalker saga returns as Rey (Daisy Ridley) trains with Luke (Mark Hamill) who is afraid she’ll succumb to the dark side like his previous student, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Director Rian Johnson is out to prove he is worthy of the big blockbuster filmmaking people have said he is destined for since his debut Brick, and if the film is as good as the trailers suggest, he might have ruined every fans definitive ranking of SW movies. On a sadder note, it is also Carrie Fisher’s last ever performance. May the force be with her.
Only the bravest wannabe-blockbuster would open in the wake of a Star Wars movie, so step up Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (20 Dec). Starring The Rock, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black as video game avatars imbued with the souls of real-life teenagers, the aim is simple: complete the game. It looks like a fun adventure and judging from the trailers is going to feature a performance from Jack Black that will either be terrible or inspired.
Opening the same week is Pitch Perfect 3 (20 Dec) the conclusion to the Pitch Perfect trilogy. So far, the series has been delightful and winningly raunchy in a 12A way. The Bellas have great chemistry and the films are fun. Whatever happens here, we live safe in the knowledge the world is a better place with the Bellas than it is without.
Finally, the last film of the year is The Greatest Showman (26th Dec), Hugh Jackman’s passion project about PT Barnum, aka the inventor the circus. Jackman is a musical theatre pro, and debut director Michael Gracey has filled his cast with musical legends like Zac Efron and Zendaya, who hopefully has more lines worthy of her talent than she did as FLIPPING MJ in Spider-Man: Homecoming (still bitter about her lack of lines). With music by La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen’s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, even if the story is lacking the soundtrack should have some earworms.
P.S. Merry Christmas you filthy animals!