The following is another installment in my monthly column for Culture Fly
As the sleigh bells chime this Christmas, the cinema is providing you with the best advent calendar and… that’s quite enough of that. There’s nothing worse than a forced introduction that tries to capitalise on the festive feeling. But, that doesn’t distract from the amount of quality product hitting the cinema this month. A Disney animation, some Oscar hopefuls and a little return to the galaxy far far away should give you movies yule love (sorry not sorry).
First up is Moana (2nd Dec), the latest Disney animation. Following the year’s best film, Zootropolis, is going to be a difficult task, but Moana is a return to the traditional Disney formula. There’s a princess, there’s a cute animal sidekick and it’s directed by Disney stalwarts Ron Clements and John Musker. Whilst this does sound groan-worthy, the old hands have twisted the formula. This time there is no love interest, and as someone who studied feminism in Disney Princess films for his dissertation, I can tell you that that is a welcome step. Second, Moana is a Polynesian Princess, breaking away from the blond hair, white skin standard. She is independent and on a journey of self-discovery. Oh, and it features the Rock singing. If listening to the Rock singing can’t get you into the cinema then I don’t know what will.
Maybe it might be Sully (2nd Dec). Opening the same day as Moana, this film tells the story of Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who landed in the Hudson. Recreating the crash itself and its aftermath, this is another true-life tale directed by Clint Eastwood. Eastwood is on solid form, drawing another great performance from Tom Hanks. Hanks’ consistency often makes him overlooked by awards bodies. Hopefully, this time out he’ll get another nomination.
If Eastwood’s offering is a little bit too staid for you, Office Christmas Party (7th Dec) should give you enough raucous humour for the year. Focusing on the worst thing about the festive season, the film aims to make you think your office party wasn’t that bad. Featuring a familiar cast — Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller — the film feels overly familiar. Hopefully, director pair Josh Gordon and Will Speck give us something that’s more like their goofy Blades of Glory than The Switch. Expect fart jokes and acidic insults.
It’s hard to segue from fart jokes to slavery. Nonetheless, the next movie to watch is The Birth of a Nation (9th Dec). It focuses on Nat Turner, the slave who led a rebellion. It’s complex material and it was met with raves when it premiered at Sundance. Its reputation has been sullied by the rape accusations levelled at director-writer-star Nate Parker. Regardless of what you think about the artist, the film’s subject matter means the film should be watched if it can educate people.
A film series audiences will always flock to is Star Wars and this month it returns with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (16th Dec). The film is a bit of an unknown entity. Just how big can a spin-off Star Wars film be? The lack of Jedi doesn’t mean the force isn’t strong with this one. Darth Vader returns as our diverse heroes attempt to steal the Death Star plans. Expect a more boots-on-the-ground approach to the fabled universe. But, it’ll be interesting to see if Gareth Edwards’ DIY directing style can translate into the Star Wars house style. Let’s hope those reshoot rumours don’t damage the movie.
Another movie that has received a lot of press coverage for its backstage antics is Passengers (21st Dec), a sci-fi featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Starring as two passengers who wake up 90 years too early on an intergalactic trip, Lawrence and Pratt must work out why they woke up and if something sinister is afoot. They must also find time for a bit of romance. The trailer makes it look a bit generic, but the two stars are charismatic and loveable. Hopefully, their individual charisma can turn into chemistry.
There are also limited re-releases for Blue Velvet (2nd Dec) and Donnie Darko (23 Dec) so if you’re in the vicinity of a cinema playing either of those movies, go watch one.