Holiday movie preview

If you write about movies, this is the time of year when you write A LOT about movies, and they’ll continue to snowball into theaters and onto streaming services through the end of the year.

There will be time to breathe in January.

Now, though, as the fall rush gives way to the early-winter avalanche, we offer this look at much of what’s coming, from Academy Award hopefuls to fanciful films the studios hope will appeal to your whole family around the holidays. (As always, dates are subject to change.)

“Candy Cane Lane” | Dec. 1 | Prime Video >> Hoping to win a neighborhood contest for the best-decorated house, Eddie Murphy’s Chris Carver makes a deal not with the devil but with an evil elf. (Ugh, sounds even worse.) Chris must then rise to the occasion to ensure his friends and family don’t suffer for his mistake.

“Silent Night” | Dec. 1 | Theaters >> Expect violence to speak louder than words in the latest effort from veteran action director John Woo (“Face/Off”). Joel Kinnaman (“For All Mankind”) portrays a father out for vengeance after his son is killed by a gang’s crossfire.

“Archies” | Dec. 7 | Netflix >> This Indian Hindi-language coming-of-age musical is set in 1960s India in a town called, you guessed it, Riverdale. Says Netflix: “Seen through the lens of the unique Anglo-Indian community, ‘The Archies’ explores friendship, freedom, love, heartbreak and rebellion.”

“Maestro” | Dec. 8 | Theaters >> Bradley Cooper pours his heart and musical soul into this highly anticipated biopic about Leonard Bernstein from Netflix, which streams Dec. 22 following a theatrical run. After directing, co-writing and starring in 2018’s well-received remake of “A Star Is Born,” the crazy-talented Cooper pulls the same duties in this biopic, which is more interested in the famed composer and conductor’s unusual marriage to his beloved wife, actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), than it is in, say, how he wrote “West Side Story” with Stephen Sondheim. With the help of topnotch hair, makeup and costuming work, Cooper disappears into the role of Bernstein, a creative genius who loves to be around people — especially young men.

Bradley Cooper stars as Leonard Bernstein in
Bradley Cooper stars as Leonard Bernstein in “Maestro,” an Academy Award hopeful he also directs. (Jason McDonald photo/Courtesy of Netflix)

“Merry Little Batman” | Dec. 8 | Prime Video >> Batman (voiced by Luke Wilson) is having trouble juggling being a father to young son Damian (Yonas Kibreab) and crime-fitting — an issue that looks to be complicated when he gets a call from the Justice League. This holiday offering appears to have some of the irreverence of Max’s “Harley Queen” while also being kid-friendly, unlike that hilarious animated DC series.

“The Boy and the Heron” | Dec. 8 | Theaters >> The U.S. version of the latest fantasy from anime master Hayao Miyazaki (“Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away”) features voice work by Gemma Chan, Mark Hamill, Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Florence Pugh and Dave Bautista, with Robert Pattinson as The Grey Heron. The lesser-known Luca Padovan voices the titular boy, Mahito Maki.

“Leave the World Behind” | Dec. 8 | Netflix >> Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke and Myha’la (“Bodies Bodies Bodies”) star in this adaptation of Rumaan Alam’s enthralling and unsettling novel about two couples being thrown together during what is, perhaps, the end of the word. We can’t wait to see how director Sam Esmail, the gifted creator of “Mr. Robot,” takes this story from page to screen.

Mahershela Ali, left, Myha'la, Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawk appear in a scene from the upcoming drama
Mahershela Ali, left, Myha’la, Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawk appear in a scene from the upcoming drama “Leave the World Behind.” (Jojo Whilden photo/Courtesy of Netflix)

“Poor Things” | Dec. 8 | Theaters >> You can’t take your eyes off this mind-blowing film from the wildly creative (and often frustrating) director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster,” “The Killing of the Sacred Deer”). For this adaptation of Scottish author Alasdair Gray’s awarding-winning 1992 novel, “Poor Things: Episodes from the Early Life of Archibald McCandless M.D., Scottish Public Health Officer,” Lanthimos reteams with the star of his acclaimed 2018 film, “The Favourite,” Emma Stone. We don’t want to say much about Stone’s Bella Baxter — at least not until we write our full review — but know that Stone gives what could be characterized as an above-and-beyond performance. Supporting players include Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe, both of whom add much to the highly unusual proceedings.

Emma Stone stars as an unusual young woman on a journey of self-discovery in
Emma Stone stars as an unusual young woman on a journey of self-discovery in “Poor Things.” (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

“American Fiction” | Dec. 15 | Theaters >> Starring Jeffrey Wright, this drama helmed by Cord Jefferson in September won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Wright portrays frustrated writer Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, who, frustrated by the establishment profiting from Black entertainment, goes on an unusual journey in this adaptation of the 2001 novel by Percival Everett,

“Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” | Dec. 15 | Netflix >> Peter Lord and Nick Park, the stop-motion animation duo behind the delightful “Wallace and Gromit” adventures, as well as 2000’s “Chicken Run,” have passed the baton to director Sam Fell for this sequel, although Lord is around as a producer. Fell is the director of 2006’s “Flushed Away,” another film from the studio behind these movies, Aardman Animations, so the chickens should be in good hands. Voice work is turned in by Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Bella Ramsey, Imelda Staunton and others.

“The Family Plan” | Dec. 15 | Apple TV+ >> Mark Wahlberg plays a former assassin whose old life catches up to him after he’s moved on to domestic life. On a family trip, he tries to stop his enemy while keeping his past secret from his family.

“Wonka” | Dec. 15 | Theaters >> Timothée Chalamet stars as a young Willy Wonka in this musical fantasy, which tells the origin story of the eccentric chocolatier from Roald Dahl’s beloved 1964 novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Paul King, who helmed the adored “Paddington” films of the mid-2010s, directed and co-wrote this film. We don’t think you’ll need a golden ticket — a regular ol’ movie ticket should do — to gain entrance to the theater.

Timothée Chalamet portrays a young Willy Wonka in the fantasy musical
Timothée Chalamet portrays a young Willy Wonka in the fantasy musical “Wonka.” (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“All of Us Strangers” | Dec. 22 | Theaters >> After a chance encounter with his mysterious neighbor (“Aftersun” star Paul Mescal) leads to a relationship with him, Adam (Andrew Scott, “Sherlock”) has reason to believe his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) are living, just as they were on the day they died, three decades ago. The dreamy-looking film is written and directed by Andrew Haigh (“Weekend,” “45 Years”).

“Anyone but You” | Dec. 22 | Theaters >> Sydney Sweeney (“Euphoria,” “The White Lotus”) and Glen Powell (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Hidden Figures”) play a couple faking togetherness — after an actual hookup — to get out of a couple of jams. It appears the Will Gluck-directed affair has yet to receive a rating from the Motion Picture Association, but we’re getting DECIDEDLY R vibes from a trailer.

“The Iron Claw” | Dec. 22 | Theaters >> This biographical drama about the Von Erich family of professional wrestlers, written and directed by Sean Durkin (“The Nest”), features Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White (“The Bear”) and Harris Dickinson as brothers Kevin, Kerry and David Von Erich, respectively.

“Migration” | Dec. 22 | Theaters >> Elizabeth Banks, Kumail Nanjiani, Awkwafina and Keegan-Michael Key lend their voices to this animated adventure — about a Mallard family that finds itself in the big scary city on the way to Jamaica — from Illumination, the Universal Pictures affiliate responsible for the “Despicable Me” and “Minions” movies.

“Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire” | Dec. 22 | Netflix >> Sofia Boutella leads an ensemble cast that also includes Charlie Hunnam, Djimon Hounsou and Michael Huisman in this tale of galactic conflict from director and co-writer Zack Snyder of “Justice League” fame. Bourtella portrays Kora, a one-time member of the dastardly Imperium of the Mother World who attempts to lead a revolution from the moon Veldt. The recently released trailer looks promising, and Snyder (“300,” “Army of the Dead”), whatever his faults, knows how to do spectacle.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” | Dec. 25 | Theaters >> Given the talents of director James Wan (“Saw,” “Furious 7”), 2018’s “Aquaman” was disappointingly uneven. Wan is back, as, of course, is star Jason Momoa as the regularly under-the-water titular hero, aka Arthur Curry. Also returning to give Auqs another hard time: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s Black Mantis. Patrick Wilson and Amber Heard, as Orm Marius and Mera, respectively, return for a second swim, as well, as Arthur works to protect Atlantis.

“The Boys in the Boat” | Dec. 25 | Theaters >> After jumping in front of the camera to star alongside fellow longtime movie star Julia Roberts in last year’s easy-breezy “Ticket to Paradise,” George Clooney, director of films including “The Ides of March” (2011) and “The Tender Bar” (2021), is back at the helm for this dramatization of the story of Olympic rowers from the University of Washington who competed in the 1936 summer games in Berlin. The cast is led by Callum Turner and Joel Edgerton.

“The Color Purple” | Dec. 25 | Theaters >> This big-screen adaptation of the 11-times-Tony Award-nominated musical is, like director Stephen Spielberg’s 1985 acclaimed drama, based on the 1882 novel by Alice Walker about challenges faced by African-American women trying to exist in the South in the early years of the 20th century. The cast boasts Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery, Danielle Brooks, Corey Hawkins and Colman Domingo, while the film is directed by Ghanaian filmmaker and musician Blitz Bazawule. Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, a star of his film, are among the executive producers.

The stage-musical version of
The stage-musical version of “The Color Purple” will see its screen adaptation debut in theaters on Christmas Day. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

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