Well here it is the final month in possibly the shittiest year known to man. With Donald Trump, the Brexit catastrophe, the endless rise of hatred and stupidity and the seemingly never ending wave of big name celebrity deaths (NO not Professor Snape!!) 2016 can, in the words of John Oliver, go fuck itself. But in the land of movies it has been a pretty damn good year! Barring the slightly poor summer blockbuster season there has been some phenomenal films, of which I will do a month long review of the films, music and scenes that have done wonders to stop us from remembering our real lives! Except we still have a month to go, and it is filled to the brim with big dramas, BIG action films and a little film called Rogue One! Let’s take a look at what to expect, and what to look forward to:

2nd December

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson

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Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney

Director: Clint Eastwood

Why You Should See It: Already a huge hit stateside, probably the combination of Hanks, Eastwood and a true story of courage (catnip to American audiences), Sully, with the newly added subtitle Miracle on the Hudson somehow making this sound like a saccharine Christmas film as opposed to the true story of airplane terror. Based on the trailers the crash itself looks to be directed with precision and detail, which always adds to bigger thrills, adding OTT histrionics somehow lessens the impact. But the crash, or forced landing, is a small part. The rest of the film concerns the ensuing investigation surrounding the decisions the pilot made and whether he was to blame. Hanks is always a joy in front of the camera, lacing his characters with his natural charm and here it appears no different. Coupled with an always welcome Aaron Eckhart, sporting a damn fine moustache, and the capable direction of Clint Eastwood, means this should be at least a solid well acted slice of drama. Plus at 96mins it is probably the most brisk drama in years.

Hangover Potential: 4/5

Moana

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Starring (Voices): Dwayne Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho, Alan Tudyk

Director: John Musker & Ron Clements

Why You Should See It: Disney Animation are on a roll probably not seen since their early 90s run of Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and Aladdin. Zootopia, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Tangled have all been well-written, beautifully animated and hugely entertaining future classics. In fact you could argue they’ve now overtaken the output of baby brother Pixar, whom seem to be stuck in an endless parade of sequels or weak ideas (Good Dinosaur anyone?). This run continues with this months Moana. Tapping into a culture that animation has not touched on yet of Polynesian folk tales, and with the directing duo responsible for Aladdin and Princess & the Frog calling the shots, this looks something special. The story of young Moana, a rebellious head strong female in the new Disney tradition, who seeks out the demi-god Maui, played with the usual hyper enthusiasm of Dwayne Johnson, to help save her island. Stunning animation, songs composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and a unique setting should make this a huge hit. I’m seeing this tonight so expect a review later this evening.

Hangover Potential: 5/5

Bleed for This

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Starring: Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Ciaran Hinds

Director: Ben Younger

Why You Should See It: The second true story of the week is this boxing tale surrounding cocky young thing Vinny Pazienza, played by cocky young thing Miles Teller (who piled on the muscle for the role), who ends up breaking his neck in a car accident. Willing himself to fight again, he unbelievably begins training again, aided by an unrecognisably balding Aaron Eckhart. It does appear to be riddled with the usual sport cliches, but with that true tale and a committed Teller performance powering it all, it should be an entertaining piece of boxing drama.

Hangover Potential: 4/5

Chi-Raq

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Starring: Teyonah Parris, Nick Cannon, Dave Chapelle

Director: Spike Lee

Why You Should See It: I’m not the biggest Spike Lee fan. His early rage filled films were a shot to the multiplexes and still hold up, but more recently he has churned out a mix of so-so Hollywood films or low budget socially aware pictures that have lacked the same bite he used to have. But based on the early reviews this is a return to form for the Black rights champion. A modern retelling of a Greek tragedy, yes you read that right, telling the story of a bunch of criminal wives led by Parris’s Lysistrata (of which the Greek play is named) who withhold sex until their violent husbands change their ways. It is a perceptive and clever idea which I’m sure Lee will use as a basis to comment on violence, racism and economic strictures. Nick Cannon is probably not the strongest actor to be leading the charge but he should bring an authenticity to proceedings, although this looks to be newcomer Parris’s movie, and based on the trailer she is a dynamite presence. Plus welcome back Wesley Snipes!!

Hangover Potential: 4/5

7th December

Office Christmas Party

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Starring: Jason Bateman, TJ Miller, Olivia Munn

Directors: Josh Gordon, Will Speck

Why You Should See It: Every year we get one of these. A Christmas set large scale comedy, that provides forgettable laughs and decent entertainment. Hopefully with this cast we can expect something more memorable. In order to save their company from the clutches of Jennifer Aniston’s tough boss, who wants to close it down, by wooing a big client during a massive xmas party, where there are no rules! A fine comedy cast, including Ghostbusters MVP Kate McKinnon and the ever droll Bateman, should give some life to what I hope is a decent script. Directed by the Horrible Bosses duo Gordon & Speck doesn’t inspire huge confidence, but that film did mine some fine chemistry between its leads. Let’s pray it’s more a case of us enjoying the party rather than us watching others enjoying a party, always a tough balancing act.

Hangover Potential: 3/5

9th December

The Birth of a Nation

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Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union

Director: Nate Parker

Why You Should See It: A powerful retelling of the true story surrounding slave Nat Turner who upon preaching peace to fellow slaves finds himself torn by the horrific acts he witnesses and in turn leads a violent rebellion against his owners. Written, directed and starring Nate Parker it is very much a rich passion project, with noble intentions, but has found itself coated in controversy due to an accusation of rape against director Parker. A once huge Oscar contender coming out of Sundance, which resulted in big bidding war for the film, has now been almost forgotten in the usual awards talk. Hoping to distant itself from an as of yet unconvicted act of violence against women in a system that finds itself routinely riddled in sexism is no accident, but what of the film itself? Strong reviews and a powerful trailer prove this will at least be a moving albeit rough around the edges rallying cry (Parker is after all a newbie director, some flaws are to be probable). However with 12 Years a Slave offering an unflinching gut wrenching look at similar events, and Django Unchained also taking a harsh but overtly more playful look at the topic, makes another slavery epic so soon likely to put off the punters.

Hangover Potential: 4/5

Snowden

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Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Rhys Ifans

Director: Oliver Stone

Why You Should See It: Political firecracker and conspiracy nut Oliver Stone attempts to right some pretty poor recent flops like Savages and blackhat, with a detailed look at the life of whistleblower Edward Snowden. An all star cast led by an uncannily voiced Gordon-Levitt as Edward, in fact it’s initially jarring to hear, is a platform for Stone to say some pertinent things around privacy and Government oversight. Reviews have criticised the almost deifying nature of the film towards Snowden, which cannot be helped when the titular man himself appears in the final scenes, but it is like Stone who has always been a little guilty of leaning heavily to one side rather than offering a balanced view. I must say the film looks a little simple with basic shots and little verve to the piece but with that cast I’m onboard. Although what the hell sort of performance Rhys Ifans is giving I do not know.

Hangover Potential: 3/5

15th December

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Starring: Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn

Director: Gareth Edwards

Why You Should See It: HELLO, it’s Star Wars, why wouldn’t you see it?!? But seriously this is the biggie! A slight gamble for Lucasfilm, well as much as a gamble as you can take with the Star Wars name attached, with their first standalone story outside the main saga films. Kathleen Kennedy, the spearhead of the new SW universe, has spoken of the intention to use these spin-offs to branch out into more unknown aspects of the world. But before that can happen waters need to be tested as to how popular these will be (based on the early $135million opening weekend tracking predictions that shouldn’t be a problem) and making the first a more direct relation to the original saga is an inspired idea, and will be explored more with the upcoming Han Solo film before veering into more unknown territory (the brain trust of Lucasfilm are meeting in Jan to discuss the future of the saga post Episode 9). Based on an idea from original trilogy effects artist John Knoll, it is a pretty simple conceit. How did the Rebels steal the plans for the Death Star, as hinted at in one line of A New Hope’s opening crawl. A terrifically diverse cast led by superb actress Felicity Jones make up our band of heroes. As per Star Wars this is a family tale, Jones’s Jyn Erso is part of this plan due to her father’s involvement in the building of the Empire’s superweapon. The trailers so far have showcased a different texture to the usual SW films, earthy, grounded and (a word I loathe to use) gritty. It is ostensibly a war film, and based on the tone I’m pretty sure most of our heroes will be lost along the way. Rumours abounded involving extensive reshoots spearheaded by a different director of which I’m sure is half truth, most big budget films have reshoots built into their films’s schedules, and it seems Disney have done their usual tactic of testing and retesting to shape the most crowdpleasing movie possible. It has worked for all their Marvel pictures to date. I’ve waxed on enough, so be sure to check this one out. Star Wars continues its world domination!!

Hangover Potential: 5/5

21st December

Passengers

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Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen

Director: Morten Tyldum

Why You Should See It: Probably the only film that has the cajones and necessary star power to take on a little film called Star Wars. Passengers has long sat on the Hollywood Black List (the best unproduced screenplays) and reaches our screens with possibly the two biggest stars of our time. Set on an interstellar voyage as a group of humans head to colonise a new world, a few years into their 90 year trip two members of the party wake up. Unaware as to why they woke up early they of course fall in love, aided along by Michael Sheen’s servant robot, but it appears all is not OK with the ship. Massive effects, a smart script and two charismatic leads (although I find my love for JLaw waning somewhat recently) should make for an entertaining journey. The trailers perhaps hint too much at the twist in the tale, so try to avoid any more, but I’m expecting this one to make some big bucks.

Hangover Potential: 4/5

26th December

Monster Trucks

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Starring: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe

Director: Chris Wedge

Why You Should See It: Wow, just wow!! Boxing Day is normally saved for a good bunch of films to capitalise on families being together and bring them out with an assortment of genres to choose from. There is generally a big budget film or two, maybe a comedy, and some award worthy pictures too. This one though I just have no idea what the hell it is about, or who it is for? The synopsis surrounds a young lad (Till) looking to get away from life who winds up building a truck out of broken parts, then it is taken over by a subterranean creature, and then…who cares it just sounds utterly ridiculous. Budgeted at an astounding $125 million and directed by Ice Age’s Chris Wedge, it is already being seen by its studio Paramount as a big loss. A uncertain marketing campaign, if even the studio who made it don’t know what it is about then how can we!?  I don’t know what else to say about this, but just spend Boxing Day watching Rogue One or Passengers again!

Hangover Potential: 1/5

Why Him?

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Starring: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch

Director: John Hamburg

Why You Should See It: As mentioned Boxing Day normally offers up a throwaway comedy to soak up those Post-Christmas blues. This year we have Why Him? Bryan Cranston stars as a father who meets his future son-in-law only to find he is a tattooed free-spirited douchebag played by that nicest of douchebags James Franco. The trailers thus far have been a little light in actual comedy but the talents of Cranston and Franco should make for something relatively entertaining. I would say Cranston always makes classy decisions but having starred in 100s of things in his career, there are obviously some stinkers in amongst them, let’s hope this doesn’t add to them.

Hangover Potential: 2/5

30th December

Collateral Beauty

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Starring: Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton

Director: David Frankel

Why You Should See It: Typical, the very last film of the shitstick that is 2016 happens to be this saccharine and asinine drama featuring one of the years starriest casts. Will Smith plays a man who after losing his daughter retreats into a sea of loneliness and depression. His colleagues decide on a drastic plan to rise him out of this funk, involving the visit of Death, Love and Time to console him. Whether these are actual manifestations of his mind, actual Gods or part of his friends plan isn’t made clear by the sentimental trailer. It seems to focus on them being actual Godlike visits, but I prefer the idea of them being arranged by his co-workers to help him. Either way it looks crassly manipulative and far too glossy to truly land as a complex look at grief. If you want that try A Monster Calls, which opens the next day and is a revelatory emotionally devastating look at loss (this will be part of the Jan preview). I live to be surprised but the evidence thus far doesn’t look promising.

Hangover Potential: 2/5

So that is December, a relatively light month but some big prospects. The first month of the new year is always a strong one, filled as it is with all the massive Oscar possibilities (including La La Land, Silence and A Monster Calls), a few big blockbusters (Assassin’s Creed) and one sizeable British release in the long awaited Trainspotting 2! 

Look for my 2016 month long review to start soon, but for now let’s leave the films to soothe the pain that has been 2016!!

 

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