The Final Films of 2015

Today is December 1st, which means just one more month of movies before the new year arrives. Here are the films getting the most buzz (though not necessarily worth seeing):

1. CHI-RAQ

Release Date: December 4th (limited)    Directed By: Spike Lee    Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Michael B. Jordan, John Cusack

This is one of the most disjointed trailers I’ve ever seen for a film. In the middle of the mayhem there’s some business about women withholding sex from their men in order to curb gang violence. Yeah, that’s seriously the plot. Believe it or not, CHI-RAQ is a modern adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes. But Lysistrata is a Greek comedy, whereas CHI-RAQ is being considered a drama. How the film can be taken seriously after a trailer like this is beyond me. A 73% on RottenTomatoes and 76% on Metacritic further the notion that this mediocre movie is one to be missed.

2. Youth

Release Date: December 4th (limited)    Directed By: Paolo Sorrentino     Starring: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz

Youth looks like it will be a quirkier and all around better version of the depressingly abysmal Amour (the worst two hours of my entire life). Though this film focuses on friendship rather than the love between an old couple, it still touches on all of the themes and subject material that you’d expect in a film about aging. If you prepare yourself for such a film, I think Youth looks like it could be one of the better ones. The movie’s 79% RottenTomatoes score downplays the fact that both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter gave it rave reviews. Plus, Michael Caine is great in everything he does. If you’re open to slower, character-driven films then Youth might be worth checking out.

3. The Big Short

Release Date: December 11th (limited)    Directed By: Adam McKay     Starring: Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell

It’s hard to judge based solely on a trailer, but I’d be willing to bet that  The Big Short will be battling Spotlight for best picture this year. It has all the right elements to make it an Academy Award contender: award-winning actors, based on the book by Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Blind Side), and it’s about an actual event that most of us can remember (and care about). The one monkey wrench is director Adam McKay, who is known more for comedy (Achorman, Step Brothers) than Oscar-worthy dramas. Still, The Big Short is one of the few award-season films that I’m eager to see and it’s essentially guaranteed a nomination in a year with hardly any Oscar shoo-ins.

4. The Ridiculous Six

Release Date: December 11th (Netflix)    Directed By: Frank Coraci     Starring: Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Rob Schneider

The Ridiculous Six is not a movie you should go see, but you should at least know it’s happening. Why? Well, for one it’s being released by Netflix – a company who lately can’t seem to miss when it comes to original TV shows. Secondly, this is the film that put Sandler in hot water after some Native American actors walked off the set in protest over offensive jokes. Based on the trailer, the controversy was only the start of more bad news to come. Sandler’s star power has significantly waned in the past few years (see Pixels) and the blunder of The Ridiculous Six may end up being the final nail in the coffin of Adam Sandler’s career. R.I.P.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Release Date: December 18th    Directed By: J.J. Abrams     Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley

“Wait, there’s a new Star Wars coming out?” said no one anywhere. This movie needs little explanation. It’s going to shatter box office records. It’s probably going to be great thanks to director J.J. Abrams being a longtime fan and many of the original cast members returning. Without question this is the must-see movie of the year. Good luck getting tickets!

6. Sisters

Release Date: December 18th    Directed By: Jason Moore     Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz

Sisters comes out the same weekend as Star Wars in what might end up being a brilliant counter-programming release strategy. Now the nerds of the world don’t have to drag their girlfriends to see Star Wars! She can go watch Tina Fey and Amy Poehler be hilarious while he watches the revival of an iconic sci-fi franchise and they can meet up when both films are over. Pretty smart thinking on Universal’s part. As far as the movie is concerned, Poehler and Fey are a powerhouse comedy duo so Sisters is likely to be pretty funny and do very well in the face of the Dark Side.

7. Where to Invade Next

Release Date: December 23rd (NY/LA)    Directed By: Michael Moore

It’s been six years since Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story underwhelmed both critics and at the box office. But Where to Invade Next is a different sort of documentary for the veteran filmmaker and one worth considering. Moore’s left-wing agenda and unorthodox interview tactics have rubbed many people the wrong way, but Invade is different. Instead of skewering some aspect of U.S. policy, Moore spends the film highlighting foreign countries for the things they do better than our country. He embarks on a quest to “steal” these great ideas, such as eight weeks of paid vacation in Italy and prosecution of corrupt bankers in Iceland. It’s a different method of critiquing the United States, one that continues to serve Moore’s liberal agenda but does so in a new and refreshing way. Michael Moore haters still won’t be interested, but for those of us who have lost interest in his recent films, Where to Invade Next might be worth coming back for.

8. Joy

Release Date: December 25th    Directed By: David O. Russell    Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro

Like The Big Short before it, Joy has all of the markings of an Oscar contender. The team of people involved isn’t much different than Silver Linings Playbook, which received eight Oscar nominations and landed Jennifer Lawrence her first Academy Award. The film is loosely based on Mircale Mop inventor Joy Mangano and tells the story of a woman who becomes the matriarch of a powerful family business. There’s no doubt that Joy will be a good film, although something tells me it will be more along the lines of American Hustle than Silver Linings Playbook. That is to say very good, but not great.

9. Concussion

Release Date: December 25th    Directed By: Peter Landesman    Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson

Concussion may finally mark Will Smith’s rebound from a recent string of box office and critical failures. Way back in 2002 Smith proved he could be a serious dramatic actor when the Academy nominated him for Ali. Then came his second acting nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness in 2007. Now after almost a decade of popcorn fare, Smith has finally returned to give an excellent dramatic performance that we almost forgot he’s capable of. As great as Concussion should be for Smith, it will likely be equally as bad for the NFL. Word is it paints a rather poor picture of commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of the NFL as they attempt to cover up the severity of concussions and their significant impact on players. Regardless of whether you’re a football fan, Concussion looks like an intriguing film about a very topical issue.

10. The Hateful Eight

Release Date: December 25th    Directed By: Quentin Tarantino    Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell

Nothing says holiday cheer like a Quentin Tarantino movie, right? Despite quite the hullabaloo over the leaking of the script, Tarantino eventually moved forward with The Hateful Eight to make it his eighth film. This time around, the blood and guns and Samuel L. Jackson wisecracks all take place at a snowed-in shack where the eight characters take shelter during a terrible storm. The movie has been described as an Agatha Christie style who-dunnit, although with much more swearing and bloodshed no doubt. I was excited for Hateful Eight, but now that I’ve seen the trailer I somehow feel slightly less interested. Maybe I’ve grown tired of Jackson playing the same sly codger or maybe I don’t really care much for the actors involved (Kurt Russell? Yawn). Unless people end up raving about this one, I’ll probably wait until it’s out on DVD.

11. The Revenant

Release Date: December 25th    Directed By: Alejandro Iñárritu    Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy

Rounding out the packed holiday weekend is Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant. There’s no doubt that Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is going to look incredible or that the film will rack up Oscar nominations. But Christmas audiences might not be in the mood for such a dark, gritty film. Based on the trailer, I’m guessing that Revenant will be one of those films that is an artistic masterpiece we all see once and then never watch again.

 

Are there any December films you’re looking forward to that didn’t make the list? Leave it in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

 


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