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Star Wars, an animated singing contest and Denzel: 12 December movies


It’s December, which means a Star Wars picture, a few family movies, a broad holiday comedy or two and some stuff that makes you go “hmmmm.” Here are a dozen movies coming to Austin in December. Release dates, as always, are subject to change, and as usual, some of the following may be great, but some may be terrible.

DEC. 9

“Miss Sloane.” Jessica Chastain stars as a hard-charging D.C. lobbyist in this Franco-American thriller directed by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”). With Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Michael Stuhlbarg, which seems like a very strong cast for a movie with virtually no buzz.

“Office Christmas Party.” When an uptight CEO (Jennifer Aniston) tries to close the office run by her goof-off brother (T. J. Miller), he and his staff must throw a total rager to save their jobs. As often happens in these situations.

DEC. 16

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The big kahuna. Directed by Gareth “Godzilla” Edwards from a screenplay by Chris “About a Boy” Weitz and Hollywood savant Tony Gilroy (the Bourne series), “Rogue One,” the second Star Wars movie in as many years, could be the best one since “Empire.”

“Collateral Beauty.” A great tragedy befalls an ad executive (Will Smith). As he falls into a depression, his friends try to help him, and he copes by engaging with love, time and death, that which connects everyone on Earth. With Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña and Naomie Harris.

“La La Land.” Written and directed by Damien “Whiplash” Chazelle, “La La Land” stars Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt and J. K. Simmons in an old-school, classic Hollywood-style musical that Chazelle made for $20 million.

DEC. 21

“Assassin’s Creed.” Based on the smash-hit video game series of the same name, with Michael Fassbender as a man who finds he is descended from … wait for it … a 15th century Spanish assassin and is able to experience his ancestor’s adventures. With actual good actors such as Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Michael K. Williams

“Lion.” The trailer that made people around the world say “Man, Dev Patel got HOT.” Based on the nonfiction book “A Long Way Home” by Saroo Brierley, the movie stars Patel as a young Indian man who looks to find his lost family, decades after a series of events put him, when he was a small boy, with an Australian couple. With Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman.

“Jackie.” Directed by Chilean director Pablo Larraín from a script by “Divergent” series screenwriter Noah Oppenheim, this film stars Natalie Portman as the very recently widowed Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy — and you better believe ol’ Nat read up on the lady.

“Sing.” Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly and many, many more provide the voices for this animated, funny-animal film about a singing contest held by a koala to keep his theater from closing. From the production company, but not the creative team, that made the “Despicable Me” and “The Secret Life of Pets” movies.

DEC. 23

“Why Him?” Bryan Cranston, who might be turning into the Shatner of the 2010s, stars as a dad who meets his college-age daughter’s boyfriend, a deeply odd tech bro billionaire. (James Franco). Points off for the title, because “the dude is a billionaire” is a pretty good answer to any instance of asking “why him?”

“Elle.” A rape revenge film based on Philippe Dijan’s novel “Oh…” directed by 78-year-old Paul Verhoeven and starring Isabelle Huppert. Because nothing says Christmas like a Paul Verhoeven rape-revenge picture.

DEC. 25

“Fences.” Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in this increasingly buzzy adaptation of August Wilson’s play about the struggles of a former Negro league baseball player turned waste collector in 1950s Pittsburgh.


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