This month’s notable theatrical releases
Below, our editors have selected the most interesting films debuting this month, listed in alphabetical order.
Capernaum Watch trailer(s)
Foreign/Drama | December 14 | Directed by Nadine Labaki
Actor-writer-director Nadine Labaki’s third film, following Where Do We Go Now? and Caramel, tells the story of Zain (Zain al Rafeea), a Lebanese boy who sues his negligent parents for giving him life. As he wonders the streets of Beirut, Zain takes care of an Ethiopian refugee and her son. Labaki won the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and her film is also Lebanon’s submission for this year’s foreign-language film Oscar.
Cold War Watch trailer(s)
Foreign/Drama | December 21 | Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning Ida is a love story inspired by his parents. Taking place in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris, the film follows two mismatched musicians, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig) through their turbulent romance. Cold War has already picked up awards for best foreign-language film from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, and it is Poland’s official Oscar entry.
Destroyer Watch trailer(s)
Drama/Thriller | December 25 | Directed by Karyn Kusama
Karyn Kusama’s follow-up to The Invitation stars a barely recognizable Nicole Kidman as LAPD detective Erin Bell. As a young cop, Bell was placed in an undercover job that ended tragically. When her past reemerges in her present, she must deal with the demons still troubling her. Kidman will be in the running for best actress awards thanks to a performance and transformation that have impressed critics like Manohla Dargis of The NY Times: “On first sight, Ms. Kidman looks close to unrecognizable, her face carefully mottled and leathered, and her eyes ringed in a red hue you could call Permanent Hangover. The performance is so great, though, that soon enough you’re watching it, not the makeover.”
If Beale Street Could Talk Watch trailer(s)
Drama | December 14 | Directed by Barry Jenkins
Writer-director Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his best picture Oscar winner, Moonlight, is an adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel about 19-year-old Tish Rivers (Kiki Layne), a woman in Harlem who fights to prove her imprisoned fiancé’s innocence while carrying their first child. Stephan James (recently seen in Amazon’s Homecoming) plays her artist fiancé, Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt, while Regina King delivers a widely praised (and possibly Oscar-worthy) performance as a mother who fights for her daughter’s future when Fonny is arrested for a crime he did not commit. Already a hit with critics, the film should keep Jenkins busy throughout another awards season.
Mary Poppins Returns Watch trailer(s)
Family/Musical | December 19 | Directed by Rob Marshall
Official reviews aren’t out yet, but early reactions have been positive for this sequel to Disney’s beloved 1964 film musical. Set in 1930s London, Returns finds Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) Banks grown up and in need of some help after a family tragedy. Into their life returns Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt, taking over the role Julie Andrews made famous), who, with the aid of a street lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, teaches the Banks family how to rediscover the joy they’ve been missing in their lives. Directed by Rob Marshall (Into the Woods), the film features new songs and introduces new characters from PL Travers’ books, including Meryl Streep’s Topsy and Angela Lansbury’s Balloon Lady.
Mary Queen of Scots Watch trailer(s)
Drama | December 7 | Directed by Josie Rourke
Sixteenth century England is the setting for this exploration of the dramatic life of Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan). Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary returned to her homeland in 1561 to reign over Scotland, but when she asserts her claim on the English throne, her cousin, Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie), doesn’t take it too kindly. Theater director Josie Rourke makes her feature directorial debut with this Beau Willimon- (House of Cards) scripted adaptation of John Guy’s Queen of Scot’s: The True Life of Mary Stuart. Sure, there are a few moments of dramatic license, but early reviews indicate it’s a well-acted period piece.
The Mule Watch trailer(s)
Drama/Thriller | December 14 | Directed by Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood steps in front of the camera for the first time since 2012’s Trouble with the Curve in this film based on the life of World War II veteran Leo Sharp. Directing himself for the first time since 2008’s Gran Torino, Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a man facing foreclosure on his business who unknowingly signs up to be a drug courier for the Mexican cartel. Bradley Cooper plays the DEA agent who takes an interest in Earl. The strong supporting cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy Garcia, Alison Eastwood, and Taissa Farmiga.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Watch trailer(s)
Animation | December 14 | Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Currently leading the Best Animated Feature category of our Film Awards Scorecard (with wins from the New York Critics Circle and Detroit Film Critics Society), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse looks to be a late-year surprise for fans of animation and superheroes. The film introduces a world where dimension-hopping is possible, and there are at least six spider-derived heroes: Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Miles Morales (voiced by Dope’s Shameik Moore), Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), and Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), who controls SP//dr, a psychically-powered mech suit. Liev Schreiber voices the villain, Kingpin.
Stan & Ollie Watch trailer(s)
Drama/Comedy | December 28 | Directed by Jon S. Baird
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly star as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in this film about the legendary comedy duo’s 1953 tour of Britain. No longer kings of Hollywood comedy, Laurel and Hardy re-connect with their fans, and with each other, as they confront long-held regrets and Hardy’s failing health. Director Jon S. Baird, whose last feature credit was Filth, takes a turn for the genteel with this well-reviewed picture that also stars Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, and Danny Houston.
They Shall Not Grow Old Watch trailer(s)
Documentary | December 19 | Directed by Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson restored 100-year-old footage to bring the First World War to life in this documentary narrated by the voices of the men who fought in the Great War. Jackson and his team selected the footage, restored and updated it with colorization and 3D technology, and added audio from 600 hours of BBC interviews. The result has been praised by critics, but for now, it will only be available to audiences in American theaters for two nights.
Tyrel Watch trailer(s)
Drama/Comedy | December 5 | Directed by Sebastián Silva
The latest from the Chilean director Sebastián Silva stars Jason Mitchell as the titular character (called Tyler throughout the film), a young man who joins his friend on a weekend trip where he discovers he’s the only black guy in attendance, and heavy drinking is the main entertainment. Like his other features (Nasty Baby, Magic Magic, The Maid), Silva cleverly builds tension throughout this well-received film.
Vice Watch trailer(s)
Drama | December 25 | Directed by Adam McKay
Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short explores how Dick Cheney became vice president to George W. Bush and reshaped the country and the world during his eight years in power. Christian Bale stars as Cheney (yes, that’s really Bale above), and he’s joined by Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld, Tyler Perry as Colin Powell, LisaGay Hamilton as Condoleezza Rice, and Lily Rabe and Alison Pill as Liz and Mary Cheney. Look for Bale, Adams, McKay and the film itself to make some noise come awards time.
Vox Lux Watch trailer(s)
Drama/Music | December 7 | Directed by Brady Corbet
Brady Corbet’s follow-up to The Childhood of a Leader stars Natalie Portman as Celeste, a modern pop star whose career begins in tragedy as a teenager (young Celeste is played by The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s Raffey Cassidy). Subtitled “A 21st Century Portrait,” the film jumps from 1999 to 2017, capturing the stress of stardom and the violence in the world. The original songs are written by Sia, and, as with Corbet’s first film, Scott Walker provides the score.
What do you think?
Which films are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments section below. For a complete, updated listing of all upcoming film releases by date, including films arriving in 2019, visit our Movie Calendar.