December Movie Preview, Part 1: Something for Everyone

Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas in 'Darkest Hour.'

Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas in ‘Darkest Hour.’

By Sandra Olmsted

Here are several holiday releases to consider seeing, depending whether you are looking for historical drama or comedy, buddy film laughs, an off-kilter sci-fi, a film for the entire family, or the latest Star Wars film. The following open Dec. 8.


In Theaters by Dec. 8:

Darkest Hour

Gary Oldman’s Oscar? Director Joe Wright’s bio-pic, about a short period in Winston Churchill’s life, focuses on the newly elected and decidedly dark horse Prime Minister of England Churchill (Gary Oldman) proving himself. The unpopular Churchill must convince King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn), country, and Parliament that he is the man to lead them in the darkest hour.

With the British Army trapped at Dunkirk, France capitulating, Parliament pushing for a negotiated peace with Hitler, and help needed from the U.S. to continue the fight, Churchill has much to consider.

While the fate of Western Europe hangs on Churchill’s decisions, he has the support of his loving wife Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) and devoted secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James). Although almost everyone in the government wanted Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane) to be Prime Minister, Churchill, who had failed at much before, rises to the challenges, and Oldman’s tour de force performance makes the most of the complexity, strengths, weaknesses, and eccentricities of Churchill at that precarious moment in history.

With the excellent supporting cast, detailed and authentic settings and costumes, top-notch production values for cinematography, music, and script (Anthony McCarten), Darkest Hour is the epitome of the Oscar grabbing film. Focus Features release, PG-13 for some thematic material; 125 minutes.


The Disaster Artist

Director James Franco, who also stars as Tommy Wiseau, wows with a performance that embodies Wiseau’s mannerisms. Aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco, James’ younger brother) befriends the Ed-Wood-esque Wiseau because Greg is charmed and attracted to Tommy’s weird and mysterious persona.

Soon, their friendship leads them to Hollywood with dreams of becoming famous. Despite the Hollywood in-jokes, comic take, some pathos, and the stellar cast,

James Franco still brings the importance of believing in ones self and ones dreams to the forefront. Dark Horse Oscar noms are possible. A24 release; R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity; 98 minutes.


Just Getting Started

Director Ron Shelton’s comedy pairs Duke (Morgan Freeman), an ex-mob lawyer in the Witness Protection Program, with Leo (Tommy Lee Jones), an ex-F.B.I. Agent. The duo must fend-off a mob hit and put aside their golf course rivalry.

This Midnight Run (1988) meets Grumpy Old Men (1993) is good for some laughs and fun. Broad Green release; PG-13 for language, suggestive material and brief violence; unknown length.



In Theaters Dec. 15:

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in ‘The Shape of Water.’

The Shape of Water

One might call writer/director Guillermo del Toro’s a sci-fi, Cold War, romance, and certainly one might also call it a great and startling film, based solely on del Toro’s filmography.

In what is called an other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a high-security government laboratory worker, and her best friend and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment, an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones).

Because Elisa is lonely, she is drawn to this creature in magical ways. Fox Searchlight release; R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language; 123 min. Opens Dec. 15.



Director Carlos Saldanha’s animated film seems geared for older people and their grandchildren because it is based on the famous “Ferdinand The Bull” Disney short (1938). It also has roots in beloved book The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson.

Ferdinand may look like a tough, scary bull, but he has the heart of a lover not a fighter, and all he wants is to get back to his beloved home from which he was kidnapped. Between nostalgia and fun for the kids, it looks to be a great holiday film for the entire family.

Fox release; PG for rude humor, action and some thematic elements; 106 min.

Daisy Ridley in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.'

Daisy Ridley in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Director Rian Johnson’s much anticipated new Star Wars film promises to uphold the thrills and production values of the famed franchise. Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey (Daisy Ridley) joins Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on an adventure with Leia (the late Carrie Fisher), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

Disney/Lucas film release; PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence; 152 min. Opens Dec. 15.

The late Carrie Fisher in the newest 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.'

The late Carrie Fisher in the newest ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’


Something for everyone — comedy, drama, sci-fi, fantasy, and family fun! To be continued . . .







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