THE HOLIDAY SEASON IS ONCE AGAIN A TIME OF HOPEFUL ANTICIPATION OVER CINEMATIC GIFTS AT THE MULTIPLEX OR WILL THEY BE LUMPS OF COAL?
BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI
NOVEMBER (RATED PG-13)
Incorporating home movies and photos, Director Steven Spielberg guides viewers through his semi-fictionalized Arizona youth. His alter ego is Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), whose mother (Michelle Williams) encourages his passionate film pursuits. Depicted are a western Spielberg made to earn a Boy Scout badge, the war short Escape to Nowhere, and his recreation of the train wreck scene from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). Paul Dano plays Sammy’s dad.
A MAN CALLED OTTO
The prolific Tom Hanks’ latest is a comedy/drama based on Swedish author Fredrik Backman’s 2012 novel A Man Called Ove. Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), Hanks plays a widower whose dour persona improves when he befriends his new neighbors. “A Man Called Otto is a movie about community and family,” Hanks told People Magazine. “The way you treat your neighbors, the way people come together in any time of crisis, happens over and over again. Everybody helps.”
GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO
Director Guillermo del Toro’s darker stop-motion animation version of the 1940 classic is set during the rise of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy. Ewan McGregor voices Sebastian J. Cricket, who narrates the story of the wooden boy, the kindly toymaker who created him, Geppetto (David Bradley, Harry Potter’s Argus Filtch), and their quest for Pinocchio to become a real boy. Other stellar voices belong to Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz, and John Turturro.
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
Fans of the visually stunning 2009 original wonder what today’s technology will bring to James Cameron’s epic tale. Sam Worthington returns as Jake Sully, living with his family on the planet Pandora. When a threat emerges, Jake joins forces with Neytiri (this issue’s covergirl Zoe Saldaña) and the indigenous Na’vi army. Joining the cast is Kate Winslet. Avatar 3 is due out in 2024, with 4 (2026) and 5 (2028) currently filming. It’s a rigorous schedule for the cast, which includes Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Yeoh, Stephen Lang, Oona Chaplin, Edie Falco, and Giovanni Ribisi.
I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame record executive and producer Clive Davis, who “discovered” Whitney Houston, has made a musical about her meteoric rise from Newark gospel singer to international stardom in the 1980s, promising to reveal more than fans think they know. The biological drama is from the writers of Bohemian Rhapsody. Stanley Tucci embodies Davis while Naomi Ackie, who appeared in an unaired Game of Thrones pilot and The Rise of Skywalker, portrays Whitney. Tamara Tunie is her mom, renowned gospel singer Cissy Houston.
NOVEMBER (RATED PG-13)
We’ve lost count of the adaptations of Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic A Christmas Carol. (George C. Scott’s 1984 version stands out.) In this song and dance fest, Will Ferrell is the Ghost of Christmas Present to Ryan Reynolds’ Scrooge-like Clint Briggs, who turns the tables, forcing the a able spirit to confront his own past, present, and future. The film also stars Octavia Spencer, and features music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the duo behind the songs in La La Land, The Greatest Showman, and Dear Evan Hansen. After its theatrical debut, the film will be available on Apple TV+.
THE AMAZING MAURICE
Coming to theaters soon (if he feels like it) is Maurice the ginger cat, voiced by Hugh Laurie in an animated adaptation of the popular children’s novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. The streetwise, conniving Maurice masterminds a money-making scheme, conning some talking rats into assisting him. Other proper British voices are provided by Emilia Clarke, David Tennant, and David Thewlis. IMDb reports the film was made during the pandemic by animators working remotely, delivering the film on schedule.