Holiday movie preview 2018: ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ ‘Aquaman’ and 18 other movies to watch this Christmas
Take a look at the upcoming movie release schedule and one thing is clear: there really isn’t a down time in the film business anymore.
The summer blockbuster season — which typically kicked off on the first Friday in May — now gets going as early as March. Meanwhile, holiday viewing options start in early November (this year Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and Illumination’s The Grinch had the honours of getting things started).
Still, December is right around the corner and that means Hollywood is gearing up for a flurry of prestige awards contenders vying for eyeballs alongside crowd-pleasing escapist fare.
Add to the mix a slew of Netflix titles and a variety of festive specials (we’ll be listing those off at a later date), and one thing becomes clear: you might not have any time for Christmas shopping.
Here’s our list of 20 forthcoming film releases we’re excited to see.
The Favourite (Dec. 7, Limited)
Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone star in this 18th century period piece about two women competing for the affections of a frail Queen Anne (played by Olivia Colman). Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of the Sacred Deer) directs.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (Netflix, Dec. 7)
Acclaimed actor and director Andy Serkis presents a darker take on Rudyard Kipling’s beloved masterpiece, The Jungle Book. Newcomer Rohan Chand stars as Mowgli, with Christian Bale as panther Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as snake Kaa, Benedict Cumberbatch as tiger Shere Khan, Freida Pinto as village woman Messua and Tom Hollander as hyena Tabaqui. Also opening in select theatres, including Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Once Upon a Deadpool (Dec. 12)
Ryan Reynolds’ Merc with the Mouth is getting a makeover. Audiences of almost all ages will soon be able to enjoy Deadpool 2 minus most of what made it popular in the first place. You know, like the swearing and incessant violence. Fred Savage co-stars.
The Mule (Dec. 14)
Clint Eastwood is the hardest working man in Hollywood. Directing his second movie this year, Eastwood, now 88, returns for his first role in front of the camera in six years. Based on a New York Times article about a real-life octogenarian drug courier for a Mexican cartel, Eastwood stars as Earl Stone, a broke man in his 80s who is offered a job that simply requires him to drive. But unbeknownst to Earl, he’s just signed on for a life of crime. Bradley Cooper appears as the hard-charging DEA agent who takes him down. Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne and Andy Garcia also star.
Vox Lux (Dec. 14)
Natalie Portman stars as Celeste, a woman who goes from a major national tragedy to worldwide pop superstardom. The film features original songs by Sia and co-stars Jude Law, who promised the Sun in a recent interview that director Brady Corbet will be a household name in the next five years.
ROMA (Netflix, Dec. 14)
Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron returns with a semi-autobiographical story that chronicles the turbulent year in the lives of a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City. Filmed in black and white, Cuaron told IndieWire recently that the drama is the “most essential movie” of his career. After becoming a festival favourite in Venice and Toronto, Netflix will give ROMA a brief theatrical run in select cities beginning on Nov. 29.
Ben Is Back (Dec. 14)
A long lost son (Lucas Hedges) with a history of drug abuse unexpectedly returns to his family’s suburban home on Christmas Eve morning. But the boy’s mother, played by Julia Roberts, soon learns that her son is “still very much in harm’s way.”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Dec. 14)
This animated Spidey spinoff revolves around Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) as he gains superpowers after a spider bite. He learns to be a hero thanks to the tutelage of Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) and the storyline involves a multitude of Spider-Persons, including Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage). “Because it’s like the 19th Spider-Man movie, it forces you to make different choices than everybody else,” co-writer Phil Lord told EW in an interview.
Mary Queen of Scots (Dec. 14, Limited)
Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie play rival queens Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I in this period drama. Josie Rourke directs from a screenplay by House of Cards’ Beau Willimon.
Mortal Engines (Dec. 14)
Lord of the Rings scribes Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens adapt the first book in Philip Reeve’s post-apocalyptic series that imagines a world where major cities prey on one another for resources to survive. Christian Rivers, a long-time storyboard and visual effects artist who has worked on all of Jackson’s films, makes his directorial debut.
Mary Poppins Returns (Dec. 19)
The 1930s-set sequel picks up 25 years after the events of the original film that featured Julie Andrews. Emily Blunt stars as Poppins, with Lin-Manuel Miranda playing her pal Jack. Dick Van Dyke is back as well. Rob Marshall, whose track record includes a Pirates of the Caribbean flick and the musical Chicago, directs.
Bird Box (Netflix, Dec. 21)
Based on Josh Malerman’s terrifying 2014 book, Sandra Bullock plays a woman who is forced to lead her children on a two-day journey to safety after a mysterious force decimates the world’s population. The only hitch is, she has to make the trek blindfolded because whatever it is that is plaguing humanity, if you see it, you take your own life. Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson, and John Malkovich co-star.
Bumblebee (Dec. 21)
The Transformers franchise gets a reset with this 1980s-set spinoff in which a teen girl (Hailee Steinfeld) realizes her beaten down old VW Beetle is really an Earth-saving robot hero. WWE star John Cena joins the fun, with Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) directing.
Aquaman (Dec. 21)
After being introduced in last year’s Justice League, Jason Momoa promises we can expect a bigger, richer story when his solo take on Aquaman hits screens next month. “Justice League was only a weekend in Arthur Curry’s life,” Momoa told EW. “This is a totally different beast.” In a previous interview, Furious 7 helmer James Wan, who directs, told the Sun that this will be the first DC movie taking place in a brand-new world. “There’s a reason Aquaman’s never been done before, because it’s a very difficult movie to make and it’s a very challenging movie to make,” Wan said. “Technology has not allowed us to go there — until now.” Amber Heard co-stars as Atlantean warrior princess Mera, with Patrick Wilson playing the villainous King Orm.
Second Act (Dec. 21)
A big box store worker (Jennifer Lopez) reinvents her life after she lands a high-profile job at a Manhattan company, thanks to a fudged job application and a phony social media profile. Leah Remini, Vanessa Hudgens and Milo Ventimiglia co-star in the feel-good comedy.
Welcome to Marwen (Dec. 21)
Inspired by Jeff Malmberg’s 2010 documentary Marwencol, Steve Carell plays a victim of a violent assault who constructs a miniature World War II town in his backyard and casts himself as a war hero. Leslie Mann and Janelle Monae co-star, with Robert Zemeckis directing.
Vice (Dec. 25)
Take a good close look at the fella playing Dick Cheney in this biopic from Adam McKay (The Big Short). Recognize him? It’s Christian Bale. The Batman star gave his head a shave and packed on 40 pounds to play the former U.S. vice president in the film, which aims to tell the warts-and-all “true” story of Cheney’s role as the master puppeteer who orchestrated much of George W. Bush’s leadership decisions. Sam Rockwell plays Bush, with Carell set to take on Donald Rumsfeld. Amy Adams and Tyler Perry also star.
If Beale Street Could Talk (Dec. 25, Limited)
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins adapts James Baldwin’s swirling love story set in 1970s Harlem. Newcomer KiKi Layne heads a cast that includes Dave Franco, Regina King and Toronto’s Stephan James. The film was a runner-up for The Grolsch People’s Choice Award at TIFF.
Holmes & Watson (Dec. 25)
Beloved screen duo Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play sleuths Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson in this comedic take on a literary classic. “We sat down and said, ‘What are the most neglected characters in literature?’ ” Reilly said in an interview with the New York Times. “The world needed this.”
On the Basis of Sex (Dec. 25, Limited)
Felicity Jones stars in the origin story of civil rights pioneer Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The film, directed by Mimi Leder, chronicles Ginsburg’s fight for gender equality. Armie Hammer co-stars as her husband, Marty Ginsburg.