For those people who need a break from all the tamale eating and carol singing and watching Elf on an endless loop on cable, taking a breather from all the Christmas festivities and heading to the movies to catch a flick is as traditional for some families as stocking stuffers and secret Santas. While most moviegoers this year will probably be hitting the theater to watch Rogue One for the fifth time, there are a handful of new releases making their way to the big screen from Dec. 21-25. We reviewed four potential award contenders making their premieres in San Antonio this week. Let’s take a look…
Jackie // Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is going for gold again as she portrays First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Directed by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain, the drama is shot beautifully by cinematographer Stephanes Fontaine, and the haunting score by composer Mica Levi drives home the grief felt through the entire picture. The film, however, begins and ends with Portman’s powerful performance, as she masks her pain with poise and attempts to uphold the legacy of her husband even during the darkest of days. Opens Dec. 21 exclusively at Santikos Bijou. ★★★★
Fences // Reprising their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Training Day) and Oscar nominee Viola Davis (Doubt) star as a married couple living in 1950s Pittsburgh struggling to come to terms with the imperfect life they have created for themselves and their family. Directed by Washington, his first film behind the camera since 2007’s The Great Debaters, and adapted to the screen by the original playwright, the production has no qualms about presenting the narrative to viewers as if they were watching a stage performance. Still, Washington and Davis, especially, give incredible performances, which is reason enough to forgive the film’s cinematic shortcomings. Opens Dec. 25. ★★★
La La Land // Much like the 2011 Oscar Best Picture winner The Artist, it’s virtually impossible not to be charmed by this musical starring Oscar nominees Emma Stone (Birdman) and Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson). In the film, the duo play an aspiring actress/barista and jazz pianist who want more out of life than going to dime-a-dozen auditions and playing in cheesy cover bands. Together, Stone and Gosling light up every scene they share and director and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Damien Chazelle give the duo such a vibrant atmosphere to play on. We’re not talking Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers-level dance sequences, but the overall appeal is delightful. Opens Dec. 25 exclusively at Santikos Bijou and Palladium. ★★★★
Lion // The most emotionally-satisfying film this year comes in the way of the true story of Saroo (Sunny Pawar), a five-year-old boy from a remote village in India who becomes lost after he boards a train that takes him across the country for two days. Adopted and now an adult living Australia, Saroo (Dev Patel) makes it his mission to find his biological family 20 years later. Far from manipulative or melodramatic as some cynics may say, the heart-wrenching film is tender, sincere and will definitely be a hard watch for anyone who has ever lost a child or parent. Don’t let the likely tears keep you away though. Everyone needs a good cry every once in a while. Opens Dec. 25. ★★★★
Here are previews for a few more movies opening Christmas week:
Assassin’s Creed Set in the same universe as the video game of the same name, but with a new story and characters, the sci-fi action adventure stars Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender as a criminal who discovers his ancestry can be traced back to assassins living during the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century. Opens Dec. 21.
Passengers In the sci-fi thriller directed by Oscar nominee Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), actors Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence play two hibernating travelers aboard a spaceship bound for a distant planet who are accidentally awakened from their sleeping chambers 90 years too early from their destination. Opens Dec. 21.
Sing Taking a page from reality shows like The Voice, the animated musical features the voice work of an all-star cast including Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson, and follows a group of animals trying to save an old theater by participating in a singing competition. Opens Dec. 21.
Why Him? Actors James Franco and Bryan Cranston go to war in the romantic comedy when a loving father meets his daughter’s obnoxious, rich and famous boyfriend who plans to propose to her in a few days. With little time, daddy hopes to expose him as the douchebag he really is before it’s too late. Opens Dec. 23.