December brings a slate of great holiday movies starting with “The Shape Of Water”, the lyrical adult fairy tale from Guillermo Del Toro. Other must-see films this month include: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the latest in the 40-year Star Wars saga features the last screen performance of our beloved Carrie Fisher, as Princess Leia. So I expect to be emotional. Daniel Day-Lewis just announced his retirement. His final screen appearance (say it isn’t so!) is in this month’s “Phantom Thread”. Margot Robbie stars in “I Tonya”, an Oscar-worthy bio pic chronicling the very sad life of infamous skater, Tonya Harding. Annette Benning and Jamie Bell are also both Oscar-worthy in “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”, as the great noir film star Gloria Grahame and her much younger lover. And finally, John Cena voicing “Ferdinand”, in an animated tale about Ferdinand the Bull will keep the whole family entertained for the holidays.
The Shape Of Water
The Shape of Water is one of the most beautifully shot films ever made. It’s the Creature From The Black Lagoon meets ET meets Beauty and the Beast – a magical fairy tale for grown-ups. Go to: for my full review.
Plot Summary: Elisa is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist.
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones, David Hewlett, Nick Searcy
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Genres: Romance, Fantasy
Production Co: TSG Entertainment, Double Dare You
Distributors: Fox Searchlight
The Disaster Artist
Plot Summary: Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero become friends after meeting each other in an acting class in San Francisco. Hoping to achieve Hollywood stardom, Sestero moves to Los Angeles and signs on to appear in his buddy’s project. Financed with his own money, Wiseau writes, directs and stars in “The Room,” a critically maligned movie that becomes a cult classic.
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Hannibal Buress, Jerrod Carmichael, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Zac Efron
Director: James Franco
Genres: Comedy drama
Production Co: RatPac-Dune Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Good Universe, Rabbit Bandini Productions, A24
Distributors: A24, A24
Plot Summary: Four peoples’ lives intertwine amid the hustle and bustle of the Coney Island amusement park in the 1950s: Ginny, an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house; Humpty, Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband; Mickey, a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright; and Carolina, Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment.
Cast: Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi, Max Casella, Geneva Carr, Tony Sirico, Steven R. Schirripa
Director: Woody Allen
Production Co: Gravier Productions, Amazon Studios, Perdido Productions
Distributors: Amazon Studios, Amazon Studios
Plot Summary: Tonya Harding rises through the ranks of competitive figure skating only to find disgrace when her husband tries to eliminate her rival.
Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, Bobby Cannavale, Mckenna Grace, Caitlin Carver
Director: Craig Gillespie
Genres: Biography, Comedy drama
Just Getting Started
I’ve been a big Ron Shelton fan since he directed “Tin Cup” back in the ’90s. This is sure to be entertaining with Shelton bringing together the great Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones and Rene Russo. This is a fun movie to treat your grandparents or other elderly relatives to over the holidays.
Plot Summary: Duke Diver is living the high life as the freewheeling manager of a luxurious resort in Palm Springs, Calif. He soon faces competition from Leo, a former military man who likes the same woman that Duke is interested in. When Diver’s past suddenly catches up with him, he must put aside his differences and reluctantly team up with Leo to stop whoever is trying to kill him.
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Rene Russo, Joe Pantoliano, Glenne Headly, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Elizabeth Ashley, George Wallace
Director: Ron Shelton
Production Co: Gerber Pictures, Broad Green Pictures
Distributors: Broad Green Pictures
The Rape Of Recy Taylor
With the resurgence of white supremacist and the general racism that every African-American experiences daily, it is vitally important that we learn about both the victories and the injustices that our elders faced. Lest we be forced to relive them. I found it very interesting that Nancy Buirski used the same music that Steven Speilberg chose for “Schindler’s List” evoking the same awful mood. See this, but make sure to see it when you can have time to heal after. Because what happened to Recy Taylor is one of the greatest injustices in recent American history.
Plot Summary: In 1944, when African-American wife and mother Recy Taylor is gang raped by seven white men in Alabama, she speaks out against her attackers, putting herself and her family in danger.
Cast: Tommy Bernardi, Cynthia Erivo, Tom Gibbs, Jack Kyser, John L. Payne
Director: Nancy Buirski
Production Co: Augusta Films
This is a win-win! A teen thriller that adults can also enjoy.
Plot Summary: Addison, an intelligent but disengaged high school senior, navigates the Washington, D.C., underworld with his best friend and soul mate, a clever and levelheaded girl named Digger. Together, they attempt to solve the death of a fellow student.
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Ansel Elgort, David Strathairn, Catherine Keener, Terry Kinney, Danny Flaherty, Victor Williams, Cory Hardrict
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Genres: Crime drama, Mystery
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It is hard to believe that my whole Life has been lived as a Star Wars fan and under the influence of the Force! With the challenging times that we currently live in, the message of the Star Wars films is more important today than it was 40 years ago. As always, with any Star Wars film, this movie is top of my go-see list. See this on the biggest screen with the best audio system that you can. If you are here in NYC, I recommend the Lincoln Square IMAX!
Plot Summary – Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o
Director: Rian Johnson
Genres: Action, Science fiction, Adventure, Fantasy
Production Co: Lucasfilm Ltd., Ram Bergman Productions, Walt Disney Pictures
Distributors: Walt Disney
John Cena as Ferdinand is sure to be fun for the whole family. I can’t wait to see this!
Plot Summary: A giant but gentle bull must find a way to break free from his captors and return home to his family.
Cast: John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning, Gina Rodriguez, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, David Tennant
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Genres: Family, Comedy, Animated, Adventure
Production Co: 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios
Distributors: 20th Century Fox
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
I debated including this film for two reasons. I am always a bit leery of remakes of beloved classics and was not able to screen this in advance. So I have included this film only because of my great love for The Rock and the hilarious, Kevin Hart. This may or may not be a winner. Enter at your own risk.
Plot Summary: Four high school kids discover an old video game console and are drawn into the game’s jungle setting, literally becoming the adult avatars they chose. What they discover is that you don’t just play Jumanji – you must survive it. To beat the game and return to the real world, they’ll have to go on the most dangerous adventure of their lives, discover what Alan Parrish left 20 years ago, and change the way they think about themselves – or they’ll be stuck in the game forever.
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman
Director: Jake Kasdan
Genres: Comedy, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Production Co: Matt Tolmach Productions, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Radar Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Matt Tolmach
Distributors: Sony Pictures Entertainment
The Greatest Showman
With Hugh Jackman as PT Barnum in a musical telling of the start of his circus, this is the top of my Christmas list.
Plot Summary: In the 1800s, visionary entrepreneur P.T. Barnum rises from nothing to create the Barnum & Bailey circus. The mesmerizing spectacle soon takes the world by storm to become the greatest show on Earth.
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya , Paul Sparks, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Natasha Liu Bordizzo
Director: Michael Gracey
Genres: Biography, Musical, Historical drama
Production Co: 20th Century Fox, Chernin Entertainment, Laurence Mark Productions
Distributors: 20th Century Fox
With the current occupant of the White House disparaging the press almost daily, this film is a must-see. Meryl is sure to be up for her umpteenth Oscar as the amazing Katherine Graham, who was always a hero of mine growing up. The story of the releasing of the Pentagon Papers is riveting and an important history lesson for us all.
Plot Summary: Katharine Graham is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper — The Washington Post. With help from editor Ben Bradlee, Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents. Together, they must overcome their differences as they risk their careers — and very freedom — to help bring long-buried truths to light.
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys
Director: Steven Spielberg
Genres: Historical drama
Production Co: Pascal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Reliance Entertainment, Amblin Entertainment, Star Thrower Entertainment
Distributors: 20th Century Fox, 20th Century Fox
All The Money In The World
Another very timely film, All The Money In The World deals with the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III and the greed of his grandfather J.P Getty, who at the time was the richest man in the world, yet refused to pay his ransom. (Interesting side note: Getty III’s son is actor Balthazar Getty!)
Plot Summary: In 1973, kidnappers demand $17 million from billionaire J. Paul Getty in exchange for his grandson’s release. Getty refuses to pay the perpetrators a single penny despite the desperate pleas from his daughter-in-law Gail and adviser Fletcher Chase. With nowhere else to turn, Gail and Fletcher soon become unlikely allies in a race against time to save the teen’s life.
Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Charlie Plummer, Timothy Hutton, Charlie Shotwell
Director: Ridley Scott
Genres: Crime drama, Thriller
Production Co: Scott Free Productions, Generator Entertainment, Reprisal Films
Distributors: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Pitch Perfect 3
The Bellas are back and in fine singing form to support the troops. I could have this fun franchise go on and on forever.
Plot Summary: After the highs of winning the world championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren’t job prospects for making music with your mouth. But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, this group of awesome nerds will come together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time.
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, John Lithgow, DJ Khaled , Hana Mae Lee
Director: Trish Sie
Genres: Musical comedy
Production Co: Universal Pictures, Gold Circle Entertainment, Brownstone Productions
It’s been awhile since we have seen Owen Wilson and I will watch Glenn Close in anything. So I definitely plan on seeing this one.
Plot Summary: Brothers Kyle and Peter Reynolds were raised to believe that their dad died when they were young. They’re shocked to discover that their mother lied about his death because she never knew who the biological father was. Setting out on an epic quest to find him, the two siblings soon learn more about their mom’s past than they ever wanted to know.
Cast: Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, J.K. Simmons, Katt Williams, Terry Bradshaw, Ving Rhames, Harry Shearer, June Squibb
Director: Lawrence Sher
Production Co: DMG Entertainment, Alcon Entertainment
Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures
Two words: Al Pacino. I could watch Pacino read a menu! And how awesome to have a couple of thrillers to check out over the holidays. But I do hope someone cast Pacino in a movie more worthy of his stature soon. His greatness is being wasted. Hangman is out on Ultra VOD now and will be both in theaters and on-demand on the 22nd.
A detective and a criminal profiler pursue a serial killer whose crimes are inspired by a children’s game called hangman.
Cast: Al Pacino, Karl Urban, Brittany Snow, Joe Anderson, Sarah Shahi, Steve Coulter, Chelle Ramos, Michael Rose
Director: Johnny Martin
Genres: Thriller, Mystery
Production Co: Cheyenne Enterprises, Patriot Pictures
Distributors: Saban Films
The Phantom Thread
With Daniel Day-Lewis oddly announcing his retirement from films at just 60 years of age, we will all flock to see his final performance. I adore him. The only actor to ever win three Best Actor nods – although Denzel Washington should also have three having been robbed for “Fences” last year – Day Lewis is the very best of our generation.
Plot Summary: Renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril are at the center of British fashion in 1950s London — dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites and debutantes. Women come and go in Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship. His carefully tailored existence soon gets disrupted by Alma, a young and strong-willed woman who becomes his muse and lover.
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps, Camilla Rutherford, Jane Perry
Director: Paul Anderson
Genres: Drama, Romance
Production Co: Focus Features, Annapurna Pictures, Ghoulardi Film Company
Distributors: Focus Features
With Aaron Sorkin directing an all-star cast of Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, this movie is not to be missed!
Plot Summary: The true story of Molly Bloom, a beautiful, young, Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknown to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who learned there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led people to believe.
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera, Kevin Costner, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp, Brian d’Arcy James
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Genres: Drama, Biography
Production Co: STX Entertainment, Pascal Pictures
Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Annette Benning is sure to receive another Oscar nod this year for her riveting performance of Gloria Grahame, one of my favorite film noir actresses. And Jamie Bell is also amazing as her much younger lover. With a strong supporting cast of Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Waters, and Frances Barber and a song from my favorite male lyricist Elvis Costello – Joni Mitchell is my fav female one! – you really have to see this.
Plot Summary: Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame finds romance and happiness with a younger man, but her life changes forever when she is diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1970s.
Cast: Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Vanessa Redgrave, Kenneth Cranham, Frances Barber, Leanne Best
Director: Paul McGuigan
Genres: Biography, Romance, Historical drama
Production Co: Sony Pictures Classics, Synchronistic Pictures, Eon Productions Ltd.
Distributors: Sony Pictures Classics