November – December Preview

 “Dr. Strange” (Nov. 4)
“Trolls” (Nov. 4)

It’s hard to imagine the holidays are almost here, but in addition to fractious family gatherings and stressful shopping trips to the mall, you can also look forward to some great movies. Everything from comic books to real life characters — even troll dolls — will appear at a theater near you:

 “Dr. Strange” (Nov. 4) — Marvel brings another comic book fan favorite to life with Benedict Cumberbatch in the starring role as Stephen Strange, a surgeon who loses the use of his hands and goes on an existential journey as a result. With digital effects employed to create a multi-dimensional universe, expect something akin to Christopher Nolen’s “Inception,” maybe? Also starring Tilda Swinton and Rachel McAdams.

“Trolls” (Nov. 4) — With its nostalgic vibe and family-friendly story, this might well be one of the big hits of the season. What baby boomer didn’t have a troll doll or an entire clan of them growing up? They come to life in this animated feature voiced by Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and James Corden. Expect a Technicolor fantasia with blue- and pinked-haired little trolls to delight audiences of all ages.

“Hacksaw Ridge” (Nov. 4) — Mel Gibson returns from his self-imposed exile to direct this biopic starring Andrew Garfield as Pvt. Desmond Doss, true-life conscientious objector who served as a medic in World War II and earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. Gibson, an actor who is also a great director, navigates around battle scenes a lot better than he does his personal life.

“Allied” (Nov. 23) — Having recently seen the trailer for this, it looks very intriguing—which was exactly the point. World War II intrigue abounds in this noir-like thriller meant to evoke those classics from the past like “Casablanca.” Brad Pitt and French actress Marion Cotillard play allied spies on a super-secret dangerous mission. And if they happen to fall in love in the process? Well, it happens. Robert Zemeckis directs.

“Rules Don’t Apply” (Nov. 23) — He writes. He directs. He plays the lead. It must be a Warren Beatty movie. Having played some other larger-than-life characters like Bugsy Siegel, Beatty takes on Howard Hughes in this imagined episode involving two of the billionaire’s young employees played by Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins. Set in the period when Hughes was in the movie business, the film is said to be more about the younger stars and less about him.

“Manchester by the Sea” (Nov. 18) was the big winner at Sundance this year in terms of the bidding for distribution. It boasts a powerful lineup of talent, which explains why. Directed by Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) and starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, this is a tense inter-family drama involving tragedy and redemption. Also starring Kyle Chandler, this could produce Oscar bait.

“Passengers” (Dec. 21) brings Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt together as two travelers on a spaceship bound for a colonized planet. It’s a space adventure. No, it’s a love story. It’s both with Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) directing two of today’s hottest stars.

“The Founder” (Dec. 16) recounts the story of Ray Kroc and the McDonald’s restaurant empire. Michael Keaton stars as the driven salesman who invented the word “franchise” and created a lasting legacy. It’s a No. 1 with fries that should take a bite out of the competition and might earn Keaton another chance at an Oscar.

“Assassin’s Creed” (Dec. 21) brings the popular video game to life with a super cast including Michael Fassbender, a very busy Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons. This looks strictly for fans of the game with an emphasis on powerful visual effects, but it could entice a whole new audience — obviously the point.

“Why Him?” (Dec. 25) puts the comedy in Christmas with “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston as a beleaguered dad forced to try and like his daughter’s fiancé — an eccentric tech giant played by James Franco in a role that is probably not a stretch for this quirky actor. The old saying of opposites attract may not apply here.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (Dec. 16) is the most highly anticipated movie of the season. It stars Felicity Jones in what is a stand-alone movie using the same themes as the other SW movies. Ben Mendelsohn from Netflix’s “Bloodline” and Riz Ahmed from HBO’s “The Night Of” also star in what could be another spin off from this long-running space series.

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