Monthly Preview: December 2015

calendar2This is it, folks: the last month of 2015. It’s been a damn good year with tons of great films, and that trend looks to continue right up to the final buzzer. And for me, it feels like the whole year has just been a prelude to the last two films on this list. These films are the latest installments in cinematic bloodlines that have defined movies for me as much as anything else that ever hit the big screen, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next. Chances are you can probably guess which ones those are in advance, but for those who can’t you can see for yourself after the jump.

Macbeth: I’m pretty sure that Shakespeare is one of the most adapted writers in the world, particularly in film; there have been hundreds of films based on his plays, and while “Macbeth” has never had the level of exposure of “Romeo and Juliet” or “Hamlet” it’s certainly had its fair share of film iterations before. But from what I hear, this latest adaptation from Justin Kurzel might be the most stylish and aggressive adaptation yet (which is saying something, considering that Roman Polanski once adapted it). Fassbender certainly looks appropriately vicious and unhinged in the footage we’ve seen, and I’ve no doubt Marion Cotillard will bring the right amount of maliciousness to bear as well. This one could be a really intense piece of cinema if it lives up to the hype from Cannes, and I can’t wait to get a look for myself.

Chi-Raq: Let’s be honest: Spike Lee has not had a great couple of years. Since the success of Inside Man, he’s had very little to write home about, with many of his films DOA. Thankfully, Chi-Raq looks like the best chance yet for him to reverse that trend. This looks like classic, audacious, in-your-face Spike Lee, the same cinematic genius behind Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X. While the film has already generated backlash within the black community over its tone and presumed disrespect for activists, I would give Lee the benefit of the doubt until I see the final film. Personally, I anticipate an emotionally-charged, stylistically-aggressive piece of activist cinema, one that makes sure that everyone gets their share of the blame for the meat-grinder of inner city violence. And I really, REALLY hope I’m right about that.

Krampus: Mike Dougherty made one of my favorite horror movies (and quintessential Halloween movie) of the last decade with Trick ‘R Treat, and I hope he can bring the same mean-spirited fun and holiday honesty to Krampus. The practical creature designs look awesome from what little we see in the trailer, and the story seems particularly well-calibrated to explore a lot of the stereotypical frustrations and difficulties of Christmas. I wouldn’t expect this movie to reinvent the wheel for either monster movies or Christmas films, but I very much expect Dougherty to marry the two together with confidence and panache. This one will be a lot of fun for sure, and maybe at the end we’ll get a new Xmas tradition out of it too.

The Big Short: It seems like Adam McKay is about ready to turn a corner. After starting off with comedies like Anchorman and Talladega Nights, McKay co-wrote this summer’s Ant-Man for Marvel (with rumors that he might direct a film for them in the future) and now delivers The Big Short. This looks like it could be another great black comedy about the financial crisis along the same lines as Wolf of Wall Street, and it will be very interesting to see how McKay handles a film that is not an overt comedy. He certainly won’t be hurting for talent in front of the camera, with Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell serving as the main leads. Chances are this one will be painfully funny, with a larger than usual emphasis on the “painful” part. I wasn’t sure if this one would make it to theaters in 2015, and now that it’s almost here I cannot wait to see it.

Sisters: This year has been a solid year for comedy, particularly of the female-persuasion (the top three highest-grossing comedies of the year were led by and written by women), and hopefully the venerable team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler can end this year on a high note. While they have a great cast around them and a solid writer/director team behind them, it’s Tina and Amy that make this a must-watch. The two of them obviously know how to play off each other comedically, and their own personal friendship will hopefully give the film a healthy dose of honest emotion underneath it all. I’m particularly excited to see Tina Fey play against-type as a hot mess party girl, something I don’t think I ever would have expected. This will probably be a lot of fun, it’s just too bad it’s gonna get annihilated by…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I really don’t think I need to explain this one, guys. You can go about your business. Move along, move along.

The Hateful Eight: If The Force Awakens is the final drink of the night, then The Hateful Eight is the chaser: it will either bitterly wash away or wonderfully enhance the flavor of its immediate predecessor. Either way, I’m sure it will be nothing short of awesome, seeing as how Quentin Tarantino is one of the safest bets in cinema right now. Considering that even his worst film (Death Proof) is still pretty damn good, I don’t think Hateful Eight will be a disappointment in any way.Tarantino’s usual flair and energy seem to be on full display, and the cast is the perfect sort of Tarantino cast, with a collection of old favorites who will undoubtedly do some of their best work here. I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to wrap up the year than with a new Tarantino western, so thank you to the universe for making that happen once again.

I’ve enjoyed David O Russell’s career renaissance more than most cinephiles, so I’ll still check out Joy, Scorsese-lite aesthetic and all; as gorgeous as it looks I’m almost dreading the probable faux-profundity of The Revenant but I guess I’ll see it; and I’ve heard amazing things about Anomalisa, though the thought of Charlie Kaufman plus stop-motion animation sounds a little too precious for me to get me super-excited about it.

And with that, 2015 draws to a close. Here’s hoping these films finish the year out strong and lead us into the wonderful promise of 2016!

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