The end-of-year holidays are a time for getting together with friends and family and going out to the movies, after first turning off the television set. (Forget about impeachment for awhile, it will still be there when you get back). But television doesn't want to let us go, as the trend increases for the brief release of films to theaters before they arrive on Netflix.
This season, at least three films, "Marriage Story," "The Two Popes" and "Six Underground" will get token theatrical releases before playing forever on Netflix. It's the same for Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman," which opened on Netflix Wednesday but also can be seen at Images Cinema in Williamstown, Crandell Theatre in Chatham, N.Y., and The Moviehouse in Millerton, N.Y., as well as Spectrum 8 in Albany, N.Y.
Netflix is wonderful but it has tons of money. So do — or will — all the streaming services going into the movie business. The same probably can't be said for your local movie theater. Get to the theaters this holiday season and see films on the big screen as they were intended.
Here is a look ahead at the holiday films. Release dates are subject to change and some of the prestige dramas will open in New York and Los Angeles for Oscar consideration before going wide in January.
Not much was expected from "Jumanji" when the fantasy adventure film was released in 2017 — "Welcome To the Jungle" — but it was a box office sensation and a sequel was inevitable. "Jumanji: The Next Level" (Dec. 13) is that sequel, with Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan and Kevin Hart helping four teenagers escape the film's video game fantasy world.
What's left of the Resistance confronts the First Order and the risen Emperor Palpatine in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (Dec. 20), the conclusion of the Skywalker saga and the end of the legendary series' third trilogy. J.J. Abrams again directs Adam Driver as the sinister Kylo Ren, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac as the heart of The Resistance, and Mark Hamill as the apparently risen Luke Skywalker.
Awards buzz accompanies writer-director Noah Baumbach's "Marriage Story" (Dec. 6) with Adam Driver, out of his Kylo Ren costume, and Scarlett Johansson as a married couple going through an ugly bi-coastal divorce. Alan Alda, Laura Dern and Ray Liotta play competing divorce lawyers.
Clint Eastwood directs "Richard Jewell" (Dec. 13), which tells the story of the security guard who found a bomb at the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996 and was later accused of planting it, unleashing a media frenzy. Paul Walter Hauser, so good in "I, Tonya," stars as Hauser.
Anthony Hopkins plays Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce is Cardinal Bergoglio — soon to be Pope Francis — in "The Two Popes (currently in limited release, going wide and to Netflix on Dec. 20), which explores the friction between the two Vatican leaders. Also on the 20th, in another based on fact drama, "Bombshell" dramatizes the sexual harassment scandal that brought down Fox News inventor Roger Ailes. Ailes is played by John Lithgow, and Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie play newswomen who helped bring Ailes down.
A number of dramas with awards potential are scheduled for release on Christmas Day. George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman are young soldiers in World War I who must cross enemy lines to warn a British battalion of an ambush in "1917), which is based on the war experiences of the grandfather of director Sam Mendes. Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth co-star.
Set in World War II, "A Hidden Life" tells the story of an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis. This film by director Terrence Malick was once highly anticipated, but in recent duds the director allowed his unique impressionist style to totally overwhelm coherent plotting.
Michael B. Jordan plays a lawyer and civil rights activist defending a black man (Jamie Foxx) wrongly accused of murdering a white woman in "Just Mercy."
Finally on Christmas Day comes the latest film version of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel "Little Women," with Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen playing the March sisters. Meryl Streep and Laura Dern are aboard and Greta Gerwig directs.
On Dec. 27, Alfre Woodard stars as a death row warden burdened by the executions carried out on her watch in "Clemency," which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Ryan Reynolds leads a squad of vigilantes who fake their own deaths so they can pursue notorious criminals in "Six Underground" (Dec. 13). Melanie Laurent, Ben Hardy and Dave Franco are aboard in a film helmed by Michael Bay, taking a break from directing big-budget turkeys.
Favorable buzz accompanies "Uncut Gems" (Dec. 25), starring Adam Sandler as a gambling addict and diamond dealer seeking one last score to get out of debt. Former Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett plays himself as a diamond-loving hoop legend.
THE ONE MUSICAL
Just about every holiday season, one musical arrives to try to capture the box office and critical success of "Chicago." More meet the fate of the recent dud "The Greatest Showman."
On Dec. 20 comes "Cats," based on the long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. So far the movie has been attracting the wrong kind of buzz about the creepy mutant look of the cat actors. Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen and Judi Dench lead an all-star fur-laden cast.
"Cats" could arguably be included in this category but we'll go with three more traditional horror films instead.
Miles Robbins' college student starts receiving visits from his imaginary childhood friend, played by Patrick Schwarzenegger, in "Daniel Isn't Real," (Dec. 6). Patrick is the son of Arnold and Maria Shriver.
A blood-red dress begins wreaking havoc on its wearers during holiday season in "In Fabric," a horror film with comic elements that is attracting good early notice. It should at least be creepier than alleged clothing-based thriller "Phantom Thread" of two years ago.
"Black Christmas" (Dec 13), the latest remake of the 1974 splatterfest, offers a feminist take, as the sorority girls spending the holidays on a nearly empty campus where they are pursued by a stalker, fight back, blow by bloody blow.
Four years after the brilliant, hilarious "Shaun The Sheep Movie" comes "Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" (Dec. 13). It takes awhile to make these wryly British stop-motion animation films. Borrowing from "E.T.," the brave Shaun tries to rescue an extraterrestrial that crashed near Mossy Bottom Farm from a sinister pursuer.
In "Ice Princess Lily" (Dec. 27), an ice princess (obviously) teams with a young dragon to stop an evil snowman and his polar bear army from freezing over the world. So the lovable polar bears from the Coke commercial are villains? Anyway, global freezing is a hoax.