Cinematic magic and Christmas magic often go hand-in-hand, but as well as watching The Muppets for the umpteenth time, or scouring Netflix for some over-sugered, cookie-cutter rom-com confection, there are plenty of brand new, non-festive films out this December. Here are seven films to look out for in cinemas.
West Side Story
A retelling of Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s classic stage musical, itself based on Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet, this is a real cinematic event. Building on the classic original 1961 movie, 2021’s West Side Story has been given a script polish by Angels In America writer Tony Kushner and the director’s chair is filled by Steven Spielberg – who has dabbled with musicals before, as sequences in 1941 and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom can attest. His version is a grander, epic telling of the rivalry between teen gangs the Jets and the Sharks and star-crossed lovers Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler), whose forbidden tryst across a racial divide hurtles them towards tragedy, all whilst singing some iconic songs and dancing up a storm. Bernstein’s pounding, moving and sexy score, huge crowd-pleasing, dance numbers and heartbreaking quieter moments are all given a grittier edge and more sensitive casting than the original by Spielberg. Definitely made for the big screen.
Dir: Steven Spielberg (12A) (156 mins)
In cinemas now
Spider-Man: No Way Home
The Marvel arachnid takes a leaf out of the superb Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse as this latest epic goes all live-action multiverse. After being unmasked as Spider-Man at the end of the last web-slinging entry Far From Home, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is dealing with unwanted fame and celebrity. And who better to help him than new mentor figure Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)? Naturally, playing with time does not help, and reality becomes warped, allowing some rather daring crossovers from other earlier Spider-Man movies: Alfred Molina’s Dr Octopus, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Jamie Foxx as baddie Electro, Rhys Ifans’ Lizard and even Thomas Hayden Church’s Sandman. There are also rumours of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield also joining the fray, alongside Spidey regulars MJ (Zendaya) and Jacob Batalon’s Ned. The Home… films have been the best live-action iteration of the Marvel icon yet, and this may be his last of them. Let’s hope our favourite web-slinger goes out in style.
Dir: Jon Watts (12A) (111 mins)
In cinemas now
The Lost Daughter
Maggie Gyllenhaal makes her directorial debut with her own adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel, crafting a psychological drama that has already garnered numerous awards. Olivia Colman stars as Leda, an academic taking a holiday on a Greek island, whose encounters with young American mother Nina (Dakota Johnson) bring back painful memories from her past. Jessie Buckley plays the younger Leda, trapped in a claustrophobic marriage and unable to retain her sense of self. Colman is no doubt superb as ever, playing one of the vastly complex women the film follows. Darkly emotional and unapologetically messy, Gyllenhaal presents a richly layered drama that deals with the realities of motherhood, the pressures, the anxieties, the frustrations of ambition, and the pigeonholing of women with unfettered honesty. The triumvirate of female actors is rounded out with Ed Harris and Peter Saarsgard in a gripping, beautifully observed examination of womanhood. And to top it off, Colman dances to Bon Jovi in it.
Dir: Maggie Gyllenhaal (15) (121 mins)
In cinemas now
The King’s Man
Matthew Vaughn returns to his divisive Kingsman franchise, which, although sporadically entertaining in its previous outings with Taron Egerton and Colin Firth, had some rather glaring flaws. Finishing a film on an anal sex gag for one. In this origin story, Vaughn sensibly moves from present-day, high-kicking, CGI Elton John sub-Bondian nonsense to an early 20th-century setting. Gravitas magnet Ralph Fiennes stars as an Oxford duke who forms part of a new breed of protectors of the realm, the Kingsmen. Like Colin Firth in the more modern iteration, he takes raw recruit Conrad, played by Harris Dickinson, into his cause of defeating a shadowy cabal of tyrants from starting a catastrophic war. Gemma Arterton’s athletic suffragette Polly and Djimon Hounsou’s Shola forming more of his team. They are battling the ruthless Rasputin, played with glee and Kossack dancing skills by Rhys Ifans, in what should be a blend of action spectacle, history, comedy and bonkersness. Hopefully, it will make up for The Golden Circle.
Dir: Vaughn (15) (120 mins)
In cinemas Wens 22 Dec
The Matrix: Resurrections
Which pill to take? Red or blue? Who knows as the world of The Matrix returns, after being Reloaded and having final Revolutions back in 2003. The original is a bonafide sci-fi/fu classic that redefined action cinema and made lots of people buy long leather overcoats. Shrouded in mystery, this new sequel has Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss returning as an older Neo and Trinity – despite their deaths in the last film as they freed humanity from enslavement by the massive computer program we all live in. And, presumably, still do. Joining the cast are Iron Fist’s athletic Jessica Henwick, Yahya Abdul Mateen II becomes a more youthful Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, and Neil Patrick Harris is The Analyst. The blend of pop psychology, along with endless CGI punch-ups, weighed down the sequels. Let’s hope we are not caught in a glitch, and this Matrix works better than the previous effort, or at least spares us a sweaty rave scene.
Dir: Lana Wachowski (15) (148 mins)
In cinemas Fri 24 Dec
Don’t Look Up
From Adam McKay (The Big Short, Step Brothers), comes the punchy, apocalyptic comedy Don’t Look Up. The film is making headlines mostly because of its stacked cast of Oscar botherers. No doubt streaming giant Netflix, onto who’s service the film will drop after a brief theatrical run from Fri 10 Dec, has those golden statues in mind. The film being a comedy might dent those Best Picture chances. Still, a Christmas Eve release date online makes it a quirky pick for festive counterprogramming at home.
Dir. Adam McKay (15) (138 mins)
In cinemas now; streaming from Fri 24 Dec on Netflix
Read our review below
Director Julia Ducournau’s follow up to the disturbing cannibal drama Raw is an even more unsettling, Palme D’or-winning body horror. Agathe Rousselle plays Alexia, who had a titanium plate put in her head as a child following a car accident and has had an affinity with cars ever since, which Ducournau pushes to sexual extremes: She’s a dancer, twerking passionately at car shows with legions of creepy male fans. When one of them oversteps the mark, events take a violent turn and she finds herself hunted by the police. Playing with gender roles, Alexia disguises herself as a boy – watch out for a graphic nose-breaking scene – and befriends a father (Vincent Lindon) whose son is missing and whom she now resembles. Expect to be uncomfortable in a whirling, heady mix of violence, parental trauma and Cronenbergian body horror, with some images horrifically indelible amidst the carnage. Challenging and not for the faint-hearted, this confirms writer/director Ducournau as a talented provocateur.
Dir: Julia Ducournau (18) (108 mins)
In cinemas Fri 31 Dec
words KEIRON SELF + HANNAH COLLINS
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