2016 is almost over.
Over these last 10 months, I’ve seen many great films, some of which will end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year.
But November and December are special months for film. That’s not only when I can finally round out my Best of the Year list, but we start getting acquainted with films we will be hearing about during the upcoming awards season.
In these final two months, you will possibly see a few releases that will go on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
However, this list isn’t about the awards season, but rather it’s about the final batch of highly anticipated films of the year.
If summer bummed you out (it most certainly bummed me out), then the holiday movie season looks to turn things around. Here are just some of the films to look out for this holiday season.
Doctor Strange (Nov. 4)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a franchise that is unrivaled. While we are already seeing other studios try to ape this method of an interconnected series of films, the MCU will remain significant because it was the first and because it is constantly evolving and growing wider.
After the fracturing of the Avengers (spoiler alert) in the Phase Three starter “Captain America: Civil War,” the MCU is about to get stranger with its 14th installment (pun intended).
The film introduces a long-awaited hero in Dr. Stephen Strange, played by the brilliantly casted Benedict Cumberbatch.
After a horrific car accident ends his career as a neurosurgeon, Strange begins his journey around the world to heal himself, but instead finds himself learning the ways of the mystic arts.
“Doctor Strange” will introduce us to the supernatural side of the MCU. With the supernatural come alternate universes, parallel dimensions, and time travel; all with a dash of the metaphysical.
As someone who saw 15 unreleased minutes of the film in IMAX not too long ago, I can attest the trailers’ “Inception”-like visuals of buildings and cityscapes folding and twisting into each other won’t prepare you for the mind-tripping visuals that I saw.
It’s hard to describe them in detail, but words I would use are trippy, hypnotic, and kaleidoscopic. In other words, do not take any hallucinogens before seeing this film.
The film is just two weeks out at the time of this writing, so if you want to start off the holiday season right, check out the last comic book movie of the year.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Nov. 18)
To say “Harry Potter” had a massive impact on both pop culture and the world, is an understatement. A fictional universe like the one J.K Rowling created only comes around maybe once every generation.
Even with the book series having ended almost a decade ago and the film series wrapping up five years ago, the wizarding world’s presence in the public conscious hasn’t faded one bit.
So it was inevitable that Warner Bros. would try to keep the cash coming by bringing the franchise out of retirement with a new prequel series set 70 years before the events of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.”
On the surface, this sounds like a typical greedy studio desperately trying to make money off a well-known property by putting the bare minimum effort into it. And it would be if it wasn’t for the fact that Rowling herself is making her screenwriting debut with this film.
Warner Bros. needs Rowling more than she needs them, so her involvement adds much credibility and confidence in the film. Whether it pays off, we’ll find out soon. Either way, get ready for a new era in the wizarding world.
Moana (November 23)
At this point, it’s safe to say that Disney Animation is in the midst of another renaissance, what with their successes of "Tangled", "Wreck-It Ralph", "Frozen", "Big Hero 6", and this year’s "Zootopia."
For their 56th animated feature, Disney will be bringing Polynesian culture and mythology together with gorgeous, lush, and colorful animation and original songs.
Like Frozen before it, this is an animated musical set to be released over the Thanksgiving weekend.
While it may not reach that film’s unprecedented level of success, it should still play well with families over the holidays to make it one of the biggest films of the year.
Regardless of box office, anything Disney Animation puts out is deserving of our attention. And judging from the trailers, it looks like another amazing film from them is on the horizon.
La La Land (Dec. 9 limited release; Dec. 16 wide release)
I had to include at least one possible Oscar contender on the list. Based on early word of mouth, its Oscar chances have been cemented.
From writer/director Damien Chazelle, who directed one of 2014’s best films in “Whiplash,” comes a contemporary musical/drama/comedy/romance in the vein of a classic Hollywood picture.
Its two leads are Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in their third collaboration. They play two lovers who dream of fame and success in Los Angeles. Again, early word on the film has been astounding so far after playing at several film festivals these past couple months.
I’ve spoken to people who have seen it and they have nothing but magnificent things to say. Just going by the trailers, everything from the atmosphere to the tone to the actors suggests this is one of those films people are going to fall in love with.
I can’t wait to see for myself come December.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dec. 16)
This one is a no-brainer. I’m positive I would have people screaming directly in my face if I left this out. Just so it’s clear, expect a new “Star Wars” film to pop up every December from now until the end of time (at least that’s what Disney wants).
But before we check back in on Rey, Finn, and Luke Skywalker next year with “Episode VIII,” we’re going back before the events of “A New Hope,” where the Rebel Alliance forms a team to steal plans for the Death Star.
Whether you have seen any trailers or not, that is about as far as I will go with plot details. “The Force Awakens” worked well on its first viewing because of how little I knew about it beforehand (I’m still surprised that in the Internet Age that I was able to go in completely spoiler-free).
“Star Wars” is quite possibly one of the most iconic film franchises of all time, so I don’t feel like I need to sell anyone on its significance.
The fact that “Star Wars” is back with a new film every year is worth getting excited about.