You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m telling you why: We’re finally getting a proper holiday movie season. This is not a slight against Nomadland, Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari or The Father — all fine films — but come on. Only the true cinephiles of the world could muster up excitement for the sober-minded, pandemic-affected class of 2020. (Fun fact: More people watched the big Adele and Oprah Winfrey interview than this year’s Oscars ceremony, which featured winners from all those projects). This year? A diverse, full-fledged collection of treats. You may even have fun! Actually, having seen Lady Gaga vamp it up in House of Gucci, I can assure you: You will have fun.
Let’s unwrap a few right now. For an A-list star quotient, think Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Timothee Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Chris Evans, Kid Cudi, Cate Blanchett and Matthew Perry . . . all in the same movie. (That would be the satire Don’t Look Up). For musical nerds, Steven Spielberg directs remake of the classic West Side Story while Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage sings his heart out in the period romance Cyrano. We’re even getting new installments of Spider-Man and The Matrix. So take a break from your 17th viewing of All Too Well, grab your favorite red scarf and head to your closest theater: Some big-screen excitment is finally coming to town.
House of Gucci
After you enjoy your turkey and potatoes this Thanksgiving, be sure to devour a delicious cinematic dessert. For this overwrought Italian soap opera won’t sweep the Oscars, but it will fill you up with its satisfying empty calories. Based on real events, it focuses on the ill-fated marriage between Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) and fashion heir Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). Almost as soon as they meet at a party in the 1970s, the lower-class Patrizia becomes fixated on making their relationship legal and basking in all things Gucci. After he eventually grows tires of her tantrums and files for divorce, she seeks her revenge in the form of a hit man. The murder plot is actually an after-thought: The crux is an old-fashioned story about greed that happens to be dripping in gorgeous couture. It all makes for a ridiculously watchable 164-minute saga, even when it ventures into the wrong side of camp. (An unrecognizable Jared Leto, as Driver’s eccentric cousin, hams it up in his own movie.) As for Gaga? She’s fabulous and surprisingly credible as the scorned socialite diva. Shaky accent be damned, you still won’t be able to take your eyes off her. (In theaters, November 24)
This isn’t so much as a movie as it is a two-hour-plus vibe. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Phantom Thread) drops us off in in 1973 in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, where a confident 15-year-old part-time actor (Cooper Hoffman) nurses a crush on an enthralling twentysomething (musician Alana Haim). They stay platonic (phew) and embark on a series of adventures together, ranging from selling waterbeds to wheeling and dealing with Hollywood agents. And, yeah, that’s about it. The narrative is shaggy and loose, enabling the audience to feel as totally chill as the main characters. After awhile, this anything-goes flow begins to grate: A sequence with Sean Penn as a washed-up actor is meaningless; the one with Bradley Cooper as a sleazy horn-dog producer is ill-fitting (though Cooper steals each second). But there is joy to be found at its heart, resulting in a sweet-as-licorice L.A. story. (In theaters November 26)
Being the Ricardos
If you owned a TV set in the 1950s, you adored watching Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz laugh it up on I Love Lucy. This drama, starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, offers a look at the couple’s tumultuous marriage when they were off-camera — and mixes in an is-she-a-communist subplot just for good measure. (Maybe now is a good time to remind that you that this snappy drama was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin). Spoiler: They divorced in 1960. (In theaters, December 10)
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Now that he’s been unmasked, our favorite web-slinging superhero (Tom Holland) tries to juggle his newfound fame, schoolwork, his relationship with MJ (Zendaya) — and, you know, a series of universe-threatening problems. His foes include Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), who hasn’t been seen since 2004’s Spider-Man 2. (In theaters, December 17)
The Tender Bar
Working-class kid J.R. Moehinger (Tye Sheridan) gets schooled via frequent visits to a local watering hole in suburban New York. But the focus here is on the bartender — his uncle Charlie (Ben Affleck), who serves up drinks, book recommendations and frank life advice. George Clooney directs this light-as-beer-foam heartwarmer that kind of disappointed me considering the source material is one of my personal favorites. I mean, at least reference the fact that J.R. spent several of his formative years in Arizona! (In theaters, December 22)
The Matrix Resurrections
The fourth installment in this groundbreaking saga purports to be both a sequel and a reboot. Neo (Keanu Reeves) now lives in near-future San Francisco, his memories wiped. But then a Morpheus-like character pops up and lures him to take his red pill. Kung-fu training ensues. Yes, Carrie-Ann Moss appears as well. Am I the only one who remembers her on Models Inc.? (In theaters and HBO Max, December 22)
Don’t Look Up
As if things haven’t been bleak enough lately, now let’s examine what could happen as a giant comet hurtles straight toward Earth with a 100 percent chance of impact. But, wait! This is a comedy satire! With Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as brilliant Michigan State University-educated astronomers! And Meryl Streep as the president doing her Miranda Priestley husky vocals! And Oscar winner and former Saturday Night Live head writer Adam McKay behind the camera! Bring it! (Netflix, December 24)
West Side Story
The Broadway classic-turned-iconic film is getting the Steven Spielberg treatment. But the story — teens Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler) fall in love in New York City despite their different backgrounds — remains the same. And that gorgeous music is, of course, timeless. And cool. (In theaters, December 25)
Journal for Jordan
Just pack the tissues right now: This true story follows First Sergeant Charles Monroe King (Michael B. Jordan), who writes letters to his newborn son, also named Jordan, while he’s stationed overseas. After he’s killed in Iraq, his widow keeps all the letters in a book for posterity. Directed by one Denzel Washington. (In theaters, December 25)
Perhaps — well, there’s a very likely chance — you’re already familiar with the classic romantic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage), a chivalrous poet in love with his friend Roxanne (Haley Bennett) but is too self-conscious about his physical appearance to make a play for her. This version, set in 19th century France and filmed entirely on location in gorgeous Sicily, Italy, is a musical featuring songs and lyrics from The National. I’ve never heard of them either but their work is lovely here. (In theaters in January)
Also published on Medium.