A not-very-long time ago, in a galaxy not very far away, I finally got to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. No worries, you won’t find any spoilers here. Only a true member of the Dark Side would do that.
But Star Wars wasn’t the only movie I’ve seen since Thanksgiving. So, with Christmas coming in just a few days, let’s take a look at five new or recent releases that’ll be playing at a theater near you this upcoming holiday weekend, and whether I think they’re worth your time.
(Note: Numbers next to each film refer to the total number of movies I’ve seen in 2015, and the order in which I saw them.)
76. The Big Short. An impressive cast (Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell) and some amusing cameo appearances (Margot Robbie in a bubble bath!) try to help director Adam McKay (Anchorman) achieve some legit cred in this inconsistent but largely entertaining movie about the downfall of the economy in 2008 and the folks who saw it coming. Should we be rooting for the guys who bet against the economy and, more importantly, the middle class’ fortunes? Probably not. But they sure did make the most of the opportunity. B+
77. In the Heart of the Sea. The whale is cool, but there isn’t enough of it. (Yes, I know that’s kind of the point.) And so many of the other effects just look fake. This is not as good a movie as Ron Howard and Chris Hemsworth’s last team-up, Rush, was. Yawn. C+
78. The Danish Girl. The kind of movie Hollywood only makes to win awards. Eddie Redmayne stars as the first person to ever undergo gender reassignment surgery, and the adorable Alicia Vikander is the wife who stands by his/her side. It’s a timely, respectful, and good looking movie, but one that’s too pristine and a little too long. Redmayne gives an affecting performance, and Vikander matches him. Ultimately, though, the film feels like eating your required amount of vegetables. B
79. Sisters. A mostly funny house party movie that’s worth seeing not just for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but for the cameos and appearances by a bunch of Saturday Night Live vets and some random Broadway stars (Bobby Moynihan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Maya Rudolph — and Spotlight’s Brian d’Arcy James, who is wasted in a wordless cameo). John Cena gets some of the best laughs, just as he did in Trainwreck. Essentially, this is a fun movie about some 40-somethings cutting loose for a change, and the mess that ensues. Not all the jokes land, but many do, and despite a slower, more forced first half, once the party heats up, the film does too. It’s a good time. B
80. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Neither just a trip to Nostalgia Town nor a fully realized new story, Chapter 7 is nevertheless an enjoyable space odyssey that delivers the goods. What it lacks in character development it more than makes up for in spectacle; the Millennium Falcon’s first flight alone is worth the price of admission. Do I wish J.J. Abrams had done more than basically just set the table for a new series? Yes. But oh man, does he make me eager to see what’s next — and to see this one again, since there’s so much I know I missed the first time around. B+
81. Carol. An utterly transporting film about a forbidden romance between two women (Cate Blanchett, excellent, and Rooney Mara, even better) in the early 1950s. Aside from the meticulous period detail, director Todd Haynes makes you feel every last longing; we ache for these two to be together. The film isn’t rushed or heavy handed. It says all it has to in silences and subtleties. And that final scene? Breathtaking. A–
Stay tuned. Only a few more movies to see before I can publish my top 10 of the year.
What are YOU running out to see during Christmas weekend? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!