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We start with a new film meant to get you into the Christmas spirit – or is it?! After all, the star is very grumpy and very green! Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Grinch in his own effective style, in a new animated version from the creators of the Despicable Me movies. It also features some new characters. You'll love Kenan Thompson as a guy whose Christmas spirit is in overdrive. The basic story is the same, as Grinch sets out to ruin Christmas in Whoville. We get a little more of his back story, and the whole thing is just fresher. Pharrell Williams narrates. Listen for a funny nod to him when the alarm clock rings. This is going to be a huge hit, and a joy for the entire family. I'm all-in on this remake of a classic.
Universal Pictures - Rated PG
If it's a World War II zombie movie you're looking for, check out Overlord! On the night before D-Day, American paratroopers discover a lab where Nazi scientists resurrect dead bodies to bolsters their troops. You heard me! Crazy, right? Genre-bending, for sure. Jovan Adepo, the kid from Fences, and Wyatt Russell, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell's son, are among the stars. A lot of anticipation for this one, produced in part by J.J. Abrams. Check for an update when I'm able to screen it soon.
Paramount Pictures - Rated R
The Girl in the Spider's Web
The Girl in the Spider's Web is a new Dragon Tattoo story. It's no longer original source material of Stief Larsson novels. And it has a new star. The Crown's versatile Claire Foy plays pansexual Lisbeth Salander. In this story, she's tangled in cyber hacking and dealing with a sinister sister. You remember Rooney Mara starred in the only prior English language film. This feels incredibly derivative. The character is watered down, basically brooding 'til she leaps into James Bond-style action. None of the hard edge that made the first one compelling. The visuals are void of color, with one bright red exception. You'll see what I mean. Ultimately, you'll also be left looking for the missing edge.
MGM - Rated R
A Private War
Look for Rosamund Pike to land another Oscar nomination playing war correspondent Marie Colvin in A Private War. This woman was tough as nails, and Pike is right in the trenches, though we also see her vulnerable side as she longs for children. Getting blinded in one eye covering the conflict in Sri Lanka doesn't deter her. She soldiers on in the Middle East, making it her personal mission to tell oppressed people's stories and meeting her ultimate challenge in Syria. Jamie Dornan plays her photographer. So nice to see him shake off a few of those shades of grey for a well-respected role. Director Matthew Heineman has a documentary background, and it shows with the authenticity of this powerful film.
Aviron Pictures - Rated R
We know Lucas Hedges as the breakout star from Manchester by the Sea, and he's having another big year. In Boy Erased, he plays a college student struggling with his sexuality. When he confesses to his parents that he might be attracted to guys, it's off to a gay conversion camp. Yes, this is based on a true story, and those camps still exist. Russell Crowe plays his Baptist preacher father, and Nicole Kidman plays his more sympathetic mom. This is written and directed by fellow Aussie Joel Edgerton, one of my favorite talents in Hollywood. He takes the perfect tone: letting the story speak for itself. Edgerton himself plays the camp counselor. A well-done film with possible Oscar consideration. By the way, watch for Hedges to also star in Ben Is Back with Julia Roberts later this year.
Focus Features - Rated R