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Holiday Movie Preview: From ‘Joy’ to ‘Star Wars,’ This Season Has Something for Everyone

Daisy Ridley and BB-8 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.Daisy Ridley and BB-8 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Daisy Ridley and BB-8 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.Courtesy of Disney

The Danish Girl, Nov. 27

Danish Girl Courtesy of Focus Features

Based on David Ebershoff’s historical novel and directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), the movie stars Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) as Lili Elbe, who was living as a man Denmark in 1882 and transitioned to female in the 1920s with the support of her wife, artist Gerda Wegener (Ex Machina’s Alicia Vikander). Elbe is widely considered the first person to have undergone gender-confirmation surgery. “When I first read the script, I wept three times,” Hooper says. “I was moved by the power of love as an agent of transformation, even when the world was against it.” —Joe McGovern

Macbeth, Dec. 4

MACBETH Courtesy: The Weinstein Company n/c

As part of his vision, director Justin Kurzel chose to depict Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) and Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) as broken people mourning the death of their infant child who find ambition a worthy outlet for their grief. “Justin had picked out a few things that really unlocked a lot of the character — the idea of Macbeth having post-traumatic stress disorder,” Fassbender says. “For me, it was such a massive breakthrough.” The result is a more visceral retelling of the story of the man who would be king, one that shows the play’s offstage battles in gory detail. —Kevin P. Sullivan

Youth, Dec. 4

Still of Harvey Keitel, Michael Caine and Paul Dano in Youth.Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

In a movie of gorgeous mountain scenery, thumping with an eclectic soundtrack of pop and opera, Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel star as a famous retired composer and a fading film director, respectively. Both men are forced to confront their pasts, thanks to the women in their lives. Rachel Weisz plays Caine’s daughter, and Jane Fonda — practically unrecognizable in fireball lipstick and a Marilyn Monroe wig — appears in a delirious cameo as Keitel’s thunderous onetime muse. —Joe McGovern

The Big Short, Dec. 11

The Big Short Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Right after Anchorman 2, director Adam McKay was asked what his dream project was. Answer: The Big Short, Michael Lewis’ dissection of the 2008 mortgage meltdown. Brad Pitt’s company handed McKay the reins, and an all-star cast signed on, including McKay pal Steve Carell, who’d just earned an Oscar nod for Foxcatcher. (“He has slowly developed a British accent, which no one calls out, and he’s very full of himself,” jokes McKay.) If McKay hits that Moneyball/Blind Side sweet spot, Oscar voters might want to hedge their bets. —Jeff Labrecque

In the Heart of the Sea, Dec. 11

HEART OF THE SEA Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

For Ron Howard’s new, based-on-real-events historical epic, Chris Hemsworth plays 19th-century seaman Owen Chase, first mate of whaling ship The Essex. Based on the story that inspired Moby Dick, the movie details how the crew of the Essex attempted to survive the elements and lack of food in tiny, lifeboat-size vessels after one of the very creatures they were hunting destroyed their craft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. —Clark Collis

Sisters, Dec. 18

Still of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in Sisters.Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play — what else — sisters who throw one last blowout after discovering their parents plan to sell the family home. “[My character] kind of loses her mind as the party goes on,” Poehler says. “I got to break through ceilings and watch trees smash through houses and drunkenly mouth off to a cop. It’s fantasy camp for a 40-something-year-old woman.” —Sara Vilkomerson

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Dec. 18

Daisy Ridley and BB-8 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.Courtesy of Disney

What we know so far: There is no peace in the heavens. The Empire has morphed into a junta called the First Order, while X-wing pilots like Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron now fly for a splinter group known as the Resistance. Not only are Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke (Mark Hamill) returning, but Harrison Ford’s Han Solo will be one of the leads, along with desert scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley, above) and runaway stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega). On Team Dark Side are Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the First Order’s General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and chrome-armored officer Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). —Anthony Breznican

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, Dec. 18

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road ChipCourtesy Twentieth Century Fox

The new Chipmunks sequel is gambling that some of those opening-weekend Star Wars screenings will be sold out and that the spillover — and a younger skewing audience — will gravitate towards the old-school antics of Alvin and co. The boys worry that Dave (Jason Lee) is flying to New York to pop the question to his new girlfriend — hence, abandoning them — so they hit the road to stop him.

45 Years, Dec. 23

45-YearsCourtesy of Bureau

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play a married couple whose 45th wedding celebration is thrown a wrinkle when a decades-old splinter in their relationship breaks through the surface and causes them to reconsider what they thought they knew about each other. Both actors were honored for their performances at the Berlin Film Festival, where the film debuted, and could be Academy contenders if the film gets enough eyeballs.

Where to Invade Next, Dec. 23

where-to-invade-next_0Courtesy of Dog Eat Dog Films

Where to Invade Next isn’t the indictment of American militarism that its title implies. In fact, it ends up being something much different and more heartfelt. Michael Moore travels across the globe (mostly Europe, but also far-flung places like Tunisia) and, with an air of mock astonishment, shows us how much better other countries treat women, minorities, and families. In each case, he talks to locals and after hearing how simple their prescriptions for happiness are, he plants an American flag on their soil and argues that his invading documentary team wants to bring them back to America to fix what’s broken at home. —Chris Nashawaty

Concussion, Dec. 25

ConcussionCourtesy of Columbia Pictures

Concussion is based on the true story of how Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist, discovered a degenerative brain disease seen primarily in pro football players and concluded that it was caused by repeated blows to the head. The movie dramatizes the fallout and depicts the National Football League threatening, intimidating, and attempting to discredit the doctor and his wife, Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). That’s tough material for a football junkie, but Will Smith concluded that fatherhood trumped fandom. “As a parent, the responsibility to bring this information to light was overwhelming,” he says. “I almost couldn’t say no.” —Nicole Sperling

The Hateful Eight, Dec. 25

The Hateful EightCourtesy of The Weinstein Company

When Quentin Tarantino casts a film, he doesn’t just cast an actor — he casts an entire career. “He owns a copy of the first movie I ever made, called Eyes of a Stranger,” says Jennifer Jason Leigh. “So often people just think of the last three things you’ve done and that’s who you are now, but for Quentin, something I did at 23 is still me today.” Leigh plays Daisy Domergue, a notorious outlaw on her way to the gallows courtesy of Kurt Russell’s walrus-mustached bounty hunter. Her odds shift when the handcuffed pair become blizzard-bound with men of dubious intent. Those nefarious six include Tarantino stalwarts Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen. —Keith Staskiewicz

Point Break, Dec. 25

PB-TRLR2-0124.JPGCourtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The recipe for the original Point Break called for equal parts testosterone, sea spray, and surf-Zen mumbo jumbo. This extreme-sports remake tries to keep the ratios similar, but on a much larger scale. It’s still the story of Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey), the implausibly all-American FBI agent who infiltrates a gang of wave riders and larcenists headed by the charismatic Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez) — only now, in this globe-hopping update, it has gone international. “The original was mostly set in and around SoCal,” says director Ericson Core (Invincible). “When we filmed, we were a roving band of gypsies traveling all over the world.” —Keith Staskiewicz

The Revenant, Dec. 25

The Revenant (2015) Tom hardyn/c n/c

Tom Hardy is best known for his portrayals of brooding, intense, even savage men. In Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant, he costars as John Fitzgerald, the mercenary fur trapper who abandons Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass in unforgiving 19th-century terrain. Making the film was grueling, by all accounts. Iñárritu insisted on shooting in often freezing temperatures in the wilds of Calgary and Tierra del Fuego and pushed his actors and crew to extremes. “He’s unlike any director I’ve ever worked with,” Hardy says. “He sees things how he sees them, so to give him back what he wants is quite an interesting experience. It could drive you f—ing nuts.” —Nicole Sperling

Joy, Dec. 25

JoyPhotograph by Merie Weismiller Wallace — Twentieth Century Fox

He has tackled soldiers (Three Kings), boxers (The Fighter), and con artists (American Hustle), but Joy — about the tumultuous rise of one entrepreneurial woman (Jennifer Lawrence) over 30 years — is the first time David O. Russell has made a film with a woman front and center. “It’s a meditation on what the word joy means, and also despair and struggle and failure and success,” he says. It’s his third outing with Lawrence, but it felt new to both of them. “She’s usually sort of the sneak attack from the wings,” he says. “This is the one where her heart is the whole thing.” —Sara Vilkomerson

Daddy’s Home, Dec. 25

Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell in Daddy's Home.Photograph by Hilary Browyn Gayle — Paramount Pictures

When a father (Mark Wahlberg) suddenly has to compete for the affections of his two kids against their new stepdad (Will Ferrell), things go off the rails pretty fast. Written and directed by Sean Anders and John Morris, who co-wrote Horrible Bosses 2, the film includes a scene, shot at halftime during a Pelicans-Lakers basketball game in New Orleans, where Ferrell’s character takes a half-court shot to impress his wife (Linda Cardellini) but beans a cheerleader instead. Aaaand someone apparently forgot to warn the crowd. “The sound of the entire stadium was like a giant gasp,” Cardellini says.—C. Molly Smith

Anomalisa, Dec. 30

ANOMALISAPhoto Credit: Paramount Pictures n/c

The beautiful mind of Charlie Kaufman has never been so animated. The Being John Malkovich writer’s 2005 “sound play,” about a depressed customer-service guru (David Thewlis) who’s jarred from his stupor by the angel-voiced Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), has been translated into stop-motion animation, complete with puppet copulation. “There’s no intention to make puppet sex a joke,” Kaufman says. “Every effort was made to make that intimate and real.” And delightfully awkward, of course. —Jeff Labrecque

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