Usually, December is the time of year when studios attempt to cram movies into the holiday schedule to a) capitalize on all the on-vacation moviegoers looking to get out of the house and b) get in their prestige movies just as year-end 10-best lists and award nominations are being compiled.
While December 2019 is amazingly free of comic book adaptations, the pickings are surprisingly slim. With an important Star Wars movie looming — the third instalment of the third trilogy — it almost seems other studios collectively threw up their hands and said: Why bother?
But even if it seems this holiday season has more than its share of coal in the stocking, a few gems may be hiding in there. On the schedule:
Playmobil: The Movie (Dec. 6) is a naked attempt to cash in on the miscellaneous, successful Lego movies. In this one, a young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy) is forced to abandon her rigidly organized life to rescue her younger brother, who has disappeared into the tantalizing realm of Playmobil.
Still more people get trapped in an alternate game universe in Jumanji: The Next Level (Dec. 13), a direct sequel to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), but this time oldsters Danny DeVito and Danny Glover find themselves occupying the heroic video-game avatars embodied by Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart.
Bob Clark’s influential Canadian slasher from 1974 is reimagined — for a second time — in Black Christmas (Dec. 13), this time interpreted by a female director and screenwriters to give an empowering bump to a genre where women victims tend to fall one by one like so many screaming skittles.
Director Clint Eastwood returns to reality-based drama with Richard Jewell (Dec. 13), the story of a security guard who should have been celebrated as a hero when he discovered a bomb in the Olympic Village in Atlanta in 1996, only to be falsely accused of placing the bomb himself by the FBI and the media.
The third Star Wars trilogy wraps up with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20), a movie that promises to resolve unanswered questions including: what is the parentage of Rey (Daisy Ridley)? Will Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) resolve his anger issues? Is Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) still alive? And how will the production contend with the death of Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia?
Going by the trailer, it’s almost like some plucky screenwriter applied some kind of plot to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats (Dec. 20) — no small trick since it was an adaptation of T.S. Eliot’s book of poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Directed by Tom Hooper (Les Misérables), it’s a star-studded affair with featured felines including Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson and Taylor Swift, all bedecked in digital fur.
In Little Women (Dec. 25), ultra-hip filmmaker Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) turns her attention to the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott about the lives of the four March sisters, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen).
Will Smith, fresh off the espionage-flavoured bomb Gemini Man, aims for a more juvenile audience in the animated adventure Spies in Disguise (Dec. 25) in the role of super-spy Lance Sterling, a guy who finds himself at a loss when a bumbling scientist (voiced by Tom Holland) transforms Lance into a pigeon.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.