The holiday season tends to bring a rush of Serious Movies – prestige projects with Academy Awards buzz all over them – sprinkled with a handful of just-for-fun romps. 2022 is no exception, and those venturing out to the multiplexes this season will find everything from a Steven Spielberg origin story to a cannibal love tale to a Whitney Houston biopic – oh, and a long-awaited sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Here’s a guide to some of the season’s most anticipated titles, with something for everyone; note that release dates are always subject to change.
“The Fabelmans”: Steven Spielberg looks back at his own youth in this family drama, about a boy growing up in Arizona who dreams of becoming a filmmaker. Written with playwright Tony Kushner, with whom Spielberg previously collaborated on “West Side Story,” “Lincoln” and “Munich,” the film stars Michelle Williams and Paul Dano. (Nov. 23)
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”: Back in 2019, Daniel Craig as the wonderfully taffy-voiced detective Benoit Blanc lightened up the Serious Movie Season in “Knives Out”; now he and writer/director Rian Johnson are back, with a new cast (including Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson and Leslie Odom Jr.) Expect silliness, in the best of ways. (Nov. 23 in theaters, on Netflix Dec. 23)
“Strange World”: Disney pretty much always has a family movie on tap for Thanksgiving weekend, and this year’s version is an adventure featuring a family of explorers, voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Gabrielle Union and Lucy Liu. (Nov. 23)
“Bones and All”: The latest sensual odyssey from Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me By Your Name,” “Suspiria,” “I Am Love”) is a romantic cannibal tale starring Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell and Mark Rylance. It was an award winner at the Venice Film Festival earlier this fall. (Nov. 23)
“Women Talking”: Actor-turned-director Sarah Polley’s latest feature (and it’s been a while; her last, “Stories We Tell,” was among my favorites of 2012) is an adaptation of Miriam Toews’ bestselling novel, which took place in an isolated religious community. Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Frances McDormand lead the ensemble cast. (Dec. 2)
“Emancipation”: Can Will Smith’s career recover from The Slap at the Oscars early this year? He’s the star of this historical drama from Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”), about an enslaved man fleeing the Louisiana plantation on which he grew up. (Dec. 2 in theaters, on Apple TV+ Dec. 9)
“Empire of Light”: Sam Mendes takes a break from blockbusters (“Skyfall,” “Spectre,” “1917”) to tell a quiet, small-scale love story, taking place in the 1980s at an old movie house in a British seaside town. Olivia Colman, Colin Firth and Toby Jones are among the cast, and the great Roger Deakins is the cinematographer. (Dec. 9)
“The Inspection”: Filmmaker/photographer Elegance Bratton, a former Marine, makes his feature debut with this tale of a young Marine (Jeremy Pope) who faces homophobia both at boot camp and at home. Gabrielle Union and Bokeem Woodbine co-star. (Dec. 9)
“Spoiler Alert”: Journalist Michael Ausiello’s memoir, about the life and death of his partner Kit Cowan, comes to the screen starring Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge; Seattle writer/journalist/activist Dan Savage co-wrote the screenplay with director Michael Showalter (“The Big Sick”). (Dec. 9)
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”: The last gasp (maybe?) of the “Shrek” franchise, this animated adventure features the swashbuckling title character (voiced by Antonio Banderas) who’s dismayed to learn that he’s on the last of his nine lives. (Dec. 21)
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”: British actor Naomi Ackie plays the late R&B/pop singer Whitney Houston in Kasi Lemmons’ biopic, which also features Stanley Tucci as Clive Davis, Ashton Sanders as Bobby Brown, and Houston’s legendary vocals. (Dec. 21)
“The Whale”: Brendan Fraser is getting strong pre-Oscar buzz for his performance in Darren Aronofsky’s latest, a drama about a 600-pound man trying to connect with his teenage daughter (Sadie Sink). The film won multiple awards at the Venice International Film Festival. (Dec. 21)
“Avatar: The Way of Water”: It’s been a very long wait, but James Cameron’s long-promised follow-up to his 2009 megahit “Avatar” is finally here. The first of four planned sequels, it’ll feature 3D cinematography, special effects wizardry (watch for stunning underwater scenes), and return performances from Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver, joined this time by Michelle Yeoh, Kate Winslet and Jemaine Clement. (Dec. 23)
“Babylon”: Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” was set in Los Angeles of the present; his new film returns to that city, but in the past. Set in the 1920s, as a decade Hollywood transitioned from silent film to talkies, the film has a large ensemble cast led by Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Jean Smart. (Dec. 23)
“The Son”: A follow-up to director Florian Zeller’s 2020 film “The Father” (which won an Oscar for Anthony Hopkins), this is a family drama starring Hugh Jackman as a dad struggling to connect to his teenage son. Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Zen McGrath and Hopkins co-star. (Dec. 23)
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