A Preview of Holiday Movies

It’s treacle and justice this holiday season.


Nicole Kidman plays a battered police detective in Destroyer.

Photo courtesy Annapurna Pictures

Hollywood execs and producers believe the holiday spirit is best delivered in 50-liter drums and dispensed with a bucket. Shameless sentimentality is peddled as the season’s highest virtue (well, second-highest, after box office grosses) on the assumption that nothing goes better with buttered popcorn than a tear and a sniffle.

So gird yourself for Mary Poppins Returns, with Emily Blunt bringing Depression-era cheer to Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw with the aid of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Angela Lansbury, Meryl Streep, and Julie Walters. Insulin, stat!

Even tough guys like their heartstrings pulled. The 88-year-old Clint Eastwood directs himself as the 90-year-old World War II vet and cocaine smuggler Earl Stone in The Mule, with DEA agent Bradley Cooper on his tail. In Welcome to Marwen, Robert Zemeckis deploys Steve Carell and a ton of effects to reenact beating victim Mark Hogancamp’s painstaking, therapeutic construction of a miniature WWII village (recounted in the excellent 2010 documentary Marwencol).

The younger menfolk will have their stockings filled by the latest Spider-Man, Aquaman, Deadpool, and Will Ferrell (as Sherlock Holmes) flicks, while girls may go for Hailee Steinfeld in the Transformers offshoot Bumblebee. The Jennifer Lopez (she’s still a thing?) romantic comedy Second Act targets gals and the date crowd, though Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer comprise formidable opposition in On the Basis of Sex, Mimi Leder’s case study of pioneering 1970s feminist attorney Ruth Bader Ginsburg (before she became Notorious RBG). The D.C. power structure is further exposed in Vice, starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams as Dick and Lynne Cheney with Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and the ubiquitous Carell as Donald Rumsfeld.

For the most haunting love affair of the season, seek out Pawel Pawlikowski’s stunning black-and-white Cold War, set in Eastern Europe in the 1950s. You want it darker? Submit to Destroyer, Karyn Kusama’s noirer-than-noir LA story about a scarred detective (Nicole Kidman) facing down the ghosts of her past. Deck the bad guys first, then the halls.

This report was originally published in our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.