That’s right – you didn’t read the title wrong – it’s that time of year already.
I’m not a fan of how retailers have started to insidiously commence the Christmas shopping season earlier and earlier each year, but when it comes to assessing the major releases of the festive period, now’s a good a time as any.
Last year’s box-office was dominated by one movie alone and it was hardly what you could describe as ‘festive’. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story claimed the top spot at the US box-office and brought in over $1bn worldwide, not quite reaching the dizzying heights of it’s predecessor The Force Awakens, but nonetheless setting the precedent for what could become a yearly fixture in the release schedule for years to come. With that in mind, the first big feature to mention has to be Rian Johnson’s follow-up to the Abrams’ 2015 picture: The Last Jedi.
Although *SPOILERS* the film will be without one of the last film’s major draws (Harrison Ford’s Han Solo) this new entry will be heavily featuring returning character Luke Skywalker, which will no doubt bring the fan boys out for multiple viewings – time will tell whether or not this film will smash the $2bn mark, like Abrams’ well received effort did.
For any cinephiles already rolling their eyes at the year’s slate of franchise-heavy releases, don’t hold your breath for any original releases this Christmas. As always, this is a time of year when studios capitalise on the festive season, so there’s not one but two Christmas-based comedy sequels to ‘look’ forward to, oddly, both using a multi-generational cast.
Firstly, A Bad Moms Christmas will reunite stars Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell for a yuletide special, this time with the support of their own mothers, played by a trio of female vets, featuring Susan Sarandon. For the guys, there’s the rather plainly titled Daddy’s Home 2, featuring the popular pairing of Mark Whalberg and Will Ferrell, this time with Mel Gibson and John Lithgow joining the cast as their respective fathers. The first Daddy’s Home was a critical failure, however it proved to be Ferrell’s biggest hit at the box-office (for a live action film). Bad Moms was less successful the first time around and with competition from another female-led sequel in the form of Pitch Perfect 3 – it may well have it’s work cut out.
Comedies aside, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some alternative programming for the older generation. Kenneth Branagh leads a comprehensively all-star cast in his adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express with support from Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp, to name a few. For Art-house fans there’s the return of Daniel Day-Lewis – rumoured to be his final performance – in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread and for those seeking a tear-jerker à la 1985’s Mask, upcoming child actor Jacob Tremblay (Room, The Book of Henry) plays a boy with facial disfigurement in Wonder, with Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts playing the lad’s worried parents.
Finally, it’s anyone’s guess how the ‘standalone sequel’ Jumagi: Enter the Jungle will perform this Christmas. The usually dependable Dwayne Johnson struggled this year with the R-Rated Baywatch, but lead the cast of one of 2017’s biggest hits in the eighth Fast & Furious instalment. Reunited with his Central Intelligence co-star Kevin Hart, as well as Jack Black and rising cult star Karen Gillan, this quirky reboot/sequel could well be the surprise hit of the season…