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Holiday movie preview

Holiday movies I’m most excited to see

Anna and the Apocalypse, a Christmas zombie comedy musical. Photo credit: DMcCallum

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Season's screenings!

Should we wait till December to talk about the 2018 holiday movies I'm most excited to see, or should we dive right in and open our previews early?

I say: EARLY!

Roma (Dec. 6)

Writer-director Alfonso Cuaron, the blazing talent behind Gravity (for which he won a best director Oscar), was inspired by his own childhood experiences to create maybe the most beautiful movie of the year (yes, I've seen this one).

Set in the early 1970s, filmed in breathtakingly glorious black and white, and featuring enough memorable shots to keep a film class occupied for a semester, Roma is at once an intimate, observant portrayal of a young domestic (Yalitza Aparicio) and the family she works for, and a gripping depiction of the intense, sometimes brutally violent political and social confrontations of the era.

Anna and the Apocalypse (Dec. 7)

It's a Christmas zombie comedy musical! Based on a BAFTA-winning short film! I'm told it's quite the creative mashup of high school movie satire, traditional musical and blood-spattered gore-fest. Reviews from film festival screenings have been overwhelmingly positive.

Mortal Engines (Dec. 14)

It's a post-apocalyptic steampunk adventure thriller based on the first novel in the celebrated series by Philip Reeve. Lord of the Rings masters Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens wrote the screen adaptation, and Jackson protégé Christian Rivers directs.

Mortal Engines is set centuries after civilization was felled by a cataclysmic event, and -- get this -- London is now an enormous, mobile predator city. Hera Hilmar stars as Hester Shaw, the last best hope for humanity.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Dec. 14)

Into the Spider-Verse is an animated adventure in which Miles Morales, an Afro-Puerto Rican teen from Brooklyn, acquires Spider-Man superpowers but finds himself in a very complicated alternate superhero universe populated by a cynical, past-his-prime Peter Parker/Spider-Man, not to mention the likes of Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham and Spider-Gwen.

Ben Is Back (Dec. 14)

I've seen this, and while I'm holding my review until the release date, I can tell you writer-director Peter Hedges has crafted a stark and heart-pounding family drama that unfolds over the course of a holiday weekend. The phenomenally talented Lucas Hedges (Peter's son) shines as a 19-year-old drug addict who returns home unexpectedly on Christmas Eve, setting off a chain of events that could put the entire family in jeopardy. Julia Roberts gives what might be the performance of her career as Ben's fiercely protective mother.

Mary Poppins Returns (Dec. 19)

Rob Marshall (Chicago) directs the sequel a mere 54 years after the beloved classic. The wonderful Emily Blunt stars as the title character, and the amazing supporting cast includes Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Ben Whishaw, Julie Walters -- and yes, Dick Van Dyke himself.

Welcome to Marwen (Dec. 21)

In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was severely beaten on his way home from work and suffered brain damage that erased most of his memories. As a form of therapy, Hogancamp created a small-scale, WWII-era Belgian village called Marwencol in his backyard.

This was the subject of the 2010 documentary Marwencol, and now it's the basis for a fictionalized live-action/animation hybrid directed by the consistently innovative Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) and starring Steve Carrell, Leslie Mann, Eiza Gonzalez and Diane Kruger. There's always the chance something this bold and different could go sideways, but in a movie world dominated by safe choices, how can one not root for Welcome to Marwen to come through?

On the Basis of Sex (Dec. 25)

Talk about a well-timed superhero origins story! On the Basis of Sex focuses on the early career, and in particular, one pivotal case for the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Felicity Jones stars as Ginsburg, with Armie Hammer as her husband, Marty.

Early word says this is a conventional, by-the-numbers biopic. That doesn't necessarily mean it won't be worth seeing, but expectations are already a bit dampened.

Vice (Dec. 25)

Check out the TRAILER for Vice, and marvel at Christian Bale's uncanny interpretation of arguably the most influential vice president this nation has ever seen, Dick Cheney.

After a string of hugely successful Will Ferrell comedies, writer-director Adam McKay took it to the next level with The Big Short. Vice appears to be in the same vein as The Big Short -- a darkly comic take on real-life events. The cast includes Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld, LisaGay Hamilton as Condoleezza Rice and Tyler Perry as Colin Powell.     

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