The days are getting shorter. The weather's getting colder. Visiting relatives and gingerbread and itchy wool sweaters are all looming on the horizon. And it also means that it's the perfect time to escape to the sanctuary of your neighborhood movie theater, not only because it's warm and cozy but because Hollywood studios start dropping their most prestigious, potentially Oscar-worthy movies.
Here's a handy rundown of all the big cinematic releases you can see in Spokane theaters between now and Christmas — when they're coming out, what they're about, and which specific audiences they're catering to. If you're not sure how to spend that AMC or Regal gift card you got as a stocking stuffer, look no further.
— NATHAN WEINBENDER
Genre: Comic whodunit
What it's about: When an octogenarian crime writer turns up murdered, every member of his dysfunctional family is a credible suspect. Writer-director Rian Johnson (he of The Last Jedi) has assembled an all-star cast that includes Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield and more.
Who it's for: Anyone who has read a majority of Agatha Christie's bibliography and fancies themselves an amateur Columbo. (NW)
Queen & Slim
Genre: Racially charged drama
What it's about: A young black couple (Daniel Kaluuya and Indya Moore) on their first date has a violent run-in with the police during a routine traffic stop. It sparks a media frenzy and has them running for their lives. With Lena Waithe (The Chi, Master of None) adapting the screenplay from James Frey's story, expect more than a typical ripped-from-the-headlines flick.
Who it's for: Those concerned with social justice, and folks who dug Kaluuya in Get Out. (DAN NAILEN)
Genre: Legal drama
What it's about: Erin Brokovich meets Spotlight in this true story of a corporate defense attorney (Mark Ruffalo) who turns the tables on his most high-profile clients, uncovering a conspiracy that has kept a major chemical company's reckless pollution under wraps. Director Todd Haynes, best known for romantic period pieces, here turns his attention to a more contemporary issue.
Who it's for: If you were riveted by procedurals like The Insider or Michael Clayton, you're in luck. (NW)
Playmobil: The Movie
Genre: Animated product placement
What it's about: A brother and sister who were recently orphaned (wow, dark!) are sucked into the CGI world of Playmobil, those playsets with the perpetually smiley denizens. Daniel Radcliffe, Adam Lambert and Kenan Thompson lend their voices.
Who it's for: Any kid who wasn't already burned out on The LEGO Movie, or The Emoji Movie, or The Angry Birds Movie. Adults, on the other hand, might want to take a nap through this one. (NW)
Genre: Holiday horror
What it's about: Some sorority girls find themselves hunted by a murderous stranger on a mostly deserted campus during the Christmas break. This is the third version of Black Christmas to hit the screen since 1974, and this one reportedly has a distinctly feminist twist as the victims fight back.
Who it's for: People who prefer their yuletide entertainment with a little bloodshed. (DN)
Jumanji: The Next Level
Genre: Family friendly action-comedy
What it's about: In the 2017 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, 21st-century teens were trapped inside a retro video game, inhabiting avatars that were nothing like themselves. They leap back into the virtual world to find their lost friend, but this time a couple of old timers (Danny DeVito, Danny Glover) are along for the ride. Think they had time to throw in an "OK, boomer" joke?
Who it's for: Fans of A) the first film, B) Dwayne Johnson playing against type, C) Jack Black's shtick or D) all of the above. (NW)
Genre: Historical drama
What it's about: The 1996 Centennial Park bombing case during the Atlanta Olympics, in which Richard Jewell discovered the bomb and saved thousands of people — only to be accused by the media of being a redneck terrorist looking for glory. It stars Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya) in the title role alongside Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde, and was directed by Clint Eastwood.
Who it's for: Historians, and people who really love seeing the media vilified on the big screen. (DN)
Genre: Paranoid crime epic
What it's about: Josh and Benny Safdie really broke out with their frenetic 2017 thriller Good Time, and they've apparently upped the ante with their follow-up. It's a nail-biting New York odyssey that throws us into the routine of a jeweler (Adam Sandler, actually putting in effort this time) who makes one harebrained decision after another. And dig this weird supporting cast: Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Judd Hirsch, Eric Bogosian, and the Weeknd and Kevin Garnett as themselves.
Who it's for: Arthouse hounds, and those whose favorite Sandler movie is Punch-Drunk Love. (NW)
Genre: Political drama, with laughs!
What it's about: The explosive cases of sexual harassment at Fox News, which were revealed just before network founder Roger Ailes died. The high-profile cast includes Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly, Nicole Kidman as original Fox whistleblower Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie as a fictional rising network star who learns just what's expected to get ahead.
Who it's for: News junkies and Fox News haters should appreciate this tale penned by Charles Randolph, who won an Oscar for The Big Short. (DN)
Genre: Anthropomorphic musical fever dream
What it's about: Andrew Lloyd Webber's oft-derided but nonetheless massively successful Broadway phantasmagoria finally gets the big-screen treatment, and the results look... unbelievably f—-ing weird. You've got human faces grafted onto bipedal feline bodies, a cast list that credits Dame Judi Dench right alongside Jason Derulo, and a plot that involves a bunch of singing and dancing cats pining for the day they can finally slink off to the big litter box in the sky.
Who it's for: Your guess is as good as ours. Maybe take an edible beforehand? (NW)
LIMITED RELEASES TO LOOK FOR
Looking past the major releases that will play in every theater nationwide, the tail end of 2019 promises some smaller gems that could sneak right past you. We're not sure when (or even if) they'll hit our area, but keep an eye out for the following titles and for updates on the Magic Lantern Theatre's website.
Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are mid-19th century balloonists at the birth of flight in this historical adventure.
An emotionally closed-off prison warden (Alfre Woodard) contends with the implications of her job when a death row inmate begins protesting his innocence.
A Hidden Life
The true story of a poor Austrian farmer who was punished for defying the Nazis during WWII. As is typical of director Terrence Malick, expect a meditative, free-floating epic.
Shia LaBeouf didn't just write this meta-autobiography about his own tumultuous childhood, he also cast himself as his own abusive, drug-addicted father.
A plant breeder brings home a dark red flower that, when properly tended to, produces a dopamine effect in its owner. But it soon reveals some horrifying side effects.
Noah Baumbach's study of one couple's divorce has been receiving rave reviews. It'll have a limited theatrical rollout — which means it might play in Spokane — before hitting Netflix on Dec. 6.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Another critical darling, this feminist drama from France focuses on two women in the 18th century — a young artist and the aristocrat whose wedding portrait she's secretly been commissioned to paint.
A biopic of actress Jean Seberg, a Midwesterner who became an unlikely icon of the French New Wave in the late '50s. She's played here by Kristen Stewart.
— NATHAN WEINBENDER
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Genre: Star Wars
What it's about: Specific plot details have been kept under wraps, but we're going to make some bold predictions: There will be spaceship battles, lightsaber battles and weird intergalactic creatures, and maybe we find out one character is unexpectedly related to another. Because in the end, it's really all about family, isn't it?
Who it's for: Doesn't matter. Per the mandates of our new Disney overlords, you could be subject to fines and even imprisonment if you don't see this on opening weekend. Or, you know, you'll just see a bunch of spoilers on Twitter. (NW)
Genre: Ticking-clock war saga
What it's about: Not unlike Dunkirk, here's a British war film with a countdown clock element — a couple of WWI soldiers have only so much time to deliver an important message across battlelines. The difference here: It's designed to look like a single unbroken take. Director Sam Mendes and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins are pulling out all the stops.
Who it's for: War film buffs; anyone who loves a cinematic high-wire act. (NW)
Genre: Legal drama
What it's about: Inspired by true events, Michael B. Jordan plays a defense attorney fresh out of Harvard who moves to Alabama to advocate for the wrongfully imprisoned. That's where he happens upon the case of a convicted murderer (Jamie Foxx) who was railroaded by lawyers, and the film follows their yearslong effort to exonerate him.
Who it's for: True crime junkies who are particularly interested in the legal aspects of any given case. (NW)
Genre: Historical romance
What it's about: Four smart sisters transition from children to adults in New England during and after the Civil War. The women — Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy — are loosely based on author Louisa May Alcott and her sisters, and while interpretations vary, this 2019 version (the eighth film adaptation of Little Women) written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) will likely lean into the gender politics of the time.
Who it's for: Timothée Chalamet stans, Gerwig fanatics, English teachers. (DN)
Spies in Disguise
Genre: Animated comedy
What it's about: In the latest from Blue Sky Media, the studio behind the Ice Age and Rio films, a superstar secret agent (voiced by Will Smith) is accidentally turned into a pigeon by his agency's top engineer (Tom Holland). It's a nuisance at first, but they soon realize this new identity is actually the ultimate disguise.
Who it's for: Any family that needs a backup when Frozen II is still sold out a month after its release. (NW) ♦