Holiday movie preview 2022: Crowd pleasers, Oscar hopefuls promise a magical season in theaters – NOLA.com

Ryan Reynolds, left, and Will Ferrell get into the holiday spirit in ‘Spirited,’ a musical reimagination of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.
Naomi Ackie portrays Whitney Houston in an image from the biographical drama ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody,’ about the singer’s rise and tragic fall.
Tom Hanks stars in ‘A Man Called Otto,’ based on the Fredrik Backman novel ‘A Man Called Ove.’ A Swedish-adaptation of Backman’s book was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Academy Awards.
From left, Paul Dano, Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord and Michelle Williams star in director Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama ‘The Fabelmans.’ The winner of the prestigious People’s Choice Award at September’s Toronto International Film Festival, Spielberg’s film is positioning itself as an early award-season favorite. It is scheduled for wide release Nov. 23.
Daniel Craig, center, returns as detective Benoit Blanc in director Rian Johnson’s whodunnit sequel ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.’ Johnson’s film will receive a one week limited release during Thanksgiving week before it begins streaming Dec. 23 on Netflix.
Meesha Garbett, left, is Hortensia and Charlie Hodson-Prior plays Bruce Bogtrotter in ‘Matilda the Musical,’ set for release Dec. 8 on Netflix. 
Brendan Fraser delivers what some are calling a comeback performance in director Darren Aronofsky’s drama ‘The Whale.’
Margot Robbie stars as Nellie LaRoy in director Damien Chazelle’s period Hollywood drama ‘Babylon.’
Ryan Reynolds, left, and Will Ferrell get into the holiday spirit in ‘Spirited,’ a musical reimagination of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.
Naomi Ackie portrays Whitney Houston in an image from the biographical drama ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody,’ about the singer’s rise and tragic fall.
Want to hear a good story?
If so, you’re in luck. For movie fans, November and December really is the most wonderful time of the year.
That’s because the holiday season is upon us — and arriving with it is Hollywood’s award season. As is the case every year, that confluence means a cornucopia of tantalizing arrivals at the box office over the next several weeks (and, continuing the trend accelerated by the COVID lockdown, on streaming platforms).
That starts with the traditional slate of family-friendly films and crowd-pleasers with which studios tend to pack theaters this time of year. Think Will Ferrell’s “Spirited,” Disney Animation’s “Strange World” and — potentially the baddest mamma jamma of this year’s holiday movie calendar — James Cameron’s long-awaited “Avatar” sequel.
But it’s not just popcorn movies. Along with them, we get a healthy concentration of promising Oscar hopefuls. That includes Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” which is already positioning itself as a frontrunner, along with Sarah Polley’s topical “Women Talking,” the return of Brendan Fraser in “The Whale” and the journo drama “She Said.”
To help you keep track of it all, here’s my annual holiday movie preview, in which I offer a broad-brush look at what’s on tap in coming weeks, all arranged by release date.
As always, it comes with the caveat that release dates are tentative, subject to the whims of studio suits, who seem to delight in last-minute surprises.
But then surprises are just part of what makes this time of year so much fun.
So, pop the corn, break out the Hubig’s pies. Let’s go to the movies.
Roll ’em …
WEEK OF NOV. 18
Spotlight pick: “Spirited” (AppleTV+) Will Ferrell, the star of holiday favorite “Elf,” gets into the Christmas spirit again — with Ryan Reynolds and Octavia Spencer along for the ride — in a modern, musical re-telling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Following a limited theatrical release, it arrives Nov. 18 on streamer AppleTV+.
Also new this week: The fantasy comedy “Disenchanted” (Disney+), a sequel to Disney’s 2007 charmer “Enchanted”; the drama “The Inspection” (A24), which explores the experiences of a gay Marine; the culinary horror film “The Menu” (Searchlight); the comedy “The People We Hate at the Wedding” (Amazon Prime Video); the journalism drama “She Said” (Universal), about the reporters who exposed Hollywood creepo Harvey Winstein; and the fantasy/sci-fi adventure “Slumberland” (Netflix), based on the comic “Little Nemo in Slumberland.”
THANKSGIVING WEEK (WEEK OF NOV. 24)
From left, Paul Dano, Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord and Michelle Williams star in director Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama ‘The Fabelmans.’ The winner of the prestigious People’s Choice Award at September’s Toronto International Film Festival, Spielberg’s film is positioning itself as an early award-season favorite. It is scheduled for wide release Nov. 23.
Spotlight pick: “The Fabelmans” (Universal) Steven Spielberg directs a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama, co-written by him and frequent collaborator Tony Kushner, about a young man growing up in post-World War II Arizona who discovers the magic of filmmaking. Cast members include Gabriel LaBelle as the film’s protagonist, along with Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch.
Also new this week: The drama-romance “Bones and All” (United Artists); the fighter pilot drama “Devotion” (Columbia); the whodunnit sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” which receives a limited, one-week theatrical release during Thanksgiving week before its Dec. 23 streaming release on Netflix; the documentary “Good Night Oppy” (Amazon Prime Video), about the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity; the Sundance-decorated horror film “Nanny” (Amazon); Disney Animation’s 61st feature, “Strange Worlds” (Disney), a sci-fi action tale about a family of interstellar explorers; and the ripped-from-the-headlines drama “The Swimmers” (Netflix), about an Olympic swimmer who dragged a dinghy full of refugees to safety.
Daniel Craig, center, returns as detective Benoit Blanc in director Rian Johnson’s whodunnit sequel ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.’ Johnson’s film will receive a one week limited release during Thanksgiving week before it begins streaming Dec. 23 on Netflix.
DEC. 2
Spotlight pick: “Emancipation” (Apple) Will Smith stars in a New Orleans-shot drama based on the true story of an escaped slave whose whip-scarred back became the subject of a widely circulated 1863 photo that fueled the abolition movement. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and co-starring Ben Foster, it will get a one-week theatrical release on Dec. 2 before becoming available for streaming starting Dec. 9 on AppleTV+.
Also new this week: Disney’s computer-animated “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movie gets a sequel with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules” (Disney+); Hollywood takes another go at D.H. Lawrence’s notoriously steamy “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” (Netflix); Liam Neeson plays iconic detective Philip Marlowe in the period showbiz mystery “Marlowe” (Open Road); Luca Guadagnino directs the documentary “Salvatore: Shoemaker to the Stars” (Sony Classics), about an Italian immigrant who became Hollywood’s go-to shoemaker during the silent era; director Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking” (Searchlight Pictures), about a Mennonite community wrestling with a dark secret, begins its limited rollout, although an opening date for the New Orleans market has yet to be announced; and Santa must play hero on Christmas night in the black comedy “Violent Night” (Universal).
Meesha Garbett, left, is Hortensia and Charlie Hodson-Prior plays Bruce Bogtrotter in ‘Matilda the Musical,’ set for release Dec. 8 on Netflix. 
DEC. 8
Spotlight pick: “Matilda the Musical” (Netflix) Gather the kids! The stage musical based on children’s author Roald Dahl’s “Matilda,” previously adapted for the screen in 1996, gets another re-telling, this time for Netflix. Starring the young Alisha Weir in the title role and Emma Thompson as the dreaded Miss Trunchbull, it tells the story of a precocious girl from an unloving home who takes her destiny in her own hands.
Also new this week: Director Sam Mendes’ period romantic drama “Empire of Light” (Searchlight); the animated sequel “Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again” (Disney+); Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion version of “Pinocchio” (Netflix); the romantic comedy “Something from Tiffany’s” (Amazon Prime); the biographical drama “Spoiler Alert” (Focus), starring “Big Bang Theory” actor Jim Parsons as a terminally ill photographer; and, in a comeback performance that could garner award-season consideration, Brendan Fraser plays a 600-pound man trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter in director Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” (A24).
DEC. 15
Brendan Fraser delivers what some are calling a comeback performance in director Darren Aronofsky’s drama ‘The Whale.’
Spotlight pick: “Avatar: The Way of the Water” (20th Century Studios) Thirteen years after his original “Avatar” shattered box office records, director James Cameron finally — finally!! — delivers the first of four expected sequels. This one, made for a reported quarter of a billion dollars, is set a decade after the events of the first film and continues the adventures of human-turned-Na’vi Jake Sully, once more played by Sam Worthington. Also reprising their “Avatar” roles are Zoe Saldana, CCH Pounder, Giovanni Ribisi and Stephen Lang, with new cast members including Kate Winslet, Edie Falco and Jemaine Clement.
CHRISTMAS WEEK
Margot Robbie stars as Nellie LaRoy in director Damien Chazelle’s period Hollywood drama ‘Babylon.’
Spotlight pick: “Babylon” (Paramount) It’s no secret: Hollywood loves stories about Hollywood, and “LaLa Land” director Damien Chazelle gives Oscar voters what they want in this period action comedy charting the rise and fall of various characters in early Hollywood. Chazelle’s ridiculously deep cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Jean Smart, Tobey Maguire, Lukas Haas, Samara Weaving, Olivia Wilde, Flea, Spike Jonze, Jeff Garlin and others.
Tom Hanks stars in ‘A Man Called Otto,’ based on the Fredrik Backman novel ‘A Man Called Ove.’ A Swedish-adaptation of Backman’s book was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Academy Awards.
Also new this week: A cantankerous Tom Hanks stars in the comedy-drama “A Man Called Otto” (Sony Pictures), set for a limited theatrical release on Christmas Day, followed by wider release Jan. 13; Christian Bale reunites with director Scott Cooper in the Gothic mystery “The Pale Blue Eye” (Netflix), set for a Dec. 23 limited release before its Jan. 6 streaming release on Netflix; The “Shrek” spinoff “Puss in Boots” gets an animated sequel in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (Universal), set for release Dec. 21; and Whitney Houston gets the biopic treatment with director Kasi Lemmons’ “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (TriStar), also set for release on Dec. 21.
DEC. 30
New this week: The resurgence of the big-screen mystery continues with “They Cloned Tyrone” (Netflix), a sci-fi comedy about three unlikely allies who find themselves on a collision course with a secret government conspiracy; Noah Baubach helms the apocalyptic black comedy “White Noise” (Netflix), which arrives on Netflix on Dec. 30 following a limited theatrical release on Nov. 25; and a young veteran seeking to escape his life finds a new one at a wildlife rescue center in the Amazon in the drama “Wildcat” (Amazon Prime).
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