Rogue One: A Star Wars Story | Various theaters
Ever hear of Star Wars? Once upon a time it was a trilogy, but now that Disney has bought the franchise and George Lucas has no involvement, the gates are open to new material on a yearly basis. This Gareth Edwards-directed vision happens to be the first Star Wars film that is not a proper episode of the saga. Instead, it takes place before the original 1977 film and shows a specialized group of rebel fighters (including Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, and Hong Kong action legend Donnie Yen) stealing the plans to destroy the Death Star. The reviews are already good and the box office shall be massive, so we can expect more of the same next year.
La La Land | Uptown Theatre
Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) directs a rare modern 21st century musical that is not a throwback, pastiche, postmodern take, or parody. It stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as an aspiring actress and jazz pianist, respectively, who fall in love with each other through their art. The songs, written by Justin Hurwitz, modulate between happy and sad, hitting the sweet spot for grateful fans of '50s musicals. This could be a good tonic for the Star Wars-indifferent movie fan in your life who still enjoys a bit of visual rapture and old-school Hollywood magic.
The Brand New Testament | The Lagoon Cinema
This is one of the odder premises of the year. Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael directs this comedy in which God (Benoit Poolverde) actually exists as a slacker vagrant in Brussels. God’s daughter (Pili Groyne) is sick of Dad’s shenanigans, so she hacks his laptop and sends every person in the world an email stating the very date and time of their death. What does a world do when everyone knows their exact duration left on earth? The obvious answer: cheat death, and try to cheat God, which proves difficult.
His Butler’s Sister/Lady on a Train | The Heights
Of all people, Canadian actress and singer Deanna Durbin is getting a double-feature showcase at the Heights. His Butler’s Sister is a screwball comedy with Durbin as an aspiring opera star. Lady on a Train is a criminally ignored mystery that also happens to be among the few “Christmas noir” films. Perfect for the holidays.
The Fury | Trylon Microcinema
I don’t want to say anything about this nutso Brian De Palma epic other than that it involves Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, a hidden school for telepathic children, and an epic shootout on a Tel Aviv beach. I certainly don’t want to give away the ending shot, which is one of the greatest of all time. Just know: this is De Palma in his prime. See it, and thank me later.