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December Films: A Cinematic Confectionary Box

December is upon us! And we all know what that means… No, we’re not talking Santa visits or being actively encouraged to eat your bodyweight in cheese – here at Culture Calling we have our eyes firmly fixed on the cinematic feast in store. December looks set to provide something for everyone: blockbusting spectacle, touching dramas, absurdist comedy, Oscar-worthy performances and magical family adventure. Buckle up (while your belly still allows) and enjoy the ride!

We open on a chilly note with Academy Award winning director Sebastián Lelio’s Disobedience (30th November). Rachel Weisz stars as Ronit, a New York photographer returning to her Orthodox Jewish Community in North London after her father dies. She reunites with childhood friend Esti (McAdams), now married to Dovid (Alessandro Nivola). But the rekindling of feelings between them threatens to upset the status quo. Full of subdued colours and emotions, the female leads sensitively explore the simmering tension between obligation and desire in this eloquent, disquieting film. Oscar nominations surely await!

After that fraught drama you’ll be ready to warm yourself with the nostalgic glow of The Old Man and the Gun. Released on 7th December, it’s director David Lowery’s follow-up to his meditative A Ghost Story (2017). Based on a true-story, Robert Redford plays Forrest Tucker, who on escaping San Quentin prison at the age of seventy resumes his illicit activities; charming those he encounters while continually evading the police. It’s Redford’s swansong; a thinly-veiled celebration of the actor that distils his roguish persona into a film about living without regrets. It’s a pleasure to watch the older cast of celebrated actors, including Sissy Spacek as Redford’s love-interest Jewel and Danny Glover as bank robber Teddy Green.

Disproving his character’s famous adage that he’s “told old for this s**t”, Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover appears again this month in Sorry to Bother You (7th December). Following the travails of an African-American telemarketer living in Oakland, California (Lakeith Stanfield), it’s the directorial debut of activist and rapper Boots Riley: an “absurdist dark comedy with aspects of magical realism and science fiction”. It looks like cinematic gold: playful, full of invention, with a surreal, Charlie Kaufman-esque, script. The film has received praise for its originality, with its eclectic cast including Westworld’s Tessa Thompson, comedian Patton Oswald, and Call Me By Your Name actor Armie Hammer.

As much a part of Christmas as the Queen’s Speech and post-lunch ennui are the December blockbusters, with two special effects fantasias in cinemas this month. Post-apocalyptic adventure Mortal Engines is released on 8th December. Directed by long-time Peter Jackson collaborator Christian Rivers, it’s no surprise that this film’s selling points are its vast scale, well-rendered fantasy world and jaw-stopping spectacle, with a dystopian, Young Adult narrative sure to appeal to Hunger Games fans. Set in a future where limited resources and geographical instability has resulted in cities being mounted on wheels, the film centres on sixteen-year old Tom (played by Robert Sheehan, who *spoiler alert* turns 31 in real life on 7th January). Having never left London, Tom finds himself forced to survive in the wilderness when he accidentally interferes in the attempted assassination of Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) by masked vigilante Hester (Hera Hilmar), who blames Thaddeus for the death of her mother. Hester and Tom end up thrown out of the moving city, left to fend for themselves.

There are high expectations meanwhile for Emily Blunt, reprising the role of cinema’s best loved nanny in Mary Poppins Returns. The film has already received the accolade of The National Board of Reviews top ten best films of 2018, suggesting it could just be “practically perfect in every way”. Released on 21st December, the film takes place twenty-five years after the original, with Mary Poppins coming back into Jane and Michael Banks' lives after a family tragedy strikes. With the writer of J.M. Barrie biopic Finding Neverland on board, and appearances by Colin Firth, Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury, fingers are crossed that the film manages to maintain the original’s child-like sense of wonder, especially at this most magical time of year.