Spider-Man sequel, “Nightmare Alley,” “Licorice Pizza” highlight a strong December at the movies

Spider-Man: No Way Home / Nightmare Alley / Licorice Pizza

It’s a bit of a slow weekend at movie theaters today with no major films opening in our area.

It’s a good weekend to catch up on a movie you might have missed like “Belfast,” or “The French Dispatch.” I’ll probably check one or the other out this weekend, myself.

Genre epics like “Dune” and “Eternals,” are still in theaters as well as the comedy/adventure “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” I enjoyed all three, but if I were to see one of them again, it would likely be the Ghostbusters reboot.

If you are looking for something family friendly Pixar’s latest “Encanto” is charming and colorful. “King Richard” is a solid and inspiring bio-pic/family drama about how Venus and Serena Williams’ father pushed them to greatness in the world of tennis.

But really, I’m just biding my time until some new releases open later this month. Several of them look promising, but I’m a bit disappointed that there is no big Oscar-bait drama to check out as there usually is in the final month of the year. Oh, well, it’s much better than a year ago when we were still deeply mired in the Covid-19 lockdown.

Here’s a look at some of the films that will be opening in theaters this month.

Coming Dec. 10

Don’t Look Up

Director Adam McKay’s satirical black comedy stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in a tongue-in-cheek Sci-Fi flick about an approaching comet that’s threatening to destroy the Earth.

McKay’s “The Big Short” is one of my favorite movies from recent years, and with a background that includes “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” I’m eager to see what this film has in store. It doesn’t hurt that Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Ron Perlman, Timothee Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Cate Blanchett, and Meryl Streep are a part of the all-star ensemble.

West Side Story

With this film, there is a legitimate question whether or not the 1961 classic musical “West Side Story” really needed to be remade?

But Steven Spielberg has earned the clout to make whatever film he wants.

I have no doubt the movie will be well made, and I’ll likely see it, but honestly, I’d probably be more interested in a literal remake of “Romeo and Juliet” by Spielberg than this.

Coming Dec. 17

Spider-Man: No Way Home

When tickets went on sale for this movie on Nov. 29, it nearly broke the internet, crashing ticket-sales websites like a cyber Godzilla in the wee hours of the morning.

The plot of this meta movie has the master of mystic arts Doctor Strange casting a spell that accidentally brings most of the villains from previous theatrical iterations of Spider-Man into the current film continuity, creating all sorts of havoc for Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and his friends.

Internet rumors suppose that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, who played Spider-Man previously, will appear as their versions of the character alongside Holland. The movie has all Marvel and Spider-Man fans jazzed for what could be the biggest blockbuster since “Avengers: End Game.”

Nightmare Alley

Director Guillermo del Toro is back with his followup to the Oscar-winning “Shape of Water” with a remake of the psychological noir-thriller “Nightmare Alley.”

The 1947 original starred Tyrone Power, but in the update, Bradley Cooper plays the sideshow geek who becomes so good at his con-game craft that he rises to become a nightclub phenomenon who rubs elbows with the rich and the famous. Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, and Ron Perlman round out a fabulous all-star cast.

This is my most anticipated film of the month, if not the year. I can’t wait to see what del Toro has cooked up.

Coming Dec. 22

The King’s Man

The World War I period action/spy flick is director Brian Vaughn’s prequel to his two “Kingsmen” films about a clandestine spy organization working out of a London clothing store.

I greatly enjoyed the first film, but the sequel left me cold. Still I’m willing to give this one a try.

It stars Rafe Finnes, Gemma Areton, Rhys Ifans, and Matthew Goode. The Kingsmen are tasked with flouting an effort by a group of early 20th-century tyrants, including Rasputin, to start a war that will decrease the surface population by millions.

Sounds fun?

The Matrix: Resurrections

This fourth installment of the Matrix series comes 22 years after the original and maybe 10 years too late to truly recapture the feeling the original three movies generated around the turn of the century. Many of the original stars return including Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Jada Pickett Smith.

I know many fans are excited for this movie, but other than marveling at the special effects of the original, I really disliked this series, and its effect on pop culture. I might watch this movie on HBO Max, but I might not.

Coming Dec. 25

Licorice Pizza

This coming-of-age picture directed by Paul Thomas Anderson is also high on my list of must-sees this month. The movie, which opened in limited release Nov. 26, is getting great notices from critics.

Anderson has a fine track record that includes “Hard Eight,” “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” and “There Will Be Blood,” to name a few.

The trailer for the movie was one of the best of the year, and I’m looking forward to watching newcomers Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman as the leads with Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper in support. Seems like Cooper is everywhere this month.

A Journal for Jordan

Denzel Washington directs Michael B. Jordan and Chante Adams in this true story about Sgt. Monroe King, who writes a journal instructing his infant son on how to live a good life, while he is deployed in Iraq. Adams plays Monroes fiancee, who shares the journal with their son after Monroe’s death.

This sounds like a real tearjerker, but with Washington directing Jordan, it’s a movie that can’t be dismissed out of hand.

American Underdog

Zachary Levi stars as St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner as this film, directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, follows his trek from being an undrafted, arena-league player to quarterbacking the Rams to a Super Bowl championship.

I’m a sucker for football movies and this one, which co-stars Ana Paquin and Dennis Quaid, seems right up my alley.

  New in Local Theaters

Christmas with the Chosen: The Messengers (watch trailer) / (NR) 2 hr. 4 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback

True to the Game 3 (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 38 min. / Malco Razorback

Sword Art Online: The Movie (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 49 min. / (PG-13) 1 hr. 37 min. / Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle

Classic Corner – TCM runs Christmas Classics on Saturdays, Sundays in December

Reginald Owen in A Christmas Carol (1938) / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

If you need a little Christmas but have already grown weary of the soapy, dopey made-for-TV movies that channels like Hallmark have been running since before Halloween, Turner Classic Movies has your antidote on the Saturdays and Sundays leading up to Christmas.

The cable network is celebrating the season Hollywood style with some of the best Christmas-themed fair the big screen has to offer starting Saturday at 11 a.m. CT.

If that’s not enough on Dec. 19, TCM will play films that feature the Most Wonderful Time of the Year 24 hours a day until 7 p.m. CT. Christmas Day.

For my tastes, the lineup on Christmas Eve is top notch, filled with a bevy of films that would make a great background for all sorts of family fun or for just setting the mood for a cozy holiday. You can’t go wrong with any of the movies, but the standouts for me are “The Bishop’s Wife” that plays at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve and “Meet John Doe” that plays at 12:30 a.m. Christmas morning.

Here is the complete schedule:

Saturday, Dec. 4
11 AM – A Night at the Movies: Merry Christmas!
12:15 PM – Little Women (1949)
2:30 PM – Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
4:45 PM – It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)

Sunday, Dec. 5
11 AM – Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
1 PM – Bundle of Joy (1956)
3 PM – Bell, Book and Candle (1959)
5 PM – The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Saturday, Dec. 11
11 AM – A Christmas Carol (1938)
1 PM – 3 Godfathers (1949)
3 PM – Fitzwilly (1967)
5 PM – The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942)

Sunday, Dec. 12
11 AM – All Mine to Give (1957)
1 PM – O. Henry’s Full House (1952)
3:15 PM – Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
5:15 PM – Remember the Night (1940)

Saturday, Dec. 18
11 PM – Meet John Doe (1941)
1:15 PM – Susan Slept Here (1954)
3:15 PM – In the Good Old Summertime (1949)
5:15 PM – Holiday Affair (1949)

Sunday, Dec. 19
Noon – King of Kings (1961)
3 PM – Ben-Hur (1959)
7 PM – Going My Way (1944)
9:15 PM – The Holly and the Ivy (1952)
11 AM – Christmas Past (1925)
1:15 AM – Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)
3:15 AM – Fanny and Alexander (1982)

Monday, Dec. 20
6:30 AM – Kind Lady (1935)
8:00 AM – The Man Who Came to Dinner (1941)
10:00 AM – Cover-Up (1949)
11:30 AM – Crooks Anonymous (1952)
1:15 PM – Backfire (1950)
3:00 PM – Mr. Soft Touch (1948)
5:00 PM – Lady on a Train (1945)
7:00 PM – We’re No Angels (1955)
9:00 PM – Fitzwilly (1967)
11:00 PM – Lady in the Lake (1947)
1:00 AM – Larceny, Inc (1942)
3:00 AM – The Silent Partner (1978)

Tuesday, Dec. 21
5 AM – Hell’s Heroes (1930)
6:30 AM – Three Godfathers (1936)
8 AM – Bush Christmas (1947)
9:30 AM – A Christmas Carol (1938)
11 AM – Alias Boston Blackie (1942)
12:30 PM – Room For One More (1952)
2:30 PM – Period of Adjustment (1962)
4 PM – The Lion in Winter (1968)
7 PM – Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
9 PM – In the Good Old Summertime (1949)
11 PM – Shop Around the Corner (1940)
1 AM – Little Women (1949)
3:15 AM – Blossoms in the Dust (1941)

Wednesday, Dec. 22
5 AM – My Reputation (1946)
7 AM – Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945)
9 AM – On Moonlight Bay (1951)
10:45 AM – Penny Serenade (1941)
1 PM – All Mine to Give (1957)
3 PM – Never Say Goodbye (1946)
5 PM – Good Sam (1948)
7 PM – Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
9 PM – Holiday Affair (1949)
10:45 PM – Desk Set (1957)
12:45 AM – The Apartment (1960)
3 AM – Bachelor Mother (1939)
4:30 AM – Bundle of Joy (1956)

Thursday, Dec. 23
6:30 AM – Big Business (1929)
7 AM – The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950)
9 AM – The World of Henry Orient (1964)
11 AM – Carol For Another Christmas (1964)
12:45 PM – Desk Set (1957)
3 PM – Susan Slept Here (1954)
5 PM – Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
7 PM – It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
9:15 PM – The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
11:15 PM – The Cheaters (1945)
1 AM – All That Heaven Allows (1955)
2:45 – AM Auntie Mame (1958)

Friday, Dec. 24
5:15 AM – The Great Rupert (1950)
6:45 AM – 3 Godfathers (1949)
8:45 AM – Pocketful of Miracles (1961)
11:15 PM – Holiday Affair (1949)
1 PM – The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
3 PM – Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
5 PM – Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
7 PM – The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
9 PM – A Christmas Carol (1938)
10:30 PM – Remember the Night (1940)
12:30 AM – Meet John Doe (1941)
2:45 AM – Christmas Eve (1947)
4:30 AM – Compliments of the Season (1930)

Saturday, Dec. 25
5 AM – Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
6:30 AM – Star in the Night (1945)
7 AM – Tenth Avenue Angel (1948)
8:30 AM – Little Women (1933)
10:30 AM – Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
12:30 PM – O Henry’s Full House (1952)
2:45 PM – It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1967)
5 PM – In the Good Old Summertime (1949)