In 2022, theaters made a comeback from a two-year slump of moviegoing. Even after the pandemic was under control, and before it began, most people were reluctant to make the effort and the expenditure of going to the movie theater. With so many movies coming out on streaming platforms simultaneously with an often limited release, with the price of movie tickets — like all things — going up and with most creativity arguably occurring in television rather than film, it might seem like theaters are slowly being phased out.
However, 2022 has been a major comeback year for theaters. “Top Gun: Maverick” smashed records for weeks on end, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was still on a high earning trajectory and “Elvis” is now one of the most lucrative biopics ever made. Still, the film industry is poised to make even more success in the always anticipated winter season — when many of the biggest blockbusters and favorites for the Academy Awards are released. This winter break, there are plenty of options for a diverse movie-loving public beyond just these two types of films.
As for the holiday-themed movies this year, there were two noteworthy films which could not be more opposite in tone. First, there is “Spirited” — a film produced by Apple TV that teams up funny men Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. “Spirited” is a musical comedy that retells Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with a modern, musical twist — with the always lovable Ferrell somehow managing to play a convincing Ebenezer Scrooge. For family audiences, this will be their movie of choice. For more mature audiences, David Harbour — the much beloved Chief Jim Hopper from Netflix’s “Stranger Things” — will play Santa Claus in “Violent Night.” The disheveled, beer-guzzling Santa doesn’t just deliver presents in this film. He rescues a wealthy family being held hostage for a multimillion dollar payday by a thief, played by John Leguizamo. The outrageous action and violence can’t not be funny, and critics seem to agree.
One of the more anticipated films — at least for the big money in Hollywood — is “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Somehow, the first movie in 2009 about blue aliens, chock-full of CGI, managed to become the highest earning film of all time when not adjusted for inflation. The second film, also directed by James Cameron, has a budget of a quarter-billion dollars. Whether or not this sequel is any good will be left up to audiences, but hopefully the cinematic spectacle that this film is sure to be won’t take away from some of the other Christmas season films — which are sure to be more appealing to a creatively inclined audience.
Another film that should be entertaining is the Whitney Houston biopic, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” The role of Houston will be played by Naomi Ackie, and Houston’s record producer Clive Davis will be played by Stanley Tucci. The film comes from a screenwriter who seems to make biopics his forte — Anthony McCarten, who wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Two Popes,” “Darkest Hour” and “The Theory of Everything.” McCarten is tasked with telling another complicated and dramatic life story about one of the most celebrated singers in American pop history.
The other anticipated drama released on Christmas Day was “Babylon,” the newest film from the Oscar-winning “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle since his 2018 Neil Armstrong biopic, “First Man.” “Babylon” is a star-studded period piece which tells the story of a young up-and-coming actor in the Roaring ’20s navigating his way through Hollywood during the film industry’s Wild West period, as it was transitioning from silent films to sound.
Newcomer Diego Calva will play the part of Manny Torres, and he will be in the company of established stars Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Tobey Maguire, among others. Judging by the trailer and preliminary reviews, the film casts an image of early Hollywood as full of larger-than-life personalities, wild partying and debauchery. With such an impressive cast, this comedy-drama seems like it cannot lose. Pitt has been box office gold in all his recent films, despite what critics may say about some of them. He has an unmatched flexibility to switch from serious to comical, and always with an ease and charm that makes him one of the best. Robbie demonstrates the same quality, which she first executed well in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and recently did so side-by-side with Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” If the track records of the film’s stars and its writer and director Chazelle say anything, this should be an early contender for the Oscar season.
This winter season, depending on one’s film tastes, there is something for everyone.