With cinemas finally able to open right across the country, albeit with some restrictions in certain areas, moviegoers can expect a tidal wave of viewing options over the next four weeks.
Amongst the December blockbusters scheduled for a screen near you, are Disney’s latest animated adventure Encanto (December 2), an adaptation of beloved children’s book series Clifford the Big Red Dog (December 30) and animated sequel Sing 2 (December 26), while there’s also the Michael Caine-starring Best Sellers (December 26), the Alan Moore-penned The Show (December 16) and returning New Zealand International Film Festival hits One Second and Swan Song (both December 26).
For those who prefer to do their viewing at home, Amazon Prime Video has the action-packed The Protege (December 3) and sci-fi thriller Encounter (December 10), while Netflix’s roster includes animated adventure Back to the Outback (December 10), acclaimed Italian drama The Hand of God (December 15), US comedy Mixtape (December 3) and the Rose Byrne-narrated nature documentary Puff: Wonders of the Reef (December 16).
Elsewhere, Disney+ boasts an animated version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (December 3) and Neon’s new rentals line-up includes the Viggo Mortensen-directed Falling (December 15).
However, after looking through the schedules, including the seemingly endless amount of Christmas-themed rom-coms and family movies, Stuff to Watch has come up with this list of the 12 titles we’re most excited to see before 2021 finally ends.
* Disney’s Boba Fett, Neon’s Sex sequel, Netflix’s Witcher among December’s must see TV
* Encanto: Disney celebrates milestone with crazy, colourful Colombian adventure
* A Castle for Christmas: Netflix’s breakout festive rom-com stars familiar faces
* Dune: Timothée Chalamet learned a new skill that he hopes he never has to use
Being the Ricardos (December 21, Amazon Prime Video)
Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem team up for this Aaron Sorkin-written (The West Wing, The Newsroom) and directed “revealing glimpse” into the complex romantic and professional relationship of multi-talented couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Focusing on one critical production week of the pair’s groundbreaking sitcom I Love Lucy, it sees the duo facing shocking personal accusations and a political smear.
Delicious (December 26, Cinemas)
Billed as this year’s answer to Chocolat, Big Night or Babette’s Feast, this late 18th Century set French dramedy revolves around the creation of France’s first restaurant.
Fired from the kitchen of a powerful Duke for serving an unapproved dish, a talented chef regains his confidence with the help of a mysterious apprentice.
Don’t Look Up (December 9, Cinemas)
Anchorman and The Big Short creator Adam McKay’s latest tale is a sci-fi comedy about two low-level astronomers who are forced to go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet which is set to destroy our planet.
The starry ensemble includes Timothee Chalamet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep and our own Melanie Lynskey. Will debut on Netflix on December 24.
Dune (December 2, Cinemas)
After seemingly endless false starts, fans of this keenly anticipated title can finally see it in a cinema, 12 months later than its original release date.
Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve is the latest to try to tackle Frank Herbert’s 1965 space opera.
Planned and recently confirmed as a two-movie enterprise, this adventure on the desert planet Arrakis is populated by the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa and Zendaya.
The First Wave (December 5, Disney+)
Award-winning Cartel Land, City of Ghosts and Tiger documentarian Matthew Heineman’s latest effort follows New York-based nurses, doctors and administrators as they respond to the initial influx of patients affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This remarkable film feels like it could become a time capsule, showing future generations what it felt like in 2020 for those on the frontline,” wrote The Guardian’s Cath Clarke.
The French Dispatch (December 9, Cinemas)
From the wild and eccentric mind of The Royal Tenenbaums and Isle of Dogs creator Wes Anderson comes this love letter to journalism which brings to life a series of stories destined for the pages of the final edition of the eponymous magazine.
Timothee Chalamet, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Benicio Del Toro and Lea Seydoux are just some of the many players to feature.
“Like the very best of Anderson’s films, The French Dispatch is both utterly exquisite and deceptively complex,” wrote The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey.
The Lost Daughter (December 16, Cinemas)
Actor Maggie Gyllenhaal turns screenwriter and director for this adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel of the same name.
It’s the story of Leda Caruso (Olivia Colman), whose summer holiday is blighted when she becomes obsessed with another woman and her daughter, prompting memories of her own, troubled early motherhood to come back and unravel her. Jessie Buckley and Dakota Johnson also star.
“It’s a worthy adaptation – murkily funny, shiveringly intimate drama,” wrote The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin. It will also debut on Netflix on December 31.
The Matrix Resurrections (December 26, Cinemas)
Eighteen years after Revolutions rounded out the original blockbusting sci-fi trilogy, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Jada Pinkett Smith are back, with series’ co-director Lana Wachoski now taking the reins solo.
While little is known about the plot so far, trailer footage has revealed that Reeves’ Neo is back living in San Francisco as Thomas A. Anderson and being suitably medicated to avoid anymore nightmarish visions.
Shiva Baby (December 8, Neon Rentals)
Fresh from the New Zealand International Film Festival, is an edgy, laugh-out-loud comedy that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Death at a Funeral or Toni Erdmann.
Featuring a breakout performance from Rachel Sennott, writer-director Emma Seligman’s feature debut is the story of a feckless young woman who finds her worlds colliding when she runs into her sugar daddy and her ex-girlfriend while attending a funeral service with her devoutly Jewish parents.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 16, Cinemas)
The most highly anticipated Marvel outing since Avengers: Endgame, this picks up events not long after the very public revelation of the webslingers’ identity at the end of Far From Home.
In seeking out Doctor Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) help to reverse the situation, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) ends up unleashing a far greatest threat to the world – and the universe. Features the return of villains from previous Spider-Man movies from the past two decades.
Swan Song (December 17, Apple TV+)
Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali is joined by Naomie Harris, Awkwafina and Glenn Close for this sci-fi drama about a husband and father who is diagnosed with terminal illness, but is offered a potentially radical solution.
“Swan Song proves to be a rather straightforward tearjerker, but it earns its sentiment thanks to the thoughtful approach from its cast and crew,” wrote Screen International’s Tim Grierson.
West Side Story (December 26, Cinemas)
Steven Spielberg and Angels in America scribe Tony Kushner team up for a new version of the beloved Romeo and Juliet-esque musical.
Expected to stay closer to the original Broadway script than the Oscar-winning 1961 take, it sees Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler playing star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria.