While the movies opening locally around Christmastime aren’t actually Christmas movies (Father Figures was originally titled Bastards; God bless us, everyone!), taking a break from all the tinsel, toys and tamales and making a trip to the theater has become a tradition for many families. Last year, first-run wide releases opening in the top 10 around this time pulled in over $70 million at the box office.
Bottom line: Christmastime is a moneymaker for spoiled kids and Hollywood alike. Below are reviews and previews of nine films opening in San Antonio between December 20 and 25.
The Greatest Showman
It might not have the same visual flare as comparable musicals like Moulin Rouge! or Chicago, but with a handful of dynamic original songs written by Academy Award-winning lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land), The Greatest Showman, which is inspired by the unusual life of Barnum & Bailey circus founder P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman’s first role post-Wolverine), delivers on its promise of spectacular showmanship. The script does skip over many of the fascinating peculiarities of Barnum’s career under the big top and instead focuses on a pair of love stories and a familiar message about individuality, but what’s there is just dazzling enough to pique the senses. Opens December 20.
All the Money in the World
Director Ridley Scott (Alien: Covenant) takes on the story of billionaire J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) during the 1973 kidnapping of his grandson when he famously refused to pay the ransom, which resulted in his grandson’s ear being cut off and mailed to the family. Opens December 25.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Four teenagers are transported into a video game (it was a board game in the 1995 original) where they must journey through a virtual jungle and find their way back to the real world. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan star. Opens December 20.
Top-tier filmmaker Alexander Payne (Sideways) has managed to do something he’s never done as a director in his six prior features — make a movie unworthy of his talent. It’s more disappointing since the premise features one of the cleverest ideas presented in a film this year. Payne and collaborator Jim Taylor, however, take the fascinating notion — a world where humans can undergo a procedure that shrinks their bodies to a fraction of its size, so they may reap the economic and environmental benefits — and quickly drive it into the ground. The concept morphs into an ineffective and heavy-handed satire in which Matt Damon’s character and a Vietnamese immigrant (a cringe-inducing performance by actress Hong Chau) go on an adventure that rivals the excitement one would feel watching itty bitty blades of grass grow. Opens December 22.
The Shape of Water
A picturesque fairytale told by a masterful storyteller, this monster movie from director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) is the most emotionally resonant of his career. The love story between a lonely, voiceless woman (Sally Hawkins) and an amphibious creature housed in a top-secret government laboratory where she works as part of the facility’s cleaning crew is breathtakingly beautiful and imaginative. Del Toro’s vision is flawless. Featuring some of the best cinematography and production design this year, the fantasy elements blend well with those in the real world during the Cold War era. It might be another take on the Beauty and the Beast narrative by way of 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon, but with del Toro at the helm, the creativity is exceptional. Opens December 22.
After writing seven critically acclaimed scripts for several filmmakers including Bennett Miller, Danny Boyle and David Fincher, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) makes his directorial debut with a screenplay he adapted from high-stakes underground “poker princess” Molly Bloom’s memoir of the same name about her experiences running poker games for the world’s elite before getting busted by the FBI. Much like his other work as a screenwriter for cinema, Sorkin’s sometimes-too-perfect dialogue springs from the page and from the mouths of his characters with sharpness, intellect and wit. As Bloom, actress Jessica Chastain gives her best performance since 2015’s underrated A Most Violent Year. Opens December 25.
Set in an alternative universe where man and monster live and work alongside one another, Will Smith (I Am Legend) stars as an LAPD officer who teams up with an orc deputy (Joel Edgerton) to find a missing magic wand that can destroy the world. Starts streaming on Netflix December 22.
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers) and Ed Helms (The Hangover) star as fraternal twin brothers who go on a road trip to find the biological father their mother (Glenn Close) said was dead. Possible daddy: NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. Opens December 22.
Pitch Perfect 3
World champion a cappella group the Bellas wrap up their musical trilogy by donning some camouflage and reuniting in Spain for a USO tour. Back for the trip: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson. Maybe someone will keep the franchise going with a Fat Amy prequel. Opens December 22.