January Movie Preview

2020 opens with a slow month for movies. Awards season kicks into full gear, so most movies released in January don’t get a lot of hype. One strong Oscar contender gets a wide release at the beginning of the month, but most of the other offerings aren’t expected to break any records. Here’s some of the most interesting releases this month.

1917 (Jan. 10)

Rating: R
Starring: George McKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Richard Madden, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch

In the midst of World War I, two soldiers must cross into enemy territory to deliver a message that could save thousands of troops.  

Why I’m excited: While technically a 2019 movie, it only gets a wide release this month so everyone can finally see it. Press for this movie has focused on how it was filmed to look like one long continuous take, which sounds fascinating. It’s already getting Oscar buzz, been named as one of the best movies of 2019 and has been nominated for a handful of Golden Globes.

See this if you liked: Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, War Horse

Underwater (Jan. 10)

Rating: PG-13
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie

A team of researchers are trapped at the bottom of the ocean after an earthquake destroys their laboratory.  

Why I’m excited: This seems like a mildly interesting thriller/race-against-the-clock kind of movie. Setting the action at the bottom of the ocean is a fun choice – we still know so little of what’s actually down there. Kristen Stewart is riding a great wave right now, so we’ll see if people enjoy her in this as well.  

See this if you liked: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Abyss, Sphere

Like a Boss (Jan. 10)

Rating: R
Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Rose Byrne, Salma Hayek

Two friends open a beauty company together, but their different business practices and their wealthy benefactor begin to complicate the relationship.  

Why I’m excited: Tiffany Haddish is one of the funniest actors working right now, and the trailers give her some great moments already. Rose Byrne and Salma Hayek are also incredibly talented, and I think the three of them will be fascinating to watch together.   

See this if you liked: Girls Trip, Bridesmaids, Neighbors

Dolittle (Jan. 17)

Rating: PG
Starring: Robert Downey Jr.

Dr. Dolittle, who has the ability to speak to animals, must set off on a quest for a cure to save the Queen of England.

Why I’m excited: What an interesting choice for RDJ to make following the biggest movie of all time (Avengers: Endgame). I remember the Eddie Murphy Dr. Dolittle movies from the 90s, but this seems much more fantastical than those. There’s an incredible cast lending their voices to Dolittle’s animals, from Tom Holland, Octavia Spencer, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek and more. The trailers look truly bizarre, but it should be a fun movie for younger audiences.  

See this if you liked: Dr. Dolittle

The Gentlemen (Jan. 24)

Rating: R
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant

An American drug lord faces plots, schemes, bribes and blackmail from forces out to steal his empire.

Why I’m excited: Kingsman, is that you? The look of this movie – especially the poster designs – screams Kingsman. The trailers definitely give off that vibe as well, but The Gentlemen looks like it will go a bit darker than the Kingsman series. Director Guy Ritchie is coming off the billion-dollar high of Aladdin, and this movie has an interesting cast, so it should be a good time.

See this if you liked: Kingsman, Pain & Gain, Gold

What Star Wars means to me

I don’t even remember my life before Star Wars. In a lot of ways, it was my gateway between Disney cartoons and the rest of the cinematic world. As best I can remember, I first saw the original trilogy when I was around 7 years old. It was the 20th anniversary of A New Hope’s release and two years away from the prequels. I still have the VHS box set of the original trilogy that introduced me to this galaxy far, far away. Star Wars has been a part of my life for more than 25 years, and with Episode IX coming out this month, I wanted to attempt to put into words what this story has meant to me.

It’s difficult to even try to describe how much I love Star Wars, but Yoda said “there is no try,” so I’ll do it anyway. It’s been such a fixture in my life that I often take it for granted and don’t really think about what it really means. But I have so many vivid memories throughout my life that center around Star Wars.

  • I remember watching the original trilogy on a portable TV (you know, the ones with the built-in VCR) we would take on long road trips when we were kids – before the days of iPads or even portable DVD players.
  • I remember dressing up as C-3PO and Jar Jar Binks (I know, ew) for consecutive Halloweens when I was probably 9 or 10 years old.
  • I remember when Revenge of the Sith came out and my friends had a week-long marathon of the entire series at my house. My dad created a homemade screen out of bedsheets that we projected the movies onto.
  • I remember having to leave my second or third viewing of Revenge of the Sith early because I had to go get my wisdom teeth taken out. While I was drugged up I remember dreaming that I was actually in Star Wars.
  • I remember the countless hours and days I spent putting together Star Wars Lego sets – all of which I still have today.
  • I remember getting the voice-controlled R2-D2 toy for Christmas when I was around 10 or 11. I had him exploring our lake house when he accidentally fell down a couple of stairs. It screamed just like in the movie whenever R2 gets hurt and I laughed about it for the rest of the day.
  • I remember having a mini-marathon before The Last Jedi came out with a new group of friends, watching Rogue One through The Force Awakens all in one day.

I feel like every new Star Wars movie I see is my favorite Star Wars movie immediately after watching it. Sure, they’re not all perfect (the prequels have some serious issues), but now I can appreciate each entry in this saga for expanding the galaxy and introducing us to characters we’ve grown to love. Each movie has incredible moments – some better than others – that remind us of the joy and wonder of stories.

Star Wars has been around for every major era of my life. The original trilogy came to me when I was 7 and had the perfect amount of wonder and imagination to appreciate this life-changing story. The prequels were released during the most formative time of my life – between the ages of 9 and 15. (Also released during this same time frame were all three Lord of the Rings movies and the first three Harry Potter movies. It was a great time to be alive). The sequel trilogy (plus Rogue One and Solo) followed me through the second half of my 20s, just as I was leaving school and entering adult world, reminding me that you don’t have to completely grow up.   

So what is it about these stories that keeps bringing me back? Well, in short, everything. Star Wars, like so many other stories, is ultimately about the battle between good and evil. But there’s something about the way Star Wars portrays the Light and Dark that makes it so much more engaging than other variations. Our heroes are always the underdog – a young Jedi apprentice trying to find his place in the universe, a rag-tag group of Rebels facing against a dominating Empire, or an even smaller team of Resistance fighters against an even stronger First Order.

But the dichotomy of good and evil isn’t always enough on its own. We have to care about and cheer for the characters that fight for the forces of good. And Star Wars has great characters all around – Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme, Palpatine, Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Kylo – that play important roles in creating the necessary balance in the universe.

It’s incredible that we’re introduced to this galaxy through R2-D2 and C-3PO’s point of view. Sure, we meet Leia and Vader in the opening scene, but these two weird little droids are the only main characters we meet for a solid 20 minutes of screen time. And between the character design, Anthony Daniels’ performance as 3PO and Ben Burt’s sound design for R2, we can’t help but fall in love with them.

When I was younger, I loved the lightsaber duels, the battles and the humor of Star Wars. Getting older, I now can see the deeper meanings and morals of the saga. As flawed as they are, I love the prequels for their tragic tale of a boy who wanted to be a pilot and the forces of light and dark that corrupted and manipulated him to become a villain. I love the original trilogy for the showstopping heroics, the draw of being a part of something greater than yourself, and the belief that everyone has good in them. And I love the sequel trilogy (pre-Episode IX) for showing us that everyone can be a hero – no matter your background – and for reminding us that we all have the ability to grow, change and learn from our failures.

I love that Episode IV is called A New Hope. Because ultimately, that’s what Star Wars has always been about. Hope. Hope that the light will win, even against insurmountable odds. Hope that you can find balance and light within yourself. Hope that you can find your place in this vast universe. Hope that you can learn from your past and become a better person tomorrow. Hope that there is good in everyone.

So that’s why I love Star Wars. It’s always been weird, fun, surprising and wise. We can all be a Force for good and stop living in fear of the unknown and the darkness. As Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Star Wars reminds us not to let our fears drive us, but that even if we lose or fail, there is always hope.

Most anticipated movies of 2020

2019 was a record-setting year for movies. Beloved franchises like The Avengers, Star Wars and How to Train Your Dragon closed out final chapters of their franchises and original stories like Parasite, Knives Out and Jojo Rabbit also did well, delivering a wide variety of movie options for moviegoers to enjoy.

Now with 2019 behind us, we can look forward to a new decade with endless possibilities. Here are 10 of the biggest and most anticipated movies to look forward to next year.

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Feb. 7)

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the only decent piece of 2016’s Suicide Squad, so it makes sense that DC would try to salvage what they could to bring new life to their cinematic universe. The outrageous title shows that this movie will be like nothing we’ve seen before from a superhero franchise. Between Birds of Prey, Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984, female heroes and villains will have a big year in 2020, but after Joker, it will be interesting to see how DC markets their shared universe moving forward.

Mulan (Mar. 27)

This live-action remake has the potential to truly be a unique retelling of Mulan’s story, unlike most of Disney’s previous remakes, which did little more than make the same movie as before. This version of Mulan looks much more serious and grounded (there’s no Mushu and it’s not a musical), so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays with audiences going to see it with nostalgia for the original cartoon on their minds.

Black Widow (May 1)

Marvel begins Phase 4 by looking back. Black Widow is certainly an interesting choice to kick off Phase 4, but it’s certainly something fans have wanted for years. Natasha deserves her own story and as one of the main heroes we know so little about, there will be plenty to cover in her solo movie. I just hope it gives this iconic character a respectable sendoff since this could be the last time we see her in this universe.

Wonder Woman 1984 (June 5)

Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air for the DCEU back in 2017 and gave us some truly iconic superhero moments. Now, the sequel jumps to the 1980s and has Diana facing the Cold War and new foes while a blast from her past confuses everything. I loved the first Wonder Woman and the 80s so this should be another favorite for superhero fans.

Soul (June 19)

Soul is the second of two original movies Pixar will release next year. After a few years of (somewhat unnecessary) sequels to their greatest hits, it’s nice to see Pixar telling new stories again. Soul looks like the more interesting of the two 2020 Pixar offerings and already gives off serious Inside Out vibes (one of my personal favorites). Hopefully Soul matches that same level of creativity and emotion to bring another Pixar hit.

In the Heights (June 26)

Has anyone had a better decade than Lin-Manuel Miranda? Following the earth-shattering success of Hamilton, Miranda’s first musical is coming to the big screen. In the Heights tells the story of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City with Miranda’s trademark lyrical wizardry. Anthony Ramos (another Hamilton alum) leads the cast in this incredible story of a Latinx community’s hopes and dreams.

Bill & Ted Face the Music (Aug. 21)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is an incredible underrated masterpiece that came to me at a truly formative time in my life (seventh grade). The original movie was followed by a less-than-stellar sequel in 1991, but now that Hollywood will reboot or revive literally anything that came out in the 1980s and early 90s, a third film is scheduled for next year. It’s turned out to be perfect timing with Keanu Reeves experiencing a resurgence in his career in 2019. I cannot wait to see what middle-aged Bill and Ted are like and how the music of Wyld Stallions will save the future this time.

The King’s Man (Sept. 18)

The original Kingsman movie is one of my favorite movies of all time, so I’m super interested in this origin story of the elite spy agency. The first two Kingsman movies relied so heavily on gadgets and technology, so it’ll be challenging to make that a crucial part of this story when it’s set in the 1910s. And with a third Kingsman starring Eggsy potentially on the way, I’ll bet this will somehow tie in to that story as well.

The Eternals (Nov. 6)

This feels like Marvel’s biggest gamble since Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s about a group of beings that not even many die-hard Marvel comics fans know much about but could change the MCU as we know it. The Eternals has an incredible cast (Angelina Jolie! Richard Madden! Salma Hayek! Kumail Nanjiani!), so here’s hoping that the story matches their star power.

West Side Story (Dec. 18)

The original West Side Story is a cornerstone of movie musicals. Normally, I would be opposed to remaking something so iconic, but with Stephen Spielberg at the helm of this new version with a great cast, it has a chance to be worth seeing. I think the Jets/Sharks dynamic will also be interesting in today’s climate, especially given the racial divide between the two gangs.

Naughty or Nice: Best and Worst Christmas movies

Movies, like all art, are subjective, but Christmas movies in particular are one of the most subjective categories out there. Nostalgia plays a huge role in why people love certain Christmas movies. They remember watching Christmas movies as kids and the joy and laughter they brought.

So what makes a good Christmas movie? Maybe the sets are covered in snow, garland and wreaths. Maybe they’re about classic Christmas characters, like Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty and elves. Maybe it has a happy ending that reminds you to share joy and love during the season and embrace the spirit of the holidays. Maybe it’s just set at Christmas time, like Gremlins or Die Hard.

This list includes some of my favorite Christmas movies and others that just don’t give me the holly jollies. Feel free to disagree with my choices, but please know this is a definitive list and I will not be taking questions nor can you convince me otherwise.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Naughty: Elf (2003)

Something about grown man Will Ferrell in a full elf costume (including tights) acting like a large child running through New York City has always been a little creepy to me. Maybe it’s just that I’ve never liked it when adults are called “buddy.” The set design of the North Pole is also strange – it’s designed to match the 1960s stop-motion Rudolph special, but it just doesn’t work as a live-action set. James Caan as Buddy’s dad is so unlikable that I spend the entire movie hating him and while I love Zooey Deschanel, she is so miscast next to Ferrell. Peter Dinklage is way too talented and deserved better than to be cast as an extended dwarf joke. It has some funny moments and memorable one-liners, but overall, Elf is just not for me.

Nice: Christmas Vacation (1989)

This is the ultimate Christmas movie. It’s simultaneously so accurate but incredibly outlandish – perfectly depicting the highs and lows of spending the holidays with your family. Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold wants to throw the ultimate Christmas, but nothing goes according to plan. The comedy in this movie still holds up 30 years later and it remains one of the most quotable movies of all time. The cast is iconic, from pre-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfus to pre-Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, but Chase, Randy Quaid’s Cousin Eddie, and William Hickey and Mae Questel as Uncle Louis and Aunt Bethany steal the show.

Naughty: Every Hallmark Christmas movie

Tell me if this sounds familiar: A career-focused woman (blonde or brunette, always white, and probably Candace Cameron Bure or Danica McKellar) living in a big city who is too busy for love must return to her small rural home town to visit her family for the holidays. While there, she runs into a handsome former crush/high school classmate/family friend in plaid who may or may not have a child. They are forced together by plot devices through which they eventually fall in love while learning about the true meaning of Christmas. It snows and they kiss. Yawn.

Nice: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

At its core, How the Grinch Stole Christmas reminds us that no matter how tall or small or green or mean we are, we all need someone to treat us like a person and spread love and forgiveness. The Grinch is peak Jim Carrey, channeling the same energy he brought to Ace Ventura and The Mask. The eternally optimistic Whos delightfully clash with the Grinch’s cynicism and pessimism until his heart can’t take it anymore. And Christine Baranski’s performance as Martha May Whovier deserves to go down in history as one of the greatest supporting characters in any Christmas movie.  

Naughty: A Christmas Story (1983)

I have never liked this movie. It feels like a weird fever dream and no one seems like they’re having fun in it. Every adult in this movie is terrible, even the mall Santa. The scene in the Chinese restaurant is vaguely racist, the leg lamp is the creepiest thing, and the plot is barely there other than the endless repetition of asking for that dang BB gun.

Nice: White Christmas (1954)

There’s a magic to old Christmas movies, just like the classic Christmas songs that are played year after year. White Christmas is filled with that magic and spirit of Christmas, despite a serious lack of snow. It reminds us what it means to be generous to others without expecting anything for ourselves. Despite being over 60 years old, the comedy and characters still feel fresh today. While the music may not be bursting with Christmas, “Sisters” is an iconic moment and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more feel-good ending than when the snow finally starts to fall as everyone begins to sing “White Christmas.”