EW wants you to make good choices when going to the movies (or spending a night in Netflix-and-chilling) this weekend, and our new, recurring movie preview guide will keep you informed about the best new blockbusters, indie gems, sturdy holdovers, and fresh digital standouts up for your viewing pleasure (plus a bonus box office preview to wrap it all up).
Awards season is in full swing, but so are Dwayne Johnson‘s biceps at the forefront of the popcorniest of all popcorn movies. The highly anticipated sequel Jumanji: The Next Level serves as delightful counterprogramming to all of the prestige fare hitting theaters before the end of the year, though cinephiles can rejoice as well, as near career-best turns from actors like Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems) and Charlize Theron (Bombshell) make their way into limited release before expanding in the weeks ahead.
Check out samplings from EW’s coverage of the best new movies in theaters and on streaming platforms over the Dec. 13-15 weekend below.
New wide releases in theaters
Jumanji: The Next Level
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Danny Glover, Danny DeVitoDirected by: Jake KasdanRelease type: Theatrical (wide)EW grade: B (read full review)
The ensemble action franchise is leveling up for its next go-round at the box office — this time with actors both familiar to the franchise (Johnson, Black, Hart, Gillan, and Jonas all return) and fresh (Danny Glover and Danny DeVito join the cast) in tow for, as the trailer teases, a wild journey back into the realm of the mischievous video game with a mind of its own.
Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart face crazed ostriches in new Jumanji: The Next Level trailer
Jumanji sequel photo welcomes you back to the jungle
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Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Paul Walter HauserDirected by: Clint EastwoodRelease type: Theatrical (wide)
Eastwood’s latest (controversial) directorial outing continues the Oscar-winner’s longstanding affinity for turning real-life events into dramatic works of fiction, this time focusing on the media circus surrounding the wrongful accusations against the titular security guard in the wake of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
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Starring: Imogen Poots, Lily Donoghue, Cary ElwesDirected by: Sophia TakalRelease type: Theatrical (wide)
Rising director Sophia Takal — who previously helmed the fabulous 2016 thriller Always Shine — takes a bloody stab at reimagining a holiday horror classic with her self-admittedly feminist take on the yuletide slasher Black Christmas.
“My version of Black Christmas is about a group of women who are sorority sisters at a college, who start to disappear one by one. The remaining sisters have to figure out why these women are disappearing and who’s responsible for it. And eventually, once they figure out who the bad guy is, they have to fight for survival,” Takal previously told EW of her film, the second remake of Bob Clark’s 1974 original. “The original Black Christmas feels so contemporary and modern for the time. Since then I feel like there have been so many movies about sorority sisters where the women have been portrayed as dumb, bimbo-y idiots. What I love was this was a group of women who, even though there was some conflict and strife — you know, Margot Kidder was a real spitfire [laughs] — they were all very much three-dimensional, strong female characters. I wanted to make something that reflected our time right now, drawing more from what the original evoked for me rather than great plot points. For me, it was about what does it feel like to be a woman in 2019?”
Director Sophia Takal calls her Black Christmas remake a ‘fiercely feminist film’
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Always Shine trailer: actresses clash over bad blood in Sophia Takal film
New limited, indies, specialty, and streaming gems
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kace McKinnon, Connie Britton, Mark Duplass, Rob Delaney, Malcolm McDowell, Allison Janney, Holland TaylorDirected by: Jay RoachRelease type: Theatrical (limited)EW grade: B+ (read full review)
Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie explode into the awards race in Jay Roach’s biting drama Bombshell, which dramatizes the downfall of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes after a score of female employees accuse him of sexual harassment.
“She’s pretty hard, and she comes across a certain way that feels very strong and very much like you can’t break through any of that wall,” Theron has said of her transformation into Ailes accuser (and former Fox News anchor) Megyn Kelly. “But there are moments where you watch her — especially after [the events in Bombshell] take place — where you can see some of her vulnerability.”
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Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie go to war with Fox News in Bombshell trailer
Why Fox News scandal drama Bombshell appears primed for awards success
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, The WeekndDirected by: Josh Safdie, Benny SafdieRelease type: Theatrical (limited)EW grade: A- (read full review)
If you’re looking for the cinematic equivalent to taking speed, Sandler’s Uncut Gems is your ticket to exactly that kind of quality chaotic energy. Sandler gives the best performance of his career in the Safdie brothers’ manic thriller about a New York City jeweler whose life begins a downward spiral after he secures — and subsequently loans to basketball star Kevin Garnett — a mysterious stone said to possess destiny-influencing energy.
“I think we really benefited from coming off the heels of his 49-city comedy tour,” Josh Safdie told EW of observing Sandler tackle a role that combines hard-hitting drama with comedic flair. “Stand-up is such an art form, because you have your script and it’s a very specific thing. It’s about hitting beats, beats that you know are the backbone. But then watching him as a performer find ways to inject improvisation into those lines… It’s a very human, raw place to be, to put yourself out there like that.”
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A Hidden Life
Starring: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Matthias SchoenaertsDirected by: Terrence MalickRelease type: Theatrical (limited)
Malick’s recent projects have landed to varying degrees of noise, from uproarious applause (The Tree of Life) to cold, hard thuds (Knight of Cups, Song to Song), but A Hidden Life has arrived as a return to form for the Days of Heaven filmmaker with a tale about the plight of a rural Austrian man, Franz (August Diehl), who struggles to maintain his loving relationship with Franziska (Valerie Pachner) while refusing to fight for Nazi forces in World War II-era Europe.
Terrence Malick tackles love and Nazi resistance in A Hidden Life trailer
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Adria Arjona, Corey Hawkins, Ben Hardy, Dave Franco, Peter StormareDirected by: Michael BayRelease type: Theatrical (limited release on Dec. 11), streaming (Dec. 13 on Netflix)
Ryan Reynolds and Michael Bay team for an action-filled thriller best enjoyed… well… on your iPad? The notorious Transformers and Pearl Harbor helmer brings his big-budget, explosive aesthetic to Netflix for a rollicking adventure about six untraceable, nameless international operatives who fake their own deaths in order to fight the rise of a brutal dictator. Yes, really.
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Starring: Kristen Stewart, Jack O’Connell, Margaret Qualley, Zazie Beetz, Anthony Mackie, Vince VaughnDirected by: Benedict AndrewsRelease type: Theatrical (limited)
Kristen Stewart breathes new life into a tragic cinema icon in Benedict Andrews’ fresh biopic Seberg, which examines the final moments of the titular French New Wave actress’ life after courting government ire in the late 1960s over her public support for the Black Panther Party and her relationship with civil rights activist (and cousin of Malcolm X), Hakim Jamal.
“I always wondered if we were doing things right,” Stewart previously told EW of her portrayal of the complicated figure, whose life ended by suspected suicide at age 40 in 1979, after she had undergone psychiatric treatment in the wake of the FBI’s campaign against her. “In this weird fantasy world, I became so close to her in my own little psyche of making this movie. If she [would’ve been able to] walk into a room, I would [feel] like a sister, or if someone said a bad word about her I’d [defend her] like, ‘Hey! She existed!” like I knew her. Anything that would happen on set that was a little eerie, I always attributed it to her!”
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The Death & Life of John F. Donovan
Starring: Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Jacob Tremblay, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie NewtonDirected by: Xavier DolanRelease type: Theatrical (limited), digital, VOD
Long delayed, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (now sans Jessica Chastain, whose scenes were cut after she wrapped shooting on the project way back in 2016) finally sees the light of day via acclaimed French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan. The ensemble drama spans different time periods as it unfolds a winding tale following a young actor who, 10 years after the death of an American TV star (the titular character, played by Kit Harington, works on a CW-style teen drama called Hellsome High), reflects on the written correspondence he conducted with the fallen performer.
Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, more stun in haunting stills from Xavier Dolan drama
Jessica Chastain cut from Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan
Notable holdovers and expanding titles in theaters now
Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher PlummerDirected by: Rian JohnsonRelease type: Theatrical (wide)EW grade: B+ (read full review)
Director Rian Johnson carves out a delectable mystery with an impressive ensemble cast in this breakneck-paced gem about a detective investigating the curious circumstances surrounding the death of a wealthy, volatile family’s patriarch.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve done a movie where I got to wear nice clothes! I usually wear such boring s—,” star Chris Evans told EW of immersing himself into his role with the help of cashmere sweaters and other bougie garments. “The clothing, the hair, all of it helps tons [with getting into character].”
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Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha PlimptonDirected by: Chris Buck, Jennifer LeeRelease type: Theatrical (wide)EW grade: B (read full review)
It only took six years for you to finally stop hearing “Let It Go” on repeat in the back of your mind, but, fear not, as the infectious earworm — as well as a fresh soundtrack of new jovial tunes — is poised to soundtrack your every waking thought as the Disney sequel Frozen 2 storms theaters this weekend. With a returning voice cast including Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell as sisters Elsa and Anna who, three years after the events of the first film, travel beyond the realm of Arendelle to discover the source of the former’s magical powers.
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Starring: Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Himesh Patel, Tom CourtenayDirected by: Tom HarperRelease type: Theatrical (limited), streaming (Dec. 20 on Amazon Prime Video)EW grade: B- (read full review)
The infamous Aeronauts trailer asks: Do women “belong in balloons?” Obviously, the answer is a resounding “yes, ma’am!” as expertly evidenced by director Tom Harper’s surprisingly thrilling, white-knuckle thriller set almost entirely inside the tiny wicker basket of an 1800s air balloon, of all things! Not only are stars Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne working their signature chemistry (first honed opposite each other in the Oscar-winning drama The Theory of Everything back in 2014), but Harper’s script (co-written with Jack Thorne) finds a refreshing, kinetic way into a dramatized version of famed scientist James Glaisher’s sky-high studies — complete with a feminist twist that inserts Jones’ Amelia Wren (a fictional character) into the real-life story. Thus, in Harper’s hands, what could have easily ended up as straight-laced historical retread morphs into an engrossing, timely aerial adventure with some of the most dazzling cinematography and special effects of the year.
“I kept thinking it was going one way, and it kept Bioreports Newsing me in another direction,” Redmayne previously told EW of Harper Thorne’s script, which took inspiration from scores of actual pilots and scientists — both men and women — when devising the film’s brainy heroine, who helms Glaisher’s upward excursion into the sky. “They took expectations and kept knocking them around right to the end. The climax of the movie, when I read it, felt so visually outside of anything I’d ever imagined.”
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Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones had to do ‘drama school’ with stunt dog in The Aeronauts
Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne tame buck-wild balloon in tense Aeronauts trailer
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Starring: Noémie Merlant, Adèle HaenelDirected by: Céline SciammaRelease type: Theatrical (limited)EW grade: A- (read full review)
Budding Oscar contender Portrait of a Lady on Fire set the early festival circuit ablaze with its moving tale about a painter who forms a fierce bond with the female subject of her latest painting. Director Céline Sciamma (helmer of the equally fantastic Girlhood and Water Lilies) continues to prove her cinematic might with an intimate tale of passion and identity, with moving performances by Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel guiding the way.
Watch the sizzling first trailer for festival breakout Portrait of a Lady on Fire
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Dec. 13-15 weekend box office preview:
Though it won’t come close to topping the nearly $1 billion made by its predecessor back in 2017, Jumanji: The Next Level boasts enough nostalgic star power (yes, in an increasingly chaotic year like 2019, a movie from two years ago is considered “nostalgia”) to keep it standing on sturdy legs through Christmas and well into the new year. Elsewhere, none of this week’s new wide releases seem powerful enough to take over Frozen 2 which, in its fourth weekend, will finally fall to second place as Jumanji ascends to the box office throne. Still, it’s never wise to underestimate Eastwood’s box office power with the mature moviegoing crowd. While the 89-year-old has suffered a share of misfires at the domestic box office (most recently 2018’s 15:17 to Paris‘ $36.3 million haul), older audiences fueled last holiday’s Mule to a mighty $103.8 million. Given Warner Bros.’ aggressive promotional rollout for the film, awareness is high, but without the star wattage of someone like Bradley Cooper leading the fight, expect Richard Jewell to finish with a total somewhere between Eastwood’s last two releases.
Check back on EW.com this Sunday for final weekend box office estimates. For now, here’s what the weekend numbers could look like:
1) Jumanji: The Next Level – $45 million
2) Frozen 2 – $20 million
3) Richard Jewell – $16 million
4) Black Christmas – $10 million
5) Knives Out – $8 million
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