Film Review: What to watch before new year arrives

Photo: Amazon Prime If you're not in the mood for a run to the movies, try out The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime.
Photo: Amazon Prime
If you’re not in the mood for a run to the movies, try out The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime.

As I’m writing this, the temperature is in the teens and I have no idea what the thermometer will read this Sunday.
But I do know a place you can go Dec. 25 where the weather is always perfect — your local movie theater, of course! And there is something for everybody to enjoy. My choices are listed below (in no particular order):

La La Land

A modern take on the Hollywood musical from Damien Chazelle, the Academy Award-nominated writer and director of Whiplash. Ryan Gosling is a devoted jazz musician and Emma Stone, an aspiring actress who sing and dance themselves into our hearts. The opening number is a joy to watch! I always wondered what folks did in L.A. when caught in an endless traffic jam. Now I know.


Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in an exciting sci-fi thriller directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) about two passengers who are on a 120-year journey to another planet when their hibernation pods malfunction. Sounds very bleak, but the story is actually told with a great deal of humor and has a wonderful message about humanity and solitude. Are some of the futuristic plot devices contrived? Of course, but strap yourself in and go along for the ride.


Living in Dallas, we often believe we know everything about what happened that tragic day and in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. See it from a very different perspective. Natalie Portman deftly captures first lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s breathless speech patterns and mannerisms to a “T.” Surely an Oscar nomination is in her future.


Lion, directed by Garth Davis, is the true story of a 5-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of miles from home. Living with his adoptive parents in Tasmania, he sets out to find his lost family 25 years later. A truly stunning performance by Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo. Lion manages to be sad and uplifting, all at the same time.


Even if you don’t have kids, you’re going to want to see and experience Sing. A koala bear named Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition. The animation is brilliant and the soundtrack will have you humming all the way home.


If Sunday is a little chillier then normal, you may decide to stay home, break out the microwave popcorn and do a little binge watching. That’s what Netflix is for. I have a few recommendations that will keep you busy for hours on end.
If you haven’t seen House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, you’d better play catch-up before the fifth season is released in February. The Majority House Whip (Spacey) takes you on a long political journey as he exacts his vengeance on those he feels wronged him. And if you think the November election was rough, watch Frank Underwood in action. Even the soundtrack (by Jeff Beal) is smashing!
Were you a fan of Downton Abbey? Trick question — who wasn’t! Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) is back on TV in Good Behavior as Letty Raines, a Southern gal (with a deep accent to match) who’s a thief and con artist just released from prison. She’s attempting to go straight, but instead meets a man who derails her plans. He’s charming and handsome; so what if he’s an assassin? Before you know it, they are enmeshed in a dangerous and seductive relationship. All episodes can be watched on demand on TNT; new episodes at 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
If you are an Amazon Prime member, you’re in luck! The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon series and season two has just been released. Based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, this sci-fi drama, set in 1962, depicts an alarming premise: What if the Nazis had won the war?
So start a tradition. Go to the movies or stay home. Consider it your Hanukkah gift to yourself.
Susan Kandell Wilkofsky is the secretary of the North Texas Film Critics Association and a co-founder of 3 Stars Cinema.

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