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10 Reasons Why December Will Be the Best Month at the Movie Theater

A perfect storm of Oscar movies and blockbusters is headed our way.

(L-R) Andrew Garfield in Silence, Elle Fanning in 20th Century Women, Ben Affleck in Live By Night. (Paramount | A24 | Warner Brothers)
(L-R) Andrew Garfield in Silence, Elle Fanning in 20th Century Women, Ben Affleck in Live By Night. (Paramount | A24 | Warner Brothers)

December is an annual showcase for awards season contenders. It's no huge prediction to say this month will be a good movie month. What's interesting, however, about December 2016 is that awards season films aren't the only big ticket attractions coming.

In recent years, the movie industry has shifted certain big movies from blockbuster season in the Summer to the colder months. Last year, The Force Awakens opened in December despite all previous Star Wars installments debuting in May. This year, Rogue One will follow suit. December is the trendy new blockbuster month. That means awards films and the best popcorn movies are still to come this year. Here are 10 to look forward to:

1. La La Land 

Directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend

Release date: December 9

This is the movie that'll likely win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It's everything the movie industry loves about itself. Set in Hollywood's present, but filled with odes to the past, Whiplash director Damien Chazelle's musical is a simple story of two aspiring artists who fall in love and can't seem to get the timing right. As they each find success professionally, they struggle to stay together. This isn't a showy musical, but it does have show-stopping moments and it's never anything less than enthralling. See it with someone you love.

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla)
Starring: Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen

The new age of Star Wars movie is upon us and this second installment after The Force Awakens is the first to take place outside the main Episodes storyline. Rogue One takes us back before Star Wars, to the mission to capture the plans for the original Death Star. A whole new main cast is introduced, led by rebel leader Jyn Erso (Jones), who looks to her past to guide her future. This is the coolest-looking movie of the year. It's worthy of two trailers:  

Release date: December 16

3. Passengers

Directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia, Laurence Fishburne, Aurora Perrineau

A rare sci-fi love story, Passengers takes place aboard the Starship Avalon, a passenger ship bound for a new colony planet. The voyage takes 120 years, but two of the hibernating awake from stasis and find themselves...stuck. They still have 90 years on this flight and they're the only ones awake. The premise is an original, written by Prometheus and Doctor Strange writer Jon Spaihts, but the best part of this is the pairing of Pratt and Lawrence, two goofballs who've always seemed like kindred spirits.

Release date: December 23

4. Patriots Day

Directed by Pete Berg (Lone Survivor)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons

A great example of a movie that would usually get a Summer release, credit American Sniper a couple years back for Hollywood's faith in the true story military/police action film this December. We've got Patriots Day, based on the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt. Early reviews are solid for Berg's film. 

Release date: December 23

5. Silence

Directed by Martin Scorsese (too many amazing movies to list)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson

A passion project for Scorsese, who's always come back to religion among his many films. Silence is based on the novel by Shûsaku Endô about two young Jesuit priests searching for their mentor in 17th century Japan. The time and place aren't kind to followers of Christ and the priests face persecution themselves, challenging their collective faith. Don't expect this one to be an easy watch. 

Release date: December 23

6. Fences

Directed by Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Jovan Adepo

August Wilson held out for a long time to find the right time and the right director to adapt his Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Denzel Washington was the man, of course and the movie hits theaters in a few weeks. Set in the '50s, Fences is about an ex-Negro Leaguer, now garbage man, who struggles relating to his family.

Release date: December 30

7. Live By Night

Directed by Ben Affleck (Argo)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Scott Eastwood, Elle Fanning

From the novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island), Live By Night finds Ben Affleck in the director's chair for the first time since winning an Oscar for Argo. He also stars as Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston Irish cop who makes his own way in the world via organized crime. Affleck as a gangster, see it.

Release date: December 30

8. Gold

Directed by Stephen Gaghan (Syriana)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor

McConaughey's in wide-eyed, obsessive mode here as an ambitious prospector who teams up with a geologist on a wild hunt for gold in the jungles of Indonesia. This is a typical rise and fall story similar to Scarface or Blow except that money is the drug and not cocaine. Bank on the talented cast and the leadership of Stephen Gaghan to bring this one home.

Release date: December 30

9. 20th Century Women

Directed by Mike Mills (Beginners)
Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup

Annette Bening returns to suburbia where she's dominated roles in American Beauty and The Kids Are Alright. In 20th Century Women she's a mom to a teen son trying to guide him in the right direction. Critics are loving this one and Bening (and Gerwig) seems an Oscar shoo-in. Director Mills always comes through with an even mix of funny, sad, and sweet, although he's no John Hughes.

Release date: December 30

10. Paterson

Directed by Jim Jarmusch (too many amazing films to list)
Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Helen-Jean Arthur, Owen Asztalos

For the philosophers among us, Paterson is typical Jarmusch, slow and fluid. The writer/director has always been a filmmaker poet and his latest seems like a manifestation of that notion. Following a young New Jersey bus driver in his daily life on the job and at home with his wife, the movie uses the main character's poetry to drive the existential story. It also marks another collaboration with a star director for Adam Driver, who's officially one of the most sought-after names in the industry.

Release date: December 30

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