"12 Strong" is one of those January movies that wants people to think that it's in awards contention even though it isn't. We're at the point in the year when movies that opened in limited release in December are starting to go wide because of awards season. "The Post" from last week followed that template; it's technically a 2017 movie and it wants recognition as one of the best films of 2017, but it's content to do most of its business in 2018.
It's hard to talk about "The Post" without talking about how the film is clearly trying to dominate awards season. A good place to start is with the Oscar pedigree among its cast and crew. Tom Hanks is a five-time Best Actor nominee, famously winning two years in a row in the mid-90's. Meryl Streep is a 20-time nominee, winning three times. Producer and Director Steven Spielberg is a 16-time nominee, winning three times and also receiving the special Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.
"Insidious" is one of those horror franchises that likes to jump around a lot in its timeline. "The Last Key" takes place second out of the four films. The story follows paranormal problem-solver Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) and her techies Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) as they investigate yet another haunting... but this time, it's personal! Okay, we never get that cheesy line, but it is personal, and I wish we did.
When we last saw the a cappella group The Bellas in "Pitch Perfect 2," most of them were graduating college and the sky was the limit for their futures. But, as we see in clips of a documentary being made by the franchise's oddly Bella-obsessed commentary team (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks), things aren't so sunshiny out in the real world. For example, Beca (Anna Kendrick) can't stand her job as a music producer because the artists don't like being told that they're not talented enough to produce their tracks themselves.
"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" bears very little resemblance to its 1995 predecessor. That film was about a jungle-themed board game that invaded our world. This movie is about a jungle-themed video game that sucks players into its world. It's probably better that this film goes in a different direction. All the inevitable jokes about the displaced animals invading suburbia and becoming Internet sensations would get old real quick.
2015's "The Force Awakens" breathed new life into the "Star Wars" saga. For years the franchise had slowly been undone by ill-received prequels, retouchings, and add-ons that made the once-great property look like a money-grubbing joke. "The Force Awakens" restored heart to the series, balance to the Force, if you will. Fans were excited about the new direction of the franchise and wondered where it would take them next.
NOTE: This movie is playing on less than 1,000 screens in the country, so it might not yet be in your area. But its popularity is growing, so be on the lookout for it in the coming weeks.
2015's "Room" never reached a wide enough audience to justify a review from me, but if it had, I would have absolutely gushed over the performance of then-7-year-old actor Jacob Tremblay. It was the kind of breakout performance that instantly guarantees an actor a lifetime of work in Hollywood. Brie Larson, who played Tremblay's mother in the film, won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and I'd argue that he acted circles around her.
I cannot overemphasize how badly 2017 needed "Coco." After 2016 saw no fewer than four animated films end up on my year-end Top 10 list, this year has been one of the worst in recent memory for animation. I barely have anything nice to say about "The Boss Baby," "Despicable Me 3," "The Lego Batman Movie," or "Smurfs: The Lost Village." Critics treated "The Emoji Movie" like a sign of the apocalypse and "Leap!" was even shoddier.
What can I say about "Justice League" other than that the DC Universe is way too late to the party on this? The film is of course trying to capture the magic of "The Avengers," the unprecedented superhero team-up movie from the Marvel Comics Universe in 2012. DC has wanted to hone in on the "expanded universe" market ever since. The DC people didn't want to look like they were copying Marvel exactly, so they beat them to the punch on the "superheroes falling out" movie ("Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice") and came out with an unanswered "supervillains teaming up" movie ("Suicide Squad").