December movie guide: Wonka, Aquaman, a female-Frankenstein Oscar hopeful and 20th anniversary of Love Actually
The long-anticipated Wonka prequel is finally here. Photo: Warner Bros.
While there have been already been two movies based around British author Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the latest iteration will be the first to capture the story of a younger, naughty, chocolate-making narcissistic genius.
Dubbed a “spiritual prequel”, and starring the fresh-faced US-French actor Timotheé Chalamet, 27, Wonka tells the story of a young Willy Wonka and how he met the Oompa-Loompas on one of his earliest adventures.
While we were all excited by the jaw-dropping casting of Hugh Grant as a green-purple little Oompa, it will be Chalamet who will capture our imagination as the story unfolds after he steps out of a jungle somewhere and into an uptight European city.
Gene Wilder first played Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971, which is widely beloved and considered one of his greatest roles.
Johnny Depp starred in Tim Burton’s $150 million, 2005 version, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which divided audiences as it was seen to be darker and more disturbing.
Fans of the franchise will see Chalamet’s Wonka return to a family-friendly story.
“Over the course of the movie, we learn a lot more about where [Willy Wonka has] come from, and what his childhood was like … you learn in flashback more about why he’s so driven,” says director Paul King (Paddington).
“That’s really what the movie is about,” King explains.
“I couldn’t imagine a time before Willy Wonka was good at making chocolate … you go, where does this genius come from? What is genius?”
So there’s singing, dancing, creative genius and no doubt a touch of nostalgia in Wonka, which is in cinemas from December 14.
Uproar: November 30
New Zealand star Julian Dennison, 21, who worked with Sam Neill on Taika Waititi’s 2016 classic, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, stars in this heartwarming story set around the 1981 Springbok tour of his rugby-obsessed country.
The Maori actor has worked with some of the biggest names already in the business, including Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2 and Millie Bobby Brown in Godzilla v Kong, and is definitely seen as a star on the rise.
Starring alongside Minnie Driver and Rhys Darby, Dennison has a fan following of more than 148,000 Instagram followers.
Some say he’s the funniest actor to come out of New Zealand.
Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé: December 1
From her opening concert in Stockholm to her grand finale in Kansas City, this concert film follows the US pop icon’s blockbuster global tour throughout this year, and promises her fans every music video rolled into one three-hour movie marathon.
“When I am performing, I am nothing but free,” Beyoncé says in the teaser trailer over a montage of images from the road.
“My goal for this tour was to create a place where everyone is free, and no one is judged.”
“This film promises to be a family affair,” writes Variety.
The documentary goes behind-the-scenes, rehearsing with eldest daughter and current backup dancer Blue Ivy Carter in the trailer, as can she and her and Jay-Z’s twins, Rumi and Sir Shawn Carter are also spotted.
NCT NATION: To The World in Cinemas: December 6 and 10
Pioneers in the K-Pop genre, NCT Nation join Beyonce on the concert film circuit, documenting their first-ever offline concert as a full group, held in Incheon, South Korea, on August 26.
Maestro: December 7
Bradley Cooper stars as legendary composer Leonard Bernstein in this “emotionally epic portrayal of family and love” in a biographical account of his relationship with his wife Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein.
In 2018, Collider said Cooper “floored audiences and critics alike” with his directorial debut A Star is Born, a film that went on to receive eight nominations at the 91st Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor for Cooper and Best Actress for Lady Gaga.
Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg were set to direct, but Cooper eventually took over directorial duties and is now receiving early Oscar buzz.
Andrew Lincoln (wooing Keira Knightley) penned the Love, Actuallysigns himself as he liked his handwriting. Photo: Universal Pictures
Love Actually 20th anniversary: December 7
It’s on everyone’s Christmas watch list after the big lunch, but the iconic film has got the jump on fans three weeks ahead of time with an early big-screen cinema release.
Need a recap on what the story is about?
It follows the lives of eight very different couples (starring Colin Firth, Hugh Grant) dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas.
One FM station in the UK recently gave us 10 reasons why this is the perfect Christmas film.
These include the overriding message that the holidays are better when you spend them with the people who care about you, “it deals with the pain of unrequited love in the most beautiful scene ever” and has the best soundtrack.
Most of all, there’s an epic airport scene. And lots of tears.
Silent Night: December 7
From legendary director John Woo and the producer of John Wick comes this gritty revenge tale of a tormented father (Joel Kinnaman) who witnesses his young son die.
Unlike the popular Christmas carol of the same name, this film is at the opposite end of the spectrum, promising a lot of grisly, bloody action scenes, revenge … and no dialogue.
“Very interesting movie. The whole movie is without dialogue. It allowed me to use visuals to tell the story, to tell how the character feels,” Woo told Vulture.
“We are using music instead of language. And the movie is all about sight and sound. The budget was a little tight, and the schedule was tight, but it made me change my working style.
“Usually, for a big movie, a studio movie, we shoot a lot of coverage, then leave it to the cutting room. But in this movie, I tried to combine things without doing any coverage shots. I had to force myself to use a new kind of technique.
Anyone But You: December 26
Filmed earlier this year in Sydney, Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria, The White Lotus) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) pair up in this US rom-com as the perfect couple as they’re invited for a destination wedding Down Under.
Teen Vogue reports its one of the most talked-about films of the year, “a modern – and arguably very loose – reinterpretation of William Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing”.
“There’s sexy banter, laughs, raunchiness, a re-enactment of Titanic, and … Powell’s bare butt, all set to the Olivia Rodrigo’s fun, uptempo Bad Idea Right?,” the mag reports.
Jason Momoa is Aquaman and safe to say his love interest in the original film, Amber Heard, is barely in it.
Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom: December 26
Based on the DC underwater superhero and starring Jason Momoa, the Aquaman sequel has been a long time coming, and will finally come out Boxing Day.
All returning to the roles they originated, Momoa plays Arthur Curry/Aquaman, balancing his duties as both the King of Atlantis and a new father.
Patrick Wilson is Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother and his nemesis, who must now step into a new role as his brother’s reluctant ally.
Amber Heard is Mera, Atlantis’ Queen and mother of the heir to the throne and Nicole Kidman is Atlanna, leader and mother.
Also reprising their roles are Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus and Randall Park as Doctor Stephen Shin.
One Life: December 26
One Life tells the inspiring true story of Sir Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Winton, whose unsung endeavours on the eve of World War Two saved more than 600 children from their doom.
According to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Winton, who was born to Jewish parents in 1909, cancelled a planned skiing holiday a year before WWII broke out after being urged by a friend, Martin Blake, to go to Prague to see the dire situation for himself.
The area had become overwhelmed with refugees after Germany had annexed the Sudetenland, a mostly German-speaking area of Czechoslovakia.
For nine months in 1939, he rescued 669 children from Czechoslovakia, bringing them to the UK, thereby sparing them from the horrors of the Holocaust. Sir Nicholas died in July 2015, aged 106.
Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo . Photo: 20th Century Studios.
Poor Things: December 26
A black comedy. A fantasy. Some say a female version of Frankenstein.
This is the story of the evolution of Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), a young woman brought back to life by the brilliant and unorthodox scientist Doctor Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe).
Stone, already an Oscar winner for La La Land in 2016, has created Oscar buzz again for her portrayal of a woman reborn who discovers the wonders of the world.
“I wanted to play Bella because it felt like acceptance of what it is to be a woman, to be free, to be scared and brave,” Stone, 34, tells People, calling Poor Things “a very, very funny film”.
“She’s understanding what it is to be a member of society … the more autonomous she becomes, the more challenged these men seem to be by it.”