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Holiday movie preview: What to watch as 2017 winds down

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Preston Barta

This year is already crowded with amazing films and performances, but 2017 still has plenty of potentially great movies in the pipeline.

Coco (Nov. 22) - Disney-Pixar shines brightest when it ventures into original content. Ironically, Coco is the studio’s last original film until 2020. It’s a gorgeously animated film directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) that is enveloped in the Mexican holiday celebration of Día de Los Muertos, a mythology rarely seen in mainstream cinema. With its hum-worthy tunes and vibrant world and characters, Coco is a feast for the senses.

James Franco and Dave Franco  in <i>The Disaster Artist</i>.A24
James Franco and Dave Franco in The Disaster Artist.
A24

The Disaster Artist (Dec. 8) - Spectacularly performed and directed by James Franco, The Disaster Artist highlights the peculiar career of Tommy Wiseau and his 2003 "disasterpiece" The Room — a title largely considered to be one of the worst movies of all time. Franco delicately balances the film as a funny and poignant tribute about perseverance and friendship, utilizing his all-star cast (including brother Dave Franco, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron) for good.

The Shape of Water (Dec. 8) - Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) is one of the most hardworking filmmakers out there. You can tell from the first frame of his films that he invests so much of his time to make sure every detail wows. This is especially true for his latest, The Shape of Water, a period piece that feels like a Grimms fairy tale with a splash of The Green Mile. Strange combo, but a lovely mixture.

Sally Hawkins in <i>The Shape of Water. </i>Photo courtesy of&nbsp;Kerry Hayes, Fox Searchlight PicturesFox Searchlight Pictures
Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Photo courtesy of Kerry Hayes, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Dec. 15) - After J.J. Abrams shocked fans with a thrilling return to a galaxy far, far away, anticipation for its sequel couldn’t be any higher. Rian Johnson (Looper, the later episodes of Breaking Bad) enters the director’s chair for what is supposed to be a dark but immensely satisfying middle chapter in the new Star Wars trilogy.

<i>Star Wars: The Last Jedi</i>&nbsp;begins where <i>The Force Awakens</i>&nbsp;left off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) having tracked down Luke Skywalker.&nbsp;Walt Disney Pictures
Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) having tracked down Luke Skywalker. 
Walt Disney Pictures

The Greatest Showman (Dec. 20) - Now that Hugh Jackman has retired his turn as Wolverine, he can tear up the dance floor (actually, the circus floor) some more with The Greatest Showman. The drama-musical celebrates the birth of show business and a visionary who went from rags to riches. Though it looks cliche, Jackman is sure to stun.

P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) comes alive with the oddities in <i>The Greatest Showman.</i>Twentieth Century Fox
P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) comes alive with the oddities in The Greatest Showman.
Twentieth Century Fox

All the Money in the World (Dec. 22) - Kevin Spacey was originally attached to the film, but after his scandal, director Ridley Scott and Sony Pictures decided to recast his part weeks before its release. Christopher Plummer is now stepping in, and its story about a kidnapping and a stuck-up billionaire just got more interesting.

Kevin Spacey portrays J. Paul Getty in <i>All the Money in the World</i>. Spacey is getting cut out of Ridley Scott's finished film and replaced by Christopher Plummer just over one month before it's supposed to hit theaters. People close to the production who were not authorized to speak publicly say Plummer is commencing reshoots immediately in the role of J. Paul Getty.&nbsp;TriStar Pictures
Kevin Spacey portrays J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World. Spacey is getting cut out of Ridley Scott's finished film and replaced by Christopher Plummer just over one month before it's supposed to hit theaters. People close to the production who were not authorized to speak publicly say Plummer is commencing reshoots immediately in the role of J. Paul Getty. 
TriStar Pictures

Call Me By Your Name (Dec. 22) - Word on the street is this indie film is one of the year’s very best. Starring Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet (Lady Bird), Call Me By Your Name is being described as an erotic and emotional coming-of-age story about two young men who become romantically involved.

A young man named Elio (Timothy Chalamet) living in Italy in the '80s, meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), an academic who has come to stay at his parents' villa, in <i>Call Me By Your Name</i>.&nbsp;
A young man named Elio (Timothy Chalamet) living in Italy in the '80s, meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), an academic who has come to stay at his parents' villa, in Call Me By Your Name

Downsizing (Dec. 22) - Usually Alexander Payne (Nebraska, Sideways) directs intimate dramas, but Downsizing looks like a new branch in his career. It’s a social satire, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, about people who shrink themselves for a better life. The possibilities are endless, and it’s my hope the film capitalizes on this wonder.

Matt Damon in <i>Downsizing</i>. t
Matt Damon in Downsizing. t

Phantom Thread (Dec. 25) - While the trailer makes it look like a typical romantic period drama, the reteaming of filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) and arguably the greatest actor alive, Daniel Day-Lewis, has my attention. The privilege of watching what may be Day-Lewis’ last performance will be bittersweet.

I, Tonya (To be released in December) - Based on the unbelievable 1994 figure-skating scandal, I, Tonya sees Margot Robbie taking on the ice queen Tonya Harding, who broke records and bones. Well, actually she only bruised her competitor’s leg, but her story is absolutely nuts. It’s going to be special to see Robbie close out 2017 with dropped jaws.

Margot Robbie in I, Tonya (2017)Courtesy photo
Margot Robbie in I, Tonya (2017)
Courtesy photo

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter @PrestonBarta.

FEATURED IMAGE: Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) has a dream to make music, in Pixar's new "Coco." Photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar.