New York City, if there is any doubt that the holiday season is rushing toward us, let the displays in your local 24-hour drugstore chains be a humorous reminder. It’s the holiday season again, and with that rush of consumer-friendly stimuli and nostalgic merriment comes new holiday films choices.
There are 31 films scheduled to open in November and 28 vying for your attention in December. Now that’s a lot of choices with which you can break up your frenzied shop-a-thon! It’s my pleasure to share advance tidbits on films that I’m confident will satisfy a variety of cinematic tastes.
The family film category is bountiful.
Nov. 1 gets the first wide release with:
- “Free Birds,” an opposite-side-of-the-tracks scenario. Owen Wilson provides the voice for a regular turkey who is given a presidential pardon one Thanksgiving and joins forces with a rebel leader when he discovers the true fate of his species.
- “Man of Tai Chi.” Set in modern-day Beijing, it follows the spiritual journey of a young martial artist (Tiger Hu Chen) whose unparalleled tai chi skills land him in a highly lucrative underworld fight club. As the fights grow tougher, he must compromise his own beliefs in order to survive. It also stars the perpetually interesting Keanu Reeves. Side note: Reeves met Chen during the filming of “The Matrix,” where Chen was a stuntman and a trainer for Reeves.
On Nov. 15:
- Take a date to see Universal Pictures’ “The Best Man Holiday,” directed and written by Malcom Lee. After nearly 15 years apart, Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Monica Calhoun, Melissa De Sousa and Regina Hall reprise their career-launching roles in “The Best Man.” When the college friends finally reunite over the Christmas holidays, they will discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited. I’ve seen the film, and I’m going to share a secret about “The Best Man Holiday” and risk upsetting the filmmakers. It’s a new holiday classic and as good as Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There, I said it! That felt good. The truth will set you free!
Nov. 27 has two films by African-American filmmakers opening.
- It’s all about pulsating drama in Spike Lee’s remake of the Korean classic “Oldboy,” which stars Josh Brolin as a high-powered advertising executive who is kidnapped and held for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his bizarre and torturous punishment, only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.
- On a much lighter note, November will also see the premiere of the second holiday family film choice, “Black Nativity,” directed by Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”). It’s a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ celebrated play. Langston (Jacob Latimore), a streetwise teen from Baltimore raised by a single mother, journeys to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives the Rev. Cornell (Forest Whitaker) and Aretha Cobbs (Angela Bassett). Unwilling to live by the imposing Cornell’s rules, a frustrated Langston is determined to return home to his mother, Naima (Jennifer Hudson). Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and, thanks to his new friends and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing and family. Interesting note: A large part of “Black Nativity” was shot right outside my apartment door on Amsterdam Avenue.
There will be more news to follow regarding “The Best Man Holiday” and “Black Nativity” as I sit down with the cast and film directors of both films in November.