From a Science Fiction Sequel to a Puzzling Whodunit, Which Holiday Film Releases Make the Grade?

You can catch the new Avatar sequel and Bablyon at the Esquire Theatre.

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click to enlarge Avatar: The Way of Water was thirteen years in the making. - Photo: Via 20th Century Studios
Photo: Via 20th Century Studios
Avatar: The Way of Water was thirteen years in the making.

With countless ways to watch movies these days, Christmas 2022 is going to prove interesting if you have a lot of family under one roof. Not everyone's likely to agree on what to watch.

Of course, you can always try the classics. Or you can stream the handful of new films on platforms such as Prime and Netflix. You can also pile everyone into the car and get the full theatrical experience, which will probably be important to most moviegoers for one highly awaited sequel this holiday season.

To help you make those important choices, check out these seven blurb reviews of new movies debuting at Cincinnati theaters or on streaming services from Dec. 16-30.

If you're wondering about movies such as Women Talking or A Man Called Otto, those titles have limited theatrical releases, so you're in luck if you're in Los Angeles or New York, but as of press time, they won't be screening locally until early 2023.

Avatar: The Way of Water

Thirteen years in the making, the sequel to the original record-breaking 2009 science fiction epic takes viewers back to Pandora where Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is now a permanent member of the Na'vi clan and has an entire family. However, with a new danger lurking, they must escape and find a new way of life in the ocean. Clocked at more than three hours, it takes some time for the story to find its footing, but Oscar-winning director James Cameron delivers another visual spectacle and adds emotional weight that creates higher stakes for everyone. In theaters now. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Nanny

Winner of the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, this psychological art-house horror film uses its metaphors effectively to tell the story of an undocumented Senegalese immigrant (Anna Diop) caring for the child of an affluent family in New York City. First-time feature filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu sets an unsettling tone while Diop faces her own haunted visions about the son she left behind in West Africa. Now available on Prime. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

An animated sequel to the 2009 Shrek spinoff, Antonio Banderas reprises his role as the title kitty and does it with flair. This time, Puss goes on a quest to find a magical wishing star that can restore his feline immortality. What makes this sequel excel are its unique interpretations of classic fairytale characters, including an ass-kicking Goldilocks and easily the most terrifying take ever on the Big Bad Wolf. In theaters now. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Whale

Actor Brendan Fraser is likely on his way to the first Oscar nomination of his career for his portrayal of a morbidly obese and reclusive English teacher named Charlie, who's looking to reunite with his estranged teenage daughter (Sadie Sink). First, Fraser is devastatingly good and carries the drama masterfully with an occasional assist from co-star Hong Chau. But filmmaker Darren Aronofsky has done the broken father-daughter relationship better (The Wrestler). Sink brings no nuance to her role and a secondary storyline about a Mormon kid who visits Charlie feels aimless at best. In theaters now. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Babylon

Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle (La La Land) strikes out in extravagant fashion for the first time in his young career with a film set in 1920s Hollywood. At more than three hours, the narrative splits its time between a trio of characters (played by Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva) who are trying to maneuver their way through the burgeoning film industry. Much like the debauched parties in the film, Chazelle's script is utterly chaotic and comes across like a tired imitation of Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 masterpiece Boogie Nights. Opens in theaters Dec. 23. 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

While it's not nearly as fun as 2019 predecessor Knives Out, the return of Daniel Craig as private detective Benoit Blanc is enough reason to pop in for another puzzling whodunit. This time, Blanc is invited to a murder mystery soiree on a private island in Greece. Naturally, a new collection of characters become suspects when someone croaks. The meta storyline isn't as clever as filmmaker Rian Johnson thinks it is, but the eccentric cast is entertaining. Premieres on Netflix on Dec. 23. 3 out of 5 stars.

White Noise

Considered unadaptable in many circles, Don DeLillo's 1985 novel of the same name can't find a sense of tone in the hands of filmmaker Noah Baumbach, who dives into the deep end of the original text — and drowns. Heavy on satire, the narrative is far too convoluted to explain in a few words, but thematically, it covers anything from mortality to consumerism. Usually, Baumbach is impressive when handling dark comedy, but in cinematic form, DeLillo's concepts become a gawky mess. Premieres on Netflix Dec. 30. 2 out of 5 stars.


This story was originally published in San Antonio Current, CityBeat's sister publication.

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