Movies to Watch over Your Winter Break

Starting to plan what you will do for your winter break? Here is a list of eight films to watch – compiled by Fiona Macdonald for the BBC Culture report.

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight

After Django Unchained became the highest-grossing movie of his career, Quentin Tarantino revisited the Western with a story about bounty hunters seeking shelter during a blizzard. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell and Samuel L Jackson are part of the ensemble for a film that was initially shelved when its script was leaked in January 2014. Set in post-Civil War Wyoming, it also stars the 79-year-old Bruce Dern – who follows up his acclaimed performance in the Oscar-nominated Nebraska by taking on a role as an ex-Confederate General. With a score composed by Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) and shot on 70mm film, The Hateful Eight harks back to a golden era of outlaws and sharpshooters – combining nostalgia with Tarantino’s trademark blood-spattered sensibility. “I don’t have issues with violence in movies,” Jackson told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a movie, it’s not life.” (Credit: The Weinstein Company)

Sisters

Sisters

The latest from director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as sisters throwing one last party at their childhood home before their parents sell it. Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz (Neighbours) and Samantha Bee (The Daily Show) co-star in the comedy penned by former Saturday Night Live writer Paula Pell. “Paula just has this really specific, vulgar but sweet tone that I really was attracted to… kind of outrageous but grounded,” Moore told ComingSoon. Pell described how she was inspired to create what’s been called ‘a teenage party for 40-year-olds’. “I have a journal from when I was 13 and my sister was three years older than me and she was the stone-cold ‘70s fox, tall, and I looked like a short Polish farm woman, so our journals were wildly different.” On general release from 12 December. (Credit: Universal Pictures)

Hitchcock Truffaut

Hitchcock/Truffaut

Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater all talk about the book that influenced them in this documentary feature from Kent Jones (A Letter to Elia). What’s been called ‘the Bible of cinema’ was published after French New Wave director Francois Truffaut interviewed Alfred Hitchcock over eight days in 1962. When the book appeared in 1966, Hitchcock went from being seen as a populist entertainer to drawing adulation as a cinematic visionary. “The notion of Hitchcock as an artist as opposed to an entertainer started to solidify,” Jones told the BBC’s Tom Brook. The film is a delight for movie geeks: The Guardian calls it “a tribute to a pioneering act of cinephilia, cinema criticism and living ancestor worship.” Released 4 December in the US. (Credit: PR)

Star Wars

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

What’s left to say about this, apart from the actual film plot? With merchandise including lightsaber chopsticks and gimmicks like Google Easter eggs (try typing ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ into Chrome’s search bar), it’s as anticipated as it is secret: the revelation of the first word uttered in the film has generated near-hysteria. And it’s “This”. Lack of any information hasn’t stopped the fan sites pontificating: “Where’s Luke?” is subject to fevered speculation alongside what role screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan has played. One thing is certain: director JJ Abrams is unlikely to provoke the backlash George Lucas received for his prequels. On general release from 17 December. (Credit: LucasFilm)

In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea

Director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) tells the story of an event that inspired Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was attacked by an 80-ft sperm whale in what appeared to those on board to be an act of vengeance: Howard’s epic film moves the story beyond Moby Dick to follow the ship’s surviving crew. Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and Benjamin Walker star as sailors forced to question their deepest beliefs; the computer-generated whale was created from drawings made by survivors. Based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, it’s been called ‘the origin story for Moby-Dick’. Howard told the Chicago Sun-Times: “It’s what attracted Melville to this story — it’s man vs. nature in the most immediate, intense way.” On general release from 3 December. (Credit: Warner Bros Entertainment Inc)

Son of Saul

Son of Saul

Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, this Hungarian drama is the debut feature from writer-director László Nemes. Set in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during 1944, it follows a Hungarian Jewish prisoner as he discovers his son’s body and attempts to give him a proper burial. The harrowing tale garnered rave reviews, with The Guardian claiming that the film “has found a way to create a fictional drama with a gaunt, fierce kind of courage – the kind of courage, perhaps, that it takes to watch it”. According to Variety, Son of Saul is “a masterful exercise in narrative deprivation and sensory overload that recasts familiar horrors in daringly existential terms”. Released 4 December in Canada and Spain and 18 December in the US. (Credit: LaoKoon)

Joy

Joy

Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro reunite with director David O Russell in a film that is a world away from American Hustle. The comedy-drama tells the story of US entrepreneur Joy Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop, as she goes from a young girl to a broke single mother of three to a mogul. And it doesn’t end there, according to Lawrence. Usually, she argues, a film is “about the fight on the way to success and the happy ending. David goes on to tell the struggle that comes after that, along with all the sacrifices that come with finally getting what you want.” Russell has said “We’re gonna take some risks we haven’t taken before, in storytelling and cinematically… I try to have things people have never done. Then they can get excited, and it’s exciting for audiences. That’s what makes it daring in some way.” On general release from 24 December. (Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

The Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts Movie

Based on the comic strip by Charles M Schulz – which was first published 65 years ago – The Peanuts Movie is an attempt to honour his legacy. Schulz’s son Craig came up with the idea in 2006, and honed it with his screenwriter son Bryan until they were happy it would be true to the strip. The pair chose Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who!) to direct, and attempted to translate Schulz’s style into CGI. “We want to track down the idiosyncrasies of the hand-drawn feeling,” Martino told The Washington Post. “We want to bring the magic of his pen into this world.” The team studied “how the dot of an eye conveyed joy or sorrow”, aiming to inject emotion into the narrative. “Charlie Brown is that guy who, in the face of repeated failure, picks himself back up and tries again,” says Martino. “What I hope to show in this film is the everyday qualities of perseverance.” It seems to have paid off: according to The New York Times, “It’s a bit startling, and undeniably refreshing, to see a children’s movie that … is driven by the small anxieties a real child might experience on a daily basis.” Released 4 December in Japan, 16 December in France and 17 December in Brazil. (Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

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