November 24, 2017 at 3:52 pm EDT | by Brian T. Carney
Holiday film guide 2017
holiday film, gay news, Washington Blade

Justin Hartley as a Santa stripper in ‘A Bad Moms Christmas.’ (Photo courtesy STX)

When it’s time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, head to the movies. There will be some great releases waiting for you.

With the sexual harassment scandal still rocking Hollywood, this year’s holiday film schedule has even more moving pieces than usual. Be sure to confirm times and dates before heading to the theater.

For example, the movie “I Love You, Daddy,” directed by Louis C.K., was pulled from distribution hours before its release. The prestige film “The Current Wars,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse, has had its release postponed until things settle down over at the Weinstein Company. And director Ridley Scott is removing actor Kevin Spacey from “All the Money in the World” and digitally replacing him with Christopher Plummer. The movie is still scheduled to be released on Dec. 22; Plummer’s name has already replaced Spacey’s on the grisly poster.

Some of fall’s great releases are still lingering on area screens. If you’re lucky, you can still catch the queer indies “My Friend Dahmer” about the high school experiences of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and “BPM” the dazzling film about the early days of ACT UP Paris. “Lady Bird,” the outstanding directoral debut of Greta Gerwig, also includes a gay twist, but it’s a plot spoiler.

The magnificent “Mudbound” is premiering both on Netflix and in theaters. Under the leadership of the openly lesbian director Dee Rees (“Pariah” and “Bessie”), the film takes a close look at race and class in rural Mississippi after World War II. Frances McDormand’s amazing performance as a grieving mother anchors the excellent “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and Willem Dafoe is the solid center of “The Florida Project” by Sean Baker (“Tangerine”).

“Thor” and the members of “The Justice League” will still be saving cinemas until the New Year, and the “Bad Moms” will be trying to reclaim Christmas from their overpowering mothers until the sequel is released. “A Bad Moms Christmas” features Justin Hartley (“This Is Us”), who was the highlight of the film’s outrageous restricted trailer  and who helps fine tune the amazing balance between comedy, sentiment and raunch.

The flurry of holiday releases starts with “The Man Who Invented Christmas” (Nov. 22). Directed by Bhahat Nalluri, the movie stars Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) as Charles Dickens. Also opening Thanksgiving week is Pixar’s “Coco,” a stunning animated tale inspired by the Mexican holiday commemorating the dead.

Reel Affirmations will commemorate Worlds AIDS Day (Dec. 1) with a screening of “After Louie.” Directed by Vincent Gagliostro, the movie stars Alan Cumming as an artist and activist coming to terms with the toll that AIDS has taken on his life and his community. The deeply-moving film also features performances by the legendary Everett Quinton, Wilson Cruz and David Drake (“The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me).

Other queer movies opening in December include the extraordinary “Thelma” (Dec. 1) about a young student who discovers the power of love as she explores her sexuality and discovers her own superpowers; “Tom of Finland” (Dec. 8), about the legendary gay illustrator; and the highly anticipated “Call Me By Your Name” (Dec. 15).

Impatient fans can also see “Tom of Finland” from Nov. 24-30 with the Maryland Film Festival at the inventively restored SNF Parkway. For more information on this and other great programming, go to mdfilmfest.com.

Surprisingly, one of the queerest releases of 2017 may be Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” (Dec. 8). Inspired by the paranoid monster movies of the Cold War era, the visual masterpiece tells the story of a brave gang of outsiders who band together to save an aquatic creature who is being tortured in a government research lab. Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa Esposito, a mute who communicates through sign language and dance. Richard Jenkins is Giles, her gay next-door neighbor. The cast of this beautiful adult fairy tale is rounded out by Octavia Spencer, Michael Sheen and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Other December openings include James Franco as “The Disaster Artist” (Dec. 1), the animated feature “Ferdinand” with John Cena providing the voice of the gentle bull, Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel” (Dec. 8) featuring Justin Timberlake, and “The Post” (Dec. 22) starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as the publisher and editor of the venerable D.C. newspaper.

As always, AFI Silver in downtown Silver Spring is ready to celebrate the holidays with style and humor. There are seasonal classics like “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” There’s “The Bishop’s Wife” with David Niven, Loretta Young and Cary Grant and “The Preacher’s Wife” with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. There’s “A Muppet Christmas Carol” with Michael Caine and Kermit the Frog, as well as the classic 1951 version of the story with Alastair Sis. Finally, the annual AFI holiday screening of “Die Hard.”

With a more continental flair, AFI is also dedicating December to its annual European Union Film Showcase. This year’s offerings include “The Workshop” with a script by Robin Campillo (“BPM”); Vanessa Redgrave’s directoral debut “Sea Sorrow” and “The Young Karl Marx,” written and directed by Raoul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”). For more information on these and other fine films, go to afi.com/silver.

Finally, the two big holiday blockbusters will appear. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” lands in DC theaters on Dec. 15. The eighth film in the multi-generational space opera brings back Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe) and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), along with the Wookie, the droids and the old warriors Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia (Carrie Fisher, who died shortly after filming was wrapped). There’s no official word yet on whether or not Poe and Finn will finally get to consummate their relationship in Episode Nine.

“The Greatest Showman” arrives in D.C. on Dec. 22. Hugh Jackman plays showman and politician Phineas Taylor Barnum and sings songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The high-flying cast also includes Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya and Rebecca Ferguson.

Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams in ‘The Greatest Showman,’ one of this holiday season’s hotly anticipated releases. (Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox)

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