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December 2016

Books on Screen

December 2016

This month, Books on Screen is truly an embarrassment of riches: two non-Taken Liam Neeson movies, including a years-in-the-making Scorsese pet project; Taraji P. Henson in the frames of my dreams; and Patrick Wilson in --- let’s face it --- pretty much anything. Let’s get down to the details before I get too distracted by what a good title “An Embarrassment of Richards” would be for a sexy calendar.

Another December means another moody Patricia Highsmith adaptation, and although A Kind of Murder doesn’t quite match Carol in terms of awards hype, it does have a pretty impressive trailer featuring your mom’s sweetheart, Patrick Wilson, in his native winter whites. Haley Bennett --- whose uncanny resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence is only mildly distracting --- co-stars as the other woman who inspires an obsession with murdering his damaged wife. If you prefer your period dramas a bit more…uplifting…check out Hidden Figures, based on the true untold story of three brilliant African American women who helped launch John Glenn into space. In a very seasonally appropriate casting move, it stars Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe and Taraji P. Henson: the Mother, Daughter, and Holy Cookie, respectively.

Later in the month, we can look forward to Julieta, a tender, relatively restrained film from acclaimed filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar about one woman’s reckoning with the sudden reappearance of her long-lost daughter. And from autor to auteur (author?), Martin Scorsese’s Silence --- based on Shûsaku Endô’s prize-winning novel of the same name --- finally hits theaters this month. The story of Jesuit priests who are met with violence in 1970s Japan has been in production since 1990, so for Marty’s sake I really hope it’s good. And my personal pick of the month is A Monster Calls, based on the YA book of the same name, about a young boy dealing with his mother's terminal illness in darkly creative ways. I’ll give you all my Hanukkah gelt if you can make it through the trailer without sobbing.

If you’re milking your last lazy month before New Year’s resolutions for all it’s worth, you’ll be happy to know there are tons of Books on Screen DVDs out this month, including Sully, Bridget Jones’s Baby, Ben-Hur (timing’s a bit on the nose) and Suicide Squad. And one last word to the wise: Keep your nog refrigerated; the only thing that should be getting filmy this month is you! Let’s make this one a December to remember.


--- Written and compiled by Emily Hoenig



In Theaters:

All We Had
Cast: Katie Holmes, Stefania Owen, Luke Wilson, Richard Kind, Mark Consuelos, Judy Greer, Eve Lindley
Director: Katie Holmes
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
MPAA Rating: N/A
Release Date: December 9th (in theaters and On Demand)
Based On: ALL WE HAD by Annie Weatherwax

Set during the worldwide financial crisis in 2008, a single mother and her teenage daughter find a new home and hope for their future when they move to a small Midwestern town.


A Kind of Murder
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel, Haley Bennett, Vincent Kartheiser, Eddie Marsan
Director: Andy Goddard
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: December 16th
Based On: THE BLUNDERER by Patricia Highsmith

An architect and crime novelist becomes obsessed with an unsolved murder. His mental degradation coincides with the downward spiral of his marriage as he lusts after a younger woman.


Cast: Adriana Ugarte, Rossy de Palma, Emma Suárez
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: December 21st
Based On: Select stories from RUNAWAY by Alice Munro

After a chance meeting, middle-aged Julieta learns that her long-lost daughter has resurfaced in Madrid. This begins a painful reflection by Julieta into her checkered past, flashing back to the moments of pain that defined her current life. 


Patriot’s Day
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Peter Berg
Distributor: CBS Films, Lionsgate Films
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: December 21st (limited)
Based on: BOSTON STRONG: A City's Triumph over Tragedy by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge

An account of the Boston Marathon bombing, PATRIOTS DAY is the powerful story of a community's courage in the face of terror. In the aftermath of an unspeakable attack, Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders joins courageous survivors, first responders and investigators in a race against the clock to hunt down the bombers before they strike again.


A Monster Calls
Cast: Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver
Director: J. A. Bayona
Distributor: Focus Features
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: December 23rd (limited)
Based On: A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness

Twelve-year-old Conor, dealing with his mother's illness, a less-than-sympathetic grandmother and bullying classmates, finds a most unlikely ally when a Monster appears at his bedroom window. Ancient, wild and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith and truth. 


Cast: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano
Director: Martin Scorsese
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: N/A
Release Date: December 23rd (limited)
Based On: SILENCE by Shûsaku Endô

Silence tells the story of two Christian missionaries who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor --- at a time when Christianity was outlawed and their presence forbidden. 


Hidden Figures
Cast: Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe 
Director: Theodore Melfi
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG
Release Date: December 25th (limited)
Based On: HIDDEN FIGURES: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures is the incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson --- brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world.


Live By Night
Cast: Ben Affleck, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning
Director: Ben Affleck
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: December 25th (limited)
Based On: LIVE BY NIGHT by Dennis Lehane

It's the Roaring `20s and Prohibition hasn't stopped the flow of booze in an underground network of gangster-run speakeasies. The opportunity to gain power and money is there for any man with enough ambition and nerve, and Joe Coughlin, the son of the Boston Police superintendent, long ago turned his back on his strict upbringing for the spoils of being an outlaw. But even among criminals there are rules, and Joe breaks a big one: crossing a powerful mob boss by stealing his money and his moll.


On TV:

Cast: Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Heida Reed
Director: Edward Bazalgette, William McGregor
Network: PBS
Airdate: Sundays at 9pm ET 
Based on: The Cornwall series by Winston Graham

In 18th century Cornwall, times are as tough as the rocky shoreline: unemployment, hunger, and sickness are widespread among the working class, while the wealthy landowners prosper. Only one man dares to defy the status quo, and he is behind bars. After a new generation of viewers fell in love with adventurer Ross Poldark, season one's tragic cliffhanger left fans everywhere reeling. What will become of our swashbuckling hero? Can the ever-resilient Demelza find a way to save him?


The Flash
Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Rick Cosnett, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jessie L. Martin
Network: The CW
Airdate: Tuesdays at 8pm ET
Based On: THE FLASH: DC Comics character created by Robert Kanigher, John Broome and Carmine Infantino

Barry is living his dream life --- his parents are alive, he’s asked Iris West on a date and he can finally be a normal guy as Central City has another speedster, Kid Flash, running around saving the city. When Barry starts forgetting parts of his old life, the Reverse Flash taunts his nemesis and tells him that there will be serious repercussions for Barry and the ones he loves if he continues to live in this alternate universe. In addition to losing his memories, his powers will also start to fade. When disaster strikes, Barry must decide if he wants to continue to live in this world as Barry Allen or return to his universe as The Flash.”


"Good Behavior"
Cast: Michelle Dockery, Juan Diego Botto, Lusia Strus
Network: TNT
Airdate: Tuesdays at 9pm ET
Based On: GOOD BEHAVIOR by Blake Crouch

Letty Dobesh, a thief and con artist, is released from prison. She reunites with her 10-year-old son, who is being raised by her mother; and she regularly sees her substance-abuse counselor, whose motives for helping her are questionable. Letty soon overhears a hitman being hired to kill a man's wife and sets out to prevent it, which puts her on a collision course with the killer to the point of starting a relationship with him.


Cast: Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Paul Blackthorne, John Barrowman, Echo Kellum
Network: The CW
Airdate: Wednesdays at 8pm ET
Based On: DC Comics character Green Arrow created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp

Oliver’s new recruits for Team Arrow are Curtis, Wild Dog and Evelyn Sharp. Unfortunately, the Green Arrow’s training methods prove to be too much for some of them to handle. Meanwhile, in the flashbacks, Oliver’s initiation into the Bratva continues.


"The Exorcist"
Cast: Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, Geena Davis
Director: Jeremy Slater
Network: Fox
Airdate: Fridays at 9pm ET
Based on: THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty

Two very different men tackle a family's horrifying case of demonic possession.


"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" (Limited Series)
Cast: Elijah Wood, Samuel Barnett, Christian Bako, 
Director: Robert Cooper
Network: BBC America
Airdate: Saturdays at 9pm ET

Following the bizarre murder of a millionaire, Todd finds himself in the orbit of Dirk Gently --- an eccentric detective who believes they’re destined to solve the mystery together.



Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Jemaine Clement, Bill Hader
Director: Steven Spielberg
MPAA Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: December 6th
Based on: THE BFG by Roald Dahl

The BFG tells the tale of a young girl, the Queen of England and a benevolent giant known as the BFG, who set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.


Suicide Squad
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Cara Delevingne
Director: David Ayer
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 6th
Based on: Suicide Squad comic book series by John Ostrander

A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.


Jason Bourne
Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel
Director: Paul Greengrass
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 6th
Based on: The Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum and Eric Van Lustbader

It's been 10 years since Jason Bourne walked away from the agency that trained him to become a deadly weapon. Hoping to draw him out of the shadows, CIA director Robert Dewey assigns hacker and counterinsurgency expert Heather Lee to find him. Lee suspects that former operative Nicky Parsons is also looking for him. As she begins tracking the duo, Bourne finds himself back in action battling a sinister network that utilizes terror and technology to maintain unchecked power.


Cast: Jack Huston, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 13th
Based on: BEN-HUR: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

The epic story of Judah Ben-Hur, a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption.


Bridget Jones’s Baby
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Patrick Dempsey, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent
Director: Sharon Maguire
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: December 13th
Based on: BRIDGET JONES: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

The continuing adventures of British publishing executive Bridget Jones as she enters her 40s.


Cast: Ben Schnetzer, Nick Jonas, Gus Halper
Director: Andrew Neel
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: December 13th
Based on: GOAT: A Memoir by Brad Land

Reeling from a terrifying assault, a 19 year-old boy enrolls into college with his brother and pledges the same fraternity. What happens there, in the name of "brotherhood," tests the boy and his loyalty to his brother in brutal ways.


Cast: Tom Hanks, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney, Aaron Eckhart
Director: Clint Eastwood
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 20th
Based on: HIGHEST DUTY: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley B. Sullenberger

On Thursday, January 15th, 2009, the world witnessed the "Miracle on the Hudson" when Captain Chesley Sullenberger, nicknamed "Sully,” glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.


Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Nicolas Cage, Zachary Quinto
Director: Oliver Stone
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: December 20th
Based on: THE SNOWDEN FILES: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and TIME OF THE OCTOPUS by Anatoly Kucherena

Snowden, the politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller, reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world.