James Mottram counts down the movies not to miss in the run up to the festive season, which is traditionally the time of big releases, from comedy and drama to big-name sequels and the latest episode in the Star Wars saga.
Murder On The Orient Express (November 9)
Of all Agatha Christie’s novels, her 1934 intrigue set on the world’s most famous luxury train is arguably one of her most satisfying. Like the 1974 movie led by Albert Finney and Lauren Bacall, Kenneth Branagh’s gleaming new version boasts an enviable all-star cast, with the actor-director claiming the plum role of Hercule Poirot, Christie’s famed Belgian detective who must solve the murder of American businessman Ratchett. Featuring Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Penélope Cruz among others, this promises to be an old-fashioned whodunit with a sprinkling of Hollywood stardust. Here’s hoping you can’t remember who the killer is.
Paddington 2 (November 10, UK)
The beloved children’s character Paddington returns. After his hugely successful 2014 movie debut (US$268 million [Dh984.4m] worldwide), the bear from darkest Peru is back for further fur-filled adventures. This time around, he is trying to buy a present for Aunt Lucy on the occasion of her 100th birthday and lands in a spot of bother. With the marvellous Ben Whishaw again voicing Paddington, others back for duty include Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville, as the Browns, though all eyes will be on Hugh Grant, who plays a resting thespian named Phoenix Buchanan. Sweeter than a pile of marmalade sandwiches.
Daddy’s Home 2 (November 30)
Usually sequels manage to dilute a winning formula. Not so with Daddy's Home 2, which has multiplied its comic potential by the power of two. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg reprise their respective roles as the sensitive stepfather and the alpha-male real dad caught in an awkward family situation. Joining them this time around are John Lithgow and Mel Gibson, playing their respective fathers – no prizes for guessing who is touchy-feely and who is the lady-killer. Added to which original director Sean Andres is back in the hot seat, so you can expect the comedy to flow steadily.
Coco (November 30)
The latest Pixar film looks to be one of the animation company's more unusual offerings. Co-directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Adrian Molina, this 3-D computer-animated feature is inspired by Mexico's Day of the Dead festival. The story follows Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a musician like his long-lost great-great grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), despite his family banning music in his household. Early reviews, when the film played at the Morelia Film Festival, were overwhelmingly positive, and trade paper The Hollywood Reporter called it "truly resplendent".
All the Money in the World (December 8, United States)
If you are looking for some substance this season, then Ridley Scott is on hand with this true-life kidnap drama. Scott's second film inside 12 months after Alien: Covenant, this tells of the infamous 1973 abduction of John Paul Getty III. The grandson to oil tycoon billionaire J Paul Getty, the 16 year-old spent months in captivity after he was snatched in Rome – with his grandfather unwilling to pay the $17 million ransom. Shot in Italy, England and also Dubai, the film stars Kevin Spacey as Getty Senior and Charlie Plummer, who recently won Best New Young Actor at the Venice Film Festival, as his luckless offspring.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (December 14)
No question, this latest instalment of the Star Wars saga is the festive season's gilt-edged cracker. After J J Abrams' preceding episode The Force Awakens took $2 billion at the box office, expectations are sky-high for this continuation as Daisy Ridley's Rey looks to missing-in-action Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) for guidance. Directed by Looper's Rian Johnson, and featuring franchise newcomers Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern, fans have already been speculating wildly about the meaning of the title. Who exactly is the Last Jedi? Is Luke turning to the Dark Side? Only a few more weeks before we find out.
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (December 21)
Remember Jumanji? The 1995 action-adventure starred the late Robin Williams in a story about a magical board game that unleashes chaos into the real world. Well, now comes this spanking new shake-up. This time a quartet of nerdy adolescents discover Jumanji, an old 1990s console game that sucks them inside its jungle setting. The twist is they re-appear as their in-game avatars – played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart. With Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher) at the helm and Guns N' Roses on the trailer, diehard fans and Jumanji newbies alike should get a kick out of this one.
Ferdinand (December 21)
Adapted from Munro Leaf's children's book The Story of Ferdinand, this 3-D animation by director Carlos Saldanha seems far removed from the raucous Ice Age cartoons that he has long been associated with. In the story, Ferdinand is a peace-loving bull who prefers smelling flowers to fighting matadors. Featuring the likes of David Tennant and Bobby Cannavale, the voice cast is eclectic rather than starry, although current Vanity Fair cover girl Kate McKinnon is voicing Lupe, an old goat. In the US, the film opens against The Last Jedi – indicating a serious dash of confidence from animators Blue Sky Studios.
Pitch Perfect 3 (December 22, US)
The Bellas are back and in good voice for this third in the comedy musical series. With Trish Sie taking over directorial duties from Elizabeth Banks (who retains her role as commentator Gail), this time the singing troupe are finding it tough being out of college and in the real world. When the idea of joining a USO overseas tour is floated, the Barden Bellas all jump at the chance. Franchise regulars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow will be sharpening their vocal chords – the trailer has them harmonising to George Michael's Freedom. You can't bet that won't be the only singalong classic included.
The Greatest Showman (December 28)
From Oklahoma! to his Tony-winning turn in The Boy From Oz, Hugh Jackman is as famed in some circles for his Broadway shows as he is for playing Wolverine. Now he gets to bring show tunes to the screen in this larger-than-life take on the life of showbiz impresario P T Barnum. With songs written by La La Land's Oscar-winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, this tale about the man who formed the infamous Barnum & Bailey circus promises good old-fashioned Hollywood razzmatazz. Singing, dancing, and for the younger viewers, an appearance by teen sensation Zendaya and former High School Musical star Zac Efron. Dreamy.