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Batten down the hatches: Here come the holiday movies

The annual holiday movie sleigh ride is about to begin.

Or, at least, it would be a sleigh ride in an ordinary December rather than one when golfers are still out there in shorts and seasoned Buffalo weather pros are dreading the lake effect hell we KNOW is coming.

No matter. The movies are coming, the movies are coming. And they’re big and holiday-sized. So here, for the moment, are the scheduled dates when you’ll see some of the season’s most awaited movies. (Most Friday openings are preceded by Thursday evening sneaks.)


“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” The monster movie of the year. J.J. Abrams took over the “Star Wars” franchise when George Lucas sold it to Disney. He even figured out a way to have Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher creak their way through some scenes.

“Sisters” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler star in the raunchy female buddy comedy everyone’s been waiting for. It’s one of the precious few ways anyone could plausibly counterprogram “Star Wars.” In their first major starring project together since “Baby Mama,” they play sisters who decide to have one last blowout in their old family house before unloading it. With Maya Rudolph as the neighborhood nemesis and written by “SNL” buddy Paula Pell.

“Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip” Purely for the kids. And to think the whole franchise began with some audio manipulation on an old David Seville 45 rpm novelty record.

Dec. 23

“The Big Short” Adam McKay’s much-praised outraged comedy/drama about how some smart, dweeby guys realized the economy was going to tank in 2008 and made money by betting their hunch big time on Wall Street. Starring Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Marisa Tomei, who all step back when required and let Christian Bale and Steve Carell do the thespian heavy lifting.


“Concussion” One of the season’s most awaited films. Will Smith plays the pathologist whose autopsies of athletes – especially football players – continually reveal the terrible cost of spending one’s professional life sustaining harsh blows to the head. With Albert Brooks as the bald-headed chorus explaining medical science and the NFL to one another.

“Point Break” The remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s giddily lunatic 1991 fantasy about the FBI infiltrating surfers to catch some very bad guys. Back then, it was Keanu Reeves, which tells you what you need to know about the movie –especially when you know that Patrick Swayze and Gary Busey were bad guys. In this case, they go undercover among extreme sports maniacs to catch crooks who double as world-endangering cyber-marauders. With Ray Winstone, James Le Gros and Delroy Lindo and some extreme sports dudes and dudesses.

“Daddy’s Home” Will Ferrell vs. Mark Wahlberg as a husband vs. an ex-husband in a competition to see who can inspire more affection from the kids.

“Joy” Jennifer Lawrence remains on top of the world in David O. Russell’s entrepreneurial comedy about the very real working mother whose self-squeezing mop was a smash hit on the newly created QVC network and transformed her life. With Russell’s stalwart stock company – including Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper – along with Isabella Rossellini, Virginia Madsen and Diane Ladd.

“The Danish Girl” Major Oscar bait with Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander starring in a drama about the first person ever to become a transsexual through surgery.

“Youth” Comedic drama in which Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda are acid-tongued film types vacationing in the Alps who all decide the title commodity may not be exactly what the rest of us think it is.

“Carol” Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in much-acclaimed film based on Patricia Highsmith’s once scandalous “lesbian novel” “The Price of Salt.” It’s now winning major critic prizes and award nominations. Directed by Todd Haynes.

Jan. 1

“The Hateful Eight” If Bret Harte’s “The Outcasts of Poker Flats” married “Reservoir Dogs” you’d probably get Quentin Tarantino’s bloody tale of weather-bound killers getting on each other’s nerves. With a Tarantino all-star cast featuring Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Bruce Dern and Michael Madsen.

“The Revenant” Still more blood, along with extraordinary photography. Leonardo di Caprio is a scout for fur trappers who is mauled by bears, ice and snow, rapids and waterfalls and rotten SOBs out to get him and his son. With Tom Hardy, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who directed “Birdman.”