I drove by a four-screen neighborhood theater the other day, and the marquee said, simply: STAR WARS. Playing on all four screens. There was a time, before the Force awakened, when other movies existed.
Friends, that time has returned. It is early 2016, and while “The Force Awakens” will be around for a while, other promising options are coming our way, in all sorts of genres. Release dates are subject to change:
“Anomalisa,” Jan. 22: This was my second-favorite for 2015 (behind “Spotlight”), though I suppose I should recommend it advisedly. It’s not for kids, or for adults who need unabashedly happy endings rather than profoundly bittersweet ones. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” screenwriter Charlie Kaufman directed this unnervingly intimate stop-motion animation feature about a customer service expert who looks up an old flame in Cincinnati and then meets another woman. It’s the strangest, wittiest film I’ve seen in months.
“Son of Saul,” Jan. 29: This feature film debut from Hungarian writer-director Laszlo Nemes is set in 1944 Auschwitz, where a member of the Sonderkommando (Jewish prisoners forced to work for the Nazis) decides to rescue one boy’s body from the ovens.
“Hail, Caesar!” Feb. 5: In Hollywood’s era of sword-and-sandal epics, MGM studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) must locate an AWOL movie star (George Clooney) and deal with various studio assets (Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, et al.) in this comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” Feb. 5: The literary sensation, combining Jane Austen, petticoats and a fetching collection of the undead, comes to the screen starring Lily James, Lena Headey, Sam Riley and Charles Dance.
“Where to Invade Next,” Feb. 12: Michael Moore travels around the world, stealing socially progressive ideas about health care, gun control, public school lunches and the like. Gone is the screechy tone of “Fahrenheit 9/11” and, for the most part, the factual elisions of his lesser work; this movie proves Moore has much to say and a big heart.
“Eddie the Eagle,” Feb. 26: In 1988, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping. How it all went down gets the impish docudrama treatment. The cast includes Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken.
“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” March 4: Tina Fey stars in this adaptation of Kim Barker’s 2011 comic memoir “The Taliban Shuffle.” Barker spent seven years covering the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Chicago Tribune. (She now works for Pro Publica.)
“Midnight Special,” March 18: Writer-director Jeff Nichols ventures into the realm of the supernatural, with a story of a father (Michael Shannon) and a son (Jaeden Lieberher) fleeing authorities who are very, very interested in the boy’s special powers. Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard add support.
“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” March 25: People change; Greeks don’t. That’s the sell line for this sequel to the monster 2002 hit. Nia Vardalos wrote and stars in this screen reunion of the Portokalos clan.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” March 25: Ben Affleck is the new Batman; Henry Cavill returns for his second shot at Supe; Jesse Eisenberg plays a gabby, hopped-up edition of Lex Luthor; and judging by the trailers, director Zack Snyder unloads another round of his pummeling, gargantuan action.