“Christmas, Again” (December 3)
The traditional holiday movie builds towards some climactic takeaway: A troubled character finds new value through the convenience of the Christmas spirit. “Christmas, Again,” the bittersweet debut from writer-director Charles Poekel, is a welcome deviation from that tendency. Starring indie stalwart Kentucker Audley (“Sun Don’t Shine”) as a downtrodden loner selling Christmas trees in Brooklyn in the aftermath of a breakup, and the fleeting connection he finds with a fellow lost soul, the movie makes no grand gestures but provides a satisfactory arrangement of many small ones. Shot on grainy 16mm by cinematographer Sean Price Williams (“Listen Up Phillip”), “Christmas, Again” offers the unique pairing of vibrant holiday colors with a foundation of gritty realism built around its impressive lead performance. Watch it exclusively on SVOD on Fandor, or on iTunes and other platforms.
“Every Thing Will Be Fine” (December 4)
It’s not every day you get to watch a brand new Wim Wenders drama from the comfort of your own home, which makes “Every Thing Will Be Fine” something of a true gift this holiday season. Viewers wanting to see the film in its intended 3D format will have to head to New York’s IFC Film Center, but audiences across the country can see a 2D version On Demand. Featuring a star-studded cast of James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rachel McAdams and Marie-Josée Croze, the movie takes place after a tragic car accident and follows the connections it makes and destroys among a struggling writer, his long-suffering girlfriend, a grieving mother and a publisher. The film’s wintry setting and the latent traumas sparked by an extraordinary incident certainly bring “The Sweet Hereafter” to mind, though Wenders keeps his focus tight in examining his characters’ post-traumatic journeys.
“The Wannabe” (December 4)
How do you followup a win for Best Supporting Actress? If you’re Patricia Arquette, you team up with executive producer Martin Scorsese for a “Bonnie and Clyde”-style gangster picture set against the backdrop of one of New York’s most notorious gangsters. In the slick and confident “The Wannabe,” Arquette stars opposite Vincent Piazza in the true story of a couple who became so obsessed by the 1992 trial of John Gotti that they used it as an opportunity to rise up in the mob ranks. After the two perform a series of robberies, they attempt to make their mark and gain mafia respect by going after certain jury members. With a ripped-from-the-headlines crime story, a supporting cast that includes gangster vets Michael Imperioli, Domenick Lombaradozzi and David Zayas, plus the involvement of Scorsese, “The Wannabe” has everything to fill your mafia obsession.
“Night Owls” (December 4)
Adam Pally has made a mark on television as the lovable funny man on “Happy Endings” and “The Mindy Project,” and now he’s taking his talents to the big screen for the unusual romantic-comedy “Night Owls.” In this SXSW hit, Pally plays Kevin, who goes home with Madeline (Rosa Salazar) after a party only to find out she’s his boss’ ex-mistress and that they’re in his house. When Madeline takes a bottle of sleeping pills, the two have to stay up all night or Madeline might not wake up. What sounds like a B-level sitcom storyline gets serious elevation thanks to director Charles Hood, who expertly tailors each scene to his actor’s strengths. While Pally shows off solid chemistry, it’s Salazar who steals the show with her great physical comedy; she’ll tumble, mumble and flop herself around straight into your heart.
“The World of Kanako” (December 4)
When Drafthouse Films picked up “The World of Kanako” earlier this year, they did so fully expecting controversy. As the company’s COO James Emmanuel Shapiro said, “This movie is an all out depraved and constant assault on your morality and your senses and I loved every second of it.””Kanako” is based on a 2005 novel by Akio Fukamachi that was considered unfilmable due to its bloody narrative. The story centers on a former detective as he follows his missing daughter down a trail of sex, drugs and violence. While the story could certainly be gratuitous, one should never doubt the visceral thrills of “Kamikaze Girls” and “Confessions” director Tetsuya Nakashima. In his hands, “Kanako” is an ultraviolet revenge story that will never stop surprising you.
“Life” (December 4)
Before starring in “East of Eden” and becoming a household name, James Dean was an up-and-coming actor photographed by Dennis Stock for LIFE magazine, which is the focus of Anton Corbijn’s latest film, “Life.” Dane DeHaan stars as Dean, a rising Hollywood star filled with fear and skepticism, who is featured on the cover of LIFE thanks to Stock, played by Robert Pattinson. As Dean and Stock travel from Los Angeles to New York and Indiana, the two form a friendship as Dean rises to fame. Gently exploring their ever-changing bond and Dean’s increasing concerns about fame and fortune, Corbijn crafts a delicate portrait of lost artistry, less extreme than his breakout debut “Control” yet still carved from somewhat of the same thematic cloth.
“Stinking Heaven” (December 9)
After emerging with films like “Uncertain Terms” and “Soft in the Head,” Nathan Silver is back with his fifth feature, “Stinking Heaven,” a darkly comic period piece of 1990’s suburbia that stages the fragility of a sober commune. The film tells the story of a married couple, Jim and Lucy, who run a haven of sorts in their New Jersey home for seven recovering addicts who sing, bathe and work together. When Ann, the 20-year-old ex-girlfriend of one of the housemates, arrives at the home, the harmony of the commune is thrown into disarray. With Ann’s presence, tensions threaten to boil over and a downward spiral eventually sees several members relapse and fall into paranoia. With a looming sense of danger that slowly became pervasive and a rough, lo-fi aesthetic achieved by shooting on Betacam video, “Heaven” strikes a raw never you won’t be able to shake. Watch it exclusively on SVOD on Fandor, or on iTunes and other platforms.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” (December 16)
“The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which is credited as being “made by” Russell Brand and prolific British director Michael Winterbottom, focuses on the same target as Winterbottom’s 2010 documentary “The Shock Doctrine” — namely, free market capitalism and the elite few who profit from it. Making an admirable attempt to showcase the suffering of impoverished households across the U.K., Brand strikes an often powerful contrast between struggling families and wealthy bankers. Brand’s rants are complimented by more inspired footage of him venturing out to workplaces of his targets, echoing the gimmick at the center of Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me,” in ill-fated attempts to confront them. As much as he resists his earlier classification, Brand works best when he’s in entertainment mode.
“Noma: My Perfect Storm” (December 18)
Inspired by two books written by celebrated chef René Redzepi, Pierre Deschamps’ feature-length documentary “Noma: My Perfect Storm” follows him on a culinary journey as he travels to find inspiration for creating novel dishes for travelers from around the world. While the film provides its fair share of mouthwatering food porn, “Noma” ratchets up the tension tenfold by focusing on Redzepi’s comeback mission to reclaim the title of Best Restaurant in the World, which he lost in 2013. Forget the ill-fated Bradley Cooper vehicle “Chef,” for the story of Redzepi’s redemption truly shows the cutthroat tension of the kitchen.