Holiday Movie Preview 2022: Our 12 films of Christmas

These promising titles will take audiences to 19th century West Point, 1920s Hollywood, the distant moon Pandora and beyond.

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Paul Dano (from left), Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord and Michelle Williams in “The Fabelmans,” directed by Steven Spielberg and coming to theaters Nov. 23.

Universal

The seasons, they go round and round, as Joni Mitchell tells us, but one thing has remained constant for six decades now:

There’s a good chance a Steven Spielberg film would be listed among the most anticipated movies of any given season in any given year.

If we were doing a Summer 1975 Movie Preview, “Jaws” would be atop the list.

A Spring 1982 Preview? Can’t wait to see “E.T.”!

Any list of the most anticipated Holiday Movies of 1993 would have included “Schindler’s List.”

If we’re talking about the summer of 2002, “Minority Report” would be on the list.

Fall Movies of 2012? Let’s start with “Lincoln.”

Here we are on the cusp of the 2022 Holiday Movie season, and the 75-year-old Spielberg remains as prolific as ever. Just a year after Spielberg’s triumphant and spectacular remake of “West Side Story,” he’s delivering one of his most personal films yet: “The Fabelmans” (premiering Nov. 23), a semi-autobiographical tale loosely based on Spielberg’s childhood. Co-written with the great Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”), this is the story of one Sammy Fabelman, who grows up in post-World War II Arizona and discovers the magical powers of film.

“The Fabelmans” kicks off our Holiday Movie Preview 2022. Here’s the rest of the lineup, in chronological order.

‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ (Nov. 23)

Coming at time when we all really need some good old-fashioned and wickedly clever entertainment, Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” was one of the most enjoyable movies of 2019 — and we’re getting two sequels, starting with “Glass Onion,” which is set on a Greek island and features the return of Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc, and a fantastic ensemble including Kathryn Hahn, Edward Norton, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monae, Jada Pickett Smith, Leslie Odom Jr., Ethan Hawke and come on, how can this not be entertaining as hell?

‘Strange World’ (Nov. 23)

Disney’s 61st animated film features the voices of Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union and Lucy Liu and follows the adventures of the Clades, a legendary family of explorers who must set aside their internal differences and band together (perfect material for Thanksgiving!) as they embark on their most ambitious and dangerous journey ever.

‘Women Talking’ (Dec. 2)

Sarah Polley directs Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jesse Buckley and Ben Whishaw in an adaptation of Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel of the same name, which focuses on a group of eight Mennonite women who meet in secret after dozens of girls in their colony are drugged and raped by men. With the gifted and empathetic Polley directing and that amazing cast tackling the tough material, this one promises to be intense, and potentially unforgettable.

‘Violent Night’ (Dec. 2)

Ho ho oh no! David Harbour from “Stranger Things” seems to be perfectly cast as Santa Claus — not the Claus of “Miracle on 34th Street” or even “Bad Santa,” but a Claus who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the name of saving a family whose home has been invaded by a group of mercenaries. You better watch out! You better not cry! It appears THIS Nick is no Saint.

‘Emancipation’ (Dec. 2)

Will Smith is still dealing with the fallout from his attack on Chris Rock at the Oscars and has met with some career bumps, but he’s back as the star of the prestige project “Emancipation,” in which he plays an enslaved man who is whipped to within an inch of his life, escapes from a Louisiana plantation and makes his way North to join the Union Army. Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “The Equalizer”) directs, so we can expect intense action along with the historical gravitas.

‘White Noise’ (Dec. 2)

Director Noah Baumbach tackles Don LeLillo’s dense and complex and brilliant 1985 postmodern classic about the life and times of a college professor (Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” star Adam Driver) who has been married five times to four women and has a number of children and stepchildren and lives in a town that is literally under a noxious cloud after a chemical spill from a rail car. You know, THAT old story.

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ (Dec. 16)

A mere 157 years (or so it seems) after James Cameron shook up the cinematic world with one of the most visually stunning and financially lucrative cinematic adventures of all time in “Avatar” (OK, it actually came out in 2009), the sequel finally arrives, and given Cameron’s track record, it’s sure to be a dazzling, made-for-the-biggest-screen-possible experience.

‘The Son’ (Dec. 16)

When we think of sequels and prequels and spinoffs, it’s usually a superhero or action movie franchise, but “The Son” is a prequel to one of the most acclaimed and memorable serious dramas of 2020: “The Father,” with Anthony Hopkins winning the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of the title character, who is losing his grip on reality as he slips into dementia. Florian Zeller’s prequel, based on his stage play of the same name, sees Hopkins reprising his role, with Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern playing the divorced parents of a troubled 17-year-old (Zen McGrath). Film festival reviews have been mixed, but Jackman has received praise for delivering some of the finest work of his career.

‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (Dec. 23)

In recent years we’ve seen biopics of musical legends from Billie Holliday to Elvis Presley, from Aretha Franklin to Freddie Mercury — and now comes the first Whitney Houston biopic authorized by Houston’s estate. The versatile and gifted Kasi Lemmons directs, with Naomi Ackie starring as Whitney and a supporting cast including Stanley Tucci as Clive Davis, Ashton Sanders as Bobby Brown and Nafessa Williams as Houston’s longtime assistant and confidante Robyn Crawford. It’ll be fascinating to see if Ackie is up to the task of matching Houston’s indelible presence and incredible voice, which remains vibrant and fresh in our memories thanks to all those music videos and, of course, Houston’s performance in a semi-autobiographical role in “The Bodyguard.” That’s no small challenge.

‘The Pale Blue Eye’ (Dec. 23)

I love these stories where a real-life historical figure is plunked into a fictional situation — in this case, one Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling from “The Queen’s Gambit”), a young cadet at West Point Academy circa 1830 who assists the veteran detective August Landor (Christian Bale) investigating a series of murders at the Academy. Based on the 2006 novel of the same name, “The Pale Blue Eye” is directed by Scott Cooper, whose credits include one of the most underrated movies of the 2010s in “Out of the Furnace” (2013), and one of the most memorable horror films in recent years in “Antlers” (2021).

‘Babylon’ (Dec. 23)

For those who make a tradition out of going to the movies on Christmas Day, it seems like a sure bet to check out this sprawling story set during the transition from silent film to sound in 1920s Hollywood. Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) directs, and the cast includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Tobey Maguire, Olivia Wilde, Li Jun Li, Jovan Adepo, Max Minghella and Katherine Waterston. (Trailer above has adult content.)

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