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December movie guide: Top Gun, Avatar, Matilda and kids flicks

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It’s only been a few months since Top Gun: Maverick hit cinemas around the country, with Tom Cruise going supersonic with a bunch of naval aviators somewhere in enemy territory.

It was indeed a stunning blockbuster -and the third-highest grossing film of all time in Australia.

We spent $100 million at the box office (and $2.2 billion globally) to see Cruise push the Hollywood action-thriller genre to the next level, and in doing so defy the critics that the long-awaited sequel was worth the wait.

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Strap yourselves in people! The Top Gun sequel is back in cinemas from Thursday.

Our Christmas present?

Paramount Pictures announced Top Gun: Maverick is being re-released in select cinemas nationwide (including Palace) – for a limited time – from December 1, and says “it’s perfect timing” in the lead up to the holiday season.

President of Domestic Distribution for Paramount Pictures, Chris Aronson, says “Top Gun: Maverick truly epitomises the magic of the moviegoing experience, and we wanted to provide fans the opportunity to once again enjoy this cinematic spectacle as it was meant to be seen”.

Agree. And thank you. Here are the best new movies for December:

Violent Night: December 1

On the night before Christmas, all is not well in the home of a wealthy American family, who find themselves staring down the barrel of guns from a group of mercenaries intent on stealing a $300 million fortune.

Starring Stranger Things‘ David Harbour – who says he was hesitant about playing Santa until he read the script, Violent Night captures the essential ingredients of a decent Christmas flick.

There’s a bit of Christmas Vacation, Home Alone and Die Hard action in there (also set on Christmas Eve, with Bruce Willis up against bad guys), a cute little girl with a walkie-talkie caught in the crossfire, and a bit of Santa magic.

“To me the emotional core of that story, of a little girl who needs something because of her crumbling family structure, who needs something to believe in [is important here],” Harbour tells Gizmodo.

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“Here’s this guy who now not only will protect her physically but who she can believe in as this source of generosity and justice and kindness. And that’s very Miracle on 34th Street to me.”

I Heard the Bells: December 1

Another Christmas tale, but with less violence. This one tells the inspiring true story behind the beloved Christmas carol and its author, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

“Known as America’s Poet, Henry leads an idyllic life – until the day his world is shattered by tragedy. With a nation divided by Civil War and his family torn apart, Henry puts down his pen, silenced by grief,” reads the official synopsis.

“But it’s the sound of Christmas morning that reignites the poet’s lost voice as he discovers the resounding hope of rekindled faith.”

Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical: December 4

Australian singer-songwriter Tim Minchin, who wrote the music for global hit stage production of Matilda 13 years ago, has now brought the musical to the big screen.

And if the teaser trailer is anything to go by, we’re in for a great ride.

The story is set in England and it’s essentially about Matilda’s love of reading and her little cheeky acts of rebellion and revenge.

“That’s a huge problem with the American film – they want her to be a superhero,’ Minchin tells TimeOut.

“But she’s not just a magic kid. It’s not until she goes to school and Miss Trunchbull becomes this evil woman who keeps changing the rules that the telekinesis comes.

“The magic happens because of Matilda’s absolute fury and desire to defend the people she loves.”

White Noise: December 8

Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig and Don Cheadle star in this horror flick about an American family which has been described as “hilarious, horrifying, lyrical and absurd, ordinary and apocalyptic”.

A Los Angeles Times review praises this film for its “pitch-perfect mimicry of ’80s action-thriller clichés”.

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“Just count how many garbage cans get knocked over by cars screeching in reverse — is something only a contemporary retooling of a retro story could have pulled off.

“That knowing playfulness is part of the movie’s charm; so is the spectacle of [director Noah] Baumbach, a master of intimate, small-scaled comedy, embracing the conventions of the big-budget apocalyptic thriller, complete with lethal lightning storms, an unexpected river cruise and endless, chaotic traffic jams.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: December 10

Starring Chris Miller and Kaley Alyssa Flanagan and Antonio Banderas as Puss, who has burned through eight of his nine lives in what feels like a long-running series of Puss adventures.

Banderas’ return sees little PiB go into a Black Forest to find a mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives.

That means there could be another eight movies in pre-production?

Lyle, Lyle Crocodile: December 11

Based on the best-selling book series by Bernard Waber, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is a live-action/CGI musical comedy and the star of the show is singer Shawn Mendes who voices the singing croc.

When the Primm family (Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy, Winslow Fegley) move to New York City, their young son Josh struggles to adapt to his new school and new friends.

Then he finds the croc living in his attic, who loves baths, caviar and great music. What could go wrong?

Avatar: The Way Of Water: December 14

Titanic director James Cameron has waited a long time to bring this brilliant Avatar sequel to the big screen. His first became the highest grossing movie ever at the box office — making $US2.9 billion ($AUD4.3 billion).

Starring the original cast, including Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, and Australian actor Sam Worthington, and newcomers including Kate Winslet, this story is set more than 10 years after the first film.

It begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.

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With resounding themes of climate change, destruction of habitat and the wonder of nature, Cameron’s metaphor continues with greater poignancy and relevance as we seek to change the way we treat the planet.

Says Worthington, who like the others had to act underwater and in performance-capture technology, says “Jim is raising the bar on storytelling … when you’re underwater you can’t use words to do these heartbreaking scenes,” he told the ABC.

The Banshees of Inisherin: December 26

Brendan Gleeson (Mr Mercedes, The Tragedy of Macbeth) and Colin Farrell (The Batman) play two lifelong friends who suddenly split up. While one doesn’t want that, the other threatens that if he ever comes near him again he’ll cut off all of his fingers.

It’s dark, sombre tale set on an island off the coast of Ireland and is generating awards chatter in Hollywood.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody: December 26

Before everybody gets flashbacks to The Bodyguard scene with Whitney Houston singing I Will Always Love You (to Kevin Costner), this biopic charts the story of Houston’s life and, yes, it will include the story of her casting.

As is always the case in a biopic, casting the right person to play a real-life icon is never easy, but English actress Naomi Ackie (Dr Who, Star Wars) could just get this movie over the line.

From the writer of another Oscar-winning biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody – for which Rami Malik made history by becoming the first actor of Arab heritage to win an Oscar – anything is possible.

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