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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Lucasfilm/DisneyRogue One: A Star Wars Story

13 unmissable summer movies, 2016-2017

These are the best movies releasing over December, January and February

Nick Dent
Written by
Nick Dent

From tentpole event flicks to Oscar hopefuls, the movies of summer have more to recommend them than two hours of air-conditioned heat relief. Here are Time Out’s top picks of the December-to-February offerings – including our own made-up, cheesy sell lines... 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Who’s in it? Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker

Who’s directing it? Gareth Edwards (Godzilla)

Why do I care? Two words: Darth (wheeze) Vader. The first Star Wars ‘anthology’ film standing outside the official nine-movie canon takes us back to just before 1977’s A New Hope, exploring the events leading up to the capture of Princess Leia. If the return of the big black asthmatic one doesn’t grab you in the villain stakes, keep an eye out for Ben Mendelsohn doing his best sneering Imperial officer.

See this if you liked: The Force Awakens

Time Out tagline: “A slightly longer time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Opens Dec 15.

La La Land

2. La La Land

Who’s in it? Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Who’s directing it? Damien Chazelle (Whiplash)

Why do I care? The clear Oscars frontrunner, La La Land is a delirious throwback to classic musicals like Singin’ in the Rain, telling the love story between a jazz pianist (Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Stone) in Hollywood. The original numbers are great; Gosling and Stone have off-the-charts chemistry; and you’ll leave with a smile a mile wide.

See this if you liked: Begin Again

Time Out tagline: “Finally – a movie that lives up to the song and dance.” Opens Dec 26.


3. Paterson

Who’s in it? Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani 

Who’s directing it? Jim Jarmusch (Down by Law, Broken Flowers)

Why do I care? The king of movie cool delivers another low-key, endearing portrait of a happy marriage. They’re not vampires this time, but a painter and her husband – a New Jersey bus driver who writes poems and walks his dog in his spare time.

See this if you liked: Only Lovers Left Alive

Time Out tagline: “He lived his life in low gear.” Opens Dec 26.

Rosalie Blum

4. Rosalie Blum

Who’s in it? Noémie Lvovsky, Kyan Khojandi, Alice Izaaz

Who’s directing it? Julien Rappeneau

Why do I care? The need for human connection is at the centre of this intriguing and clever three-part dramatic comedy from France, in which three separate lost souls intersect and collide. It’s also the most successful movie ever to screen in Australia’s Alliance Française Film Festival.

See this if you liked: The Bélier Family

Time Out tagline: “This summer, love is in Blum.” Opens Dec 26.

Assassin's Creed

5. Assassin's Creed

Who’s in it? Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons

Who’s directing it? Justin Kurzel (Snowtown)

Why do I care? Even if you’re not addicted to the video game series about the Knights Templar, your interest may be piqued by the quality of the team behind this adaptation: moody director Kurzel and his Macbeth stars, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Expect a Christopher Nolanish interpretation of this story of a career criminal forced to experience the memories of his ancestor, a 15th-century Spanish assassin.

See this if you liked: Batman Begins

Time Out tagline: “He did some bad things, but he didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.” Opens Jan 1.


6. Passengers

Who’s in it? Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt

Who’s directing it? Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)

Why do I care? Great cast, great director, great premise. J Law and Pratt are awoken from hibernation 90 years too early on a mission to another planet, all alone on an enormous space vessel. Will they fall in love? (Not-spoiler: yes.) Will they encounter unexpected peril? (Not-spoiler: yes.) Will New Year audiences go for this? (Not-spoiler: like giant space-bees to honey.) Basically, the cold reaches of outer space are about to warm up bigtime.

See this if you liked: The first half of Gravity

Time Out tagline: “They crossed the infinite reaches of space – but can they traverse the gulf between them?” Opens Jan 1.

Live by Night

7. Live by Night

Who’s in it? Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Chris Cooper

Who’s directing it? Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town)

Why do I care? Affleck has proven his chops as a director of intelligent action flicks and as a Boston native he’s a natural to take on Dennis Lehane’s novel about the son of a police captain who moves to Florida and becomes
a Bootlegger.

See this if you liked: Lawless, Public Enemies

Time Out tagline: “Prohibition? Meh.” Opens Jan 26.

Transmission Films

8. Lion

Who’s in it? Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham

Who’s directing it? Garth Davis (Top of the Lake)

Why do I care? The true story of Indian-born Saroo Brierley is heart-wrenching stuff: he got on the wrong train as a five year old, lived rough on the streets of Kolkota, was adopted by a Tasmanian couple, and grew up obsessed with finding his birth family back in India. If all that doesn’t make you cry, maybe Kidman’s horrible ’80s haircut will.

See this if you liked: Slumdog Millionaire

Time Out tagline: “He got on the express train straight into your heart.” Opens Jan 19.

Manchester by the Sea

9. Manchester by the Sea

Who’s in it? Casey Affleck, Michelle Willliams, Kyle Chandler

Who’s directing it? Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret)

Why do I care? The younger Affleck is getting Best Actor buzz for his performance as a janitor who returns to his hometown following the death of his brother to become the guardian of his teenage nephew and
confront a long-buried tragedy.

See this if you liked: Gone Baby Gone

Time Out tagline: “Can this estranged family leave Manchester united?” Opens Jan 26.


10. Jackie

Who’s in it? Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig

Who’s directing it? Pablo Larrain (No)

Why do I care? Jackie Kennedy was the first Presidential wife to become a fashion icon and she set a benchmark for the duties of First Ladies. This new film focuses on her life in the White House before and after the assassination of husband John F Kennedy. Portman seems like perfect casting to us.

See this if you liked: The US election

Time Out tagline: “Even First Ladies need second chances.” Opens Feb.

A Monster Calls

11. A Monster Calls

Who’s in it? Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson 

Who’s directing it? JA Bayrona (The Impossible, The Orphanage)

Why do I care? In this tearjerker a lonely, bullied boy facing with his mother’s imminent death is visited by a scary tree creature late at night. But the soothing voice of Liam Neeson is a clear indication this monster is either a decent guy or an elaborate metaphor. Or both.

See this if you liked: The BFG

Time Out tagline: “His bark was way worse than his bite.” Opens Feb.


12. Loving

Who’s in it? Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon

Who’s directing it? Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud, Midnight Special)

Why do I care? Edgerton co-starred in Midnight Special for ace director Jeff Nichols, whose new biopic puts the Aussie actor firmly in the spotlight. Edgerton is Richard Loving,  prosecuted in 1959 for marrying Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga), a black woman – their fight became a landmark human rights case.

See this if you liked: Selma

Time Out tagline: “They loved each other so much it was a crime.” Opens Mar 9.

T2: Trainspotting
Sony Pictures

13. T2: Trainspotting

Who’s in it? Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald

Who’s directing it? Danny Boyle (Trainspotting)

Why do I care? Presumably you’re a ’90s kid who recalls the rush of blood to the head that was the original Edinburgh-set ode to heroin and hedonism. Trainspotting launched careers and its music soundtracked not just a movie, but a decade. With the entire cast and creative team reuniting, this sequel has every chance of hitting a popular vein.

See this if you liked: Trainspotting

Time Out tagline: “The drugs didn’t work.” Opens Feb 9.

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