21 movies and TV shows to check out this holiday season

Here's a spoiler-free guide to some of the most notable offerings on the big and small screens.
Image: The Crown, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Netflix; Lucasfilm Ltd.; TriStar Pictures

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By Daniel Arkin

The holiday season is nearly upon us, bringing with it a fresh bounty of movies and shows: Oscar-bound biopics, big-budget reboots, familiar TV favorites, and two outings from one of the mightiest franchises on the planet. Here's a spoiler-free guide to some of the most notable offerings on the big and small screens. Merry binge-watching, America!

Nice to have you back

The chilly weather heralds the return of two critically adored series.

The third season of Netflix's glossy royal family melodrama "The Crown" (Nov. 17) jumps forward in time to the Swinging Sixties and features a new cast, including Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman ("The Favourite") as Queen Elizabeth II and Helena Bonham Carter as her mercurial sister, Princess Margaret. Clancy Brown, a prolific character actor, is slated to make an appearance as President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Amazon's bubbly Emmy-winning comedy "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Dec. 6) also picks up in the 1960s, following Rachel Brosnahan's motor-mouthed stand-up comedian as she and her acerbic manager (Alex Borstein) embark on a six-month tour of the United States and Europe. "This Is Us" actor Sterling K. Brown joins the cast for a three-episode arc.

The weeks ahead will also see new seasons of Adult Swim's mind-bending cult comedy "Rick and Morty" (Nov. 10) and Showtime's long-running family dramedy "Shameless" (Nov. 10), plusthe final installment of Amazon's revisionist history epic "The Man in the High Castle" (Nov. 15).

Ripped from the headlines

Hollywood, as ever, knows that sometimes real life trumps fiction.

Mark Ruffalo stars in Todd Haynes' legal thriller "Dark Waters" (Nov. 22) as corporate lawyer Robert Bilott, who faced off against chemical giant DuPont in a high-stakes environmental suit. The film, co-starring Anne Hathaway and Tim Robbins, was adapted from a 2016 exposé in The New York Times Magazine. (Focus Features, the distributor, is a unit of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)

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Scott Z. Burns, a screenwriter best known for his collaborations with director Steven Soderbergh, goes behind the camera for the first time with "The Report" (Nov. 29 on Amazon Prime) a sober-minded docudrama about the U.S. Senate investigation of the CIA's use of torture after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Adam Driver portrays former Senate investigator Daniel J. Jones and Annette Bening portrays former California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Clint Eastwood trains his lens on "Richard Jewell" (Dec. 13), a drama about the eponymous security guard who was wrongly accused of planting a bomb at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics. Paul Walter Hauser, who played a bumbling white supremacist in Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman," portrays Jewell, with Kathy Bates as his devoted mother.

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie in "Bombshell."Hilary B Gayle / Lionsgate

"Bombshell" (Dec. 13) follows several former Fox News employees — including Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) — who publicly accused the late network founder Roger Ailes of sexual misconduct. The film co-stars Margot Robbie as a fictional composite character and screen veteran John Lithgow as the imperious Ailes, who died in 2017.

More where that came from

What is old is new again, so bring on the sequels and remakes.

You can revisit the haunted Overlook Hotel in "Doctor Sleep" (Nov. 8) an adaptation of a 2013 novel by Stephen King that serves as a loose sequel to "The Shining." Ewan McGregor stars as an adult version of Danny Torrance, the tricycle-riding tyke endowed with psychic powers, and Rebecca Ferguson delivers a chilling performance as the ringleader of a mystical cult that preys on children.

Kristen Stewart headlines a reboot of the "Charlie's Angels" (Nov. 15) franchise, adding yet another chapter to the story that began with a television series of the same name some 43 years ago and has so far included two other feature films. Elizabeth Banks directed the action-comedy, with Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska rounding out the trio of feisty private investigators.

The other high-profile franchise entries on the calendar include Disney's animated fantasy "Frozen II" (Nov. 22), featuring the voices of Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, and "Jumanji: The Next Level" (Dec. 13), a sequel to a reboot(!) starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black.

The empire strikes twice

"Star Wars" is already ubiquitous, but this winter it will be virtually inescapable.

First up: "The Mandalorian" (Nov. 12 on Disney+), an eight-episode series that takes place five years after the events of 1983's "Return of the Jedi" and tracks the exploits of a mysterious bounty hunter played by "Game of Thrones" alumnus Pedro Pascal. The series, created and largely written by Jon Favreau, features former mixed martial artist Gina Carano and "Breaking Bad" villain Giancarlo Esposito.

The final chapter in the nine-installment Skywalker saga arrives just over a month later. "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" (Dec. 20), directed and co-written by "The Force Awakens" maestro J.J. Abrams, is all but guaranteed to smash box-office records in the lead-up to Christmas. But it is far less clear whether "Skywalker" can unite fans who were bitterly divided over the previous episode, "The Last Jedi."

Gunning for some Oscar glory

The race for recognition at next year's Academy Awards will soon kick into high gear as the big studios and small distributors begin rolling out their A-list fare.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale team up in James Mangold's "Ford v. Ferrari" (Nov. 15), a high-octane drama about the American automotive whizzes who challenged the dominance of the Italians at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers in "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" (Nov. 22), a tender portrait of the beloved broadcaster and his friendship with a journalist (Matthew Rhys) inspired by writer Tom Junod.

Martin Scorsese makes a triumphant return to the mob genre in "The Irishman" (Nov. 27 on Netflix) a three-and-a-half-hour epic about Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), a self-proclaimed hitman who claims he gunned down Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) in the 1970s. Greta Gerwig reunites with her "Lady Bird" lead Saoirse Ronan in "Little Women" (Dec. 25), a nonlinear adaptation of the 1868 literary classic.

Oscar voters will have plenty of other contenders to consider, including the frenetic New York City crime drama "Uncut Gems" (Dec. 13), starring Adam Sandler as a compulsive gambler, and the earnest "Just Mercy" (Dec. 25), led by Michael B. Jordan as real-life defense attorney Bryan Stevenson, whose efforts helped free wrongfully convicted Alabama pulpwood worker Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx).