It’s no surprise that audiences spent their holiday weekend in a galaxy far, far away. Rogue One sits atop spot one again this week, which is an almost boring piece of news…because of course Star Wars is the top film over a holiday weekend! Christmas is a huge day for cinemas (I should know…I’ve spent the last six years working at one on Christmas Day) but the first three days of the four-day weekend don’t reflect that as much as one would expect. Rogue One brought in$64.3 million during the Friday through Sunday portion of the weekend, a -58.5% drop, followed by Sing with $35 million, and rounding out the top five were Passengers, Why Him?, and Assassin’s Creed each with between $10-$14 million. But when you add the December 26 numbers to the weekend, things get interesting. Rogue One made $32 million on Monday alone, changing its drop to only -38% and bringing it to a $96 million weekend gross, and Sing made $21 million on Monday, over half of what it made the entire holiday weekend. It seems that the majority of the country being free from work or school paid off for those top two at the box office!

Now, I could go into how great Rogue One is, and how it’s a perfect movie to watch with the family after a holiday of food and fun, especially in our current political climate (unless you’re one of those fascists just now realizing the anti-fascist message in the Star Wars story), and how the film is full of interesting and subtly beautiful moments between characters…but I won’t. Matt is going to be doing a full review of the film, so keep an eye out for that coming soon!

The real piece of Star Wars news, though, isn’t how well Rogue One has been doing, but rather the deepest disturbance the Force has likely ever felt: the passing of Carrie Fisher. This was a woman who, though known for her fiery, feisty role as Princess Leia in episodes IV-VII that inspired every girl to wield her own blaster instead of being just a damsel needing saving, was also a brilliant writer, a comedian in the face of constant criticism and judgement, and a hero in her ability to discuss openly her struggles with drug addiction and mental illness. She was brave and beautiful, irreplaceable and inspirational – truly an icon. Rest in peace, General Organa.

Looking ahead to this coming weekend, there actually isn’t anything releasing wide at all! This will likely lead to a similar repeat in performances; Rogue One and Sing in spots one and two, for sure. However, this is a chance for Fences and La La Land to climb up the charts due to positive reviews and word of mouth, and for Assassin’s Creed to try to redeem its abysmal opening weekend. There’s a chance it could perform better internationally when it opens in more territories, much like Warcraft did earlier this year, but it’s going to need to perform better this second weekend in the States if it wants to even think about the sequels they’ve already started pre-producing. Assassin’s Creed is a perfect example of the fact that star power doesn’t sell a film anymore. Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons were all in this movie, and no one batted an eye because we were too busy watching a Star Wars film with Felicity Jones, a criminally underrated actress finally getting her shot at a massive franchise in a film that as a strong story and characters worth knowing. If only studios would take some notes that it’s the story that makes a film great, not plugging Tom Cruise in a reboot of The Mummy, which, yes, actually exists.

Anyway, since there isn’t anything huge opening this weekend, I’m going to highlight a few of the independent films that have gotten or will be getting limited releases this month, many of which are going to be contenders for some Academy Awards, and many more of which are going to be deserving of recognition but absolutely ignored by the Academy in favor of pandering, artless garbage as is tradition every year.

Firstly, and most prominently, is Silence, the new film from Martin Scorsese, which tells the story of two Jesuit priests venturing into Japan to save their mentor. It stars Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield as the two priests, and it looks to be roles that take them to the next tier of stardom and respect as actors, even though both of them have had incredible years thus far – Adam Driver with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Midnight Special, and Paterson (which I’ll mention shortly), and Andrew Garfield with a great performance in Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge. Even though a movie about Christians being persecuted for their beliefs is something that sounds so foreign to us in the US, Silence looks to be a bit heavier and more honest with the subject matter, hopefully leading to some deep questioning and potent exploration about what it means to believe in anything at all.

Next up is Paterson, also starring Adam Driver, and directed by the great Jim Jarmusch, which is about a man named Paterson living in a city called Paterson, working as a part-time bus driver and full-time poet and dreamer. Although you’re probably thinking the last thing we need is another movie about a mopey white male poet, if you watch the trailer, you’ll see that there is much more going on here. We are promised a gorgeous slice-of-life exploration of philosophical themes, and finding the beauty in the mundane moments of life. It is a Jarmusch film, after all.

20th Century Women is the new film from director Mike Mills, his first film since 2010’s Beginners, with a loaded cast of Annette Benning, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup in this honest look into growing up and dealing with life in 1970’s California. Part coming-of-age story, part adult-reflection story, this looks like a real gem that probably will deserve more Oscar buzz than it will likely receive.

And lastly, A Monster Calls is a tender, emotional story about a boy dealing with his first exposure to the heartbreak and grief of life, which manifests itself in a massive monster voiced by Liam Neeson. This looks to be a film that will gather a small but devoted following for years to come, and I plan to be in that group without a doubt. We have Neeson as the monster, Sigourney Weaver as the grandmother, Felicity Jones as the boy’s mother (proving that she isn’t selling out quite yet with her Star Wars fame), and with newcomer Lewis MacDougall as Conor, this looks to be an emotional treat that should probably hand out tissues with the tickets.

Well, that’s all for this week. Between those indie movies I just mentioned, as well as Manchester By the Sea, Fences, Moonlight, Hell or High Water, La La Land, and Loving, there are a slew of independent arthouse films to check out, and if your local theater doesn’t get any of those, there’s still plenty of the bigger stuff like Rogue One, Sing, and Moana to keep you in the seats, popcorn in hand. Go see a movie! Or three!

-Adam Stutsman

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