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5 films that aren’t ‘Star Wars’

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This year’s holiday film season is one of the lightest in recent years. Make no mistake: There are a few big movies opening, but the long list of openings around Christmas is not as lengthy as in previous years.

That’s because of the 800-pound gorilla that will be taking over theater complexes come Dec. 18. "Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens" is not just an 800-pound gorilla, it is a gorilla armed with lightsabers.

"The Force Awakens" is expected to shatter global box office records. First up is expected to be global opening weekend, with a current record of more than $511 million, set by "Jurassic World."

Other films will not only lose business to the film directed by J.J. Abrams, but because it will play on the largest number of screens, there won’t be a lot of empty theaters for other movies. Most major movies open on about 4,000 screens globally; "Force" likely will surpass that.

But if the trailers for other top contenders are truthful, it won’t be the only interesting, inspiring, delightful gift of the season. Besides, "Spotlight," "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2," "Creed" and "The Good Dinosaur," which are already playing in theaters, below are five more movies to watch this winter. Release dates are subject to change.

>> "Chi-Raq" (Dec. 4): It’s already notorious and nobody’s seen it yet. Spike Lee’s brash update on the ancient Athenian anti-war comedy "Lysistrata" takes place in modern-day, bullet-strewn Chicago, where the "gorgeous Nubian sistah" Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris of "Dear White People") organizes a sex strike in response to an epidemic of gun violence. Following a limited theatrical release, "Chi-Raq" will stream on Amazon Instant Video.

>> "Joy" (Dec. 25): The woman who invented the Miracle Mop doesn’t sound like ripe biopic material. But writer-director David O. Russell told the Abscam story his own way, wonderfully, with "American Hustle," and he’s re-teaming with key collaborators with whom he’s scored in the past. Jennifer Lawrence, for starters. Robert De Niro, for seconds. Plus Bradley Cooper, hoping to put the flameout of "Burnt" behind him.

>> "The Revenant" (Dec. 25): Last year, "Birdman" co-writer and director Alejandro G. Inarritu gave us an egocentric movie star in crisis, and on Broadway. This year he’s going back to the wilds of early 19th-century America for a fact-based tale of frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), left for dead after a bear attack, and his vengeance on the trapper (Tom Hardy) who forged on without him.

>> "The Hateful Eight" (Dec. 25): Quentin Tarantino’s latest, shot in old-fashioned widescreen 70 milli- meter on the substance formerly known as "film," reportedly mashes up elements of Agatha Christie, "Bonanza" and half of everything else once commonly sharing the same video store shelf. It’s a post-Civil War tale, set among a shifty cadre of snowbound characters with secrets, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth and Channing Tatum.

>> "Anomalisa" (Dec. 30): Wonderful, sad, trenchant, delicate. It’s also a more interesting animated achievement than "Inside Out," though this is not for kids. The Duke Johnson/Charlie Kaufman collaboration, based on a stage project, tells of a customer service expert (voiced by David Thewlis) and his travails on the road, specifically his time spent in a (fictional) Cincinnati hotel named after a delusional paranoiac condition. If you appreciate Kaufman’s "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "Adaptation" or "Being John Malkovich" scripts, you know how useless a conventional narrative description can be with his searching brand of human comedy.

Is the Force with you?

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is putting out a call across the galaxy for “Star Wars” fans to share their love of the epic film series for our special coverage of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” opening in theaters Dec. 18. Send us your “Star Wars” memories and photos, and provide details on upcoming “Star Wars”-related events in Hawaii. Email information to features@staradvertiser.com.

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