Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso, a scientist-turned-farmer who once reluctantly helped design the Death Star for the Empire. Jyn had run away from harm when her father had been captured, under the iron hand of the director of the massive weapon project, Orson Krennic, who expects Galen to finish what he started. We catch up with her later, as an adult, having been traiend by Saw Gerrera on the ways of the solider, then imprisoned, but Cassian Andor, an espionage agent working for the the Rebel Alliance, sees her potentially helping their side to find the scientist, assembling a rag-tag team of fighters to go on a mission to snatch the blueprints, including one that exploits an Achilles Heel, from the Death Star before it wreaks havoc on a terrified Rebel Alliance.
Emma Stone stars as a struggling actress named Mia, who works as a barista in a coffee shop on the Warner Bros. lot, in between auditions that only serve to make her feel frazzled by the experience. Ryan Gosling is an ambitious jazz pianist, Sebastian, whose love of more traditional jazz sounds puts him at odds with those who wish to hire him, either for playing Holiday ditties as background music, or in modern jazz fusion bands who seem to cater to new crowds who don’t particularly care about serious jazz as he sees it. The pair soon meet and begin a romance, all the while trying to make it in Tinseltown.
Manchester by the Sea is a drama concerning a contentious Boston ‘burb janitor named Lee Chandler, working with little joy for a meager wage and a basic one-room abode. It turns out that there is a reason for him being anguished at this stage in his life, which is something we come to know more about as the film plays out. He’s prone to getting into fights, he’s resistant to making emotional connections, and, in general, he’s a person too wrapped up in trying to suppress his own thoughts and feelings all of his waking hours that he has little energy to expend in trying to deal with the needs of those around him. In short, he’s a man in grief but hasn’t yet dealt with it head on, and actively avoids anything that might push his mind toward any notions he’s just not ready, willing or able to.
Naomi Watts stars as child psychologist Mary Portman, living with her eighteen-year-old paralyzed stepson, Stephen, the victim of a car accident that saw Mary’s husband perish. Stephen has always been a problem child, something that Mary feels guilty about not being able to solve before choosing to send him away, and now feels even more guilty that she has made a decision to send him away again so that he can get better care and so that she can move on with her life. A cold front brings in a major snowstorm to their town in Maine that has both of them trapped in their home, as Mary begins to have visions of a boy she thinks may be the ghost of a patient of hers who went missing, a troubled foster child Tom. She’s not sure if her visions are real or imagined, causing her to doubt herself as things within the home begin to seem increasingly more dangerous.
Warren Beatty’s film involves a real-life figure in billionaire Howard Hughes, though most of the action involves two young associates of Hughes. Set mostly in the late 1950s, we follow the attempts by a young, virginal, devout Baptist pageant winner named Marla Mabrey, who travels with her mother to Los Angeles in order to become an actress for aviation mogul Howard Hughes, who owns a movie studio and regularly grooms young women like her to become stars in his employ.
Marla gets on the payroll and is soon driven around by a new chauffeur in Hughes’ fleet, Frank Forbes, a young man studying economics who wants to also climb the ranks by making a good impression with the reclusive Hughes, who he sees as a sort of mentor on how to be successful in business and real estate. Things get complicated when the already engaged Frank begins to develop feelings for Marla, something also not allowed by Hughes’ employees to do. Coupled with Hughes’ declining mental stability, all parties find themselves in unenviable positions if they wish to proceed to success in life, career, and love.
Gleason is a documentary film around the trials and tribulations of Steve Gleason, a former NFL player who retired from the game in 2008, then was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2011, concurrent to learning of the pregnancy of his wife Michel with their first child. It’s a disease that has no cure, and those who are afflicted by it usually die within 2-5 years after diagnosis. The sufferer’s motor skills begin to erode, eventually losing them altogether, including the ability to speak without technological assistance.
Knowing that the odds for survival were bleak, and recovery completely unheard of, Gleason sets about recording his life with the assistance of a couple of associates, and begins to make video logs, while he still has a voice, imparting his philosophies on life, love, and fatherhood for his young son to watch at a day when he can understand, appreciate and take them to heart most. It’s something he didn’t receive as much as he would like from his own father, who worried about himself much more and expected his sons to think and act just like him, and Steve both wants (and, to some extent, internally fears) that his son will have his own mind about things.