Holiday Movie Preview 2013


You’ve probably already seen “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” and if not, you’re still in luck. Thanks to awards season, plenty else is coming your way for the next five weeks to close out 2013 at the movies. Below I’ve listed the 10 films I’m most excited for that I believe will deliver, and six films you should be cautious of before committing your dollar and two hours in a crowded marketplace of films.


10 Most-Anticipated Films of the Holidays


philomena_ver210. Philomena (Nov. 27)

I wouldn’t normally include a film like this in my 10 most anticipated, but you can expect a certain quality with Dame Judi Dench, especially when she’s in dramatic comedy territory. Steve Coogan, who writes and also stars, has been trying to find his niche and perhaps this is it. Directed by the rather dependable Stephen Frears (“The Queen”), “Philomena” tells the story of a woman forced to abandon her child who years later, with the help of a journalist, seeks to reunite with him. “Philomena” appears to strike a nice blend between modern British wit and feel-good drama, and the 92% on Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t hurt.

out_of_the_furnace_ver29. Out of the Furnace (Dec. 4)

Writer and director Scott Cooper finally follows up 2009’s Oscar-buzzer “Crazy Heart” and he looks like he means business. Christian Bale and Casey Affleck star as troubled brothers in this blue-collar crime thriller, the latter of which disappears at the hands of a crime ring and the former of which is prepared to stop at nothing to get him back. Woody Harrelson also stars along with Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Defoe and Sam Shepard. That kind of talent suggests a heck of a script.

frozen_ver68. Frozen (Nov. 27)

I have been completely disappointed by everything I’ve seen from “Frozen” so far, but reviews are glowing for what is being labeled a Broadway-inspired Disney classic based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen.” Clearly this is a matter of Disney promoting the commercialized elements of the film such as a Olaf the talking snowman (voiced by Josh Gad) and hiding the musical elements to avoid the marketing that killed off Disney animated musicals 10 or so years ago. You can’t have shame in hiring “Book of Mormon” songwriter Robert Lopez and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, however, nor in casting Idina Menzel to belt your big Oscar-bait song. Without much animated competition, “Frozen” should roll in the snow — and the dough — all winter.

her7. Her (Dec. 18, limited)

Spike Jonze was long tied to the scripts of the great Charlie Kaufman, but he looks to create some of his own Kaufman-esque success with “Her,” a film about a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) who develops a close relationship with his Siri-like personalized A.I. operating system/digital assistant (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The concept is so ripe for examining life, relationships and more that it would be a surprise if it was anything but exceptional. “Her” played New York, Rome and AFI Fest to strong reviews and Rome awarded  Johansson a Best Actress win. Looks like, however, “Her” won’t fully roll out until after Jan. 1.

saving_mr_banks6. Saving Mr. Banks (Dec. 20)

Looks like 2013 is the year of the Tom Hanks renaissance. After earning raves for playing one non-fiction character in “Captain Phillips,” Hanks takes on Walt freaking Disney in this story of how P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the writer of the book “Mary Poppins,” fought staunchly for her vision for Disney’s big-screen version of “Poppins” and how Disney attempted to persuade her to see his point of view. Obviously we know how the result played out. Disney doing Disney in a biographical sense is also quite intriguing, but early reviews say “Mr. Banks” is more feel-good than self-serving.

inside_llewyn_davis_ver25. Inside Llewyn Davis (Dec. 6, limited)

The Coen brothers almost never take three years in between directing projects, at least not since 2000. So hopes are high when they return with “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a film about the life of a folk singer (Oscar Isaac) in Greenwich Village in the ’60s. Isaac joins crooning actors Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Garret Hedlund and others for an unusual cast (John Goodman is the only staple) for a Coen brothers film. Still, the trailer makes “Davis” looks as sharp as anything the Coens have done lately and twice as soulful.

hobbit_the_desolation_of_smaug4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Dec. 13)

I’ve defended “The Hobbit” being split into three parts for quite some time, and my hope is that “Smaug” will back me up. Sure, expect way too many story lines to follow, but this middle part looks stunning visually and appears to have all the great thematic stuff of “Lord of the Rings” going for it. The introduction of the woodland elves should add some scope and Benedict Cumberbatch voicing Smaug sends chills down my spine every time. And yes, I would still go see it in High Frame Rate 3D. Embrace the technology people.

american_hustle_ver63. American Hustle (Dec. 20)

David O. Russell got back to work quickly after “Silver Linings Playbook” and he looks to three-peat in terms of quality, Oscar-worthy drama with “American Hustle.” Borrowing from the cast of “Playbook” (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence) and “The Fighter” (Christian Bale, Amy Adams), Russell goes a bit Scorsese on us with this story of hustlers in the ’70s. Given Russell’s track record, it’d be a shock if one of these four didn’t take home an Oscar (two of them did in the last two years). No early festival word on this one, but don’t you worry too much.

anchorman_two_ver22. Anchorman: The Legend Continues (Dec. 18)

Sweet mother of film, it’s actually happening and it’s actually almost here. Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 news crew return, and though comedy sequels have a terrible, terrible history, hope remains. These characters, and more importantly the actors playing them, are too good. I don’t expect anything as quotable as the first film, but a scotch-tingly reunion feeling would suffice. The story centers on how Burgundy and the crew turned news into crappy, sensationalized fodder in the ’80s.

wolf_of_wall_street_ver21. The Wolf of Wall Street (Dec. 25)

Phew. That was close. Martin Scorsese’s latest almost didn’t arrive in 2013, but the move of “Monuments Men” to February gave it a Christmas day spot. “Wolf” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort (the film is based on Belfort’s book), who made it big as a stockbroker and eventually caused massive scandal through widespread corruption and mob infiltration of the corporate banking world and Wall Street. Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau and others co-star. Not much else needs to be said about this film, except that the script comes from Terence Winter (“The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire”). Just watch the superb trailer.

6 Holiday Films to be Skeptical About


homefrontHomefront (Nov. 27)

Jason Statham and James Franco in a film written by Sylvester Stallone? Ok, you’ve got my attention. Whether “Homefront” is anything more than straight-to-DVD type entertainment is another matter. Statham stars as an undercover cop and single dad who moves to a more remote rural town for some P&Q only to find the local drug lord (Franco) whose ring more or less runs the town wants him gone.

oldboy_ver4Oldboy (Nov. 27)

Korean director Chan-Wook Park’s “Oldboy” about a man who has no idea why he’s imprisoned for 20 years and then set free, except that it involves his daughter, has had a very dedicated cult fanbase since it debuted 10 years ago. Spike Lee tries his hand at the remake, which stars Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson. Remakes always beg the question of “why,” which is usually answered with, “we want to tell this story for a greater fanbase,” which is a fair statement. The original is so good, however, that it would be a surprise if Lee could bring more to it.

walking_with_dinosaurs_3d_ver2Walking with Dinosaurs 3D (Dec. 20)

We just can’t leave the dinosaurs alone. “Walking with Dinosaurs” appears to be another attempt at a realistic dinosaur movie with a family-oriented story, which Disney gave us in 2000’s “Dinosaur.” It will doubtlessly improve upon that film’s CGI, but can the writer of “Happy Feet” deliver a quality story? The director duo includes the director of “Arthur Christmas” and “Mulan” along with a nature documentarian. Perhaps what it lacks in commercial appeal it will make up for in some degree of “realism.”

secret_life_of_walter_mittyThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Dec. 25)

Ben Stiller directs himself in this remake of the 1947 film starring Danny Kaye about a daydreamer who lives in his own fantasy world who suddenly finds himself on a mysterious real-world adventure. The marketing of the movie has been over-the-top with its indie tropes, especially with the songs “Dirty Paws” by Of Monsters and Men and “Step Out” by Jose Gonzalez in the trailers. Will “Mitty” still be a total crowd-pleaser anyway? Perhaps and maybe even likely so, but early reviews from New York and AFI Fest have been mixed.

forty_seven_ronin_ver747 Ronin (Dec. 25)

The first sign of a movie I’m skeptical of is when it’s been hanging around forever. This reiteration of the classic story of 47 Ronin who unite to seek revenge for the death and dishonor of their master was announced in 2009, filmed in 2011, went through reshoots in 2012 and finally arrives on Christmas. Carl Rinsch makes his feature directing debut in this Hollywood take on a fantastical samurai film that could be as epic “Lord of the Rings” or an epic failure. Keanu Reeves also brings with him the shroud of uncertainty.

grudge_match_ver2Grudge Match (Dec. 25)

Does anything pander more to the wallets of baby boomers than a film about Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro playing rival boxers preparing to get back into the ring for a final bout at age 60-something? And adding Kevin Hart to the mix seems absolutely ridiculous. Peter Segal (“Get Smart”) directs a story from the writer of “First Kid” starring Sinbad and the Disney TV movie “The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon” starring Tony Danza. I’m as curious to see who wins as anyone, but there’s a whole movie before that part.




You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment