The holiday season is when a more diverse crowd comes out to the movies, many of who are aware that these will be the films talked about in January. Here are my 10 most anticipated based on actual buzz and my own interest, followed by five films I’m skeptical of this year.
10 Most Anticipated Holiday Movies
The biggest movie franchise of the moment comes to a conclusion. Katniss and the revolution arrive at the doorstep of the Capitol to topple President Snow’s regime. The buzz so far is good. I found “Mockingjay Part 1” to be a little underwhelming, but breaking up an underwhelming book into two parts was bound to leave one of them mediocre. Hopefully this is the better of the two-parter.
Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt re-team with their “50/50” director Jonathan Levine for a holiday comedy. Obviously, a comedy about a guy navigating cancer is on a different level than the story of three best friends who decide to celebrate Christmas Eve together for the last time after more than a decade of doing so, but Rogen, Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie should make for a fresh comedy dynamic. If this were Rogen, James Franco and Jonah Hill, however, it wouldn’t have me as interested.
It’s not possible for Pixar to deliver two amazing films in the same year, is it? “Inside Out” was, pun intended, mind-blowing. This one looks more like a straightforward fun, heartfelt adventure about a boy and a dinosaur. It will still likely be the family film of the holiday season, but maybe not in the same ingeniously creative way “Inside Out” was.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around “The Big Short.” I get that making another movie based on a Michael Lewis (“Moneyball,” “The Blind Side”) book makes a lot of sense, even if it’s about the housing collapse and not sports. I also know that putting together Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale, if somehow you can do it, is a no-brainer. I guess what is really impressive is that Adam McKay, as in Will Ferrell’s often-partner, directed it. This one is sure to get a lot of middle-aged adults into the theater, even if it isn’t quite awards-worthy.
The movie event of the season, year, decade, century and millennium (so far) is about to arrive. What more can be said about this film? If it’s not at least “very good,” it will be absolutely heartbreaking, though it’s hard to imagine audiences not loving it, even if it ends up being mildly disappointing.
Ever since they teamed up to host the Golden Globes a few years ago, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have been an unstoppable girl power duo. Now that Poehler is a much bigger star than when the two made “Baby Mama” together in 2008, Universal has found the perfect alternative programming to “Star Wars.” The posters might as well say “let your man go see ‘Star Wars’ with his nerdy friends and make it a girls night with ‘Sisters.'” “SNL” writer Paula Pell wrote the script with Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect”) directing.
If you’ve seen or ready anything about CTE, a long-term brain disease caused by constant head trauma that is common in football players, then you know how terrifying it is. Americans love their football (myself) included but it’s hard to ignore the effects of this disease. “Concussion” should shed more light on this issue and maybe even lead the NFL to better address it. Will Smith stars as the doctor who discovered the disease, and his fight with the NFL.
David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle”) and his muses, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, return for another shot at Oscar glory. Lawrence stars as Joy Mangano, the single mother of three turned home shopping network entrepreneur who invented the Miracle Mop. Expect plenty of family drama and some dark humor, as well at least two Oscar nominations for the cast — all of which has been Russell’s M.O. the last five years.
Normally one to take three of four years between films, it is impressive to see last year’s Best Director and Best Picture winner Alejandro González Iñárritu back in action with another possible contender. “The Revenant” stars Leonardo DiCaprio in what looks to be his most grueling performance yet. During an expedition in the American wilderness in the 1820s, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) gets mauled by a bear and left for dead. After surviving, he seeks vengeance on the men who betrayed him, led by Tom Hardy. Expect something violent, difficult and beautiful.
Quentin Tarantino’s eighth feature film arrives Christmas Day, so it’s clear that the auteur and his supporters, The Weinstein Co., feel they’ve got a third straight awards contender following “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained.” The cast includes Tarantino veterans (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins) and newcomers alike (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bechir). A true Western, Tarantino is playing with his favorite genre, so expect all kinds of betrayal, revenge and Mexican stand-offs. If you didn’t care for Tarantino before, however, don’t expect to now.
5 Films to be Skeptical Of
It’s certain to be better than “I, Frankenstein,” but even James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe can only do so much with the tired “Frankenstein” rigmarole, even if this one is told “from Igor’s perspective.” Max Landis (“Chronicle”) wrote the script and Paul McGuigan (BBC’s excellent “Sherlock Holmes”) directs, and it’s certainly encouraging that a film like this would get released on Thanksgiving, but you have to be wary.
Initially to be released back in March, either Ron Howard’s latest film telling of the voyage that inspired “Moby Dick” surprised Warner Bros., who think they have an awards contender on their hands, or they’re hoping a little bit of awards season buzz will rub off on a film that they fear no one will pay attention to otherwise. I like the writing credits: Charles Leavitt (“Blood Diamond”) and Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (“Jurassic World,” the new “Planet of the Apes” films) and Chris Hemsworth is one of the more watchable movie stars right now, but discretion is required.
We were spared of “Chipmunks” films for four years after “Chipwrecked” performed poorer than its predecessors, but it still made more than $100 M at the domestic box office, so it was only a matter of time. If you have kids, I highly suggest getting them hooked on “Star Wars” so you can make other plans over Christmas, or hold off on “The Good Dinosaur” until then. None of the “Chipmunks” films have gotten better than 27% on Rotten Tomatoes.
I might have made a mistake listing this as a “skeptical” film for the Holidays, but you can never be too cautious when Will Ferrell is involved. Fortunately, one of his better films in the last five years was “The Other Guys,” in which he also teamed with Mark Wahlberg. A comedy about a warring dad and step-dad sounds perfect for Christmas, but there’s no certainty with this one.
Somewhere, Patrick Swayze is rolling his eyes. It’s definitely possible that director Ericson Core (D.P. on the original “The Fast and the Furious”) and action screenwriter veteran Kurt Wimmer can transform this remake into the start of the next “Fast & Furious” franchise), but it would be a tremendous feat. I’m betting against it, even though it looks pretty.
Creed (Nov. 25) – Sylvester Stallone keeps the “Rocky” franchise going but hands it off to Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”) in what should be a gritty boxing film. (Dir. by Ryan Coogler)
The Danish Girl (Nov. 27, limited) – Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne stars as a pioneering trans woman in a period love story alongside rising star Alicia Vikander from the director of “The King’s Speech.” (Dir. by Tom Hooper)
Legend (Dec. 11) – Tom Hardy plays twin brothers and notorious British gangsters in what should be a fun mobster flick for genre fans (Dir. by Brian Helgeland)
Macbeth (Dec. 4, limited) – Reviews have been strong for the latest “Macbeth” starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. (Dir. by Justin Kerzel)
Chi-Raq (Dec. 4, limited) – A modern take on Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” the newest Spike Lee joint calls attention to the rampant gun violence in Chicago, but in a darkly comic way. (Dir. by Spike Lee)