2012 Holiday Movie Preview

Now that the turkey has been put away and the last piece of pie has been eaten it’s time to turn our attention to the upcoming Holiday Movie Season.  In the next five weeks the best (and sometimes the worse) of Hollywood will be coming to a theatre near you.  With early shots like “Argo,” “Lincoln” and “Skyfall” opening earlier this month, not to mention this summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” the race to the Oscars has begun in earnest.  Here is a list of films opening between now and the end of the year.  Some synopsis information courtesy of our friends at the Internet Movie Database.  As always, dates shown are subject to change at the whim of the studio.

 

NOVEMBER 30

 

CALIFORNIA SOLO

Starring:  Robert Carlye,  Kathleen Wilhoite and Savannah Lathem.

Directed by:  Marshall Lewy

A former British rock star, now living in the states, is arrested for drunk driving and faces deportation.  Writer/director Lewy also wrote/helmed the entertaining “Blue State.”

OSCAR CHANCES:  No

 

THE COLLECTION

Starring:  Christopher McDonald, Randall Archer and Emma Fitzpatrick

Directed by:  Marcus Dunstan

After escaping from the grips of a serial killer known as “The Collector,” a father is forced to attempt to rescue his daughter from the Collector’s warehouse.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Won’t scare up any.

 

DRAGON

Starring:  Kara Hui, Wu Jiang and Takeshi Kanashiro

Directed by:  Peter Chan

Hoping to retire to a quiet and more peaceful life a former martial arts master finds himself pursued by his former master and a skilled detective.  After premiering at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival “Dragon” finally makes it to theatres.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Unless it’s another “Departed” I’m going to say “no.”

 

KILLING THEM SOFTLY

Starring:  Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini

Directed by:  Andrew Dominik

A professional “enforcer” is called in to investigate a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Gandolfini chewing the scenery should be epic.

 

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER:  DAY OF RECKONING

Starring:  Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren and Scott

Directed by:   John Hyams

After a home invasion claims his wife and daughter a man vows to take down Luc Deveraux (JCVD, baby!). If the WGA is to be believed it took no less than EIGHT people to write this thing.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Only if they give an award for most writers on a film heading straight to video by Valentine’s Day.

 

DECEMBER 7

DEADFALL

Starring:  Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde

Directed by:  Stefan Ruzowitzky

After a disastrous attempt to rob a casino a man and his sister accidentally end up at the same Thanksgiving celebration.  Nothing says “family” like Turkey and larceny.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Bana has a better chance playing the Hulk again.

 

THE FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS

Starring:  Ed Lauter and Edward Burns

Directed by:  Edward Burns

If there’s an Irish surname in the title (“The Brothers McMullen,” “The Fighting Fitzgeralds”) you can bet it’s an Ed Burns film!  This one features Lauter as a father having Thanksgiving Dinner with his family 20 years after he walked out on them.  I sense a “Thanksgiving” theme coming on Pearl Harbor Day.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Actually Burns is a pretty good storyteller so….maybe?

 

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON

Starring:  Bill Murray and Laura Linney

Directed by:  Roger Michell

Remember the look on Bill Murray’s face when Sean Penn won the Oscar over him?  If early word is to be believed he may have a second chance this year with his portrayal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Here, FDR hosts the King and Queen of England with the help of his distant cousin (and lover) Margaret Suckley.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Come on Billy Boy!

 

LAY THE FAVORITE

Starring:  Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall

Directed by:  Stephen Frears

A sports gambler falls for a casino waitress who also has a way with laying a bet or two.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Frears has been nominated twice for Best Director but not sure if this is going to make three.

 

PLAYING FOR KEEPS

Starring:  Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel and Dennis Quaid

Directed by:  Gabrielle Muccino

A down on his luck former soccer player starts coaching his son’s team and meets attractive single moms, which I’m sure just makes him sexier in his ex-wife’s eyes.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Best Abs?

 

DECEMBER 14

 

THE HOBBIT:  AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Starring:  Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Ian McKellen

Directed by:  Peter Jackson

Bilbo Baggins journeys to the Lonely Mountain accompanied by a group of Dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy earned 30 Oscar nominations and took home 17 awards.  I don’t see the well running dry any time soon.

 

STAND UP GUYS

Starring:  Christopher Walken and Al Pacino

Directed by:  Fisher Stevens

An impressionist’s dream as two of the most imitated actors EVER team up as a couple of old gangsters who decide to “get the band back together.”  Directed by the scientist who created Johnny 5 in “Short Circuit.”

OSCAR CHANCES:  Probably not but watching Walken and Pacino on screen together is award enough!

 

DECEMBER 19

 

MONSTERS INC. 3D

Starring the voices of:  Billy Crystal and John Goodman

Directed by:  Pete Docter, David Silverman and Lee Unkrich

Mike, Sully and little Boo return in the 2001 PIXAR classic with the added touch of the third dimension.

OSCAR CHANCES:  The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won the Oscar for Best Original Song.  For you trivia buffs, it lost the Best Animated Feature award to “Shrek.”

 

ZERO DARK THIRTY

Starring:  Jessica Chastain and Chris Pratt

Directed by:  Kathryn Bigelow

Isn’t life funny?  You’re all set to make a film detailing the decade long search for Osama bin Laden when a team of Navy Seals raid his compound and pop a new asshole in his forehead.  Rewrite!  Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, who both won Oscars for “The Hurt Locker,” reunite for what is sure to be one of the most controversial films of the season.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Depending on the political climate in Hollywood, either a bunch or nothing.

 

DECEMBER 21

 

THE IMPOSSIBLE

Starring:  Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor

Directed by:  Juan Antonio Bayona

After being swept up in a terrible tsunami a family of five find themselves separated.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Friends who have seen it tell me the performances are wrenching.  Perhaps a nod for Watts?

 

JACK REACHER

Starring:  Tom Cruise and Rosamund Pike

Directed by:  Christopher McQuarrie

Based on Lee Child’s best-selling novel series, homicide investigator goes on a hunt for a sniper who has shot five seemingly random victims.  Writer/director McQuarrie won an Oscar for his screenplay for “The Usual Suspects.”  He also wrote “Valkrie” for Cruise and is the star’s choice to write and direct “Mission: Impossible 5.”

OSCAR CHANCES:   In real life Cruise is ten inches shorter than the title character…maybe best visual effects?

 

NOT FADE AWAY

Starring:  James Gandolfini and Christopher McDonald

Directed by:  David Chase

A group of New Jersey friends in the 60s form a band and aspire for the big time!  This is the feature film debut of “The Sopranos” creator Chase.

OSCAR CHANCES:  The 2nd time I’ve mentioned Gandolfini….could be an omen!

 

ON THE ROAD

Starring:  Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart

Directed by:  Walter Salles

Three friends travel across the country in a 1949 Hudson.  Based on Jack Kerouac’s classic novel, which despite being over five decades old, has never been adapted for a film.

OSCAR CHANCES:  When your source material is one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century an adapted screenplay nomination isn’t out of the question.

 

THIS IS 40

Starring:  Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann

Directed by:  Judd Apatow

If you really liked “Knocked Up” and left the theatre wondering what happened to the married couple with the cute kids you’re in luck!  This movie is all about them.  Nobody does funny/raunchy/sweet better than Judd Apatow.

OSCAR CHANCES:  The last comedy to win an Oscar for Best Picture was “Annie Hall.”  IN 1978!!

 

DECEMBER 25

 
DJANGO UNCHAINED

Starring:  Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by:  Quentin Tarantino

Can it really be just 20 years since QT burst onto the scene with “Reservoir Dogs?”  Yes it can.  For his seventh feature (I count “Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2” as one film) Tarantino tells the story of a former slave turned bounty hunter who is searching for his wife, still being held in captivity by an evil master.

OSCAR CHANCES:  NEVER bet against the former Video Archives clerk!

 

LES MISERABLES

Starring:  Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway

Directed by:  Tom Hooper

March 1987.  I’m walking through Times Square at about midnight when I find myself face to face with Colm Wilkinson and Terrence Mann (the actor, not the character played by James Earl Jones in “Field of Dreams”) who were both starring in the new musical “Les Miserables.”  “Someday,” I told them, they’re going to make a movie out of that show you’re in!”  OK, the second part I made up.  One of the greatest musicals of all time finally makes it to the big screen.

OSCAR CHANCES:  If Jackman can pull of “Bring Him Home” then a noms in the bag.  Hathaway already seems like a lock.  Hooper took home the directing Oscar for “The King’s Speech.”

 

PARENTAL GUIDANCE

Starring:  Billy Crystal and Bette Midler

Directed by:  Andy Fickman

Old school grandparents  clash with their grandchildren when they are asked to watch them by their daughter.

OSCAR CHANCES:  If Bette ain’t singing it ain’t happening!

 

WEST OF MEMPHIS

Documentary

Directed by:  Amy Berg

In 1993 three young boys were brutally murdered.  Three teenagers were tried for the crimes and sent to prison.  But the evidence never added up.  Peter Jackson produced this story of the West Memphis Three, who were finally released from prison last year.  If you’ve seen the HBO “Paradise Lost” trilogy then you’re familiar with the story.

OSCAR CHANCES:  With the celebrity clout of such stars like Johnny Depp in their corner should be a lock for a Best Documentary Feature nod.

 

DECEMBER 28

 

PROMISED LAND

Starring:  Matt Damon and John Krasinski

Directed by:  Gus Van Sant

In this topical drama, a natural-gas company big shot takes on an environmentalist to debate the issue of fracking.  Damon and Krasinski wrote the script.

OSCAR CHANCES:   The last time Damon shared a screenwriting credit it was on a little movie called “Good Wil Hunting,” which earned him and Ben Affleck an Oscar.

 

QUARTET

Starring:  Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon

Directed by:  Dustin Hoffman

Forty-five years after “The Graduate,” Dustin Hoffman makes his directing debut with a film based on the acclaimed play by Ronald Harwood.  At a home for retired opera singers, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday is disrupted by the arrival of an eternal diva…the former wife of one of the residents.

OSCAR CHANCES:  Possibly.  This is the kind of movie the old guard at the Academy loves!

 

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