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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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?
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!!
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!
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.”
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
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.
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.
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!