As the holiday season approaches you can smell it on the air. No, not turkey and pumpkin pie! I’m talking popcorn and Junior Mints. Because with the holidays comes an opportunity to sample the best (sometimes) of what Hollywood has to offer. From sure Oscar contenders to “might as well get it off the shelf” films, here is a list of some goodies that are on the menu between now and the end of the year.
As always, thanks to our friends at the Internet Movie Data Base for some synopsis information. And remember, opening dates published are subject to change at the whim of the studios. Enjoy!
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Based on an early 1961 stage musical by Langston Hughes, the film tells the story of a single mother in Harlem sending her teenage son to visit her parents in Baltimore for the holidays.
OSCAR CHANCES: Whitaker and Hudson already have one and Bassett earned a nomination for her incredible portrayal of Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Writer/director Lemmons, probably best known for her work as an actress (she was Jodie Foster’s roommate/partner in “Silence of the Lambs”) previously helmed “Eve’s Bayou” and “Talk to Me.” That all being said, the possibilities are there!
Starring the voices of: Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell
Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
When Princess Elsa accidentally uses her magic to cover her kingdom in ice it is up to her younger sister, Anne, to warm things up.
OSCAR CHANCES: A possible nomination for Best Animated Feature but I think “Despicable Me 2” has that award sewn up.
Starring: Jason Statham and James Franco
Directed by: Gary Fleder
A former DEA agent moves his family to a quiet town, where he soon tangles with a local meth drug lord. Based on the novel by Chuck Logan, the film’s script writer is none other than Sylvester Stallone.
OSCAR CHANCES: Sly did nab a Best Original Screenplay nod back in 1976 for “Rocky” but I’m not to optimistic.
Starring: Josh Brolin
Directed by: Spike Lee
A remake of the 2003 South Korean action film, Brolin stars as a man placed in solitary confinement for 20 years with no idea why or by who. When he’s finally released he makes it his mission to answer those questions in a most bloody manner.
OSCAR CHANCES: Could tie with “Machete’ Kills” for most blood used in a single film. (oh if only that was a category).
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Moved to December 25th)
Starring: Idris Elba and Naomie Harris
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
Based on the autobiography of the great South African leader Nelson Mandela, the film follows his life from his early days as a student to his imprisonment through his rise as President of his country.
OSCAR CHANCES: The Academy loves biographical stories and Elba is said to deliver a brilliant performance.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Starring: Oscar Issac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
The brothers Coen take a look at the early days of the folk music scene in New York City.
OSCAR CHANCES: Three words: “the Coen brothers.” Academy Award nominations stick to their films like Mary Lou Retton sticking a dismount! (please tell me you know who Mary Lou Retton is)
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS
Starring: Liev Schreiber and Elias Koteas
Directed by: Ruairi Robinson
The title says it all. Schreiber leads a manned mission to the Red Planet where things don’t go as planned.
OSCAR CHANCES: No.
OUT OF THE FURNACE
Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Scott Cooper
When his younger brother disappears, Russell Baze takes it upon himself to find out why and becomes entangled in the world of underground bare-knuckle fighting. Wow, it looked so cool when Clint Eastwood and Clyde were doing it.
OSCAR CHANCES: This is Cooper’s second film, his first being the Oscar winning “Crazy Heart.” Bale has an Oscar and little Affleck and Woody have nominations so nothing is ruled out here.
DECEMBER 13 (limited opening – Opens wide December 18th)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams
Directed by: David O. Russell
A look back at the 1970s and the famous ABSCAM sting in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
OSCAR CHANCES: Director Russell has assembled the cast members of his previous two films (“The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook”) for a very ambitious project. The main cast members either have Oscars or been nominated for one as has Russell so I’m giving this film a definite “yes.”
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
Starring: Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom and the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: Peter Jackson
The second film in director Jackson’s planned HOBBIT trilogy follows Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf friends as they attempt to reclaim what’s rightly theirs from the dreaded dragon Smaug.
OSCAR CHANCES: Of course. Many fans of the books are upset that Bloom’s Legolas shows up but come on, “Pirates 5” has been postponed and Orlando Bloom has to eat. Thankfully I’m guessing most members of the academy ever read Tolkien so look for this to earn many technical nods.
SAVING MR. BANKS
Starring: Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
The behind the scenes tale of the struggles Walt Disney had to undertake to turn P.L. Travers novel, “Mary Poppins,” into a film. I’ve known for years that she didn’t like Dick Van Dyke being cast so how incredibly insane must she have been?
OSCAR CHANCES: Several, starting with previous two-time winners Hanks and Thompson.
TYLER PERRY’S A MEDEA CHRISTMAS
Starring: Tyler Perry
Directed by: Tyler Perry
If you haven’t jumped down to the next film, you’re a better person than I. The title says it all.
OSCAR CHANCES: I actually stopped typing and slapped myself for including the words “Oscar Chances” within two sentences – top or bottom – of the name Tyler Perry.
HER (limited opening – Opens wide January 10th)
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix and the voice of Scarlett Johansson
Directed by: Spike Jonze
As the world grows more reliant on technology a man begins to fall in love with the female voice of his computer operating system.
OSCAR CHANCES: Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” scored a few nods so I’m not ruling anything out.
ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Starring: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell
Directed by: Adam McKay
Ron Burgandy and the rest of his channel 4 news team are picked to help launch a 24-hour news channel.
OSCAR CHANCES: A great mustache and salon quality hair could equal Best Makeup.
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
Starring the voices of: John Leguizamo and Justin Long
Directed by: Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale
Three young Pachyrhinosauruses discover the ups and downs of the prehistoric world.
OSCAR CHANCES: Again, like “Frozen,” maybe an animated nod.
Starring: Keanu Reeves
Directed by: Carl Rinsch
A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun.
OSCAR CHANCES: This is the kind of film that pulls the costume award nomination.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor
Directed by: John Wells
A screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Tony-award winning play about a family that gathers for the funeral of a relative and the internal battles that resurrect themselves.
OSCAR CHANCES: I had the good fortune of seeing this film a couple of months ago and I’m going to say there will be no less than three nominations here.
Starring: Justin Bieber
Directed by: John M. Chu
When a deadly virus strikes Canada, it is discovered that it’s evil host is…….Damn, I’d like to BELIEVE that was the plot. Another concert film for those fans who apparently spent enough money on the first one to rate another.
OSCAR CHANCES: As much as Tyler Perry.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro
Directed by: Peter Segal
30 years since their last fight, boxers Henry “Razor” Sharp and Billy “the Kid” McDonnen, participate in a television special that rekindles old fires. Or as I like to think of it, Rocky Balboa vs Jake Lamotta!
OSCAR CHANCES: Probably not but this promises to be fun.
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN
Starring: Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones
Directed by: Ralph Fiennes
No, nothing spooky going on here. The film tells the story of famed English author Charles Dickens and his secret affair with a younger woman.
OSCAR CHANCES: Remember, it’s a bio-pic, so I’ll say maybe.
Starring: Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin
Directed by: Jason Reitman
A woman and her young son are made to shelter an escaped convict. The story gets interesting when she begins to fall for him. I was so worried this was going to be the third film in Garry Marshall’s “holiday” trilogy!
OSCAR CHANCES: Always a “yes” when director Reitman is in the mix.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Starring: Ben Stiller and Sean Penn
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Director/star Stiller attempts to update the classic 1947 film that featured the great Danny Kaye. Bored with his life, Walter Mitty imagines himself in various exciting situations.
OSCAR CHANCES: Maybe something technical.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Ethan Suplee
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort; from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. This film was originally scheduled to open on November 15 and was pushed back at almost the last minute to finish post production.
OSCAR CHANCES: Marty and Leo equal yes!
LONE SURVIVOR (limited opening – Opens wide January 10th)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster
Directed by: Peter Berg
The telling of a June 2005 military mission to capture a Talibad leader that went wrong.
OSCAR CHANCES: Oh yeah.