During this year’s Toronto Film Festival, someone made the statement that there are so many great movies coming out this fall that the Academy should consider opening the field up to 20 Best Picture nominees. I can’t say whether that’s really the case, but I can say that there’s a pretty good chance that most of those 20 spectacular films will be hitting theaters (at least in some part of the country) in November and December.
So now that we’ve sufficiently recovered from our long, hard look at the start of award season in part one of my fall preview, let’s hunker down for a preview of the last big months of the year.
The first week of November has a little bit of something for everyone. First up, Gavin Hood directs Ender’s Game, adapted from Orson Scott Card’s futuristic sci-fi thriller. Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld, and Hugo’s Asa Butterfield star.
For the girls, there’s About Time, directed by Richard Curtis of Love Actually fame. The sci-fi rom-com tells the story of a young man who discovers that he has the ability to travel through time—so, of course, uses it to try to get a girlfriend.
Meanwhile, for the kids, there’s Free Birds, a time-traveling, Thanksgiving-themed animated adventure about a couple of turkeys who decide to go back in time to change history—and their own fates.
And, finally, for the old guys, there’s Last Vegas, starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline as a bunch of geezers who head to Vegas for a bachelor party.
Kristin’s Pick: While all of this week’s films sound at least slightly intriguing, I’ll give my pick to Last Vegas. How can you resist that cast?
This week has just one big release—and that’s all it needs. Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World reunites Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, and the rest of the cast for a sequel that looks like it could top Kenneth Branagh’s original.
Kristin’s Pick: So...my pick this week? Duh...
What would the holiday season be without a Christmas-themed movie? This year, the original cast of 1999’s The Best Man reunites for The Best Man Holiday, which finds the friends reuniting 15 years later for a Christmas filled with romance and rivalries.
Also this week, a film that I just can’t resist: The Book Thief. This adaptation of the popular young-adult novel tells the story of a young girl who finds comfort in books during World War II.
Kristin’s Pick: The Book Thief is an easy pick for me—because I know all about the healing powers of a good book.
And now...for the sequel you’ve all been waiting for: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. I have a friend who’s been constantly reminding me that she wants to be my plus-one for this screening ever since she found out that I’m a film critic—and I have to admit that I’m almost as excited to see it as she is. Admittedly, I didn’t love the book version of Catching Fire as much as I loved The Hunger Games, but I’m eager to see how the adaptation plays out.
Also this week, Ken Scott directs Delivery Man, the remake of his successful 2011 Canadian comedy, Starbuck, about a slacker who discovers that his fertility clinic donations have fathered 533 children. Seriously. This is a remake of a Canadian film that was released just two years ago (though it hit most American theaters earlier this year). And it stars Vince Vaughn. Yes, my friends, Hollywood has stooped this low.
And, finally, Alexander Payne’s black-and-white drama, Nebraska, stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte as an estranged father and son duo who go on a road trip through the American heartland to claim a million-dollar sweepstakes prize.
Kristin’s Pick: Sure, Alexander Payne makes some good movies, but I’ve got to give this week’s pick to Catching Fire.
This year’s Thanksgiving weekend offers some rather unusual picks. The first isn’t much of a surprise: Disney’s Frozen. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, it stars Kristen Bell as the voice of a fearless young girl who sets out on a mission to save the land from permanent winter.
Also this week, Forest Whitaker, Angela Basset, and more star in the gospel musical Black Nativity, the story of a troubled teen who spends Christmas with his family in New York. Or, for more award season fare, there’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a biopic starring Idris Elba.
And then...for more delightful holiday weekend viewing, there’s Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy. Lee’s version of the hard-hitting thriller stars Josh Brolin as an advertising executive who’s out for vengeance after he’s released from a mysterious 20-year confinement.
Kristin’s Pick: As much as I’m intrigued by Oldboy, I have to give my holiday weekend pick to the more family-friendly Frozen.
Ah, December. A month of sweet treats, festive get-togethers, and holiday cheer. It’s also a month full of movies like Dallas Buyers Club, in which a painfully thin Matthew McConaughey plays an HIV-positive Texan in search of alternative treatments. Or Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen Brothers’ latest, about a young folk singer in the ‘60s. Or Out of the Furnace, starring Christian Bale as an ex-con who sets out in search of justice for his missing little brother.
Happy holidays from Hollywood!
Kristin’s Pick: Okay, so the first week of December is looking pretty grim—so I’ll go with the least grim-sounding of the three, the Coens’ Inside Llewyn Davis.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a little fantasy flick coming out this December. It was directed by some guy named Peter Jackson. It’s called The Hobbit: The Desolations of Smaug. Haven’t heard of it? Well, never mind then.
Also this week, Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell reunites with Bradley Cooper and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence (as well as Christian Bale and Amy Adams) for American Hustle. It appears to have something about con artists working with the feds—but I can’t seem to get beyond Cooper’s ‘70s hairstyle.
Or, if you’re looking for a little holiday spirit, you could check out Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. You could, but you don’t have to.
Kristin’s Pick: As intrigued as I am by the cast of American Hustle, I wouldn’t dream of picking against Gandalf. So I’ll go with The Hobbit.
The holiday spirit starts to set in a bit more this week, with some more light-hearted fare—like Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, the eagerly awaited follow-up to the 2004 comic hit. Will Ferrell returns as anchorman Ron Burgundy, with Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and Christina Applegate also reprising their roles.
For something a little more family-friendly, there’s the immersive prehistoric adventure Walking with Dinosaurs 3D. There’s also Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers. The film tells the story of Disney’s attempts to win over the reluctant author and bring the beloved nanny to the big screen.
For some award season fare, there’s George Clooney’s latest, The Monuments Men (opening the 18th), a real-life adventure starring half of Hollywood as a group of historians and art lovers who set out to recover artwork stolen by Hitler. Or there’s Spike Jonze’s Her, an odd-looking film starring Joaquin Phoenix as a writer who falls in love with his new state-of-the-art operating system. (Yes, really.)
Kristin’s Pick: This week is a tough one. Though I’m looking forward to Anchorman 2, my pick is a toss-up between Hanks and Clooney. So....I’ll go with Clooney’s The Monuments Men.
CHRISTMAS AND BEYOND:
This year’s Christmas-week releases are the usual hodge-podge of family films and award season releases—starting with Ben Stiller’s latest, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The comic actor does tend to be hit-or-miss (lately leaning toward the latter), but considering that this is his directorial follow-up to Tropic Thunder, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
For some holiday-weekend action, there’s Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow One, starring Chris Pine as the late Tom Clancy’s iconic hero. Or, for some action seasoned with laughs, there’s Grudge Match, with Sly Stallone and Robert De Niro facing off as old boxing rivals who decide to come out of retirement for one last fight.
Meanwhile, Keanu Reeves plays a samurai warrior in 47 Ronin, Mark Wahlberg plays a Navy SEAL in Battleship director Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor, and Meryl Streep teams up with Julia Roberts for the family dramedy August: Osage County.
Kristin’s Pick: How should you spend your holiday weekend? It’s really hard to say, since this year’s Christmas releases could go either way. But, since I love to spend Christmas watching a fun, light-hearted movie, I’ll go with the old-guy silliness of Grudge Match.
And, with that, we’ve come to the end of yet another award season. With so many exciting new releases hitting theaters between now and the end of the year, I recommend getting your holiday shopping done as soon as possible—because you’ll want to spend November and December with a fizzy drink and a jumbo popcorn (and maybe a good friend or two) at your neighborhood movie theater.
Happy award season, everybody!