The fall movie season may have begun weeks ago, but now that the weather is finally catching up, it’s time to start giving some serious thought to this year’s Award Season. We’ve already taken a look at the movies of September and October in Part 1 of this year’s fall preview, but it isn’t until November and December that things really start to heat up. So let’s all take a deep, cleansing breath and take a look at some of the top contenders for this year’s Award Season gold (and the holiday box office earnings, too).
First, though, my standard disclaimer: please note that films are listed by week. In general, I use Friday as the standard release date, though some will open earlier in the week (especially leading up to holiday weekends). Others will be opening in limited release, so release dates in your area will vary. And others will fall victim to the annual game of Movie Release Date Chess. So be sure to check your local listings for exact dates and times.
Let’s not waste any time, shall we? November kicks off with a couple of the year’s most highly-anticipated releases. First, Christopher Nolan’s first post-Batman release, Interstellar. The sci-fi thriller features another all-star cast as a team of explorers who take advantage of a wormhole to travel through space. Stars include Academy darlings Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain.
For the kids, there’s Big Hero 6, Disney’s only animated film of 2014. The quirky animated adventure tells the story of a boy who teams up with a lovably bumbling robot to battle a super villain.
Also this week, Eddie Redmayne stars as physicist Stephen Hawking in the biopic The Theory of Everything.
Kristin’s Pick: This could possibly be the hardest pick I’ve had to make all year. Each of this week’s films has its merits—and more than its share of buzz—but, since I’m a sucker for a Christopher Nolan thriller, I’ve got to give my pick to Interstellar.
If last week’s big, brainy movies have you feeling a little overwhelmed, never fear—Harry and Lloyd are here! In Dumb and Dumber To, the old pals set out to track down Harry’s long-lost daughter. Boy, is that poor girl in for a surprise!
Also this week, in Beyond the Lights, a talented musician struggles with stardom. And Channing Tatum drums up some serious buzz for his role as Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz in Foxcatcher.
Kristin’s Pick: I wasn’t a huge fan of Harry and Lloyd 20 years ago, but I do love Channing Tatum—so I’ll give my pick to Foxcatcher. Though I haven’t been especially impressed by his previous dramatic roles, it sounds like all that is about to change.
It’s the beginning of the end for Katniss Everdeen. This weekend, Jennifer Lawrence returns for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, the first part of the final installment of the thrilling young adult series.
For the few of you who won’t be racing out to see The Hunger Games, there’s also the horror flick V/H/S: Viral and The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as real-life cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who was at the head of the race to crack the Enigma code during World War II.
Kristin’s Pick: As much as I love Benedict Cumberbatch, I’ve got to go with The Hunger Games this week. Because...well...it’s The Hunger Games.
Happy Thanksgiving! Back when I was single, I used to spend most holidays at the local movie theater (or at least I did after I realized that spending major holidays at the office was just plain pathetic). And if I were still single today, I’d be gathering my friends for a Thanksgiving Day showing of Horrible Bosses 2, which finds Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis back to their old tricks after an investor causes problems with their new business.
Or, for the kids, there’s the Madagascar spin-off, Penguins of Madagascar, starring the clever birds as they join a secret agency to stop a super-villain from destroying the world.
Kristin’s Pick: I’ve got to go with my singleton self here and pick Horrible Bosses 2. I love the penguins, but I’m not convinced that they’ll be able to carry an entire movie.
For some reason, the weekend after Thanksgiving is notoriously slow—and this year is no exception. There’s just one major release this weekend: Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon as a troubled woman who goes on a 1,100-mile hike across the western U.S. to recover from an emotional crisis.
Kristin’s Pick: Well, I don’t have much of a choice here, but Wild does sound like it could be an interesting—and emotional—pick.
We’re traveling back in time this weekend—first to the ‘70s for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a detective who’s searching for his missing ex-girlfriend. Traveling a bit farther back, there’s Ridley Scott’s latest, Exodus: Gods and Kings, with Christian Bale starring as Moses as he faces off against Egypt’s pharaoh, Ramses (played by Joel Edgerton).
Kristin’s Pick: There are some people who absolutely love Paul Thomas Anderson. I’m not one of them. I’m a little more skeptical when it comes to the sometimes head-scratching director—so I’ll give my pick to Exodus, hoping for plenty of Gladiator-like action and drama.
The parade of big holiday releases continues this week, starting with the return of Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final installment in the Hobbit trilogy.
Also this week, pint-sized former Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis heads up an all-star cast in director Will Gluck’s updated Annie. And Ben Stiller ventures out on a magical (and, hopefully, comical) quest in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.
Kristin’s Pick: This week’s releases offer plenty of family-friendly entertainment. But I’ll give my pick to The Hobbit. This trilogy isn’t as magical as The Lord of the Rings, but each film in the series is always a grand and beautiful experience.
Ho ho ho! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: nothing says “Merry Christmas” quite like war, kidnapping, and murder (and, if at all possible, Nazis). And this year’s Christmas weekend releases won’t disappoint.
As usual this year, some big-name directors go head-to-head at the box office—including Clint Eastwood with American Sniper, which stars Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Eastwood faces off against his former leading lady, Angelina Jolie, who directs the Coen Brothers-penned Unbroken—another biopic—about Olympian Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), who was taken by the Japanese during World War II. Tim Burton also joins the holiday biopic race with Big Eyes, starring Amy Adams as artist Margaret Keane.
Meanwhile, director Rob Marshall brings a little bit of magic and fantasy to the holiday weekend with Into the Woods. Meryl Streep stars as a witch who sets out to teach various fairy tale characters a number of important lessons. Or, for somewhat lighter family fare, there’s Paddington, the story of an adventure-loving bear who travels to London and is taken in by the Brown family.
And, finally, if you need a good laugh after enduring yet another holiday gathering, you can choose Hot Tub Time Machine 2, which finds the original cast (minus John Cusack) hopping back into the time machine for yet another comic adventure. Or there’s the controversial comedy The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen as a pair of journalists who set out to interview—and perhaps assassinate—North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Expect World War III to break out shortly after the film’s release.
Kristin’s Pick: Well, you definitely have plenty of options for your holiday viewing—so I recommend trying several. Take the kids to see Into the Woods; then get a sitter and check out Hot Tub Time Machine. Save the heavy stuff for after the holidays are over.
And there you have it—two months that are sure to include some stellar performances, some smart screenwriting, and plenty of Oscar bait, too. How will you tell the difference? Easy! Keep visiting NightsAndWeekends.com for all of the latest reviews!
Happy Award Season to all, and to all a good night!