Holiday Movies: December Releases Phase 2

2013-11-21T09:12:00Z Holiday Movies: December Releases Phase 2
November 21, 2013 9:12 am  • 

1. Expecting

Jessie McCormack’s debut as a director is a comedy about a series of dramatic developments in the life of Lizzie (Radha Mitchell) who has been unable to conceive with her husband Casey (Michael Weston). The situation seems hopeless until Andie (Michelle Monaghan), Lizzie’s best friend, unexpectedly gets pregnant after a one-night stand. When her friend offers to have the baby and give him or her to Casey and Lizzie, the couple finally agrees, but there is a stipulation. Andie must move in with them for the duration of the pregnancy. This contingency results in sticky situations for Andie, Lizzie and Casey but also creates room to explore love, friendship, generosity and the boundaries of relationships with several people living under the same roof. (Tribeca)

2. Out of the Furnace

The future looks grim for the Baze brothers—Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney (Casey Affleck) who live in a deteriorating Rust Belt town. Though they have fantasies about getting out and finding something better, for now Russell works at a blue collar job during the day and cares for their father who is terminally ill the rest of the time. The action picks up as Rodney returns home from duty in Iraq. When Russell finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up in prison, Rodney gets involved with the real bad guys including Curtis DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) and John Petty (Willem Dafoe). Russell gets out of jail and Rodney disappears. Russell undertakes a risky course of action to serve justice and find Rodney. Scott Cooper, who wrote and directed the award-winning Crazy Heart, is in charge of the movie but there are heavy-hitters on the producing side as well including Leonardo DiCaprio and Tony and Ridley Scott. Also in the cast, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard and Forest Whitaker. (Relativity Media)

3. Last Days On Mars

The crew of eight researchers are within 19 hours of completing a six-month mission at a base on Mars when one of the scientists decides to make one last visit to obtain a soil sample that he thinks may confirm his theory that there is life on the planet. When he disappears, other crew members led by Charles Brunel (Elias Koteas) and Vincent Campbell (Liev Schrieber) take up the search. When the first two lost crew members return as zombies, a pattern of hunting, killing and reanimation as zombies begins. Crew members including Rebecca Lane (Romola Farai), Marko Petrovic (Goran Kostic), Johnny Harris (Robert Irwin), Richard Harrington (Tom Cullen), Lauren Dalby (Yusra Warsama) and Kim Aldrich (Olivia Williams), continue to try to escape against vast odds as they are increasingly outnumbered by the undead. Though the movie is based on a short story “The Animators,” by sci-fi writer Sydney Bounds and the screenplay was written by Clive Dawson, it has been criticized as a zombie movie with special effects. (Universal)

4. Saving Mr. Banks

This film tells the story of Walt Disney’s ultimately successful quest to make the beloved “Mary Poppins,” the creation of Pamela L. Travers into a movie. Almost 20 years of wooing the writer eventually comes down to a two-week period when the cranky author, played by Emma Thompson, visits Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) at Disney studios in Los Angeles. Disney’s campaign enlists the talent of chief composers Robert B. Sherman (B.J. Novak) and Richard M. Sherman (Jason Schwartzman), screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), studio exec Tommie (Kathy Baker), his wife Lillian (Dendrie Taylor) and secretary Dolly (Melanie Paxson). Travers is unmoved. She replays scenes from her childhood in Australia in her head, especially concerned about how her father—Mr. Banks—really Travers Robert Goff (Colin Farrell) would be portrayed. The creative tension arises as Walt Disney has to figure out what’s driving Travers’ obstinance by reflecting on his own upbringing. John Lee Hancock directs an all-star cast including Paul Giamatti and Victoria Summer as Julie Andrews, Kristopher Kyer as Dick Van Dyke. (Walt Disney Pictures)

5. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas

The first holiday-themed Tyler Perry movie—it’s his 17th film, which is the 7th in the Madea series—sends the gun-toting grandmother Mabel “Madea” Simmons on a journey to a little town out in the country to visit relatives. The town is getting ready for an annual holiday jubilee and havoc ensues. The soundtrack is as widely anticipated as the movie, featuring Smokey Robinson, Mariah Carey, Brian McKnight, James Brown, KEM, Boyz II Men, Kelly Rowland Jeremih, Stevie Wonder, Jackson Five, Ashanti and others, and will be released in late November prior to the opening of the movie. (Lionsgate)

6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The second of three instalments of the Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien picks up with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on the road with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 dwarves. The goal is get back to the lost Kingdom of Erebor and reclaim the dwarves’ homeland. The adventure will include passage through Lonely Mountain, Esgaroth and Dale, but will end with a confrontation with Smaug, a dragon. Like the Lord of the Rings series, this prequel is directed, written and produced by Peter Jackson and his long time team of collaborators. Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis and Elijah Wood also star in the movie. (New Line Cinema)

7. American Hustle

The fictionalized version of the FBI ABSCAM investigation, involving a fake Arab sheik and a drama within a movie, pits Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a master con artist partnered up with Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams)—a British grifter in enough trouble with the feds to get pulled into the sting—against the New Jersey mob. FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) masterminds the operation, which is frequently made even more dangerous by Rosenfeld’s volatile and glamorous wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). Director David O. Russell who worked with Lawrence and Cooper on last year’s Silver Linings Playbook tells a complicated story that ends with the indictment of high-level mobsters as well as corrupt government officials. (Columbia Pictures)

8. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), and his entire crew return to the newsroom. This time the popular San Diego team will make the transition to a 24-hour cycle, while keeping every helmet of hair in place. The news program full of characters includes hapless curbside commenter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), sports commentator Champ Kind (David Koechner), Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), wife and co-anchor with Burgundy and meteorologist Brick Tamland (Steve Carell). (Paramount Pictures)

9. August: Osage County

One of the most highly-anticipated movies of 2013 opens on Christmas Day starring Meryl Streep playing Violet, the matriarch and focal point of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play. Set during several days of an emergency family reunion, the multi-character drama is loaded with dysfunctional family members from a precocious teenage grandchild (Abigail Breslin) to several full-fledged middle-aged head cases including Julia Roberts’ character Barbara. The story has everything including infidelity, drug addiction, incest, alcoholism, suicide and frequent comic moments. Also starring Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Shepard, and Chris Cooper. (The Weinstein Company)

10. Grudge Match

Another Christmas Day movie brings back a complete roster of formerly famous movie stars including Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro as two retired boxers at the center of the story. The rivalry between Billy "The Kid" McDonnen and Henry "Razor" Sharp was as notorious as the fact that fans felt it was never truly decided back in the early 1980s. A fight promoter brings them together for a meeting and the argument turns physical. A re-match is promptly scheduled as the fighters go into an extensive training period creating angst for their friends and family and a social media phenomenon. The comedy, directed by Peter Segal, also stars Kevin Hart Alan Arkin, Kim Basinger, and Jon Bernthal costar. (Warner Bros.)

11. Labor Day

Although an adult Henry Wheeler (Tobey Maguire) is the narrator of this story, he is recalling a long weekend when he was 13 years old played by Gattlin Griffith. While shopping for school supplies he and his mother Adele (Kate Winslet) meet Frank Chambers (Josh Brolin), who ends up coming home with them. Henry needs a father—his real father and Adele’s husband has taken off, overwhelmed by Adele’s depression—and Adele needs adult companionship, but Frank, an escaped convict among other problems, is more than they bargain for. Critics who have already seen the film (shown at film festivals earlier this year) are not much enamored of the story but have nothing but praise for the performances. (Paramount Pictures)

12. Walking With Dinosaurs 3D

The movie produced by BBC Earth after a very successful documentary series also produced by the BBC in 1999, is as close to real-life as possible, if you can suspend belief enough to deal with giant creatures who talk. The dinosaurs, which are computer-animated, but filmed in locations around the world that are similar to the environment scientists believe dinosaurs original habitats millions of years ago, are caught in a standard adventure with a young hero at the center. The film, directed by Neil Nightingale and Barry Cook from a script by John Collee cost $85 million to make and got no studio backing and will be released in 2D and 3D versions.(20th Century Fox)

13. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

A re-make of the original Hollywood version of a classic James Thurber short story (starring Danny Kaye in the title role) has a retro-fitted story eliminating the World War II themed adventures of the original. In this version, Ben Stiller is the director and the lead, who still daydreams about invented heroic adventures and longs to impress the girl of his dreams, a co-worker named Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). Ironically Mitty works developing photos for Life magazine, which will soon be history, but gets an opportunity to live an adventure when he is assigned to get the perfect photograph for the historic final edition of Life. Also starring in the film billed as comedy and science fiction: Patton Oswalt, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott and Kathryn Hahn. (20th Century Fox)

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