With the summer blockbuster season over and the awards season underway, the last movie season of the year is the holiday season when studios pull out their big guns and try to impress artistically and walk home with bundles of cash.
This year's holiday season isn't unlike others. We've got animated family flicks, studio actioners, and big time fluff projects mingled with big budget awards contenders. Though 12 Years a Slave and Gravity are still holding on to the top of most Oscar prognosticators' lists for the Best Picture slot, there are a few releases left that may shake things up. Free Birds was smart to release last week, since Disney's Frozen is likely to practically wipe that turkey of a film out of the running for the family holiday hit. We've got comedies and arthouse specialties to look forward to. Take a look at the impressive list below.
Starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb
The newest pic from The Descendants director is a father-son road trip dramedy that has already played the festival circuit pretty successfully. Hollywood legend Dern is poised to receive an Oscar nod for his role as the crotchety old man. Squibb is also receiving raves for her supporting turn.
The Best Man Holiday (Rated R)
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee
Starring Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan
A long-gestating sequel to the surprise 1999 hit The Best Man. This new chapter is a 15-year holiday reunion of the first film's characters. Past rivalries and love triangles pop up and prove that some things never die. This release is bound to make a nice dollar, especially with the original's cast returning.
Other Releases: 12-12-12 (Bruce Springsteen and friends put together a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Sandy in this documentary); Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood star in a Romanian love story); Sunlight Jr. (Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon are crossed lovers in this drama about a woman caring for her disabled boyfriend)
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13)
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth
The global blockbuster series continues with the second installment in the series, seeing Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) travel the districts before being pulled back into the Hunger Games. Philip Seymour Hoffman joins the cast.
Directed by Stephen Frears
Starring Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
Based on a true story, a London journalist travels with an Irish woman who gave birth as a teenager but gave up the baby for adoption. She attempts to track the child down fifty years later. Dench is getting a lot of awards buzz for the film that the Weinstein's are hoping will nab a Best Picture Oscar, as well.
Other Releases: Delivery Man (Vince Vaughn stars in this comedy about a man who realizes his sperm donations as a college kid has resulted in over 500 children); The Christmas Candle (Samantha Banks stars in this British holiday film about the advent of electricity and its result on the candle industry); Bettie Page Reveals All (A new documentary details the life of the popular pinup)
Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Voiced by Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel
The adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's tale follows Anna and Kristoff's epic adventure with a talking snowman named Olaf. Anna's cold-hearted sister is the villain here. The film has only been seen by a few, but they've given it the go-ahead in terms of Disney films. There's no doubt that Princess Anna will become the newest rage among young girls.
Directed by Spike Lee
Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson
Lee's remake of the 2003 South Korean film of the same name is a bloody flick about a man who has been kept prisoner for 20 years and is finally released, only to spend his days tracking down answers in any way he can.
Other Releases: Black Nativity (Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, and Angela Bassett star in this reboot of the Langston Hughes 1961 stage musical); Homefront (Jason Statham is a badass DEA agent in this actioner that also stars James Franco); Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Idris Elba is the South African leader in this latest biopic, an adaptation of Mandela's own autobiography)
Inside Llewyn Davis (R)
Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund
A throwback to 1960's New York City folk scene, the Coen brothers' indie musical flick follows the life of an aspiring folk singer and the people he meets during one week. Mumford & Sons definitely have a hand here, as does Justin Timberlake. The film has received some big raves from the festival scene with many calling it the best Coen work since Fargo.
Out of the Furnace (R)
Directed by Scott Cooper
Starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson
Crime rings and seedy Pennsylvania towns are the backdrop for this drama from the director of Crazy Heart. Bale plays a recovering alcoholic helping his troubled brother (Affleck). While undoubtedly brutal, the film could play well among the lighter fair being offered this season.
Other Releases: The Last Days on Mars (Liev Schreiber stars on a Mars mission gone wrong); Swerve (An Australian thriller starring Jason Clarke)
American Hustle (Not Yet Rated)
Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence
It's 1970s New Jersey. An FBI sting is in progress. Con artists. Crooked politicos. And Jennifer Lawrence. Russell has a lot riding on his follow up to last year's Silver Linings Playbook and he's bringing back some familiar faces. The film hasn't been seen yet but is definitely the most anticipated film left this year.
Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13)
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson
This based on a true story tale follows Walt Disney (Hanks) as he tries to woo Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers to allow the studio to make a film based on the story of the nanny. Oscar voters love films about the film industry, so this could spell out magic for the Mouse.
Other Releases: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (The continuing tale of Bilbo as he quests to find stolen treasure in Peter Jackson's second Hobbit film); Hours (Paul Walker stars in this drama about a father looking for help for his daughter in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina); Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas (Tyler Perry's cross-dressing antics will receive horrible reviews and still come out with a nice box office)
Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson
Technology is the focus of this romantic film where Phoenix falls in love with the voice of his computer's operating system (Johansson). The word from the NYFF was highly positive, with special regard given to Johansson's voice work.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (Not Yet Rated)
Directed by Adam McKay
Starring Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig
Channel 4's news team returns in this sequel to the hit comedy film. The story places the team in the wiles of news fodder trying to create a 24-hour news channel. Filmed earlier this year in Atlanta, the film is poised to be the comedy hit of the year amongst the current frat crew and those of ten years ago.
The Past (PG-13)
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Starring Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa
Seeking a divorce and living with a married man is the basis for The Past's female lead, played by Bejo. As Iran's Oscar submission, the film is being touted as one of the top foreign language releases of the year and just may earn Bejo her second nomination.
Other Releases: Walking with Dinosaurs (A CGI family-friendly pic about a family of dinosaurs in the land that becomes what we know as Alaska)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Not Yet Rated)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey
Based in the early 1990s, Scorsese's flick follows a real-life story of financial fraud. Though the material is somewhat serious, the film looks to be a pretty light comedy of excessive, business-like proportions. DiCaprio looks to be honing in the angry/important type and the supporting cast is getting raves.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG)
Directed by Ben Stiller
Starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine
Stiller's big budget thrill ride based on the 1939 short story of the same name charmed audiences at the NYFF. As a Christmas Day release, Stiller may be setting himself up for a successful end to the year. The film could also be a surprise awards contender in many categories.
August: Osage County (R)
Directed by John Wells
Starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis
Based on the award-winning stage play, Wells' film is a family drama and relationship comedy wrapped into one. Streep is being said to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance (no shock there) and it's great to see Roberts turn in some quality work.
Other Releases: 47 Ronin (Keanu Reeves stars in a samurai film. Yes, you read that right); Believe (A somewhat-sequel to Justin Bieber's first documentary Never Say Never); Grudge Match (Robert de Niro and Sylvester Stallone star in this boxing comedy); The Invisible Woman (Ralph Fiennes stars and directs in this tale of Charles Dickens and his secret lover); Labor Day (Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin star in this Jason Reitman film); Lone Survivor (Mark Wahlberg stars in this war film filling in this year's The Hurt Locker slot)