The holiday season is, as usual, bringing about tons of movies that you’ll want to go and see, but can’t feasibly see them all without further bankrupting yourself. So here’s a little preview to see what you can expect from each:
Playing for Keeps (Dec. 7)
A heartfelt romantic comedy in which the main character, a divorced man and playboy, decides to coach his son’s soccer team only to realize he’s still in love with his ex-wife. Starring Gerard Butler opposite Jessica Biel, and featuring Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, I’m really not sure why any of these people are in this movie. While the premise isn’t in any way new or revolutionary, it could be interesting to watch with what sounds like an action movie cast in romantic comedy roles. No one blames you if you don’t want to watch this movie, though.
Hyde Park on the Hudson (Dec 7)
This film is about the King and Queen of England coming to stay with Franklin Roosevelt at his home for a vacation and focuses on the interactions between British and American culture rather than getting caught up in the politics of the era. Now, I know that this sounds like it’s screaming “Oscar Bait!” at the top of its period piece lungs, but get this: Bill Murray is playing FDR. That’s right, Bill freaking Murray, coolest actor in history, is playing one of the coolest presidents in history. If that’s not enough, Olivia Wilde is playing Eleanor Roosevelt. This hasn’t been marketed very well, so see this one and you can sound really smart when none of your friends have seen it come awards season.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)
Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth in this prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first installment in the story of Bilbo Baggins (uncle to Frodo), we discover how the hobbitses gained possession of the ring in the middle of an adventure to find treasure. Martin Freeman stars as Bilbo, with Sir Ian McKellen reprising his role as Gandalf the Grey. Benedict Cumberbatch (best known as playing the title character in BBC’s Sherlock, opposite Freeman as John Watson) will also be in this movie. If you’re expecting another Lord of the Rings flick, this isn’t going to make you happy. The Hobbit is a far more lighthearted book than its sequels, and we can only hope that the three-part film translation will be as faithful to the tone of the books as Jackson’s other films. Definitely go see this; the acting is going to be phenomenal and it’s likely going to be a lot of fun.
The Guilt Trip
This movie stars Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as a mother and son who embark on an eight day cross country road trip together so that the main character can sell his latest invention. The pair get in to various misadventures, with the main characters both seeking love and embarrassing one another throughout. We can likely expect it to be pretty funny and somewhat heartwarming in the vein of Knocked Up and Meet the Fockers (though likely minus the stoner comedy). See it for no reason other than Yvonne Strahovski playing a stripper.
Zero Dark Thirty (Dec. 19)
This piece documents the search for Osama Bin Laden, starring Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, and Chris Pratt. This highly poignant docudrama, from the same writer-director team as The Hurt Locker, was given a controversial level of access to government records for research, and will likely be a unique marriage of journalism and filmmaking. It’s also likely to do very well come awards season, and you should definitely go see it.
Jack Reacher (Dec. 21)
Tom Cruise plays a homicide investigator thrust into the middle of a case where a military sniper takes out five random victims. An action-packed conspiracy film, Tom Cruise will be right in his Minority Report comfort zone in this one. This could potentially be the first of many films based on the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, and will likely make you think more than you expect going in to an action movie.
This is 40 (Dec. 21)
An indirect sequel to Knocked Up, this movie focuses on the marriage and family life of Debbie and Pete, who were the sister and brother-in-law to Katherine Heigl’s character in the first one. It’s about the struggles of turning 40 and will be marketed to your parents, but if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, this is another Judd Apatow movie. It might not be ridiculous stoner comedy like Pineapple Express or awkward teenager humor like Freaks and Geeks or Superbad, but it’s probably still going to be really funny. Both Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann were hilarious in these roles the first time around, and we have no reason to expect any less in this movie.
The Impossible (Dec. 21)
Another docudrama, this one is about the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and subsequent tsunamis. It focuses on Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, a couple vacationing in Thailand with their children, and the family gets separated when the tragedy strikes. This movie is going to be sad. It’s got potential for a happy ending, but that won’t come until it rips your heart out. And, of course, they chose to focus on a presumably wealthy white family when 230,000 people were tragically killed in Asia. It’s going to win all of the awards, and you’re going to resent this movie.
Les Misérables (Dec. 25)
The first film adaptation of the epic musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel (adaptception, I know). But this movie is, by far, the 100% everyone-must-see of the season. Directed by Tom Hooper (best known for The King’s Speech) and featuring an all-star cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen, this movie is going to be phenomenal. Film lovers will appreciate the grand scale and amazing production value, and theatre lovers will appreciate the cameos of some of the stage version’s iconic actors, and that all of the singing was recorded live on set. Go. See. This. Movie.
Django Unchained (Dec. 25)
The long-awaited period piece from the delightfully twisted mind of Quentin Tarantino, this movie has too many stars to count. Jamie Foxx plays the title character, a slave seeking freedom and revenge who teams up with a bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz to rescue his wife from the treacherous hands of a slave owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio. A cross between a classic western and a 70s Blaxploitation movie, this is definitely another must-see for the year.
Promised Land (Dec. 28)
Matt Damon and John Krasinski co-write and co-star in this drama about the struggle between a 9-billion-dollar natural gas corporation and a recession-riddled farming town over drilling on private land. Expect lots of eco-commentary and a happy ending wherein the stuffy businessman has an inspirational change of heart. It’ll be well-written and well-acted, and good things can be expected with the reunion of Damon and Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant.