The election is over. Halloween has come and gone. And Christmas is right around the corner. The holiday movie season is upon us and 2012 offers a little something for everyone. The list of this year’s releases are quite impressive and feature everything from the return of some of cinema’s most popular characters (James Bond, the Twilight crew, and The Hobbit brings back some of our favorite Middle-Earth peeps) to some new big screen adventure seekers (Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher, Tarantino’s Django, and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi). There are a lot of quality releases during the months of November and December and as always happens this time of year, several of them aspire to Oscar contenders (see bottom of page). Below are the films I’m looking most forward to seeing from now until Christmas.
Flight - Director Robert Zemeckis teams with Denzel Washington for this drama an airline pilot who saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals that he was under the influence of alcohol while at the helm. Zemeckis doesn’t make many films these days, with his last being the animated effort A Christmas Carol. So, when he does decide to get behind the camera again, it is most certainly a must-see picture. Pairing him up with can-almost-do-no-wrong actor Washington makes for an interesting combination and the reviews have been solid for this one so far. Human dramas usually fare well, especially during this time of year, at the box office. Now Playing
Wreck It Ralph – Can Disney do any wrong when it comes to their animated films? Well, here is another example of why they are the best in the business when it comes to that department. A different take on the usual hero within storyline, this one is about video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives. The film is full of memorable characters and full of great animation. Audiences have cheered at screenings and the excitement it’s bringing the little ones should maintain throughout the holidays. John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, and Jack McBrayer are a few of the actors who lend their voices to the film. A cool concept that’s very well orchestrated by the Disney team. Now Playing
Skyfall – Bond is back and better than ever. Having seen this film, I can say that it is on par with the better of the oo7 pictures and falls just short of Casino Royale as my favorite Daniel Craig Bond trip. Director Sam Mendes does a great job at mixing the action with the drama, and Craig gives a deep, emotional performance that only adds to the reasons why he is my favorite oo7. Where he is great…Javier Bardem’s Silva is extraordinary. He is one of, if not, the creepiest of the Bond villains and he keeps you curious as to what he will do next. The Bond series is hotter than ever and Craig has signed to do a couple more, so it shows no signs of slowing down. Click link for full review. Now Playing
Lincoln – In development for two decades, Steven Spielberg finally brings his long awaited film about our 16th President. In a role that was initially intended for Liam Neeson, Daniel Day Lewis shows up and really knocks this one out of the park. Neeson probably would have done a fine job as well, but Day Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln is uncanny. It’s truly one of the finest performances you will ever see. They should just go ahead and give him the Oscar…it’s that good. The film itself centers around Lincoln’s final days in office, where he was entrenched in the Civil War. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones (who will most likely get an Oscar nomination), Joseph Gordon Levitt, and David Straithairn lead an all star cast. In my opinion, this is one of the must see films of the season. If historical dramas are not your thing, just go see it for Day Lewis’ performance. It in itself is worth the price of admission. Now Playing
Life of Pi – I’m probably more excited to see Ang Lee’s interpretation of the best-selling novel by Yann Martel more than anything this season. Why? Because critics are calling it the next Avatar due to its impressive visuals. The plot is about a young man, Pi, who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor … a fearsome Bengal tiger. Expect to be mind blown by the incredible cinematography and stunning visuals, but also prepare for an emotional journey about life’s themes and how to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster. Director Ang Lee will most likely receive an Oscar nomination for his efforts and the film itself is a sure thing for a Best Picture nod. If you see Life of Pi…see it in 3D. November 21
Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 2 – Love it or hate it, there is no denying that the Twilight franchise is one of the most popular ever to hit the silver screen. It definitely has a die-hard fan base, but the impressive thing about the series is how it managed to win over more than just it’s core audience. Well, here we are at the final film in the saga and critics are, for the most part, calling it the best of the series and a satisfying finale. Kristen Stewart’s Bella gets to do a lot more in this final film, as far as action sequences go. After the birth of Renesmee in the first part of the conclusion, the Cullens (Edward and gang) gather other vampire clans in order to protect the child from a false allegation that puts the family in front of the Volturi (the all mighty clan who make up all of the ‘rules’ that other vampires must follow). Moviegoers will turn out in droves to see this final Twilight film in order to say goodbye to Bella, Edward, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) . I think this series will go out on a very high note and Breaking Dawn 2 will be remembered as the best one of all. Now Playing
Rise of the Guardians – Disney is giving us Wreck It Ralph this holiday season, but Dreamworks also has something creative itself planned for release. Judging by the trailers, this animated fairy tale of sorts looks like a lot of fun and kids, as well as adults, should get a kick out of it. We get Sandman, North (aka Santa Claus), Bunny (aka the Easter Bunny), Jack Frost, and Tooth (aka the Tooth Fairy) joining forces to stop an evil spirit known as Pitch, who lays down the gauntlet to take over the world and hopes to destroy the hopes, beliefs and imagination of children all over the world. It’s the first time all of these characters have appeared together on-screen…albeit in animated form. Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, and Isla Fisher all lend their voices to the film. The animation looks wonderful and I’m hoping that this is the start of a new animated franchise. I would consider Rise of the Guardians the BIG HOLIDAY must see film between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Take your kids…I bet they love it. November 21
Silver Linings Playbook – This is a film that wasn’t really on my ‘must see’ list this season has suddenly shot it’s way into that category based on rave reviews from critics all over the country. The plot is as such – After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own. From what I’ve read, Cooper and Lawrence, are both at the top of their game here. Robert DeNiro, who plays Cooper’s father in the film, is also receiving high praise for his performance. The film itself appears to be a great mix of comedy and drama and that’s a testament to the direction and writing of David O. Russell. Russell also directed Three Kings and The Fighter. From beginning to end, Silver Linings Playbook could end up being one of the most enjoyable films of 2012. Also look for it come awards season. Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress, and Best Screenplay nods are a sure bet. November 21
Hitchcock – This season is the season for films about iconic people in American history. We have Spielberg’s Lincoln, Bill Murray portraying Franklin Roosevelt in Hyde Park on the Hudson, and also this film starring Anthony Hopkins in the lead role of Alfred Hitchcock. All of these films ARE NOT biopics however, as they both narrow time a particular time frame in the lives of the three men. Lincoln focuses on the Civil War era, Hudson focuses on one weekend in 1939, and Hitchcock focus on the making of his most famous film, Psycho. The main reason to see this film is simply to watch Hopkins sink his teeth into the role. Not a lot is known about the man himself, but Anthony definitely looks and acts the part well, based on what we have seen of Alfred. The film features an all-star cast that includes Jessica Biel, Helen Mirren, Toni Collette, and Scarlet Johansson. I’m not hearing much buzz as for as Best Picture for Hitchcock, but you can never count Hopkins out in the acting category. He has a decent chance at a nomination. November 23
Killing Them Softly – Brad Pitt’s new movie is flying under the radar this holiday season, probably due to it’s violent nature and lack of star power (other than Pitt, of course). Formerly titled Cogan’s Trade, Killing Them Softly stars Brad as Jackie Cogan, a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game. Pitt worked previously with director Andrew Dominik on The Assassination of Jesse James back in 2007. That film received praise from critics, even though it didn’t fare well at the box office. James also showed a lot of promise for director Dominik, who has only directed 3 films. Killing is a bit of a diversion for Pitt, who hasn’t really made a violent film since Fight Club. Word is that this film is super violent, but also very ‘talky’ in parts. While not a film for everyone, fans of Pitt and fans of well scripted, well acted productions might enjoy something different this time of year. November 30
Hyde Park on the Hudson – Bill Murray has been doing really good work over the past few years and it continues this year with the release of this drama/comedy that focuses on the love affair between Franklin D. Roosevelt and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley. The time frame of the plot is centered around the weekend in 1939 when the King and Queen of the United Kingdom visited upstate New York. Murray is the standout here, naturally, as his portrayal of FDR is said to be Oscar worthy. He is joined by Laura Linney, who portrays the cousin he’s involved with. Olivia Williams also stars as Eleanor Roosevelt and Samuel West portrays King George VI. The film is sort of reminiscent of last year’s My Week With Marilyn, where it takes a look at a small time frame of events regarding a famous individual. Look for Murray, and perhaps Linney to be up for acting awards…and perhaps, the film itself could get more buzz when it’s released in December. December 7
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Without a doubt one of the most anticipated films of the year, the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy arrives just in time for the Christmas rush. Part 1 begins the tale of a younger Bilbo Baggins, who journeys to the Lonely Mountain with a vigorous group of Dwarves to reclaim a treasure stolen from them by the dragon Smaug. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Several characters from the LOTR trilogy return including Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), Frodo (Elijah Wood), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman (Christopher Lee), and most importantly, Gollum (Andy Serkis). Joining them are The Necromancer (Benedict Cumberbatch), Thorin Oakershield (Richard Armitage), and many other characters that are likely to become household names. Peter Jackson is back to direct the two part prequel (thank God!) and I see no reason why both films shouldn’t do crazy business at the box office. Another added bonus – for those who decide to see The Hobbit in IMAX 3D will also get a sneak peek at Star Trek Into Darkness…a full 9 minutes worth!! The second part, titled The Desolation of Smaug, hits theaters December 2013. Also, several theaters around the country are also doing a Lord of the Rings Marathon leading up to the midnight release of The Hobbit. December 14
Monsters Inc. 3D – Yes, there is a sequel in the works titled Monsters University, but before the release of that check out the original in 3D. So far the Pixar films have been great in the format (the Toy Story series, Cars 2, and Finding Nemo) and I see no reason why Monsters Inc. wouldn’t also. It’s a good opportunity for parents to take their kids back to the theater to see the adventures of Mike and Sulley again. Plus, the film will be fresh in their minds when the sequel hits June 21 of next year. December 19
Zero Dark Thirty – Director Kathryn Bigelow scored big back in 2008 when her film The Hurt Locker took home the Best Picture Oscar, beating out the box office beast that was Avatar. It was a film that came out of nowhere and stole lots of buzz away from James Cameron’s epic. Can she do it again? Probably not…but you never know in Hollywood. There is always one film that seems to just ‘arrive’ and steal the thunder away from what most people consider a surefire Oscar winner. I was not happy with the Oscars for 2008 because being a big fan of Avatar, I thought it got robbed. However, I did enjoy The Hurt Locker and Bigelow is the only person I can see bringing the manhunt story of Osama Bin Laden to the big screen. The movie is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy SEAL Team 6 in May, 2011. There may not be a more ‘serious’ toned film this year than Zero Dark Thirty. Expect it to be tense, gritty, dark, and as close to reality as humanly possible. Jessica Chastain, who received praise for her role in last year’s Tree of Life and The Help, is already receiving notice from the few critics and audiences who have seen the film. Joining her are Mark Duplass, Joel Edgerton, Kyle Chandler, Chris Pratt, Scott Adkins, James Gandolfini, and Harold Parrineau. ZDT could slide in as a Best Picture nominee come awards season. Limited release in December; opens wide January 11
The Impossible – This dramatic tale of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the mayhem of one of the worst natural catastrophes of our time stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. The film tells the true story of a family who survived the 2004 tsunami that swept over the coast of Thailand, causing some 5000 deaths. This is yet another film that people aren’t really talking about yet here in the States, but probably will become a major topic of conversation when it’s released next month. The Impossible opened in Spain early October and audiences called it nothing less than extraordinary. From the action to the intense drama, it was praised for it’s realistic tale of heroism. Both McGregor and especially Watts, have been mentioned during Oscar talk. The film has an outside shot at a nomination, but expect Watts to definitely receive one. These type of survival movies usually do well with audiences, so hopefully word of mouth will spread and people will turn out to see it. Another interesting fact – Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin, also has a role. Opens limited December 21; then wide in January
Jack Reacher – Tom Cruise does well with the action genre, for the most part. Last December, he had a massive worldwide hit with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. He seems to stumble a bit when he steps outside of that genre these days (see Rock of Ages), but there is no doubt that he has a following. His new film, which looks similar in tone to Brad Pitt’s Killing Them Softly, is about a homicide investigator who digs deeper into a case involving a trained military sniper that shot five random victims. Jack Reacher is obviously the title character portrayed by Cruise. The film was initially titled One Shot. Expect a couple of plot twists in this one and also get ready for an aggressively angry performance by Cruise. The film co-stars Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, and Richard Jenkins (who ironically is also in Killing Them Softly). The studio, Paramount, is said to be so thrilled with the final cut that they want director Christopher McQuarrie to helm Mission: Impossible 5. Not looking at any awards here, but the film looks like a fun couple of hours at the theater. December 21
Les Miserables – Love them or hate them, musicals are a staple in today’s Hollywood. For every hit, there are about 4 misses, but the studios still feel like giving the genre a shot every so often. Most of them look like the same old, same old, but not this impressive looking film version of the hugely successful stage musical based on Victor Hugo’s 19th century classic novel. The trailers for the film really peaked my interest and it really looks like a glorious production. Hugh Jackman plays Prisoner 24601, known as Jean Valjean, who is released from prison and breaks parole to create a new life for himself while evading the grip of the persistent Inspector Javert. The production is set in early revolutionary France and the story reaches resolution against the background of the June Rebellion. Expect fine performances from all involved. Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Russell Crowe, and Isabelle Allen (the little girl on the movie poster) all lend their acting and vocal talents to this much anticipated version of the classic story. Jackman and Hathaway appear to be the standouts, so expect to hear their names during awards season. In my opinion, not a bad way to spend Christmas Day (which is opening day) if you decide to go to the movies. December 25
This is 40 – In a season that appears to be fairly short on comedies, the one that looks the most promising is this sort-of-but-not-really sequel to the hit, Knocked Up. More of a spinoff, the story follows the characters of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they hit that all important age of 40. The film is directed by Judd Apatow, the man behind Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin. Joining Rudd and Mann are Jason Segel (who can always be counted on for at least a few laughs), Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, Albert Brooks, and John Lithgow. If it’s right on par with Knocked Up, then the film should play well through the holidays and into the new year. December 21
Django Unchained – One of my must see movies of 2012 finally arrives on kind of a strange date…December 25th. Why strange? Well, this type of film normally gets released in late September, early October and the subject matter is not one that fits the season. However, this is Quentin Tarantino. The man doesn’t make many films, but when he does, they are of exceptional quality. Django looks like another classic from the quirky director. Just look at this cast…it’s incredible. Leonardo DiCaprio is the bad guy. Jamie Foxx plays the title character. Christoph Waltz is Django’s mentor. Kerry Washington is Django’s wife. Don Johnson, Jonah Hill, and Samuel L. Jackson also have small roles. The plot centers around a former dentist, Dr. King Schultz (Waltz), who buys the freedom of a slave, Django, and trains him with the intent to make him his deputy bounty hunter. Instead, he is led to the site of Django’s wife who is under the hands of Calvin Candie (Leo), a ruthless plantation owner. The film is basically a spaghetti western put in the violent hands of Quentin. What do I expect? Possibly one of the ‘coolest’ westerns ever seen. As far as Oscar talk…well, Tarantino is hit and miss with the Academy. You can never really count him out though. I haven’t read anything about acting awards yet, but the film hasn’t been seen by many people yet. Foxx and DiCaprio always do fine work, as does Waltz, so you never know. December 25
The Guilt Trip – The final film on my must see list of the season is a comedy starring Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogen, as a mother/son team who go on a road trip to try to sell his latest invention. As mentioned above, comedies are scarce between now and the end of the year, so if one comes out and word of mouth is positive, it could mean good things at the box office. The pairing of Streisand and Rogen is an odd one, but it’s also one that could work. Barbara doesn’t do many films these days, so you know her fans will turn out. Rogen is also slowly building a fan base, so together, you might see an interesting looking auditorium opening night. In other words, a good mix of young and older audiences will probably enjoy the film. Adam Scott, Yvonne Strahovski, and Colin Hanks also star. December 19
We are now officially entering what the industry calls the ‘award season’. Certain films are officially making their mark with critics and are standing out from the rest in the festival circuit. A handful of films and performances are pretty much a sure bet, while others can gain momentum heading toward the end of the year. Flip side to that…some movies that garnered buzz months ago also start to lose a bit of steam. Let’s take a look at the frontrunners…
Best Picture Potentials (** frontrunner as of this article)
**Argo – Opened in October and has made a nice amount of money. Great word of mouth has helped it become the frontrunner for Best Picture. It is truly a great film with a lot of suspense. Highly recommended.
The Life of Pi – Ang Lee’s visual wonder could gain just the right amount of buzz post-Thanksgiving to give Argo a run for its money.
Les Miserables – Releasing on Christmas Day, the performances will probably stand out more than the actual film. However, you can never really count out a dramatic musical and they don’t get much more dramatic than this.
Lincoln - Critics are loving Spielberg’s film about our 16th President. Unfortunately, there is not much talk of ‘winning’ a Best Picture Oscar. The performances, especially Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, and Tommy Lee Jones, are getting mentioned a lot.
Silver Linings Playbook – Remember me saying that one film kind of comes out of nowhere and becomes a frontrunner in late December, early January? Well, I think this could be the sleeper that could become top dog by Oscar time. Some critics are already calling it ‘the most enjoyable film of 2012′.
The Master – A film that was a frontrunner in early September when it started screening, but has lost ground since then. I wouldn’t expect a win for Best Picture, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman has a great chance at taking home a statuette. Joaquin Phoenix will most likely receive a nomination as well.
Long shots: Zero Dark Thirty, The Impossible, Django Unchained, Hyde Park on the Hudson, Hitchcock, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
**Daniel Day Lewis – Lincoln – A near lock to take home the Oscar.
John Hawkes – The Sessions
Joaquin Pheonix – The Master
Richard Gere – Arbitage
Anthony Hopkins – Hitchcock
Long shots – Denzel Washington (for Flight – you could really pick either him or Gere), Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Bill Murray (Hyde Park on the Hudson), Ben Affleck (Argo) and Matt Damon (Promised Land).
**Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer is the favorite right now in a tight category. Don’t rule out Naomi Watts though…hearing that her performance could win over Oscar voters.
Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
Naomi Watts – The Impossible
Quvenzhane Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
Marion Cotillard – Rust and Bone
Long shots – Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed), and Laura Linney (Hyde Park on the Hudson).
Steven Spielberg – Lincoln
David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
**Ben Affleck – Argo – He did an extraordinary job bringing a story that might not appeal to many people to the big screen in a way that everyone enjoyed. But watch out for Ang Lee…bringing that novel to life was no easy task.
Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Paul Thomas Anderson – The Master
Longshots – Tom Hooper (Les Miserables), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Robert Zemeckis (Flight), Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises), Peter Jackson (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey).
Best Supporting Actor and Actress
Alan Arkin – Argo
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln
Robert DeNiro – Silver Linings Playbook
**Phillip Seymour Hoffman – The Master – The man to beat after giving what critics called ‘one of the finest performances to ever hit the silver screen’.
Ewan McGregor – The Impossible
Long shots – Javier Bardem (Skyfall), Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Russell Crowe (Les Miserables), Hal Holbrook (Promised Land), William H. Macy (The Sessions)
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Sally Field – Lincoln
**Helen Hunt – The Sessions – Her role as a professional sex surrogate is so against what Hunt has normally done that her performance has been all the rave in the festival circuit. Look for that to carry over to the Golden Globes and then The Oscars. Anne Hathaway also has a decent shot.
Amy Adams – The Master
Maggie Smith – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
It’s still a bit early to fully predict the Oscar nominees for 2012 and those who are frontrunners now, might not be a month from now. I think that Life of Pi, Les Miserables, and Silver Linings Playbook will gain momentum heading into the new year, while The Master and Lincoln will lose a bit of steam.
There are plenty of great looking films coming out between now and the end of 2012. Looking at this list, there is a little something for everyone. The season is a bit light on comedies (Guilt Trip and This is 40 are the standouts) and a bit heavy on the action front (Jack Reacher, Skyfall, and on and on). We get to see the end of a franchise with Breaking Dawn Part 2 and the continuation of one with the return of James Bond. The best thing about movies this time of year is being able to watch some stellar performances. Where the summer movie season relies heavily on big-budget action films, the last couple of months dish out some of the best acting you will see all year. That’s why they call it ‘Awards’ season. That’s all from me. Now, off to see Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln…for the second time.