Wild — Reese Witherspoon has an Oscar, lest we forget. The woman can act. However, of late she hasn’t really done much to warrant that claim to fame, which is why Wild seems so important. The majority of the film is Witherspoon, in the role of Cheryl Strayed, who hiked 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to heal herself following her mother’s death, her heroin addiction and a divorce. Witherspoon commands the screen with her performance, which will likely be enough to fill seats, even if the overall film has received some mixed responses from critics. (12/12)
Inherent Vice — Paul Anderson knows how to make a good film: Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood and The Master were all helmed by him. It stands to reason, then, that Inherent Vice, based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Pynchon will be equally as enjoyable. With a high-caliber cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Reese Witherspoon, the psychedelic crime romp promises equal parts suspenseful thriller and surreal drama. (12/12)
Exodus: Gods and Kings — Noah clearly opened the floodgates for biblical epics to make a grand return, as now acclaimed director Ridley Scott brings his spin on some Old Testament fantasy. This time around, it’s Moses (Christian Bale) who’s featured, with the story leading up to the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. If we quietly ignore the casting of white actors in all of the lead roles of a film set in Africa, then it’s sure to be enjoyable popcorn fare. (12/12)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — Peter Jackson’s third and final film in the Hobbit trilogy seeks to wring the last few drops of money from a franchise everyone stopped caring about shortly after the first film two years ago. Spoiler alert: Middle-Earth survives to feature in the vastly superior — and less obviously profit-driven — Lord of the Rings trilogy. (12/19)
Annie — For the first time in 32 years, Annie steps off Broadway and onto the big screen. While many, this writer included, may fondly remember the ‘80s version, this Annie is a very different film indeed. Thoroughly modern and set in New York City, it’s produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith, stars Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks, a new version of Daddy Warbucks, Cameron Diaz as Mrs Hannigan and Oscar-nominee Quvenzhané Wallis as little orphan Annie. Some may complain that Annie isn’t white and lacks her trademark red hair, but we urge you to show those people back to the ‘50s where they belong, while the rest of us get ready to sing along at the cinema. (12/19)
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb — Sue me, but I enjoyed the prior two entries in the Night at the Museum franchise. They were fun, enchanting tales for kids and adults who like to think they’re kids to justify watching a movie intended for kids. Still with me? Regardless of whether you have a penchant for films about museum pieces that spring to life at night, this third and final entry will hold a special place for many who go to see it: it marks one of the final times we’ll get to enjoy the brilliance that is Robin Williams with fresh material. Yes, Secret of the Tomb may transpire to be a clunker, but for Williams alone, it may be worth the price of entry. (12/19)
The Interview — This is one of the most important films on this list. Why? It’s so controversial, North Korea has threatened “stern” and “merciless” retaliation should it be released. It will be an oddly amusing thing indeed if the straw that breaks the North Korean camel’s back should be a film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. The premise? Our lead pair are producer and presenter for a popular tabloid show, and are sent to North Korea to interview its dictator, Kim Jong-un. Hilarity apparently ensues when the CIA recruit the two men to assassinate Kim Jong-un during the interview. It will likely be an amusing film, but worth angering the world’s petulant child, North Korea? Definitely. Team America failed to spark any serious problems ten years ago, and it showed then leader Kim Jong-il singing, dancing and being shot repeatedly.
Unbroken — Angelina Jolie steps behind the camera to direct this war epic, about the life of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner whose plane was shot down in WWII, survived in a raft with two other crewmen for 47 days and then was captured by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp, where he was tortured and punished until the end of the war. If Jolie handles the film well, it’ll make for a poignant Christmas Day release. (12/25)
Into the Woods — Yes. This is what we’re talking about. Based on the eponymous Broadway musical, Into the Woods is a reimagining of the Grimm fairytales, intertwining several characters from various tales into one plot. Meryl Streep is onboard as the Witch, who curses The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt), preventing them from having a family. In order to break the curse, they must venture out into the world and interact with other storybook characters, including Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Prince Charming (Chris Pine, in a perfect bit of casting), and Red Riding Hood’s Wolf (Johnny Depp). As it’s Disney, expect the film to be a little more sanitized than the musical, but it should be deliciously good fun all the same.
Paddington — No. As someone who fondly remembers the ‘70s TV series, with its mix of 2D drawings and 3D stop-motion Paddington, I’m not ready to have the eponymous bear be recreated in CGI and placed into a real-world setting. Not even with Hugh Bonneville, Julie Walters and Nicole Kidman starring and the producer of the Harry Potter films, David Heyman, controlling things. Just no. I’m still trying to get over the awful Garfield films. (12/25)
Big Eyes — Tim Burton steps back into the directing chair, only this time it’s not fantasy or stop-motion animation, but a drama focused on the lives of Walter and Margaret Keane, who each claimed to be the artist behind a series of works for which Walter Keane took initial credit. Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams star as the couple, which should make for a pretty incredible display of acting if the pair have the chemistry required to play the sparring pair of artists. (12/25)
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 — The last film on our list also wins the award for most pointless sequel. The first Hot Tub Time Machine was a guilty pleasure, neither a critical nor commercial smash hit, but a film you could enjoy had you stopped caring about finding something better to watch. Did it need a sequel, which features the main cast — sans John Cusack — going forward in time to stop a murder? If you have any answer other than “No,” be thankful we’re at the end of the list, because we’d be too ashamed with your life choices to let you read on.
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