Holiday Movie Preview

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Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”.

The fall/winter movie season is finally upon us. If you’re wondering what movies to look out for this fall/winter then here is a list of movies that you absolutely cannot miss. As one of the most highly regarded parts of the year when it comes to film and entertainment, the fall/winter movie season is usually known for end-of-the-year blockbusters and prestige pictures all fighting for ticket sales and awards consideration. This year promises to be one of the most exhilarating yet for cinephiles and moviegoers as many impending films look incredibly appealing.

This year in particular, the line between “blockbuster” and “prestige” is going to be blurred even more than ever before. We have typical fall blockbusters like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 or the final installment of Peter Jackson’s epic Middle Earth saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. However, there are some upcoming fall/winter films – such as Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings – that seem to mold dramatic artistry, breathtaking visuals and big ideas all rolled into one package. Whether or not those films deliver on those remain to be seen, but we’re seeing an ever increasing influx of independent, artful filmmakers with bigger budgets and more creative leeway. For one, I am really curious to see how Iñárritu blends some of the gorgeous visuals present in the trailer for Birdman with the story of an aging actor pulling for a comeback. On the same level, I can’t wait for Interstellar to see just how Nolan merges big sci-fi ideas with hard-hitting emotional themes.

Regardless of what ends up being disappointing and what ends up thrilling, there are sure to be films that will remain in the back of our retinas and the forefront of our brains for weeks and months to come. For one thing, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Christopher Nolan, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott and Tim Burton all have movies coming out this fall and winter. With so much talent and so many auspicious films on the horizon, let’s take a look at some of those films in greater detail.

October

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“Birdman”, due October 24th in wide release.

Birdman – When Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman was first announced, most people probably didn’t pay it much attention. But then… that visually gorgeous trailer was released and all of the sudden the film started popping up on people’s radars. Ever since, buzz has grown for the film like a sudden flock of flying birds – about a washed up film actor (Michael Keaton) who is staging a play in New York as his comeback – including some great festival buzz. Some are already calling it one of the best films of the year and signaling out Keaton’s performance. Audiences do love comebacks, especially one so meta. The film’s cast -including Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis – is sublime and the film features cinematography from Academy Award winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity). Do we really need to say any more? October 24th

John Wick – Keanu Reeves has built something of a name for himself. Ever since The Matrix films, he’s known for his dry delivery and stoic acting. The first Matrix film utilized Reeves’ “unique” acting style to its benefit but it doesn’t seem like many films have capitalized on that since, resulting in Reeves starring in a lot of movies that didn’t seem to quite gel with his personality and laid back demeanor. However, with John Wick, it finally seems like Reeves has found something that suits his acting style like a hand in a glove – or in this case, a pistol. The film, which follows Wick as a retired hitman who is once again pulled back into a world of violence and death, has a story which on paper seems pretty familiar. Retired hitman gets pulled out of retirement for revenge. However, the trailer was a lot of fun and features Reeves the liveliest he’s appeared in a while. The film is getting some good early buzz thanks to some positive screenings, calling John Wick Reeves’ best performance in a while. We’ll see if the film delivers, but let’s hope it does. Keanu Reeves can be a good actor given the right character and material. It’d be nice to see Reeves in something that suits him for a change. October 24th

Nightcrawler – If you aren’t familiar with Dan Gilroy, brother of Bourne scribe and Michael Clayton director Tony Gilroy, you will be after Nightcrawler. Working from his own script, Gilroy directs this Los Angeles centric story about Lou, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who stumbles upon a car accident and decides to take up recording terrible incidents as part of his new career. The film is filled with some great actors – Bill Paxton, Rene Russo, etc. – but much credit is being given to Gyllenhaal’s bravado performance. Like Drive, Los Angeles apparently is a character in and of itself in the film, so one can expect a similar moody and suspenseful tale set in the gloomy but attractive underbelly of Los Angeles. With a great cast, a terrific trailer and some very positive early reviews, Nightcrawler is one you shouldn’t miss this fall. October 31st 

Horns – Daniel Radcliffe can’t be accused for not trying. Even during his tenure as Harry Potter, Radcliffe tried early on to shed his young magician image by appearing in the controversial play Equus and the well-received horror film The Woman In Black. Now, with Horns, Radcliffe attempts to shed that image even further by appearing in this darkly comedic tale about a man (Radcliffe) who wakes up one day with horns growing out of his forehead. Radcliffe described the role as different than anything he’s done before, which seems exciting and fresh. I was able to see the film before its October 31st debut. It’s a great mix of emotional tenderness and dark, sardonic humor. Radcliffe is superb here and it is definitely one of his better performances to date. If anything the film will be a fun diversion for those looking for a Halloween-themed film this fall. October 31st

                                                                                       November

"Interstellar", due November 7th.
“Interstellar”, due November 7th.

Interstellar – Christopher Nolan. Outer space. Wormholes. What more do you need? With Christopher Nolan’s latest film Interstellar, the acclaimed British filmmaker takes a journey to unknown with this exciting tale of saving the Earth by exploring other solar systems. However, this is Nolan we are talking about, the master of twisty, intellectual thrillers where he’s so proficient at taking your expectations and sometimes quite literally turning them upside down. That’s exactly what he aims to do with Interstellar, which focuses on Matthew McConaughey as a pilot who must leave his family and journey beyond our solar system to find other inhabitable worlds when our world is dying. McConaughey is joined by Nolan alums Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and other such great talents like Jessica Chastain, John Ligthow, Casey Affleck and Ellen Burstyn. What a cast like that, some breathtaking visuals thanks to some truly out-of-this-world trailers and Nolan’s cred of delivering extraordinary spectacle filled with an emotional punch, Interstellar is sure to be one of fall’s most thrilling and rewarding movies. Just make sure to watch the film in 70mm IMAX or 35/65mm film (where it is available a couple days earlier starting on November 4th) to appreciate the full impact of what Interstellar has to offer. November 7th

Big Hero 6 – Walt Disney animation and Marvel Studios collide for what promises to be a highly entertaining animated superhero epic. Big Hero 6, based on an old but popular Marvel Comics title, is set in a fictional metropolis called San Fransokyo (a portmanteau of San Francisco and Tokyo) where a young robotics prodigy named Hiro (as voiced by Ryan Potter) and his robot friend Baymax (no relation to Michael Bay) uncover a criminal plot and pull together a team of inexperienced crime fighters to solve the mystery surrounding the crime. The animated film, directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, looks very promising based on the trailer. It seems to mix grandiose superheroics and hilarity in a seamless blend. Big Hero 6 is the first film to be released as a result of Disney’s acquisition of Marvel Entertainment, so it should be interesting to see what the first story mixing the two conglomerates achieves. Let’s hope it is as entertaining, energetic and charming as the trailer. November 7th

Dumb and Dumber To – This fall is full of moody thrillers, big event films and experimental indies. So, of course there has to be a comedy or two in the mix. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return as Lloyd and Harry respectively in Dumb and Dumber To, a sequel twenty years in the making. The Farrelly Brothers return to the characters last seen in 1994’s seminal comedy classic (I’m choosing to ignore the prequel…) in what promises to be a return to form for the filmmakers. Early reviews seem very positive, calling the film laugh-out-loud hilarious, but the trailers had a mixed reaction. There were some that thought the trailers didn’t miss a beat but others that thought it looked odd as Carrey and Daniels are significantly older than the last time they played their characters. There’s also concern the Farrelly Brothers won’t be as restrained as last time – a big reason why the original is such a classic is because the brothers were actually fairly restrained in their humor. Regardless, Dumb and Dumber To is going to make a lot of money at the box office as an alternative to some of the more fantasy-driven or spectacle-driven films coming out this fall. Let’s hope, after a twenty year wait, it delivers. November 14th

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“Foxcatcher”, due November 14th.

Foxcatcher – With this holiday preview I wanted to cover the blockbusters as much as the indies you might ordinarily miss. This brings us to Foxcatcher. Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) is slowly but assuredly rising up the ranks in the Hollywood stratosphere with each film he does as impressive as the last – and Foxcatcher looks to be no different. The film is getting a lot of buzz and attention in regards to Steve Carell’s performance as John du Pont, which is already getting Carell Oscar buzz. The story – about an Olympian coach (Carell) who trains a wrestling champion (Channing Tatum) when things go terribly wrong – seems tantalizing and chock full of suspense and intrigue based on the very mysterious trailer. Foxcatcher might not be on your radar now, but it should be. Trust me; this will be a film you’ll want to see before it becomes an awards contender early next year. November 14th

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – The final book in the Hunger Games series – spread out among two films – supposedly enriches and darkens the world of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in some pretty climatic and incredible ways. The Middle Earth saga comes to an end this fall with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and the Hunger Games saga is headed in that direction with the first part of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. The first chapter is a direct continuation of the last film, Catching Fire, which separated Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and had the beginning of the rebellion in full swing. Francis Lawrence, who took over from Gary Ross with the second installment, directs the final two films in the series. Catching Fire was a maturation of the franchise and judging by the trailer, Mockingjay seems to progress that maturation even further. Jennifer Lawrence is joined by franchise newcomer Julianne Moore and franchise regulars Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. November 21st 

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game
“The Imitation Game”, due November 21st.

The Imitation Game – This fall looks to be full of magnificent independent films that will surely be award contenders down the road. With so many films that will unquestionably feature magnetic performances from their leads, one performance to look out for this fall is Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. The historical thriller follows Turing – mathematician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist – who becomes a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany’s enigma code that helped the Allies win World War II. Cumberbatch is assisted by a stellar supporting cast including Kiera Knightley, Matthew Goode and Mark Strong. The film is getting some amazing early buzz after its premiere at the 41st Telluride Film Festival, with critics citing Cumberbatch’s performance as nothing short of spectacular. Among the extravagant blockbusters like The Hunger Games make sure to check out The Imitation Game this Thanksgiving. November 21st

Horrible Bosses 2 – The first Horrible Bosses was a surprise hit, earning over $200 million worldwide on a $35 million production budget. So of course a sequel was going to be in the cards. The first film’s stars – Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis – are joined by supporting stars Jennifer Aniston and Jamie Foxx who are also returning for the sequel. The bosses this time promise to be even funnier than last, with Star Trek’s Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz from Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained fame as the horrible bosses Bateman, Day and Sudeikis vow to take down. The trailers seem hilarious and you really can’t beat the comedic timing of Christoph Waltz, which seems like perfect casting. All we need is a post-credits stinger where Waltz and Foxx team up and take down everyone Django-style in the end, but that’s probably asking for too much. November 26th

December

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Ridley Scott has made a name for himself these last couple years making grandiose historical epics along the lines of Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood and of course Gladiator. With Exodus: Gods and Kings, Scott returns yet again with another beautiful looking film that deals with a certain period in our history – this time, covering the story of Moses and the Great Flood. We’ve seen another exceptionally talented filmmaker deal with a Biblical and historical epic earlier this year with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and it’ll be interesting to see Scott’s take on the familiar legend. Scott has received some criticism for “white washing” the story with actors Christian Bale (who plays Moses) and Joel Edgerton (who plays Rhamses) instead of casting actors of a different race, but I’m sure Scott’s story will be a faithful interpretation of the legend but with some stunning visuals. December 12th

Inherent Vice – Coming out the same day as Exodus: Gods and Kings, director Paul Thomas Anderson – known for such indie classics as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood and most recently The Master – has returned with what seems like another winner to add to his resume: Inherent Vice. The film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a private investigator who is investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend, seems a lot more comedic based on the trailer than Anderson’s latest efforts, which eschewed more towards the darker, more serious brand of storytelling (although The Master had plenty of humorous moments). Phoenix is joined by Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro and Maya Rudolph to name a few. With a cast like that and given Anderson’s reputation for making quirky, unforgettable masterpieces – I think it is safe to say Inherent Vice will be a movie you won’t want to miss. December 12th

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“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, due December 17th.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – The last chapter to Peter Jackson’s epic Middle Earth saga is almost upon us. With what started as a two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 320 page novel that jump-started the entire Middle Earth story, at some point Jackson decided to split the two movies into three. Earlier this year The Hobbit: There and Back Again, the third installment in the Hobbit trilogy, became The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. While some people claim the Hobbit movies aren’t nearly as well-made or endearing as Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, the Hobbit series has nevertheless made a huge amount of money at the box office and has its own loyal fans. Martin Freeman returns as Bilbo Baggins as the quest to reclaim the homeland of the Dwarves, led by Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, comes to a conclusion. Based on the trailers, The Battle of the Five Armies will undoubtedly be an epic resolution to Jackson’s trilogy and will likely be the last time we see these familiar characters, such as Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Orlando Bloom as Legolas and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. Even if you don’t like the Hobbit movies as much as The Lord of the Rings, it will surely be an event to say goodbye to J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe on the big screen. December 17th

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“Into the Woods”, due December 25th.

Into the Woods – It’s not Christmas without a musical and so the winter brings the Stephen Sodheim film adaptation of Into the Woods. Directed by Rob Marshall, who isn’t totally unfamiliar with musicals having brought to life the film adaptations of Chicago and Nine, returns to his musical roots after his time with Captain Jack Sparrow resulted in him getting voted off the Pirates of the Caribbean island. The film’s cast is star-studded, led by Meryl Streep (who likely hopes to spare you another Mamma Mia-esque disaster), Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp. There are already devoted fans of the book bemoaning the apparent tempering of one of the musical’s best songs, but Sodheim promises the film adaptation – produced by Disney – will be satisfying to those who appreciate the musical. We’ll find out if Sodheim is correct when Into the Woods sings its way into theaters on Christmas Day. Something tells us Pierce Brosnan probably won’t be in attendance. December 25th

American Sniper – Clint Eastwood and the fall movie season is fairly synonymous by now, which is why it is not surprising in the slightest that the esteemed Mr. Eastwood has a movie out this Christmas Day. American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and Kyle Gallner, centers on U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Cooper), who is sent to Iraq on a mission to protect his brothers-in-arms. This seems like another solid thriller from Eastwood, who is not totally unfamiliar with war dramas (both Flags of Our Fathers and its counterpart Letters from Iwo Jima were well-received, although Letters from Iwo Jima was received a bit more favorably). Bradley Cooper has also been proving himself to be a reliable leading actor as of late with Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. Judging by the trailer, this looks like another winner for both Eastwood and Cooper. Something tells me American Sniper will probably generate some Oscar buzz for both Eastwood (Best Director) and Cooper (Best Actor). If anything, there will be plenty of options at the multiplex on Christmas Day. December 25th

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“Big Eyes”, due December 25th.

Big Eyes – If musicals aren’t your cup of tea then spend Christmas Day with Tim Burton and his latest film, Big Eyes. Burton has built something of a reputation over the last decade or so for constantly working with Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and always churning out a Disney remake or something similar every few years. In an alternate universe, we would be talking about Tim Burton’s Into the Woods. However, this winter promises a different kind of movie for Burton, who is working with Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams in a movie that looks a bit different than what we’ve come to expect from the virtuoso filmmaker as of late. The film focuses on artist Margaret Keane (Adams), whose work was fraudulently claimed in the 1950s and 1960s by her then-husband, Walter Keane (Waltz). The film tells the story of their heated divorce battle wherein Margaret accused Walter of stealing her paintings. The trailer looked positively enchanting and I am really excited to see Burton do something different after so many movies that looked and felt the same. Ed Wood remains one of my favorite Burton movies and I can’t wait to see how Big Eyes fits into his repertoire. December 25th

Well, that’s my list. Are you satisfied with my line-up for the must-see movies of the fall and winter? Did I leave any off that you really wanted to see mentioned? If there are any movies that you felt I missed that are coming out in the next couple months, let me know in the comments below.

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