Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Movie Preview: December 2014
December 5th - 7th-
On a platform release, the movie Wild hit 21 theaters this weekend, earning just over $600,000. This is another Oscar-hopeful that chronicles the life of Cheryl Strayed, who embarked on an 1,100 mile journey in the 1990's on the Pacific Crest Trail all by herself, despite no previous backpacking experience, after going through a lot of personal struggles. Strayed wrote a book about her experiences that became a best-seller and now has a movie adaption. Jean-Marc Vallée is the director here and he is coming off a lot of success from last year's Dallas Buyers Club, which got nominated for six Oscars, winning three of them. While there isn't as much buzz from Wild at the moment, star Reese Witherspoon should be right in the thick of the competitive best actress race.
December 12th - 14th-
Also getting an official nationwide release is Chris Rock's Top Five. The famous comedian is pulling triple duty in this as director, writer, and star, which is his third time doing do. His previous stints include Head of State (2003) and I Think I Love My Wife (2007). In the movie, Chris Rock is playing a comedian who's trying to make it as a serious actor. Is the a reflection of his own personal life? Maybe. If Rock was trying to make it as a serious actor, it would fit very well, but it looks like this is all comedy here, which is what Rock is pretty good at.
On the platform front, this week's Oscar-hopeful is director Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice. Anderson has had plenty of luck with the award scene as he has had five nominations, most notably with There Will Be Blood in 2007, but he has yet to win any personal awards for his movies as There Will Be Blood only won in the acting and cinematography categories. He completely missed out with his most recent film The Master and is hoping to recover with this one. Inherent Vice is a crime drama based off the book by Thomas Pynchon that centers around a Los Angeles detective in the 1970's who is investigating the disappearance of a former girlfriend. It has quite the loaded cast led by Joaquin Phoenix, who is hoping for justice after being left out by Oscar last year, and also stars Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Michael Kenneth Williams, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon among others.
December 19th - 21st-
Family audiences have been neglected a lot this year, but this weekend gives them two different options for the season. The first of which is a movie that been advertised for an amazingly long time now and that is the umpteenth version of the classic musical Annie. When casting rumors first came out, it almost appeared to some that this was going to be a politically correct version of Annie that featured an all-black cast. Not that this would've necessarily been a bad idea, but that turned out to be false. Instead, it appeared that they were just looking for the most talented young actress they could find and they did a pretty good job as the young Quvenzhané Wallis is not too far removed from being the youngest actress ever to get an Oscar nomination for best actress (Beasts of the Southern Wild). Wallis is joined in the movie by Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, who also have had a good track record recently. Whether or not audiences will be enamored with this latest version of Annie is a different story, though.
The second option for family audiences is the third movie in the Night at the Museum franchise, entitled Night at the Museum: The Secret of the Tomb. The first Night at the Museum became a surprise hit back in 2006 sparking a sequel in 2009 that also played well, although with a significant dip-off from the first. Some people will certainly be wondering if a third Night at the Museum movie was really necessary and thus might decide to skip this one. But it could provide some good counter-programming if it can survive the battle between it and Annie. Another advantage the movie has is that it stars Robin Williams in what will be his final live action role. Those who were touched and inspired by this man, which is most people that lived through the 90's, may want to check this one to see legend perform one last time.
That's it for the nationwide releases, but we are not done as we have another pair of Oscar-hopefuls getting their start. The first of these two is The Gambler. Out of the two limited release films, this is the one that will probably go over better with general audiences, but might be the one that gets ignored by Oscar. It's a crime drama about, you guessed it, a gambler. Mark Wahlberg stars as he plays a character that gets himself sucked into quite the intense situation. If this gets any award nominations, it will be for Wahlberg's co-star in the movie, John Goodman. However, Goodman has had a habit recently of getting rumored to get nominated, but getting left out in the end. One of these days he might actually get the nomination, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The limited release that has a better chance of getting a nomination or two, but yet might not go over as well with general audiences is Mr. Turner. This movie dives into the life of famous British painter J.M.W. Turner who died in the year 1851. Timothy Spall plays the lead role of Mr. Turner in this movie and there's good reason to suggest that he'll at least get a long, serious look by the Academy when it comes to Oscar nominations. The reasoning for this is that he actually won the Best Actor award earlier this year in the Cannes Film Festival. Spall has had a long and successful career, but hasn't had a whole lot of opportunities to play a lead role like this. Even those who haven't liked the film have recognized that he does a good job in it. Those who don't recognize his name right of the bat will probably have a light bulb experience when I mention that he played Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies.
December 25th - 28th-
Chicago. Also, the original people who worked on the Into the Woods musical also worked on this movie. And it has quite the phenomenal cast in that includes Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Ana Kendrick, Chris Pine, and James Corden.
Next up is the movie that most likely scared Hot Tub Time Machine 2 away and that is The Interview. This movie is a comedy wherein James Franco and Seth Rogen are recruited to go assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jung-un. The real life Kim Jung-un has not been shy about his feelings on this movie. In fact, he's gone as far as threatening to attack the United States if they end up releasing the movie. World War III started because of a movie that gets released on Christmas Day? Probably not. North Korea is pretty good at making threats that they don't follow up on. Plus that would be a really bad idea on North Korea's part to attack the United States. However, by issuing this threat, Kim Jung-un has done the movie a huge favor by raising awareness as most have just found this threat comedic and instead have become excited for this movie. Word is, though, that they may have done some post-production alterations in order to appease Kim Jung-un.
The third and final nationwide release is a movie that has had a whole ton of Oscar-buzz ever since it was announced. That is Unbroken. This tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, who was a U.S. Olympic runner back in the late 1930's. When the war broke out and the next Olympics were cancelled, he enlisted and was assigned to fight on the Japanese front. This movie is based on the book of the same title that dives into his experiences as a prisoner of war in Japan and thus goes into detail about what life was like on this front, which is something that isn't discussed as much as the German front is. The movie stars Jack O'Connell as Zamperini as well as Domnhall Gleeson as his friend in the war and Japanese rock star Miyavi as the character known as "The Bird," who causes him much mental and physical anguish. All three have received their fair share of awards buzz. Director and Oscar-darling Angelina Jolie has also received a lot of attention for her work on this. On top of all this, the movie is very timely as the real life Zamperini recently passed away.
That's it for the nationwide releases, but there's also a whole bunch of limited release movies coming out in order to get their Oscar-qualifying run in before they get their nationwide release in January. Recently entering the scene as not only a strong contender to get nominated, but to win best picture is the movie Selma. This, along with several others, will get it's nationwide release in January, so this is almost a brief preview of next month as well. But I include it here because this is the official release date and it's fun to talk about all the Oscar-hopefuls in one post. That said, Selma is a movie about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement, specifically focusing on all the marches that were influential in getting the Civil Rights Bill moving forward. Selma, Alabama could be seen as the climax of all this, hence the title. The King himself is played by David Oyelowo. Oyelowo was most recently seen in the movie Interstellar as the principal, but is probably best known for his role in 2012's Jack Reacher. Joining Oyelowo in the movie is Carmen Ojego as Coretta Scott King, Tim Roth as George Wallace, and Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B Johnson as well as appearances from Martin Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Oprah Winfrey.
Up next is a movie that is actually losing a bit of steam in the Oscar race due to a poor showing recently, but is still hoping to sneak in some nominations. That is American Sniper. This tells the story of Navy S.E.A.L. Chris Kyle who was one of the most famous snipers as he had over 150 confirmed kills. Bradley Cooper plays the title role and it's been quite the successful ride for Cooper. Not only has he had two straight Oscar nominations for his roles in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, but he also voiced the extremely popular Rocket Raccoon in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy earlier this year. But alas, a poor showing could cause him to break his streak of Oscar nominations due to the intense race this year. However, American Sniper should still play well for general audiences. A comparable title would be Lone Survivor, another war movie about the Navy S.E.A.L.S. that was mostly ignored by the Academy but went on to huge box office totals in January this past January. American Sniper will probably do the same as it gets its nationwide release on the third weekend of January.
This is not the extent of the Oscar-hopefuls that will officially get their qualifying run in at the end of the year, but it is the last one I will talk about in this post. This last movie is Tim Burton's Big Eyes. Now immediately when you hear the name Tim Burton, you will automatically assume that this will be a weird, crazy movie. That's a fair assumption considering Burton's past, but it would actually be wrong in this instance. This is actually a very normal movie. It's a movie about painter Margaret Keane who had great success in the 1950's, but struggled with legal difficulties as her husband started claiming all of her work as his own. This pair is played by Christof Waltz and Amy Adams. If Amy Adams gets a nomination this would make it her sixth nomination in the last ten years. Some would call her unlucky for getting nominated five times and losing every single time. Others would recognize that she could see it as quite the honor to get five nominees because many actors play out their whole career without a single nomination. Either way, it was initially thought that Oscar could finally award her for her efforts and give her a win. But now that's not the case as Julianne Moore is almost seen as a lock to win.