Features





Holiday at the movies: FJI previews the November and December releases

Oct 21, 2013

-By Sarah Sluis & Anna Storm


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Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in 'Saving Mr. Banks'

The 2013 holiday lineup brings both fantasy and action heroes (Katniss Everdeen, Thor, Bilbo Baggins, Jack Ryan) and real-life exemplars of courage (Nelson Mandela, the Monuments Men). And then there are the would-be heroes like Walter Mitty and Ron Burgundy. In all, the movies promise to “stay classy” this season.

November Highlights
Rachel McAdams from The Time Traveler’s Wife is the object of affection for another time traveler in About Time. Guided by the sage advice of his father (Bill Nighy), gawky Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) uses his family’s secret time-jumping ability to woo the girl of his dreams (McAdams). But his magical gift comes with unexpected ripple effects that may put the entire relationship in jeopardy. Love Actually’s Richard Curtis tackles another British romance with a light touch. (Universal; Nov. 1)

Matthew McConaughey plays a hard-living Texan diagnosed with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club. As a bit of a drug dealer himself, he’s used to procuring and selling illicit substances. Faced with few treatment options, he hawks non-FDA-approved drugs that may save the lives of people who have been given mere months to live. Those used to seeing tabloid photos of McConaughey’s abs will be shocked by his gaunt appearance, and Jared Leto undergoes a similar transformation as Rayon, his female-identifying business partner. Occurring during the same time period as last year’s Oscar-nominated documentary How To Survive A Plague, this ’80s-set biopic draws inspiration from real-life activist Ron Woodroof. (Focus; Nov. 1)

Naomi Watts plays the late Princess of Wales in Diana, which explores the final two years of the icon’s life, during which she expanded her humanitarianism and embarked on a secret love affair. Naveen Andrews (“Lost”) and Douglas Hodge co-star in this biopic from director Oliver Hirschbiegel ( Downfall). (Entertainment One; Nov. 1)

Almost two decades before The Hunger Games, there was Ender’s Game, a 1985 sci-fi novel about a young hero that captivated kids and adults alike. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) stars as Ender, a child prodigy who boards a spaceship to enroll in Battle School. By inventing new tactics, the boy will be able to defeat the aliens that have ravaged Earth. Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley play the adults, while Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld round out the cast of children. Gavin Hood ( X-Men Origins: Wolverine) helmed the adventure. (Summit; Nov.1)

Two turkeys attempt to save their brethren’s skin from a crispy fate at Thanksgiving inFree Birds. The feathered duo travel back in time to make sure the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrate their first Thanksgiving without turkey as the main dish, thus changing the holiday tradition forever. Owen Wilson voices a turkey pardoned by the President himself, while Woody Harrelson plays the leader of the Turkey Liberation Front. Adding to the list of talents is Amy Poehler as a 17th-century turkey they meet on their travels. (Relativity Media; Nov. 1)

Senior citizens take on Las Vegas for a bachelor party in Last Vegas, and no, it isn’t a parody of The Hangover. When a longtime bachelor (Michael Douglas) announces he’s finally getting married (to a woman half his age, of course), he gathers up his three childhood friends for an epic weekend in Vegas. Fellow Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline play the other members of the crotchety, self-mocking and pill-taking quartet. Jon Turteltaub ( National Treasure) directed. (CBS Films; Nov. 1).

Documentarian Alex Gibney has a thing for prominent men who both gain and lose their fortunes through illegal activities, covering the scandals of Enron, sex abuse-hiding Catholic clerics, and men like Jack Abramoff and Elliot Spitzer. In The Armstrong Lie, he turns his lens to Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France winner who outrode years of doping rumors before his Livestrong empire came crashing down. (Sony Pictures Classics; Nov. 8)

Could The Book Thief, an adaptation of the lyrical bestselling novel, be this year’s Life of Pi? French-Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse stars as a girl whose foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) hide a Jewish man in their basement in Nazi Germany. The two develop a friendship, but with war on the horizon, the safety of the man and the future of her existence are in question. “Downton Abbey”’s Brian Percival directed. (20th Century Fox; Nov. 8)

The latest of the Avengers members to unveil a sequel is the Viking-esque warrior Thor, who again must save the world in Thor: The Dark World. Facing foes from all sides, the god battles both his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and an Asgardian warrior (Christopher Eccleston) intent on annihilating Earth. Natalie Portman, a human, is whisked up into Asgard and joins the fight. This time around, “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor infuses the tale with a wee bit of a Westeros sensibility. (Paramount; Nov. 8)

Vince Vaughn plays a man whose sperm donations result in 533 children in Delivery Man. The offspring file a court case to find out his identity, but in the meantime the man-child spies on his adult kids, trying to see if he can help them get their own lives on track. But could being a father—times 533—actually make the commitment-phobe grow up? Chris Pratt (“Parks & Recreation”) should provide some zingers as the man’s lawyer and pal. Ken Scott directed this remake of his own work, the French-Canadian hit Starbuck.(Disney/DreamWorks; Nov. 22)

The first Hunger Games had an opening weekend of $152 million. The stakes are higher, and the crowds will likely be bigger for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Star Jennifer Lawrence, who has since won an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, returns as the fierce Katniss, whose triumphant, subversive victory in a brutal fight-to-the-death tournament has incited pockets of revolt in the tale’s totalitarian society. She’s forced to return to the Hunger Games for a second tournament in this follow-up, which again co-stars Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci, plus new arrival Sam Clafin. (Lionsgate; Nov. 22)

An elderly man (Bruce Dern) convinced he’s won a sweepstakes takes his adult son (Will Forte) on a road trip to claim his prize in Nebraska. Director Alexander Payne, no stranger to road-trip movies ( Sideways) or the Heartland ( About Schmidt), directed the black-and-white drama with a comedic bite. At the Cannes Film Festival, Dern won Best Actor for his performance. (Paramount; Nov. 22)

Based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, Philomena chronicles the struggle of the titular character (Judi Dench) to find the son she bore out of wedlock, and subsequently gave away for adoption, many years earlier. Though she signed a contract forbidding inquiries into the child’s whereabouts (standard Irish-Catholic church practice), that doesn’t stop the intrepid mother from doing all she can to redress this wrong. Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa) wrote the screenplay and plays Sixsmith. Stephen Frears ( The Queen) directed. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 22)

The gospel musical Black Nativity gets updated for the hip-hop age. Big musical names sing its stirring score, taken from a libretto written by poet Langston Hughes. Jacob Latimore plays Langston, a Baltimore teen whose single mom (Jennifer Hudson) sends him to spend the holidays with his grandparents (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). His reverend grandfather instills powerful lessons into the teen, in a movie that also features performances from an angelic-looking Mary J. Blige and Tyrese Gibson. Actor and director Kasi Lemmons helmed. (Fox Searchlight; Nov. 27)

A fearless princess attempts to save her kingdom from eternal winter in Disney’s Frozen. Kristen Bell voices the scrappy heroine determined to break the spell cast by her older sister, who was born with the power to create ice and snow. With a mountain man and a reindeer sidekick, Bell’s character treks through a frigid landscape in her quest. If the trailer is an accurate predictor, count on antler-clad Sven to provide the most audience giggles. Chris Buck ( Tarzan) and Jennifer Lee directed the 3D-animated feature. (Disney; Nov. 27)

Jason Statham is a former DEA agent and widower who just wants to live the quiet life with his 10-year-old daughter in Homefront. But when he gets on the wrong side of his small town’s meth drug lord (James Franco) and his wife (Winona Ryder), he uses his arsenal of skills to defend his little girl. Twisting the formula that made Taken such a success, this Southern-set, dark action movie gets additional juice from a script by Sylvester Stallone, who adapted a novel by Chuck Logan. Runaway Jury’s Gary Fleder helmed. (Open Road Films; Nov. 27)

An English-language remake of the Korean hit among in-the-know cinephiles, Oldboy stars Josh Brolin as a man suddenly turned loose after being mysteriously imprisoned, and compelled to search for answers about the man who was his captor. Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson co-star in the twisted action-thriller, directed by Spike Lee. (FilmDistrict; Nov. 27)

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before becoming the President of South Africa, a nation legally segregated through apartheid. Idris Elba (“The Wire,” Prometheus) takes on the title role in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which is based on the anti-apartheid crusader’s autobiography. Naomie Harris ( Skyfall) plays his wife Winnie, and Justin Chadwick ( The Other Boleyn Girl) directed. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 29)

Also in November

Two brothers discover their Polish town’s dark past—complicity in murdering the area’s Jews—in Aftermath. In Poland, the movie has incited criticism from right-wingers and death threats were lodged at actor Maciej Stuhr. (Menemsha Films; Nov. 1)

A tattoo artist and a banjo player fall in love in The Broken Circle Breakdown; then tragedy strikes their new family. Actor Johan Heldenbergh stars in an adaptation of a play he co-wrote. (Tribeca Film; Nov. 1)

A professor (Michael Caine) rediscovers his zest for life in Last Love when he develops a bond with a young dance instructor (Clémence Poésy). (RLJ Entertainment; Nov. 1)

Keanu Reeves gives tai chi a makeover in Man of Tai Chi. The slow martial arts, often seen practiced by elderly people in parks, is a talent that takes Reeves’ character to underground fight clubs. The Matrix actor also makes this directorial debut with the fight-fueled action movie. (Music Box Films; Nov. 1)

If these woods could talk, they might recount the tale of the three guitarists—Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars, Chris Martin of Martin Guitars, and Dave Berryman of Gibson Guitars—who took to the Alaskan rainforest on a mission to save the trees that beget their acoustic instruments from Native American loggers. The documentary Musicwood also features cameos from indie darlings Kaki King, Yo La Tengo, The Antlers and Steve Earle. (Helpman Prods.; Nov. 1)

In A Perfect Man, Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn play James and Nina, a couple whose nine-year marriage falls apart when she discovers his serial infidelity. Then Nina finds a way to rekindle his interest by impersonating his perky travel agent. (IFC Films; Nov. 1)

Cultural critic and philosopher Slavoj Zizek explains the often hilarious, always intriguing hidden ideologies in our favorite movies, songs and more in The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. The follow-up to The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema was directed once again by Sophie Fiennes. (Zeitgeist Films; Nov. 1)

The granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway struggles with her family history of mental illness in the documentaryRunning From Crazy. (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network; Nov. 1)

Sal covers the final day in the life of 1950s teen idol Sal Mineo (Val Lauren), who was on the brink of a comeback two decades later when tragedy struck. James Franco directed. (Tribeca Film; Nov. 1)

A group of Rwandan women open an ice cream shop and form a drum troupe in Sweet Dreams, a documentary about their resilience in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. (International Film Circuit; Nov. 1)

A young Pakistani runaway navigates the urban streets of Karachi as he searches for, and tries to find the meaning of, home in the documentary These Birds Walk. (Oscilloscope; Nov. 1)

With its allusions to social issues like race relations, Night of the Living Dead became a horror phenomenon, loved by critics and audiences high and low. The “making-of” documentary Birth of the Living Dead reveals the humble origins of director George Romero’s horror touchstone, shot on a low budget with a guerrilla shooting style. (First Run/Glass Eye Pix; Nov. 6)

In A Case of You, Justin Long plays a writer who creates a colorful online personality to woo the cute barista at his local coffee shop, only to be forced to live up to the hype in real life. Evan Rachel Wood, Sienna Miller, Busy Phillips, Peter Dinklage and Brendan Fraser co-star. (IFC Films; Nov. 6)

Following the end of the Korean War, thousands of Korean children were adopted by Westerners. Korean director Jung Henin’s filmic memoir, Approved for Adoption, intercuts his own animation with family footage to tell the tale of his at once idyllic and fraught childhood, growing up as one of the East’s displaced, adopted sons. (GKIDS; Nov. 8)

In Ass Backwards, Casey Wilson (“Happy Endings”) and June Diane Raphael (“Burning Love”) play best friends who return to the hometown where they lost a children’s beauty pageant. Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Cryer, Alicia Silverstone and Bob Odenkirk co-star. (Gravitas Ventures; Nov. 8)

Documentarian Frederick Wiseman marks his 40th picture with At Berkeley, an inside look at the administration of the public university during a tumultuous academic year. (Zipporah Films; Nov. 8)

Caucus offers an intimate look at the Republican presidential candidates vying to win the 2012 Iowa Caucus, the first big contest of the election season. The memorable cast of characters includes Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. AJ Schnack directed. (Bonfire Films; Nov. 8)

Director Liz Marshall spent a year tailing animal photographer Jo-Anne MacArthur for her progressive documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine, encountering a number of furry friends who have been rescued from, and are currently imprisoned within, the food and manufacturing industry “machines.” (Ghosts Media; Nov. 8)

Returning to the Mexican-American border that inspired his Oscar-nominated film Lone Star, writer-director John Sayles delves deep into the Tijuana underbelly with Go for Sisters’ tale of two reunited childhood friends—one a recently released convict, the other her new parole officer—who must work together to avoid perpetuating the cycle of broken families. (Variance Films; Nov. 8)

An American teen falls in love for the first time during a vacation in England in How I Live Now. During the same summer, a modern-day world war breaks out. Saoirse Ronan ( The Host, Atonement) grows up in the romantic war drama, which was directed by Kevin Macdonald ( The Last King of Scotland). (Magnolia; Nov. 8)

Offering a peek at the struggles of rural America, the documentary Medora follows the Medora, Indiana varsity basketball team over the course of one season as the town’s high-schoolers fight—much like their neighbors—to beat the odds, and end a disheartening losing streak. (Beachside Films; Nov. 8)

In The Motel Life, two struggling working-class brothers (Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff) face complicated choices after one of them is involved in a hit-and-run accident. Dakota Fanning co-stars in the Reno, Nevada-set drama. (Polsky Films/FilmBuff; Nov. 8)

In Paris Countdown, two former nightclub owners and unlucky criminals (Olivier Marchal and Jacques Gamblin) must face the psychotic partner they sold out to the police several years ago if they’re to survive. From the producers of Point Blank and A Gang Story. (Screen Media Films; Nov. 8)

People of a Feather offers an intimate look into the Inuit community of Canada’s Belcher Islands, focusing on the their relationship with the eider duck. Both flesh and fowl must contend with modern challenges (such as hydroelectric dams disrupting ocean currents) that pose a threat to their traditional, symbiotic way of life. (First Run Features; Nov. 8)

American poet Elizabeth Bishop is the subject of director Bruno Barreto’s ( Four Days in September) new biographical romance, set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1950s Brazil. In Reaching for the Moon, Bishop travels to Rio de Janiero in hopes of loosening her writer’s block, only to find much more than scenic inspiration: a new muse in the form of her friend’s bohemian partner, the architect Lota de Macedo. (Wolfe Releasing & Dada Films; Nov. 8)

The past and present of two modern artists is explored in the documentary Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here. The camera follows the married pair as they prepare for upcoming exhibitions and confront their Soviet roots. (Nov. 13)

Bill Watterson is the quiet artist behind the beloved comic strip “Calvin & Hobbes,” and Dear Mr. Watterson is the documentary that seeks to understand (without bothering or sensationalizing Mr. Watterson) the simple cartoon’s enduring impact. (Gravitas Ventures; Nov. 15)

Has it really been a decade and a half? The gang from the 1999 hit romantic comedy The Best Man decides to get together for some yuletide merriment in The Best Man Holiday. The cast includes Terrence Howard (now with an Oscar nod under his belt), along with Nia Long, Taye Diggs and Eddie Cibrian. With the friends in various stages of dating, marriage and childrearing, the gathering stokes rivalries and romantic flames alike. (Universal; Nov. 15)

Shia LaBeouf isCharlie Countryman, a young American in Budapest who falls for a beautiful musician (Evan Rachel Wood). Unfortunately, she’s also involved with a ruthless gangster. Mads Mikkelsen, Rupert Grint, Til Schweiger, Melissa Leo and John Hurt lend support. (Millennium Entertainment; Nov. 15)

The aptly named Cold Turkey is a comedy-drama about a highly dysfunctional family whose secrets are exposed at a Thanksgiving gathering. Director Peter Bogdanovich is the patriarch, with support from Cheryl Hines, Alicia Witt, Sonya Walger (“Lost”) and Ashton Holmes (“Revenge”). (FilmBuff; Nov. 15)

A man sells his soul to the Devil in order to possess the woman he loves in a hallucinatory reimagining of Faust. The 19th-century story by Goethe is given an update infused with director Alexander Sokurov’s cinematic vision, which won his film the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion award. (Leisure Time Features; Nov. 15)

Teenagers struggle with their sexual identities in Geography Club, based on the best-selling young-adult novel by Brent Hartinger. Cameron Deane Stewart, Justin Deeley, Nikki Blonsky ( Hairspray) and Alec Newell (“Glee”) head the cast. (Breaking Glass Pictures; Nov. 15)

The Great Beauty is Italy’s official entry to the Academy Awards, and comes to the States having screened as an official selection at both the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals. Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo of Gomorrah) is a journalist still riding the success of his one and only novel decades after its publication when, on the night of his 65th birthday, a jolt from his past forces him to re-examine his life, friends, and Rome itself. Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo) directed. (Janus Films; Nov. 15)

Blue-collar convenience store clerk Melissa (Naomi Watts) and her disabled boyfriend Richie (Matt Dillon) believe they’ve found a much-needed reason for hope when Melissa becomes pregnant, but their optimism is soon tested when circumstances take a turn for the worse in writer-director Laurie Collyer’s Sunlight Jr. (Gravitas Ventures & Samuel Goldwyn Films; Nov. 15)

The documentary 12-12-12 goes behind the scenes at last year’s Hurricane Sandy benefit concert at Madison Square Garden, which raised $50 million for the Robin Hood Fund. The amazing lineup of performers includes Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, Jon Bon Jovi, Kanye West, Dave Grohl, Roger Waters, Eddie Vedder, Michael Stipe and Chris Martin. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 15)

Through interviews with the late-’50s pinup star, the documentary Bettie Page Reveals All gives juicy new details about the icon’s life, as well as her influence on generations to come. (Music Box Films; Nov. 22)

Two-time Grammy-award nominee and former Internet sensation Susan Boyle makes her feature film debut in the family-friendly The Christmas Candle. Ingrained traditions and newfangled thinking collide in the small English town of Gladbury when progressive minister David Richmond (Hans Matheson of Clash of the Titans) comes to town at the turn of the 20th century, championing good deeds as the new recipe for modern miracles. (Nov. 22)

The latest sign of how drugs have permeated Mexican culture comes from the documentary Narco Cultura. Photojournalist and director Saul Schwarz follows musicians who make their living by singing drug ballads, or “narcocorridas,” which glorify the traffickers’ outlaw status. (Cinedigm; Nov. 22)

The documentary The Punk Singer looks at the life of Kathleen Hanna, who founded the punk band Bikini Kill and kick-started the "riot grrrl" movement of the 1990s. (IFC Films; Nov. 29)

December Highlights

The Coen Brothers apply their touch to the ’60s Greenwich Village music scene in Inside Llewyn Davis. Oscar Isaac stars as a struggling folk musician looking for a shot at fame. Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake play a married musical duo competing with Davis. Longtime Coen Brothers collaborator John Goodman appears, and audiences will hear T Bone Burnett on the soundtrack, which also includes the voice of one of the hottest lead singers out there—Marcus Mumford (who also happens to be Mulligan’s husband). (CBS Films; Dec. 6)

A struggling blue-collar worker (Christian Bale) lives his life with integrity, but he’s compelled to take justice into his own hands in Out of the Furnace. When his brother (Casey Affleck), a veteran with ties to criminals, disappears, he decides to track down the people responsible. Zoe Saldana supports as Bale’s wife. Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe round out the cast. Crazy Heart writer-director Scott Cooper helmed. (Relativity Media; Dec. 6)

Breaking the law looks like a lot of fun in American Hustle. David O. Russell, fresh off directing his Oscar-winning picture Silver Linings Playbook, helms a cast filled with actors who have struck Oscar gold in Russell-directed films. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play two romantically involved con artists who are forced to work with an out-of-control federal agent (Bradley Cooper) to turn the tables on criminals and politicians alike in Camden, New Jersey. 1980s period hairstyles and costumes add to the sleazy fun. Jennifer Lawrence adds a third point to a love triangle involving Bale and Adams. (Sony/Columbia; Dec. 13)

Bilbo takes on a gold-hungry dragon in the second in the Hobbit cinema trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Professional villain Benedict Cumberbatch breathes fire into the dragon character through motion-capture technology, which allowed him to give the creature a full range of expression. Peter Jackson continues to helm, guiding a cast that includes Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen. (Warner Bros.; Dec. 13)

During production on Mary Poppins in 1964, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and the book’s author, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), clashed as they made the adaptation from page to screen. Saving Mr. Banks focuses on this little-known corner of cinema history, which offers a peek at two visionaries and the compromises they make to forge a children’s classic. The Blind Side’s John Lee Hancock is at the helm of the biographical tale, which features performances from Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell and Jason Schwartzman. (Disney; Dec. 13)

Madea puts on her Santa hat and gets in the holiday spirit in Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. Perry’s tell-it-like-it-is Madea has appeared in most of his films, and this Christmas movie will be her next stop before she appears in, you heard it here first, an animated kids’ movie. In the latest installment, the matriarch gets upset when she discovers her niece’s daughter (Tika Sumpter) has married a white farmer, whose parents (Larry the Cable Guy and Kathy Najimy) are also straight country. Will Madea’s opinions ruin the holiday? (Lionsgate; Dec. 13)

Call them 21st-century star-crossed lovers. Spike Jonze’s comedy/drama Her focuses on an introverted writer, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), whose relationship with his smart, funny and sensitive advanced operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) begets deeper feelings—on both sides. The buzz-worthy cast also includes Phoenix’s The Master co-star Amy Adams, Rooney Mara ( The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Olivia Wilde ( Rush). (Warner Bros.; Dec. 18).

George Clooney leads a team of scrappy soldiers on a hunt to rescue art looted by Nazis in The Monuments Men. As the Germans retreat, their job is to save precious masterworks before they’re destroyed—which means going behind enemy lines. Clooney, who also directed, assembles a cast that includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett. Yes, this is a true story: The details of the adventure inspired a book, which Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov ( The Men Who Stare at Goats) adapted for the screenplay. (Columbia; Dec. 18)

Nine years ago, college students could be heard quoting Anchorman’s catch phrases, like “Scotchy scotch scotch” and “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” The news crew returns for more zaniness in Anchorman: The Legend Continues. This time, they’re in New York City in the early ’80s, on the cusp of the 24-hour cable news era. A mustachioed Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd, along with Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and many more comedic stars, fill out this sequel about egos bigger than hairdos. Adam McKay returns to direct a project that also bears the stamp of producer Judd Apatow. Until December, this is Ron Burgundy signing off—“You stay classy, San Diego.” (Paramount; Dec. 20)

The hit Broadway play August: Osage County has been cast with some major stars in its move to the big screen. Word from Toronto is that the adaptation works. After the death of their patriarch, a dysfunctional family convenes for a funeral that brings out all the crazy the relatives have to offer. Leading the cast are Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor, with able support from the likes of Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson and Sam Shepard. Tracy Letts, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the play, also adapted the screenplay. John Wells ( The Company Men) helmed. (Weinstein Co.; Dec. 25)

The samurai movie gets a new twist in 47 Ronin. Keanu Reeves plays a half-Japanese, half-English man who teams up with a group of ronin warriors to avenge the death of their master. In this version of 17th-century Japan, samurai share the land with mythical beasts and giants. The troubled production from first-time feature director Carl Rinsch could pull a World War Z and end up a hit, and tales of its dramatic, long-delayed release will have everyone in Hollywood following its performance closely. (Universal; Dec. 25)

It’s Rocky vs. Raging Bull in Grudge Match, which pits Sylvester Stallone against Robert De Niro as two aging boxers who decide the best way to settle their rivalry is by donning their gloves and entering the ring. The action comedy from Get Smart director Peter Segal winks at the actors’ iconic roles, but it did also pose a problem for the crew, who had to decide which of the legends would win the rematch. Kim Basinger co-stars. (Warner Bros.; Dec. 25)

During the apex of his fame, Charles Dickens met a 17-year-old actress, Nelly (Felicity Jones), and the two embarked on a Victorian-era love affair. Ralph Fiennes plays the great English novelist in The Invisible Woman, which also marks the actor’s second time in the director’s chair. He’s joined by Tom Hollander and Kristin Scott Thomas in a tale that drew strong reviews at the Toronto Film Festival. Iron Lady screenwriter Abi Morgan adapted the script from a nonfiction book about the secret liaison. (Sony Pictures Classics; Dec. 25)

Author Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst, Jack Ryan, has been played by many actors—including Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Chris Pine exchanges his Captain Kirk suit to take on the famous role in Jack Ryan. The Russians are it again in this tale of intrigue, and it’s up to Ryan to foil a plot by terrorists to use an attack in order to ruin the economy. Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner round out the cast in the thriller from Thor director Kenneth Branagh. (Paramount; Dec. 25)

A single mom and her teenage son find themselves entertaining an unexpected—and unwelcome—guest inLabor Day. A wounded convict (Josh Brolin) demands a ride, toeing the line between seeking refuge and holding the pair (Kate Winslet and Gattlin Griffith) hostage over the long weekend. Juno and Up in the Air director Jason Reitman tackles this adaptation of a Joyce Maynard novel, which has drawn raves at its outings at Telluride and Toronto. (Paramount; Dec. 25)

Everyone has things they would do in life if they weren’t so afraid. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty takes this poignant reality and spins a heartwarming tale about a timid man who decides he’s had enough of his average-Joe life. Ben Stiller plays the titular Life magazine employee who dreams up fabulous adventures for himself. He’s then spurred to go on a real one, with a co-worker ( Bridesmaids’ Kristen Wiig) egging him on. Stiller also directed this drama, which is adapted from the James Thurber short story first published in The New Yorker in 1939. (20th Century Fox; Dec. 25)

The incredibly realistic prehistoric creatures in CG-animated Walking with Dinosaurs evoke a nature program, not the cuddly creatures in The Land Before Time. But kids will likely swoon for the teeny triceratops that propels this tale, which is filled with dozens of species of dinosaurs. The 3D, CG-animated family movie comes courtesy of BBC Earth, which aims to make an immersive experience that will rival a visit to a natural history museum. (20th Century Fox; Dec. 25)

Leonardo DiCaprio’s come a long way from being a third-class passenger on the Titanic. In The Wolf of Wall Street, he plays high-flying financier Jordan Belfort, whose idea of fun involves chartering a yacht. Back in the ’90s, the stockbroker lived the good life, at least until he spent 22 months in jail for securities fraud. DiCaprio again pairs with director Martin Scorsese, who shows all signs of creating another gleeful look at criminality, in the vein of GoodFellas and Casino. It also marks the fifth time DiCaprio and Scorsese have worked together. “Boardwalk Empire”’s Terence Winter adapted the script from Belfort’s autobiography, and Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill appear as Belfort’s business associates. (Paramount; tentative Dec. 25)

The title might give away the end of this war movie, but Lone Survivor should be harrowing nonetheless. Mark Wahlberg stars in a recreation of a firefight between Navy SEALs and Taliban forces in a remote corner of Afghanistan. The ambushed soldiers fought heroically, but 19 of them lost their lives—leaving one survivor, Marcus Luttrell, who wrote a best-seller about the battle. Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch co-star in the latest from Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg. (Universal; Dec. 27)

Also in December
It’s a compelling question: How did Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (he of Girl With a Pearl Earring fame) manage to paint so photo-realistically over a hundred years before the invention of photography? The documentary Tim’s Vermeer follows Texas inventor Tim Jenison as he travels the world searching for an answer. It’s directed by comedian-magician Teller, and produced by his partner-in-crime Penn Jillette. (Sony Pictures Classics; Dec. 6)

At Christmastime, a suddenly widowed real-estate agent forms an unexpected bond with her late husband’s hard-partying mistress in White Reindeer. Anna Margaret Hollyman and Laura Lemar-Goldsborough co-star in writer-director Zach Clark’s offbeat comedy. (IFC Films; Dec. 6)

Director Errol Morris’ last documentary on a controversial Secretary of Defense—Robert McNamara in The Fog of War—earned him an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. This time around, Morris’ subject may be a tougher sell. The Unknown Known profiles Donald Rumsfeld, the political figure against whom much of the country’s vitriol about the Iraq War has been directed. Unlike a reflective McNamara, Rumsfeld remains staunchly unapologetic about his time in the White House. (Radius-TWC; Dec. 13)

The Paris-set relationship drama The Past is the latest from acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi ( A Separation). After traveling from Tehran to Paris to finalize his divorce from his French wife (Bérénice Bejo from The Artist), a man (Ali Mosaffa) turns his attention to her teenage daughter (Pauline Burlet), whose fraught relationship with her mother hides a deep secret. (Sony Pictures Classics; Dec. 20)

Pop idol and tabloid magnet Justin Bieber urges his fans to Believe as his second concert movie hits the big screen for the holidays. Jon Chu, who directed his 2011 outing Never Say Never, returns at the helm. (Open Road Films; Dec. 25)

Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, The Lovely Bones) stars as a lover who won’t take no for an answer in writer-director Neil LaBute’s Some Velvet Morning. Having been away for four years, Fred shows up at his mistress Velvet’s (Alice Eve) doorstep one morning, claiming he has finally left his wife. When Velvet rebuffs him, his desire quickly devolves into obsession. (Tribeca Film; Dec. 26)

An underdog tale for the media age, One Chance recounts the true story of the “Britain’s Got Talent” star with the appropriately humble name, Paul Potts (James Corden of The History Boys), as he overcomes his modest beginnings as a bullied shop assistant to win one of the world’s most popular talent competitions. Julie Walters ( Mamma Mia!) co-stars, and David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) directs the feel-good feature. (Weinstein Co.; Dec. 27)

All release dates are subject to change.



Holiday at the movies: FJI previews the November and December releases

Oct 21, 2013

-By Sarah Sluis & Anna Storm


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1387288-Winter_Festival_Md.jpg

Martin Freeman in 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'

The 2013 holiday lineup brings both fantasy and action heroes (Katniss Everdeen, Thor, Bilbo Baggins, Jack Ryan) and real-life exemplars of courage (Nelson Mandela, the Monuments Men). And then there are the would-be heroes like Walter Mitty and Ron Burgundy. In all, the movies promise to “stay classy” this season.

November Highlights
Rachel McAdams from The Time Traveler’s Wife is the object of affection for another time traveler in About Time. Guided by the sage advice of his father (Bill Nighy), gawky Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) uses his family’s secret time-jumping ability to woo the girl of his dreams (McAdams). But his magical gift comes with unexpected ripple effects that may put the entire relationship in jeopardy. Love Actually’s Richard Curtis tackles another British romance with a light touch. (Universal; Nov. 1)

Matthew McConaughey plays a hard-living Texan diagnosed with AIDS in Dallas Buyers Club. As a bit of a drug dealer himself, he’s used to procuring and selling illicit substances. Faced with few treatment options, he hawks non-FDA-approved drugs that may save the lives of people who have been given mere months to live. Those used to seeing tabloid photos of McConaughey’s abs will be shocked by his gaunt appearance, and Jared Leto undergoes a similar transformation as Rayon, his female-identifying business partner. Occurring during the same time period as last year’s Oscar-nominated documentary How To Survive A Plague, this ’80s-set biopic draws inspiration from real-life activist Ron Woodroof. (Focus; Nov. 1)

Naomi Watts plays the late Princess of Wales in Diana, which explores the final two years of the icon’s life, during which she expanded her humanitarianism and embarked on a secret love affair. Naveen Andrews (“Lost”) and Douglas Hodge co-star in this biopic from director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall). (Entertainment One; Nov. 1)

Almost two decades before The Hunger Games, there was Ender’s Game, a 1985 sci-fi novel about a young hero that captivated kids and adults alike. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) stars as Ender, a child prodigy who boards a spaceship to enroll in Battle School. By inventing new tactics, the boy will be able to defeat the aliens that have ravaged Earth. Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley play the adults, while Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld round out the cast of children. Gavin Hood (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) helmed the adventure. (Summit; Nov.1)

Two turkeys attempt to save their brethren’s skin from a crispy fate at Thanksgiving in Free Birds. The feathered duo travel back in time to make sure the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrate their first Thanksgiving without turkey as the main dish, thus changing the holiday tradition forever. Owen Wilson voices a turkey pardoned by the President himself, while Woody Harrelson plays the leader of the Turkey Liberation Front. Adding to the list of talents is Amy Poehler as a 17th-century turkey they meet on their travels. (Relativity Media; Nov. 1)

Senior citizens take on Las Vegas for a bachelor party in Last Vegas, and no, it isn’t a parody of The Hangover. When a longtime bachelor (Michael Douglas) announces he’s finally getting married (to a woman half his age, of course), he gathers up his three childhood friends for an epic weekend in Vegas. Fellow Oscar winners Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline play the other members of the crotchety, self-mocking and pill-taking quartet. Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) directed. (CBS Films; Nov. 1).

Documentarian Alex Gibney has a thing for prominent men who both gain and lose their fortunes through illegal activities, covering the scandals of Enron, sex abuse-hiding Catholic clerics, and men like Jack Abramoff and Elliot Spitzer. In The Armstrong Lie, he turns his lens to Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France winner who outrode years of doping rumors before his Livestrong empire came crashing down. (Sony Pictures Classics; Nov. 8)

Could The Book Thief, an adaptation of the lyrical bestselling novel, be this year’s Life of Pi? French-Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse stars as a girl whose foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) hide a Jewish man in their basement in Nazi Germany. The two develop a friendship, but with war on the horizon, the safety of the man and the future of her existence are in question. “Downton Abbey”’s Brian Percival directed. (20th Century Fox; Nov. 8)

The latest of the Avengers members to unveil a sequel is the Viking-esque warrior Thor, who again must save the world in Thor: The Dark World. Facing foes from all sides, the god battles both his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and an Asgardian warrior (Christopher Eccleston) intent on annihilating Earth. Natalie Portman, a human, is whisked up into Asgard and joins the fight. This time around, “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor infuses the tale with a wee bit of a Westeros sensibility. (Paramount; Nov. 8)

Vince Vaughn plays a man whose sperm donations result in 533 children in Delivery Man. The offspring file a court case to find out his identity, but in the meantime the man-child spies on his adult kids, trying to see if he can help them get their own lives on track. But could being a father—times 533—actually make the commitment-phobe grow up? Chris Pratt (“Parks & Recreation”) should provide some zingers as the man’s lawyer and pal. Ken Scott directed this remake of his own work, the French-Canadian hit Starbuck.(Disney/DreamWorks; Nov. 22)

The first Hunger Games had an opening weekend of $152 million. The stakes are higher, and the crowds will likely be bigger for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Star Jennifer Lawrence, who has since won an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, returns as the fierce Katniss, whose triumphant, subversive victory in a brutal fight-to-the-death tournament has incited pockets of revolt in the tale’s totalitarian society. She’s forced to return to the Hunger Games for a second tournament in this follow-up, which again co-stars Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci, plus new arrival Sam Clafin. (Lionsgate; Nov. 22)

An elderly man (Bruce Dern) convinced he’s won a sweepstakes takes his adult son (Will Forte) on a road trip to claim his prize in Nebraska. Director Alexander Payne, no stranger to road-trip movies (Sideways) or the Heartland (About Schmidt), directed the black-and-white drama with a comedic bite. At the Cannes Film Festival, Dern won Best Actor for his performance. (Paramount; Nov. 22)

Based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, Philomena chronicles the struggle of the titular character (Judi Dench) to find the son she bore out of wedlock, and subsequently gave away for adoption, many years earlier. Though she signed a contract forbidding inquiries into the child’s whereabouts (standard Irish-Catholic church practice), that doesn’t stop the intrepid mother from doing all she can to redress this wrong. Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa) wrote the screenplay and plays Sixsmith. Stephen Frears (The Queen) directed. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 22)

The gospel musical Black Nativity gets updated for the hip-hop age. Big musical names sing its stirring score, taken from a libretto written by poet Langston Hughes. Jacob Latimore plays Langston, a Baltimore teen whose single mom (Jennifer Hudson) sends him to spend the holidays with his grandparents (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). His reverend grandfather instills powerful lessons into the teen, in a movie that also features performances from an angelic-looking Mary J. Blige and Tyrese Gibson. Actor and director Kasi Lemmons helmed. (Fox Searchlight; Nov. 27)

A fearless princess attempts to save her kingdom from eternal winter in Disney’s Frozen. Kristen Bell voices the scrappy heroine determined to break the spell cast by her older sister, who was born with the power to create ice and snow. With a mountain man and a reindeer sidekick, Bell’s character treks through a frigid landscape in her quest. If the trailer is an accurate predictor, count on antler-clad Sven to provide the most audience giggles. Chris Buck (Tarzan) and Jennifer Lee directed the 3D-animated feature. (Disney; Nov. 27)

Jason Statham is a former DEA agent and widower who just wants to live the quiet life with his 10-year-old daughter in Homefront. But when he gets on the wrong side of his small town’s meth drug lord (James Franco) and his wife (Winona Ryder), he uses his arsenal of skills to defend his little girl. Twisting the formula that made Taken such a success, this Southern-set, dark action movie gets additional juice from a script by Sylvester Stallone, who adapted a novel by Chuck Logan. Runaway Jury’s Gary Fleder helmed. (Open Road Films; Nov. 27)

An English-language remake of the Korean hit among in-the-know cinephiles, Oldboy stars Josh Brolin as a man suddenly turned loose after being mysteriously imprisoned, and compelled to search for answers about the man who was his captor. Sharlto Copley, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson co-star in the twisted action-thriller, directed by Spike Lee. (FilmDistrict; Nov. 27)

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before becoming the President of South Africa, a nation legally segregated through apartheid. Idris Elba (“The Wire,” Prometheus) takes on the title role in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which is based on the anti-apartheid crusader’s autobiography. Naomie Harris (Skyfall) plays his wife Winnie, and Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directed. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 29)

Also in November

Two brothers discover their Polish town’s dark past—complicity in murdering the area’s Jews—in Aftermath. In Poland, the movie has incited criticism from right-wingers and death threats were lodged at actor Maciej Stuhr. (Menemsha Films; Nov. 1)

A tattoo artist and a banjo player fall in love in The Broken Circle Breakdown; then tragedy strikes their new family. Actor Johan Heldenbergh stars in an adaptation of a play he co-wrote. (Tribeca Film; Nov. 1)

A professor (Michael Caine) rediscovers his zest for life in Last Love when he develops a bond with a young dance instructor (Clémence Poésy). (RLJ Entertainment; Nov. 1)

Keanu Reeves gives tai chi a makeover in Man of Tai Chi. The slow martial arts, often seen practiced by elderly people in parks, is a talent that takes Reeves’ character to underground fight clubs. The Matrix actor also makes this directorial debut with the fight-fueled action movie. (Music Box Films; Nov. 1)

If these woods could talk, they might recount the tale of the three guitarists—Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars, Chris Martin of Martin Guitars, and Dave Berryman of Gibson Guitars—who took to the Alaskan rainforest on a mission to save the trees that beget their acoustic instruments from Native American loggers. The documentary Musicwood also features cameos from indie darlings Kaki King, Yo La Tengo, The Antlers and Steve Earle. (Helpman Prods.; Nov. 1)

In A Perfect Man, Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn play James and Nina, a couple whose nine-year marriage falls apart when she discovers his serial infidelity. Then Nina finds a way to rekindle his interest by impersonating his perky travel agent. (IFC Films; Nov. 1)

Cultural critic and philosopher Slavoj Zizek explains the often hilarious, always intriguing hidden ideologies in our favorite movies, songs and more in The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. The follow-up to The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema was directed once again by Sophie Fiennes. (Zeitgeist Films; Nov. 1)

The granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway struggles with her family history of mental illness in the documentary Running From Crazy. (OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network; Nov. 1)

Sal covers the final day in the life of 1950s teen idol Sal Mineo (Val Lauren), who was on the brink of a comeback two decades later when tragedy struck. James Franco directed. (Tribeca Film; Nov. 1)

A group of Rwandan women open an ice cream shop and form a drum troupe in Sweet Dreams, a documentary about their resilience in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. (International Film Circuit; Nov. 1)

A young Pakistani runaway navigates the urban streets of Karachi as he searches for, and tries to find the meaning of, home in the documentary These Birds Walk. (Oscilloscope; Nov. 1)

With its allusions to social issues like race relations, Night of the Living Dead became a horror phenomenon, loved by critics and audiences high and low. The “making-of” documentary Birth of the Living Dead reveals the humble origins of director George Romero’s horror touchstone, shot on a low budget with a guerrilla shooting style. (First Run/Glass Eye Pix; Nov. 6)

In A Case of You, Justin Long plays a writer who creates a colorful online personality to woo the cute barista at his local coffee shop, only to be forced to live up to the hype in real life. Evan Rachel Wood, Sienna Miller, Busy Phillips, Peter Dinklage and Brendan Fraser co-star. (IFC Films; Nov. 6)

Following the end of the Korean War, thousands of Korean children were adopted by Westerners. Korean director Jung Henin’s filmic memoir, Approved for Adoption, intercuts his own animation with family footage to tell the tale of his at once idyllic and fraught childhood, growing up as one of the East’s displaced, adopted sons. (GKIDS; Nov. 8)

In Ass Backwards, Casey Wilson (“Happy Endings”) and June Diane Raphael (“Burning Love”) play best friends who return to the hometown where they lost a children’s beauty pageant. Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Cryer, Alicia Silverstone and Bob Odenkirk co-star. (Gravitas Ventures; Nov. 8)

Documentarian Frederick Wiseman marks his 40th picture with At Berkeley, an inside look at the administration of the public university during a tumultuous academic year. (Zipporah Films; Nov. 8)

Caucus offers an intimate look at the Republican presidential candidates vying to win the 2012 Iowa Caucus, the first big contest of the election season. The memorable cast of characters includes Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. AJ Schnack directed. (Bonfire Films; Nov. 8)

Director Liz Marshall spent a year tailing animal photographer Jo-Anne MacArthur for her progressive documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine, encountering a number of furry friends who have been rescued from, and are currently imprisoned within, the food and manufacturing industry “machines.” (Ghosts Media; Nov. 8)

Returning to the Mexican-American border that inspired his Oscar-nominated film Lone Star, writer-director John Sayles delves deep into the Tijuana underbelly with Go for Sisters’ tale of two reunited childhood friends—one a recently released convict, the other her new parole officer—who must work together to avoid perpetuating the cycle of broken families. (Variance Films; Nov. 8)

An American teen falls in love for the first time during a vacation in England in How I Live Now. During the same summer, a modern-day world war breaks out. Saoirse Ronan (The Host, Atonement) grows up in the romantic war drama, which was directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland). (Magnolia; Nov. 8)

Offering a peek at the struggles of rural America, the documentary Medora follows the Medora, Indiana varsity basketball team over the course of one season as the town’s high-schoolers fight—much like their neighbors—to beat the odds, and end a disheartening losing streak. (Beachside Films; Nov. 8)

In The Motel Life, two struggling working-class brothers (Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff) face complicated choices after one of them is involved in a hit-and-run accident. Dakota Fanning co-stars in the Reno, Nevada-set drama. (Polsky Films/FilmBuff; Nov. 8)

In Paris Countdown, two former nightclub owners and unlucky criminals (Olivier Marchal and Jacques Gamblin) must face the psychotic partner they sold out to the police several years ago if they’re to survive. From the producers of Point Blank and A Gang Story. (Screen Media Films; Nov. 8)

People of a Feather offers an intimate look into the Inuit community of Canada’s Belcher Islands, focusing on the their relationship with the eider duck. Both flesh and fowl must contend with modern challenges (such as hydroelectric dams disrupting ocean currents) that pose a threat to their traditional, symbiotic way of life. (First Run Features; Nov. 8)

American poet Elizabeth Bishop is the subject of director Bruno Barreto’s (Four Days in September) new biographical romance, set against the tumultuous backdrop of 1950s Brazil. In Reaching for the Moon, Bishop travels to Rio de Janiero in hopes of loosening her writer’s block, only to find much more than scenic inspiration: a new muse in the form of her friend’s bohemian partner, the architect Lota de Macedo. (Wolfe Releasing & Dada Films; Nov. 8)

The past and present of two modern artists is explored in the documentary Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here. The camera follows the married pair as they prepare for upcoming exhibitions and confront their Soviet roots. (Nov. 13)

Bill Watterson is the quiet artist behind the beloved comic strip “Calvin & Hobbes,” and Dear Mr. Watterson is the documentary that seeks to understand (without bothering or sensationalizing Mr. Watterson) the simple cartoon’s enduring impact. (Gravitas Ventures; Nov. 15)

Has it really been a decade and a half? The gang from the 1999 hit romantic comedy The Best Man decides to get together for some yuletide merriment in The Best Man Holiday. The cast includes Terrence Howard (now with an Oscar nod under his belt), along with Nia Long, Taye Diggs and Eddie Cibrian. With the friends in various stages of dating, marriage and childrearing, the gathering stokes rivalries and romantic flames alike. (Universal; Nov. 15)

Shia LaBeouf is Charlie Countryman, a young American in Budapest who falls for a beautiful musician (Evan Rachel Wood). Unfortunately, she’s also involved with a ruthless gangster. Mads Mikkelsen, Rupert Grint, Til Schweiger, Melissa Leo and John Hurt lend support. (Millennium Entertainment; Nov. 15)

The aptly named Cold Turkey is a comedy-drama about a highly dysfunctional family whose secrets are exposed at a Thanksgiving gathering. Director Peter Bogdanovich is the patriarch, with support from Cheryl Hines, Alicia Witt, Sonya Walger (“Lost”) and Ashton Holmes (“Revenge”). (FilmBuff; Nov. 15)

A man sells his soul to the Devil in order to possess the woman he loves in a hallucinatory reimagining of Faust. The 19th-century story by Goethe is given an update infused with director Alexander Sokurov’s cinematic vision, which won his film the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion award. (Leisure Time Features; Nov. 15)

Teenagers struggle with their sexual identities in Geography Club, based on the best-selling young-adult novel by Brent Hartinger. Cameron Deane Stewart, Justin Deeley, Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray) and Alec Newell (“Glee”) head the cast. (Breaking Glass Pictures; Nov. 15)

The Great Beauty is Italy’s official entry to the Academy Awards, and comes to the States having screened as an official selection at both the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals. Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo of Gomorrah) is a journalist still riding the success of his one and only novel decades after its publication when, on the night of his 65th birthday, a jolt from his past forces him to re-examine his life, friends, and Rome itself. Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo) directed. (Janus Films; Nov. 15)

Blue-collar convenience store clerk Melissa (Naomi Watts) and her disabled boyfriend Richie (Matt Dillon) believe they’ve found a much-needed reason for hope when Melissa becomes pregnant, but their optimism is soon tested when circumstances take a turn for the worse in writer-director Laurie Collyer’s Sunlight Jr. (Gravitas Ventures & Samuel Goldwyn Films; Nov. 15)

The documentary 12-12-12 goes behind the scenes at last year’s Hurricane Sandy benefit concert at Madison Square Garden, which raised $50 million for the Robin Hood Fund. The amazing lineup of performers includes Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Eric Clapton, Jon Bon Jovi, Kanye West, Dave Grohl, Roger Waters, Eddie Vedder, Michael Stipe and Chris Martin. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 15)

Through interviews with the late-’50s pinup star, the documentary Bettie Page Reveals All gives juicy new details about the icon’s life, as well as her influence on generations to come. (Music Box Films; Nov. 22)

Two-time Grammy-award nominee and former Internet sensation Susan Boyle makes her feature film debut in the family-friendly The Christmas Candle. Ingrained traditions and newfangled thinking collide in the small English town of Gladbury when progressive minister David Richmond (Hans Matheson of Clash of the Titans) comes to town at the turn of the 20th century, championing good deeds as the new recipe for modern miracles. (Nov. 22)

The latest sign of how drugs have permeated Mexican culture comes from the documentary Narco Cultura. Photojournalist and director Saul Schwarz follows musicians who make their living by singing drug ballads, or “narcocorridas,” which glorify the traffickers’ outlaw status. (Cinedigm; Nov. 22)

The documentary The Punk Singer looks at the life of Kathleen Hanna, who founded the punk band Bikini Kill and kick-started the "riot grrrl" movement of the 1990s. (IFC Films; Nov. 29)

December Highlights

The Coen Brothers apply their touch to the ’60s Greenwich Village music scene in Inside Llewyn Davis. Oscar Isaac stars as a struggling folk musician looking for a shot at fame. Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake play a married musical duo competing with Davis. Longtime Coen Brothers collaborator John Goodman appears, and audiences will hear T Bone Burnett on the soundtrack, which also includes the voice of one of the hottest lead singers out there—Marcus Mumford (who also happens to be Mulligan’s husband). (CBS Films; Dec. 6)

A struggling blue-collar worker (Christian Bale) lives his life with integrity, but he’s compelled to take justice into his own hands in Out of the Furnace. When his brother (Casey Affleck), a veteran with ties to criminals, disappears, he decides to track down the people responsible. Zoe Saldana supports as Bale’s wife. Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard and Willem Dafoe round out the cast. Crazy Heart writer-director Scott Cooper helmed. (Relativity Media; Dec. 6)

Breaking the law looks like a lot of fun in American Hustle. David O. Russell, fresh off directing his Oscar-winning picture Silver Linings Playbook, helms a cast filled with actors who have struck Oscar gold in Russell-directed films. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play two romantically involved con artists who are forced to work with an out-of-control federal agent (Bradley Cooper) to turn the tables on criminals and politicians alike in Camden, New Jersey. 1980s period hairstyles and costumes add to the sleazy fun. Jennifer Lawrence adds a third point to a love triangle involving Bale and Adams. (Sony/Columbia; Dec. 13)

Bilbo takes on a gold-hungry dragon in the second in the Hobbit cinema trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Professional villain Benedict Cumberbatch breathes fire into the dragon character through motion-capture technology, which allowed him to give the creature a full range of expression. Peter Jackson continues to helm, guiding a cast that includes Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen. (Warner Bros.; Dec. 13)

During production on Mary Poppins in 1964, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and the book’s author, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), clashed as they made the adaptation from page to screen. Saving Mr. Banks focuses on this little-known corner of cinema history, which offers a peek at two visionaries and the compromises they make to forge a children’s classic. The Blind Side’s John Lee Hancock is at the helm of the biographical tale, which features performances from Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell and Jason Schwartzman. (Disney; Dec. 13)

Madea puts on her Santa hat and gets in the holiday spirit in Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. Perry’s tell-it-like-it-is Madea has appeared in most of his films, and this Christmas movie will be her next stop before she appears in, you heard it here first, an animated kids’ movie. In the latest installment, the matriarch gets upset when she discovers her niece’s daughter (Tika Sumpter) has married a white farmer, whose parents (Larry the Cable Guy and Kathy Najimy) are also straight country. Will Madea’s opinions ruin the holiday? (Lionsgate; Dec. 13)

Call them 21st-century star-crossed lovers. Spike Jonze’s comedy/drama Her focuses on an introverted writer, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), whose relationship with his smart, funny and sensitive advanced operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) begets deeper feelings—on both sides. The buzz-worthy cast also includes Phoenix’s The Master co-star Amy Adams, Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Olivia Wilde (Rush). (Warner Bros.; Dec. 18).

George Clooney leads a team of scrappy soldiers on a hunt to rescue art looted by Nazis in The Monuments Men. As the Germans retreat, their job is to save precious masterworks before they’re destroyed—which means going behind enemy lines. Clooney, who also directed, assembles a cast that includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin and Cate Blanchett. Yes, this is a true story: The details of the adventure inspired a book, which Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov (The Men Who Stare at Goats) adapted for the screenplay. (Columbia; Dec. 18)

Nine years ago, college students could be heard quoting Anchorman’s catch phrases, like “Scotchy scotch scotch” and “I’m in a glass case of emotion!” The news crew returns for more zaniness in Anchorman: The Legend Continues. This time, they’re in New York City in the early ’80s, on the cusp of the 24-hour cable news era. A mustachioed Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd, along with Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and many more comedic stars, fill out this sequel about egos bigger than hairdos. Adam McKay returns to direct a project that also bears the stamp of producer Judd Apatow. Until December, this is Ron Burgundy signing off—“You stay classy, San Diego.” (Paramount; Dec. 20)

The hit Broadway play August: Osage County has been cast with some major stars in its move to the big screen. Word from Toronto is that the adaptation works. After the death of their patriarch, a dysfunctional family convenes for a funeral that brings out all the crazy the relatives have to offer. Leading the cast are Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor, with able support from the likes of Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson and Sam Shepard. Tracy Letts, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the play, also adapted the screenplay. John Wells (The Company Men) helmed. (Weinstein Co.; Dec. 25)

The samurai movie gets a new twist in 47 Ronin. Keanu Reeves plays a half-Japanese, half-English man who teams up with a group of ronin warriors to avenge the death of their master. In this version of 17th-century Japan, samurai share the land with mythical beasts and giants. The troubled production from first-time feature director Carl Rinsch could pull a World War Z and end up a hit, and tales of its dramatic, long-delayed release will have everyone in Hollywood following its performance closely. (Universal; Dec. 25)

It’s Rocky vs. Raging Bull in Grudge Match, which pits Sylvester Stallone against Robert De Niro as two aging boxers who decide the best way to settle their rivalry is by donning their gloves and entering the ring. The action comedy from Get Smart director Peter Segal winks at the actors’ iconic roles, but it did also pose a problem for the crew, who had to decide which of the legends would win the rematch. Kim Basinger co-stars. (Warner Bros.; Dec. 25)

During the apex of his fame, Charles Dickens met a 17-year-old actress, Nelly (Felicity Jones), and the two embarked on a Victorian-era love affair. Ralph Fiennes plays the great English novelist in The Invisible Woman, which also marks the actor’s second time in the director’s chair. He’s joined by Tom Hollander and Kristin Scott Thomas in a tale that drew strong reviews at the Toronto Film Festival. Iron Lady screenwriter Abi Morgan adapted the script from a nonfiction book about the secret liaison. (Sony Pictures Classics; Dec. 25)

Author Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst, Jack Ryan, has been played by many actors—including Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Chris Pine exchanges his Captain Kirk suit to take on the famous role in Jack Ryan. The Russians are it again in this tale of intrigue, and it’s up to Ryan to foil a plot by terrorists to use an attack in order to ruin the economy. Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner round out the cast in the thriller from Thor director Kenneth Branagh. (Paramount; Dec. 25)

A single mom and her teenage son find themselves entertaining an unexpected—and unwelcome—guest in Labor Day. A wounded convict (Josh Brolin) demands a ride, toeing the line between seeking refuge and holding the pair (Kate Winslet and Gattlin Griffith) hostage over the long weekend. Juno and Up in the Air director Jason Reitman tackles this adaptation of a Joyce Maynard novel, which has drawn raves at its outings at Telluride and Toronto. (Paramount; Dec. 25)

Everyone has things they would do in life if they weren’t so afraid. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty takes this poignant reality and spins a heartwarming tale about a timid man who decides he’s had enough of his average-Joe life. Ben Stiller plays the titular Life magazine employee who dreams up fabulous adventures for himself. He’s then spurred to go on a real one, with a co-worker (Bridesmaids’ Kristen Wiig) egging him on. Stiller also directed this drama, which is adapted from the James Thurber short story first published in The New Yorker in 1939. (20th Century Fox; Dec. 25)

The incredibly realistic prehistoric creatures in CG-animated Walking with Dinosaurs evoke a nature program, not the cuddly creatures in The Land Before Time. But kids will likely swoon for the teeny triceratops that propels this tale, which is filled with dozens of species of dinosaurs. The 3D, CG-animated family movie comes courtesy of BBC Earth, which aims to make an immersive experience that will rival a visit to a natural history museum. (20th Century Fox; Dec. 25)

Leonardo DiCaprio’s come a long way from being a third-class passenger on the Titanic. In The Wolf of Wall Street, he plays high-flying financier Jordan Belfort, whose idea of fun involves chartering a yacht. Back in the ’90s, the stockbroker lived the good life, at least until he spent 22 months in jail for securities fraud. DiCaprio again pairs with director Martin Scorsese, who shows all signs of creating another gleeful look at criminality, in the vein of GoodFellas and Casino. It also marks the fifth time DiCaprio and Scorsese have worked together. “Boardwalk Empire”’s Terence Winter adapted the script from Belfort’s autobiography, and Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill appear as Belfort’s business associates. (Paramount; tentative Dec. 25)

The title might give away the end of this war movie, but Lone Survivor should be harrowing nonetheless. Mark Wahlberg stars in a recreation of a firefight between Navy SEALs and Taliban forces in a remote corner of Afghanistan. The ambushed soldiers fought heroically, but 19 of them lost their lives—leaving one survivor, Marcus Luttrell, who wrote a best-seller about the battle. Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch co-star in the latest from Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg. (Universal; Dec. 27)

Also in December
It’s a compelling question: How did Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (he of Girl With a Pearl Earring fame) manage to paint so photo-realistically over a hundred years before the invention of photography? The documentary Tim’s Vermeer follows Texas inventor Tim Jenison as he travels the world searching for an answer. It’s directed by comedian-magician Teller, and produced by his partner-in-crime Penn Jillette. (Sony Pictures Classics; Dec. 6)

At Christmastime, a suddenly widowed real-estate agent forms an unexpected bond with her late husband’s hard-partying mistress in White Reindeer. Anna Margaret Hollyman and Laura Lemar-Goldsborough co-star in writer-director Zach Clark’s offbeat comedy. (IFC Films; Dec. 6)

Director Errol Morris’ last documentary on a controversial Secretary of Defense—Robert McNamara in The Fog of War—earned him an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. This time around, Morris’ subject may be a tougher sell. The Unknown Known profiles Donald Rumsfeld, the political figure against whom much of the country’s vitriol about the Iraq War has been directed. Unlike a reflective McNamara, Rumsfeld remains staunchly unapologetic about his time in the White House. (Radius-TWC; Dec. 13)

The Paris-set relationship drama The Past is the latest from acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation). After traveling from Tehran to Paris to finalize his divorce from his French wife (Bérénice Bejo from The Artist), a man (Ali Mosaffa) turns his attention to her teenage daughter (Pauline Burlet), whose fraught relationship with her mother hides a deep secret. (Sony Pictures Classics; Dec. 20)

Pop idol and tabloid magnet Justin Bieber urges his fans to Believe as his second concert movie hits the big screen for the holidays. Jon Chu, who directed his 2011 outing Never Say Never, returns at the helm. (Open Road Films; Dec. 25)

Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, The Lovely Bones) stars as a lover who won’t take no for an answer in writer-director Neil LaBute’s Some Velvet Morning. Having been away for four years, Fred shows up at his mistress Velvet’s (Alice Eve) doorstep one morning, claiming he has finally left his wife. When Velvet rebuffs him, his desire quickly devolves into obsession. (Tribeca Film; Dec. 26)

An underdog tale for the media age, One Chance recounts the true story of the “Britain’s Got Talent” star with the appropriately humble name, Paul Potts (James Corden of The History Boys), as he overcomes his modest beginnings as a bullied shop assistant to win one of the world’s most popular talent competitions. Julie Walters (Mamma Mia!) co-stars, and David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) directs the feel-good feature. (Weinstein Co.; Dec. 27)

All release dates are subject to change.
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