Nov. 21--Beginning this weekend and running through New Year's Day, you're guaranteed to find yourself housebound for the holidays, with a bunch of relatives, friends and hangers-on looking for something to do that doesn't involve eggnog, caroling or buying a bunch of stuff.
Movies to the rescue.
This has been a particularly strong year for cinema and that trend appears to be continuing into the holidays and Oscar season. Opening this week are the highly anticipated The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Book Thief and festival favorite Nebraska and upcoming we've got films starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig, just to name a few. Among the directors with new work are Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, and Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. And you can't close out the year without a new Tyler Perry movie, right?
So, here are some of the films you can look forward to this holiday season, divvied up by who in your group might best enjoy them most. (Note that some of the anticipated films slated for release in December in other markets like L.A. and New York -- such as Spike Jonze's Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson -- won't be hitting North Texas until January. Also, release dates are subject to change.)
The Oscar watcher
Philomena: This drama about an elderly woman (Judi Dench) on the hunt for the son she gave up for adoption many years ago has been a favorite on the festival circuit, scooping up honors from Hawaii to Venice, including second place for the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Directing is Stephen Frears, whose The Queen was up for a slew of Oscars in 2007. Opens Nov. 27.
American Hustle: David O. Russell was nominated for best director for last year's Silver Linings Playbook and there's a chance he could do it again with this star-stacked drama about the Jersey mob. Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Robert De Niro, Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K. head up this dazzling cast donning '70 outfits and hairdos. Opens Dec. 18.
Saving Mr. Banks: Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney in this ripped-from-real-life dramedy about the making of the movie Mary Poppins. Colin Farrell, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, Rachel Griffiths, Jason Schwartzman and Kathy Baker are along for the umbrella ride. Opens Dec. 20.
August: Osage County: Meryl Streep is at the center of this Oklahoma-set domestic drama that's based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Joining her are Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Sam Shepard, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney and Chris Cooper. John Wells, one of the minds behind the TV show ER who made a strong feature directorial debut with The Company Men in 2010, directs. Opens Dec. 25.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: Much admired British actor Idris Elba (The Wire, Pacific Rim) may finally breakthrough with his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in this handsomely made biopic. Directed by Justin Chadwick ( The Boleyn Girl, The First Grader) and with a screenplay by William Nicholson ( Les Miserables), this is the kind of uplifting, sprawling, mainstream big-screen experience that seems tailor-made for a family outing during the holidays and major nominations come Academy Award time. Opens Dec. 25
The Wolf of Wall Street : In the most anticipated movie of the year, Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio in this tale of the rise and fall of a Wall Street whiz kid (based on a bestselling autobiography by Jordan Belfort). The film co-stars Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin ( The Artist) and Jon Bernthal ( The Walking Dead). Opens Dec. 25.
The Broadway baby
Black Nativity : Musicals remain an iffy proposition at the box office but this one sounds especially intriguing. Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou, Talk to Me), based on a play by the great poet Langston Hughes, and starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige and rapper Nas, this Christmas-themed project about a teenager trying to get home should never be less than fascinating. Opens Nov. 27.
The fantasy fan
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug : The second installment in Peter Jackson's three-movie take on Tolkien's slim novel The Hobbit may be better than the last film simply because Bilbo Baggins should finally confront the dragon at the center of the story. In any case, expect lots of special effects and big box-office numbers. Opens Dec. 13.
The cartoon classicist
Frozen : Those who like their movie animation closer to the traditionalism of Sleeping Beauty will probably fall in love with this musical tale of life in Arendelle, a world of perpetual winter. In fact, this is the first Disney animated movie to be produced in an ultra-widescreen film format since Sleeping Beauty 54 years ago. Based on The Snow Queen, a story by Hans Christian Andersen, it features two sisters -- one a queen, the other a princess -- and a snowman named Olaf who just wants to experience summer. This one could be huge. As the Hollywood Reporter said in its review, "You can practically see the Broadway musical Frozen is destined to become while watching Disney's 3D animated princess tale." Opens Nov. 27
The arthouse eclectic
Oldboy : It's been a long time since Spike Lee has been on most moviegoers' radar but that could change with this tale of torture and revenge. A remake of the cult 2003 South Korean film, Oldboy stars Josh Brolin as the man seeking answers after having been kept in captivity for 20 years. Brolin is helped by a strong cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium), Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) and Max Casella (Blue Jasmine). Opens Nov. 27.
Narco Cultura : This documentary explores the nexus between music and glorification of crime and violence in the world of a Mexican pop sub-genre where narco-traffickers are heroes. Opens Dec. 6.
Inside Llewyn Davis : The Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men, True Grit) take viewers back to New York's Greenwich Village folk scene in the early '60s. Oscar Isaac-- who has a great voice, which he showed off in the pleasant but forgettable 2011 rom-com 10 Years -- plays the main character while John Goodman, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and (once again) Max Casella co-star. Opens Dec. 20.
The adrenaline junkie
Homefront : Written by Sylvester Stallone, based on a novel by tough-guy crime writer Chuck Logan, and starring Jason Statham, James Franco and Frank Grillo (End of Watch, Zero Dark Thirty), Homefront pulsates with testosterone. Statham plays a former DEA agent who finds himself in a war with a local meth kingpin. Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth provide a bit of respite from all the macho madness. Opens Nov. 27.
Out of the Furnace : Casey Affleck is a bare-knuckle brawler who gets involved with a brutal crime ring and needs the help of his ex-con brother, played by Christian Bale. Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, Forest Whitaker and Sam Shepard add to the manly mix. Directed by Scott Cooper, who made his feature debut with the well-received Crazy Heart four years ago. Opens Dec. 6.
47 Ronin : Keanu Reeves showed off some cool kung-fu moves in his recent directorial debut (Man of Tai Chi) and he continues his love affair with the martial arts in this sword-wielding action-adventure set in 18th-century Japan. With a screenplay by Chris Morgan (who wrote the deliriously kinetic Wanted, as well as five of the "Fast and Furious" films) and Hossein Amini (Drive, Snow White and the Huntsman), this promises to have lots of action for the fanboys. Opens Dec. 25.
The kid in you
Walking With Dinosaurs : This 3D animated tale takes place when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and one in particular becomes a hero. Who doesn't like dinosaurs? Opens Dec. 20.
The Broken Circle Breakdown : This Belgian film about a couple that finds their love tested by an ill child has found enthusiastic support on the festival circuit, including winning two awards at New York's Tribeca Film Festival. It was also a favorite at Chris Kelly's Modern Cinema in October. But it's not just the story and the acting everyone finds so moving. The rustic bluegrass soundtrack has also been wowing audiences. Opens Dec. 6.
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas: Perry is nothing if not a savvy marketer. In his eighth film featuring his cross-dressing alter ego Madea, he goes for the blue-collar comedy crowd by co-starring with Larry the Cable Guy in a story about a rural Southern Christmas. Opens Dec. 13.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues : If this sequel to the 2004 hit about a San Diego TV news team doesn't live up to lofty expectations, there are going to be a lot of grumpy moviegoers this holiday season. Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Kristen Wiig, Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Kirsten Dunst, Vince Vaughn, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christina Applegate, Tina Fey and Amy Pohler are all on board as our favorite anchors move to New York in the early '80s to work at a 24-hour cable news channel. Opens Dec. 20.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty : This comedic fantasy written by James Thurber, about an average corporate Joe with a very active imagination, was made into a film starring Danny Kaye in 1947. But you can expect this remake, starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswald and Sean Penn, to make the fantasy elements more extreme. Opens Dec. 25.
Grudge Match : Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone are aging former boxing champs who get back in the ring for one final fight. Kevin Hart, Kim Basinger and Alan Arkin co-star. Director Peter Segal's r sum ( Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, 50 First Dates) doesn't offer a lot of hope that this will be a knockout. Opens Dec. 25.
Cary Darling, 817 390-7571; Twitter: @carydar
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