November 10, 2013

Holiday movie round-up

Lots of heavyweights waiting in the wings with vision of Oscar dancing in their heads.

By Joe Williams
McClatchy Newspapers

For profit-driven Hollywood studios, the old notion of warehousing their best products until the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is now as nutty as a fruitcake. With Halloween in the ledger, the holiday movie season has already begun.

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Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in “Saving Mr. Banks.”

McClatchy Newspaper photos

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Meryl Streep (seated) and Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County.”

Additional Photos Below

Audiences are now getting to experience “12 Years a Slave,” our pick for the best film of the year. But dozens of other goodies await under the tree, and some of them are sure to surprise us.

This year’s catalog is so crowded with potentially good movies that at least two presumed award contenders – George Clooney’s “Monuments Men” and Nicole Kidman as “Grace of Monaco” – are taking a powder until spring.

In the end, the movies can’t all be worth five golden rings. But with a little help from your cinematic secret Santa, you might avoid the few rotten eggs that the studio geese are a-laying.

We’ve circled 12 key dates on the holiday movie calendar. Following are the options – and our picks for those days. (As usual, release dates are subject to change.) 


In the catalog: Chris Hemsworth wields a mighty hammer in the sequel “Thor: The Dark World.” The explicit lesbian love story “Blue is the Warmest Color” was the sensation of the Cannes Film Festival. The director of “Love Actually” enlists Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson for the time-travel romance “About Time.” Naomi Watts embodies the doomed Princess of Wales in “Diana.” Solo seaman Robert Redford tries to salvage a sinking ship in the nearly wordless “All Is Lost.”

Our wish list: That Thor doesn’t pound us senseless with superhero overkill. 

NOV. 15

In the catalog: Taye Diggs and his college friends reunite after 15 years for “The Best Man Holiday.” Matthew McConaughey is an AIDS patient seeking unconventional remedies in the true story “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Our wish list: That skeptical audiences take a chance on the downer-sounding “Dallas Buyers Club.” We’ve seen it, and it is outrageously entertaining. The rejuvenated McConaughey will get some deserved awards for his role, which required him to lose considerable weight, but the real eye opener is Jared Leto as a drag queen who teaches the macho man about being a stand-up guy. 

NOV. 22

In the catalog: Jennifer Lawrence fights for food and freedom in the sequel “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” A girl in Nazi-era Germany violates library etiquette in “The Book Thief.” Sperm donor Vince Vaughan reaps what he sows in “Delivery Man.”

Our wish list: That some socially conscious teens who might have queued up for “Catching Fire” will choose instead to see “Dallas Buyers Club.” 

NOV. 27

In the catalog: On a day for heavy-duty cinema, Judi Dench caps her career with an Oscar-ready role as a devout Catholic searching for the son who was wrested from her arms in “Philomena.” Alexander Payne (“The Descendents”) directs Bruce Dern as a codger who thinks he’s won a sweepstakes in “Nebraska.” Daniel Radcliffe plays poet Allen Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings,” a true murder story. Director Spike Lee and star Josh Brolin remake the Korean revenge thriller “Oldboy.” Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney focuses on a bicycle cheat in “The Armstrong Lie.” Meth dealer James Franco gets cranky with DEA agent Jason Statham in “Homefront.” A streetwise teen learns the meaning of Christmas in “Black Nativity.” And for a family-friendly alternative, a snowman has an adventure in the animated “Frozen.”

Our wish list: That Lee and Brolin do justice to “Oldboy,” an action-packed cult classic that wasn’t exactly begging for an American remake. 

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Jonah Hill, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

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Martin Freeman as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

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Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Gattlin Griffith in “Labor Day.”

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Will Ferrell and Christina Applegate “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”


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