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As 2014 draws to a close, there are still several highly anticipated movies that have yet to hit theaters, including Oscar hopefuls Wild, American Sniper, Selma and Unbroken. December also marks the arrival of movie musicals Annie (the modern update starring Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhane Wallis) and Into the Woods, the final installment of the Hobbit trilogy, Ridley Scott‘s biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings and Seth Rogen and James Franco‘s assassination comedy The Interview, despite North Korea’s objections.
Those who weren’t at the Toronto Film Festival can also see what all the fuss surrounding Chris Rock‘s new movie Top Five is about when that film hits theaters on Dec. 12.
As you plan your end-of-the-year moviegoing, check out the trailers for some of December’s most anticipated films, presented in chronological order by release date.
Wild (Dec. 3): Reese Witherspoon has been a favorite for a best actress Oscar nomination since her new movie Wild had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival way back at the end of August. Now audiences who weren’t in Colorado or at any of the other film festivals where the movie screened can see what all the fuss is about. Directed by Dallas Buyers Club helmer Jean-Marc Vallee and adapted from Cheryl Strayed‘s best-selling memoir by Nick Hornby, Wild tells the true story of Strayed’s more-than-1,000-mile hike along the Pacific Coast Trail, with her trek serving as a journey of self-discovery. Laura Dern, herself a frontrunner for a best supporting actress Oscar nod, co-stars as Strayed’s mother, with Thomas Sadoski, Gaby Hoffman and Kevin Rankin rounding out the cast. Witherspoon also produced the movie through her Pacific Standard banner, which she established to make female-driven films and has already produced a hit in this fall’s Gone Girl.
Exodus: Gods and Kings (Dec. 12): Ridley Scott‘s entry into 2014’s year of biblical movies explores the story of Moses, with Christian Bale in the main role. The film, which The Hollywood Reporter‘s review calls “spectacularly filmed” and “intermittently well acted,” begins with Moses’ battle with Ramses (Joel Edgerton) and then shows him learning of and reluctantly accepting his role as a savior as the 10 plagues descend on Egypt and he leads the enslaved people to freedom. The film has already generated controversy with its white stars and Scott’s decision to have an 11-year-old boy be the voice of God.
Inherent Vice (Dec. 12): Joaquin Phoenix and his The Master director Paul Thomas Anderson reunite in the trippy, star-studded big-screen version of Thomas Pynchon‘s novel. Phoenix plays scruffy P.I. Doc Sportello, who begins investigating the disappearance of the current boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston), but the search turns into a long, strange trip in which Doc encounters a number of crazy characters as the case grows larger and more complex. The 1970-set film’s cast includes Martin Short, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jena Malone and Anderson’s real-life partner, Maya Rudolph. The film just received a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for the Robert Altman Award.
Top Five (Dec. 12): Chris Rock‘s Top Five was the subject of a fierce bidding war following its Toronto Film Festival premiere, with Paramount emerging victorious with a $12.5 million deal for worldwide rights. Writer-director Rock stars in the film as a successful comedian who doesn’t feel funny anymore. The movie, which takes place over the course of one day, is a celebrity satire/love story. Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove and Gabrielle Union are among the co-stars, with cameos from Rock’s funny friends, including Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg and Adam Sandler.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Dec. 17): The third entry in Peter Jackson‘s Hobbit trilogy has already showcased epic sequences in its trailers, which also feature familiar faces from the series, including Martin Freeman, Evangeline Lilly, Richard Armitage and Orlando Bloom.
Annie (Dec. 19): Will Gluck‘s modern-day reimagining of the Annie musical stars Beasts of the Southern Wild‘s Quvenzhane Wallis in the title role; Jamie Foxx in an updated version of the Daddy Warbucks role, as wealthy businessman and mayoral candidate Benjamin Stacks; and Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan. The Jay Z– and Will Smith-produced movie also features Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale.
American Sniper (Dec. 25): Clint Eastwood could shake up the Oscar race with this late entry the same way he did 10 years ago with Million Dollar Baby. Although the film, starring Bradley Cooper as late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in a big-screen adaptation of Kyle’s memoir, doesn’t hit theaters until Christmas Day, and even then it’s only in a limited release, THR‘s awards analyst has already picked the film as a frontrunner for Oscar nominations in several categories, including best picture and best actor for Cooper, who has received noms in each of the past two years. THR‘s Todd McCarthy in his review called the movie “a taut, vivid and sad account of the brief life of the most accomplished marksman in American military annals,” praising both Cooper and Eastwood for their work. Meanwhile, THR‘s awards analyst Scott Feinberg said of Cooper, “The actor gives his most committed and mature performance to date.”
Big Eyes (Dec. 25): Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes stars Amy Adams as prolific painter Margaret Keane, whose husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), took credit for her kitschy popular paintings of mostly women and children with big dark eyes. The movie has already helped boost online sales of Keane’s paintings. And it recently received a Film Independent Spirit Award nomination for best screenplay. Both Adams and Waltz are considered major threats to land best actress and best supporting actor Oscar nods for their work, according to THR‘s awards analyst. THR‘s review says Big Eyes is somewhat of a companion piece to Burton’s Ed Wood, with both films having been written by the screenwriting team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. The film about artistic authorship and ownership also features two new songs from Lana Del Rey.
The Interview (Dec. 25): Despite North Korea’s threats of retaliation, Sony Pictures’ James Franco–Seth Rogen comedy The Interview, which includes a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, is still set to hit theaters on Dec. 25, after the film was pushed back from its October bow. The film stars Franco and Rogen as a talk-show host and his producer who head to North Korea for an exclusive interview with Kim Jong-un but are then asked by the CIA to kill the dictator. Sony and Franco have mostly stayed out of the controversy, but Rogen has tweeted a few barbs, posting, in response to one of North Korea’s threats, “People don’t usually wanna kill me for one of my movies until after they’ve paid 12 bucks for it. Hiyooooo!!!”
Into the Woods (Dec. 25): Hollywood’s A-list takes on beloved fairy-tale characters in Into the Woods, the Rob Marshall-directed Disney film version of the popular Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical. The film’s star-studded cast includes Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman and Christine Baranski. The film is an Oscar-nominee frontrunner in the costume design and makeup and hairstyling categories, with Streep and Blunt considered a frontrunner and major threat in the best supporting actress and best actress categories,respectively, says THR‘s awards analyst Scott Feinberg, but Feinberg has argued that the film is more likely to be a major player at the Golden Globes, where the best picture and lead acting categories are split into drama and musical/comedy categories. “Corden, Blunt and Streep could all land acting noms at the Globes, and the film itself might even give Birdman a run for its money for the top prize, since the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seem to love good musicals even more than good dramedies,” Feinberg writes.
Selma (Dec. 25): Much like fellow Christmas Day limited release American Sniper, Selma quickly jumped to the front of the Oscar race after it debuted at the AFI Fest earlier this month. The movie, which centers on the three-month period in 1965 in which Martin Luther King Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights, is a frontrunner in the best picture, best director and best actor categories, according to THR‘s awards analyst, and recently received Film Independent Spirit Award nominations in the best feature, best director, best male lead, best supporting female and cinematography categories. Star David Oyelowo, who plays King, has received praise for his performance, in particular, with THR‘s reviewer Stephen Farber writing, “Although Oyelowo doesn’t look or sound exactly like King, he gives a definitive performance. His rousing speeches are superbly done, and his moments of introspection and self-doubt retrieve the humanity in a leader who has come to seem larger than life.… This stirring yet always level-headed piece of history does what all the best films accomplish: It opens hearts and minds.” Oprah Winfrey produced and makes a cameo in the Paramount film, which also stars Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson and Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King.
Unbroken (Dec. 25): Angelina Jolie directs this true story about World War II hero Louis Zamperini, whose plane was shot down and he then survived in a raft for 47 days only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a POW camp, where he was subjected to barbaric war crimes and left for dead. The former Olympic runner’s story was initially told in Laura Hillenbrand‘s best-selling book. And now relative newcomer Jack O’Connell will be playing Zamperini, who died this summer after a bout with pneumonia, on the big screen. THR‘s awards analyst lists the Universal film as a frontrunner for Oscar nods in the best picture, supporting actor, adapted screenplay, cinematography and original score categories.
A Most Violent Year (Dec. 31): The final release of the year is Oscar-nominated writer-director J.C. Chandor‘s A Most Violent Year, starring former Juilliard classmates Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac in a movie about men competing for control of the heating-oil supply business set during 1981, said to have been the worst year on record for violent crimes in New York City. Isaac, whom THR‘s review calls “superb” and who received a Gotham Award nomination for best actor for his performance, plays a principled businessman trying not to be drawn into thuggish practices. Chastain, meanwhile, plays against type as the tough daughter of a Brooklyn mobster. The film recently received Film Independent Spirit Award nominations for best screenplay, best supporting female (Chastain) and best editing. And Feinberg lists the film, which A24 is releasing just under the wire for an awards qualifying run, as a major threat in the best picture, best actor, supporting actress (Chastain) and original screenplay categories.
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