The December movie season used to be about one thing and one thing only: Oscars. Traditionally, the major studios wait until the last month of the year to trot out their serious movies with high-profile directors and actors in the hopes that these films will be fresh in the minds of Academy members, who have to submit their selections for nominations in January.
By Noah Gittell
The December movie season used to be about one thing and one thing only: Oscars. Traditionally, the major studios wait until the last month of the year to trot out their serious movies with high-profile directors and actors in the hopes that these films will be fresh in the minds of Academy members, who have to submit their selections for nominations in January. But the parade of serious adult movies also give studios an opportunity for counter-programming, which means in the next month we’ll see a little something for everyone.
For the Action Fan
“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (December 21)
Remember when Tom Cruise was a movie star? While his name may not mean an automatic box-office smash anymore, his movies still rake in the dough. “Mission: Impossible” is his flagship franchise, and this new installment promises more of the same: jaw-dropping action set pieces and some of the franchise’s trademark plot twists. Cruise lured Pixar director Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”) to the project, which marks his live-action debut.
For the Romantic
“New Year’s Eve” (December 9)
Scene from a Hollywood pitch meeting: “Here’s my idea: Let’s make a movie that features ten or 12 main characters with inter-locking storylines. It’s a romantic comedy that takes place on, wait for it, New Year’s Eve. Has built-in drama and relatability because everyone wants the same thing at midnight: someone to kiss.
We’ll get a few young stars like Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel to bring in the teenagers and a couple of respected middle-aged actors like Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert DeNiro for the adults.
And here’s the best part: since we have so many main characters, each actor will only work for a few days each, so we won’t have to pay them much. Sound good?”
For the Kids
“The Adventures of Tintin” (December 21)
The kids might try to drag you to “Alvin and the Chipmunks 3”, because they apparently like that sort of thing, but children and adults alike should enjoy the new incarnation of Tin Tin. Steven Spielberg directs, and Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings”) produces a re-invention of the beloved comic strip about a young reporter and his faithful dog. Spielberg uses motion-capture technology and employs the Marlon Brando of motion-capture actors, Andy Serkis (“Lord of the Rings” and “Rise of Planet of the Apes”) in a key role.
For the Oscars
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (December 21)
The book you have seen everyone reading at Starbucks comes to theaters, helmed by auteur David Fincher (“The Social Network”). Fincher’s films are always inquiries of some kind, whether into the nature of obsession (“Zodiac”) or the mind of a serial killer (“Seven”). He is the perfect director to tackle this violent story of a detective and young hacker delving into a decades-old crime. Daniel Craig and potential breakout Rooney Mara seem perfectly cast, and Fincher never fails to disappoint. Put this on your “must” list.“
We Bought a Zoo” (December 23)
It’s been six long years since director Cameron Crowe’s last film, the critically-reviled “Elizabethtown,” so he has a lot riding on this one. Based on the memoir by Benjamin Mee, “Zoo” stars Matt Damon as a widower with two children who quits his job and buys a zoo. The trailer promises this bit of wisdom: “You don’t need any special knowledge to run a zoo. What you need is a lot of heart.”
Hard to believe this is based on a true story, isn’t it? But this is a Cameron Crowe film, so we know two things right off the bat: whatever problems Damon has will be solved when he gets the girl, played here by Scarlett Johansson, and the soundtrack will be awesome. On a cold December day, that might be enough.
“War Horse” (December 25)
Likely to be the biggest hit among critics and audiences, “War Horse” follows a British teen and his favorites horse, who are separated when the horse is sold and sent to the trenches of World War One. Spielberg’s family-friendly films have never shied away from life’s darker truths. The teenager travels abroad to bring his horse back alive, and along the way, we see the horrors of war through the horse’s eyes.