Hollywood doesn’t make many true holiday movies anymore. This year, there are only two that actually revolve around Christmas – “The Best Man Holiday,” a surprise hit released in November, and “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.”
By Noah Gittell
Hollywood doesn’t make many true holiday movies anymore. This year, there are only two that actually revolve around Christmas – “The Best Man Holiday,” a surprise hit released in November, and “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.” But December remains a prime spot for high-profile movies because it’s close to Oscar season and it’s a time of year when people are off from work quite a bit. This holiday season, there is a movie for every member of the family, no matter how obscure their tastes.
For the political junkie:
“American Hustle” (Dec. 18)
I’m surprised it took this long for Hollywood to dramatize the ABSCAM scandal of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but maybe it will be worth the wait. Director David O. Russell (“The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) has assembled a cast of greats from his prior efforts — Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro — to bring to life a story of government corruption that should find a large audience in these politically disillusioned times.
For the dude:
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (Dec. 18)
It’s a reunion nine years in the making. The original “Anchorman” took everyone by surprise and made a mint at the box office, but it wasn’t until DVD that the film really took off with young people. Director Adam McKay and all of the key cast members are back for this sequel, in which San Diego anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his news team (David Koechner, Paul Rudd, and Steve Carell) head to New York to work for a CNN-like 24-hour news channel.
For the Disney fanatic:
“Saving Mr. Banks” (Dec. 20)
If you are one of those people who love all things Disney (I know you’re out there), you’ll want to get in line early for “Saving Mr. Banks,” which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the filming of “Mary Poppins.” Emma Thompson plays author P.L. Travers, who Walt Disney (Tom Hanks, in a performance already drawing Oscar notices) brings from England to oversee the adaptation of her novel. Travers proves deeply protective of her story, and Disney must reach deep into his bag of tricks to satisfy her and complete the production.
For the kids:
“Walking with Dinosaurs” (Dec. 20)
Kids movie. Dinosaurs. Need I say more?
For the dreamer:
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (Dec. 25)
The script had been bouncing around Hollywood for more than a decade – at one point, Jim Carrey was slated to star – but it seems to have found its rightful home in the hands of director/star Ben Stiller. He plays the film’s lead character, a paper-pusher at Life magazine who retreats into elaborate fantasies as a coping mechanism. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, “Mitty” could have been a genial but shallow piece of commercial fluff, but Stiller seems to have reached higher here and aimed for more serious whimsy. We’ll see if the reality can match the fantasy.
“August: Osage County” (limited release Dec. 25)
Family time getting you down this holiday season? Find catharsis in this ensemble drama based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts. Meryl Streep is the matriarch of an uber-dysfunctional family that includes Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Early reviews have been mixed, but the domestic dramedy should at least provide some much-needed perspective for those who think – as we all do at this time of year – that their family is the craziest.
For the Oscar voter:
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Dec. 25)
A cautionary tale about the rise and fall of a shady stockbroker might sound like odd Christmas fare, but maybe you’ll want an antidote to all that joy and giving. If so, you could do worse than another collaboration by Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.
For the folkie:
“Inside Llewyn Davis” (Dec. 20)
Ethan and Joel Coen revitalized the entire bluegrass genre with their soundtrack to 2000’s “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Their newest might do the same for folk music. Oscar Isaac plays a Greenwich Village folk singer in 1961 who is juggling a handful of personal and professional obstacles. A superb cast, including Carey Mulligan and Coen brothers’ stalwart John Goodman, make this one a must-see.