With only one month left to go, it's now or never for 2014 to make its final impression on moviegoers. Lucky for them, this month still has a few worthy releases up its sleeve, including one of the most anticipated films of the year.
Traditionally December is a very back-loaded month, and that is no different here, but even then this year the month feels a lot more bare than in the past. Sure, there are a few blockbusters, prestige pictures, and awards contenders, but only one or two seem poised to strike big box office money.
Without further ado, here are the 6 movies we're looking forward to this month:
6 Exodus: Gods and Kings (Release Date: December 12th)
If it weren't for director Ridley Scott and star Christian Bale, Exodus: Gods and Kings might be an easy pass for most moviegoers. Trailers thus far have done little to inspire confidence, and the recent whitewashing controversy has drawn the wrong type of attention. Then again, there's plenty out there who are unaware of the controversy and will be intrigued by the film because of its cast and crew. And for the rest of us, it's hard to deny the morbid curiosity.
Then there's recent trend with big budget biblical epics. They may have gone over huge in the past, but as of late they haven't had a good track record, especially those that take significant liberties with the source material. Sure, they still can make a decent chunk of change, but not enough to justify the risk. Can this one break the mold?
Check out the trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings.
5 Inherent Vice (Limited Release Date: December 12th)
It's rare that we get two features from Paul Thomas Anderson within such a short time period, which in and of itself is enough reason celebrate the release Inherent Vice. It also doesn't hurt that PTA consistently puts out high quality and thought-provoking features that boast A-list ensembles. Some might even say he's one of a very small group of genuine auteurs working in the industry today. And while Inherent Vice is no different, it also has a decidedly more playful tone, one reminiscent of Anderson's work on films like Boogie Nights and Punch Drunk Love than his more recent movies (There Will Be Blood, The Master).
As if that wasn't enough, Anderson has taken to adapting the work of Thomas Pynchon for Inherent Vice. Granted, this story, which has a psychedelic noir feel, is no Gravity's Rainbow or Infinite Jest, but it will be interesting to see such a well-regarded auteur tackle the material.
Check out the trailer for Inherent Vice.
4 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Release Date: December 17th)
After three Lord of the Rings and two Hobbit films, Peter Jackson is finally ready to conclude a decade-long journey with The Battle of the Five Armies, his final adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's library. It's also fans' last trip to Middle-earth, and for that reason alone this is easily the most anticipated film of the month. Yes, there have been some missteps along the way, but it's hard to imagine people passing up an opportunity to finish out the trilogy.
More than that, though, The Battle of the Five Armies also sets the stage for The Lord of the Rings, which could be a completely new draw for fans that bailed somewhere between An Unexpected Journey and Desolation of Smaug. History is unlikely to repeat, but we should mention too that it was the third Lord of the Rings film, Return of the King, which garnered the most awards season glory, including a record 11 Oscars.
Check out the trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
3 The Interview (Release Date: December 25th)
Every Christmas needs a little counterprogramming and The Interview fits the bill nicely for 2014. It has an absurd premise involving an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un and two comedic A-listers in Seth Rogen and James Franco. What more could comedy fans want?
Granted, The Interview doesn't appear to have the endless celebrity cameos that the box office hit This is the End had, but Rogen and Franco could prove to be more than enough. In fact, the film will live or die with Rogen, who is directing for the second time with writing partner Evan Goldberg. His success has earned him the right to make silly movies like this, but with a concept this out there we have to wonder whether The Interview will be the tipping point... or the next great Seth Rogen comedy?
Check out the trailer for The Interview.
2 Unbroken (Release Date: December 25th)
Unbroken has all the makings of a home run both at the box office and at awards shows. It features an Oscar-winner (Angelina Jolie) at the helm, Oscar-winning screenwriters (Joel and Ethan Coen), a rising star lead (Jack O'Connell), and an unbelievable, yet inspiring true story foundation. Even just one of those elements would be enough to make Unbroken worth a watch in our book, but coupled together it's going to be hard to pass this one up.
Sure, in a lot of ways Unbroken may be Oscar bait, but that doesn't mean the film won't be entertaining. It's oftentimes the unknown true stories that make for the best movies, and Louis Zamperini has quite the story. It's a shame he couldn't have lived to see it brought to life on the big screen.
Check out the trailer for Unbroken.
1 Into the Woods (Release Date: December 25th)
It may not be the most well known musical around, but Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods is (in this writer's opinion) still of the greats. It features an interweaving series of plots that flip some famous fairytales on their heads, nuanced music with some comedic flair, and a few twists that are better left unspoiled.
This film version has a dream cast for a musical (or even any holiday release for that matter), boasting familiar faces like Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. The only real element that gives us pause about the film is the idea of adapting this musical for the big screen. When it works it works, and interestingly enough this is the type of story that could benefit from a more cinematic telling. It doesn't hurt that Into the Woods has Rob Marshall (Chicago) at the helm either
Check out the trailer for Into the Woods.
While not as packed as past Decembers, this year's still looks to offer everything from mindless escapism to hard-hitting drama. Obviously, The Hobbit is the one to watch this month, but it isn't the only intriguing new release vying for major box office dollars.
There are also a few films that, although they may not have made out list, might be worth checking out. Films like the 2014 update of Annie or Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb are sure to be perfect family friendly fodder, while Chris Rock's Top Five has some intriguing draws. And if you happen to live in New York or LA, keep a look out for limited releases like Selma and American Sniper, which don't release wide until next month but need to hit at least one theater for Oscar qualification.
What films are you looking forward to seeing this month? Which do you think will gross the most?
Once again, here are the 6 movies we're looking forward to this month:
- December 12: Exodus: Gods and Kings, Inherent Vice
- December 15: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
- December 25: The Interview, Unbroken, Into the Woods
Follow Anthony on Twitter @ANTaormina
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