Bottom Line: The month of December is pretty dry - that is, until the Christmas Day flood.
A chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.
OUR TAKE: Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallée teams with Resse Witherspoon for what looks like a female version of Into the Wild. Witherspoon can deliver when given the right material (see: Mud) and with author Nick Hornby adapting Cheryl Strayed's memoir, the right material may indeed be in Witherspoon's hands.
A police officer (Frank Grillo) and a psychologist (Maria Bello) investigate the deaths of five people who were killed while trying to summon ghosts.
OUR TAKE: This horror flick has three really good things going for it: Frank Grillo (The Purge: Anarchy) and Maria Bello (Prisoners) as leads, and a story by horror maestro, James Wan (The Conjuring).
Exodus: Gods and Kings
An account of Moses' (Christian Bale) hand in leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt.
OUR TAKE: You can't have the holiday season without a classic biblical epic, and Ridley Scott has seemingly crafted one that's as close to the scope of The Ten Commandments as anything we've seen. Here's hoping the final result turned out better than Kingdom of Heaven and/or Robin Hood...
Dec. 12th (Limited)
In Los Angeles in 1970, drug-fueled detective Larry "Doc" Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.
OUR TAKE: Paul Thomas Anderson adapting a Thomas Pynchon novel seems like an esoteric intellectual match made in heaven. Add in actors like Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benecio Del Toro, Eric Roberts and Martin Short, and you have something that could be much more lively than the last few PTA movies.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The Company of Thorin has reached Smaug's lair; but can Bilbo and the Dwarves reclaim Erebor and the treasure? And, if so, can they hold on to it? Or will their quest plunge the rest of Middle-earth into all-out war?
OUR TAKE: The final chapter in Peter Jackson's six-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books is a milestone event; although, one that comes with the burden of having to be the best entry in the less-loved Hobbit trilogy. No pressure.
Business tycoon and mayoral candidate Benjamin Stacks (Jamie Foxx) launches a campaign to take in Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis), a young girl who has been living with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) since her parents left her as a baby.
OUR TAKE: A more colorful (pun) take on the classic story that some may sneer at, but the cast is solid, Jay-Z is handling the music, and director Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits) is known for creating fun contemporary films. This Annie remake may not have such a hard knock life after all.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Larry (Ben Stiller) leaves New York City for London on a quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.
OUR TAKE: By this third chapter you should know if you enjoy Shawn Levy's historical magical adventure series - but the fact that this film contains one of Robin Williams' last onscreen performances will lend the project the clout of morbid curiosity.
(WATCH THE TRAILER)
A Navy SEAL recounts his military career, which includes more than 150 confirmed kills.
OUR TAKE: Clint Eastwood (taking over for Steven Spielberg) directs Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller in a film based on the real life experiences of SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. Biopics can be boring, but this has the makings of an interesting and intense character drama with larger thematic implications.
A drama centered on the awakening of the painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband (Christoph Waltz), who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.
OUR TAKE: A feminist-minded biopic drama with the charming and talented Amy Adams at its center. If that doesn't interest you, this might: Big Eyes is a Tim Burton film that does NOT have Johnny Depp in it. Could be the filmmaker's best dramatic work since Big Fish eleven years ago.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
When Lou, who has become the "father of the Internet," is shot by an unknown assailant, Jacob and Nick fire up the time machine again to save their friend - this time headed 10 years into the future.
OUR TAKE: John Cusack is out, but he was never really the selling point of the franchise anyway. Parks and Rec star Adam Scott is a welcome replacement, and the plot somehow manages to continue to justify this franchises ridiculous hook, a time-traveling hot tub. Not too shabby.
In the action-comedy The Interview, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show "Skylark Tonight." When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them - perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable - to assassinate Kim Jong-un.
OUR TAKE: This movie was enough to push America to the brink of war with North Korea; we GOTTA see what all the fuss was about. Hopefully there are some genuinely good laughs in there, too.
Into the Woods
Into the Woods is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel - all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.
OUR TAKE: Meryl Streep as a Disney witch is enough of a hook on its own; add in Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick, Johny Depp, and other stars like Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, James Corden and Lucy Punch, and what you have is a bonafide Disney tentpole film that will clean up big during the holiday block.
A young Peruvian bear (Ben Whishaw) with a passion for all things British travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he begins to realize that city life is not all he had imagined - until he meets the kindly Brown family, who read the label around his neck ('Please look after this bear. Thank you.') and offer him a temporary haven. It looks as though his luck has changed until this rarest of bears catches the eye of a museum taxidermist (Nicole Kidman)...
OUR TAKE: A familiar brand, a cutesy CGI protagonist and a cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Julie Walter, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent and new Doctor Who Peter Capldi? Yeah, Diseny's Into the Woods will have some competition on X-Mas day.
Dec. 25th (Limited)
A biopic about Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo), Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) and the civil rights marches that changed America.
OUR TAKE: It is now semi-standard practice for an Oscar-bait historical drama to release (at least in limited range) on Christmas Day. Will Selma be the next Lincoln? Director Ava DuVernay doesn't have enough films behind her for us to call it at this point.
A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.
OUR TAKE: Angelina Jolie is still look for a big breakout as a filmmaker, but this biography of the late (and great) Zamperini has been cultural fixation since the book's release. With subject matter that is more inspirational and heartwarming than the dark days of the Civil Rights Movement, Unbroken could overshadow Selma as the historical drama to see.
Look, all things being honest, there's not much at the movies this fall that we're 100% compelled to see. However, as always, a few gems in the rough could be all we need to make the Fall 2014 season worthwhile.
Here's hoping the ones that look promising actually deliver on that promise - and maybe a few films we have yet to get excited about will turn out to be greater than we initially thought. Could happen.