Holiday movie releases promise adventure for every age

By on November 27, 2012

There’s only one last issue to go here at UAB’s Kaleidoscope, but there’s still plenty of action happening at movie theaters this holiday season with many Oscar contenders yet to open here in Birmingham. Here’s a look at the best of the bunch, and be sure to check out my list of the top movies of the year in January, when we return!

Films that have opened elsewhere will continue to make their way to Alabama over the next few weeks, including the highly anticipated “Hitchcock,” with the legendary Anthony Hopkins playing the titular terror as he puts together the masterpiece known as “Psycho.” Fellow Oscar winner Helen Mirren plays Hitch’s wife, with sexy Scarlett Johansson tackling the dreaded shower scene as actress Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as her co-star, Vera Miles. Also be sure and check out HBO’s recent “The Girl” if you haven’t already which is about the filming of Hitchcock’s movies with actress Tippi Hedren, including “The Birds.” It would make for a perfect double feature with this one.

Also going wide this week is “Silver Linings Playbook,” the latest from quirky filmmaker David O. Russell, best known for “The Fighter.” It stars Bradley Cooper as a man with bipolar disorder who falls for another emotionally damaged person played by Oscar nominee and erstwhile Katniss Jennifer Lawrence. This one also boasts an ace supporting cast in Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, and Chris Tucker. The Oscar buzz is strong with this one, with critical acclaim being almost uniformly positive.

Starting this Friday is the latest from Brad Pitt, “Killing Them Softly,” from director Andrew Dominik, who also worked with Pitt on the laboriously-titled “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” This one revolves around a Mob-related tale about a heist at a card game, and the hit-man Pitt is sent in to avenge those robbed. Featuring Mob-acting luminaries James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”) and Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas”), plus Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins, this one should be well worth a look for the acting on display alone.

Also getting into a little heist-themed action is the brother-sister duo played by Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde in “Deadfall” (Dec. 7). When a casino robbery goes horribly awry, Bana and Wilde flee for safer pastures, randomly colliding with another family’s Thanksgiving dinner. The family is played by Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”), Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson–this should be another impressive cast of actors to watch at work. Ditto in regards to the hit-man character is “Stand Up Guys” (Dec. 14), with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, already a strong contender for Oscar gold with his excellent performance in this year’s “Seven Psychopaths.”

Those jonesing for another dose of Middle Earth can take comfort in another trilogy of films based on the work of fantasy favorite J.R.R. Tolkien, starting with “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” on Dec. 14. Many of your favorites are back, including Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as a younger Gollum. Martin Freeman, of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and the UK-version of “The Office” takes the lead as the legendary Bilbo Baggins. Getting three movies out of a relatively short book may seem like a bit of a stretch, but reportedly director Peter Jackson will be considerably expanding the source material to include some fan favorite characters and to better serve as a bridge between this and the original “LOTR” trilogy.

The first female winner for best director, Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) returns with another military-themed effort, “Zero Dark Thirty” on Dec. 19. This one is a fact-based look at the hunt for Bin Laden starring Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain as a CIA analyst. Even though we all know how that turned out, it should still make for intriguing viewing. Another fact-based effort is “The Impossible” (Dec. 21) starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor as the heads of a family that vacations at the worst time ever – during a deadly tsunami.

A long-in-the-making adaption of the classic Jack Kerouac novel, “On the Road” finally debuts on Dec 21, with the actress-formerly-known-as Bella Swan, Kristen Stewart, as a free spirit traveling with Garrett Hedlund (“Tron: Legacy”) and Sam Riley (“Control”) across America in the quintessential Beat Generation document. The supporting cast is something, including Amy Adams, Kristen Dunst, Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”), Viggo Mortensen (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy), Terrence Howard (“Hustle and Flow”), and Steve Buscemi (“Boardwalk Empire”). Um, where do I sign?

Judd Apatow goes back to the well with the pseudo-sequel to “The 40-Year Old Virgin” in “This is 40” (Dec 21), which chronicles the next chapter in the family played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in the original. Fun fact: Apatow’s real-life kids with wife Mann appear as his kids here. Way to put other kids out of work, Judd! (I kid.) On the same date, Tom Cruise also goes back to his well of choice in “Jack Reacher,” an action-driven adaptation of a series of novels by best-selling author Lee Child.

For those who want to ring in Christmas with Broadway tune-age, there’s the film adaptation of the popular “Les Miserables,” from “The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper. It features a host of stars singing up a storm, including Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried (not her first rodeo, after “Mamma Mia!”), Hugh Jackman (another Broadway musical luminary) and Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, late of the musical “Sweeney Todd.”

Finally, there’s the highly-anticipated “Django Unchained,” also opening on Christmas, the latest from director Quentin Tarantino. The to-die-for cast includes Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Jonah Hill, Christoph Waltz, and Kerry Washington; plus a whole host of QT”s fave character actors, including Don Johnson, James Remar, Bruce Dern and Michael Parks. Taking place in the plantation-era South and involving a slave-turned-bounty hunter, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that QT takes some liberties with history in the service of a good story, well told. I’m there, regardless.

Plenty of good stuff out there, with more where that came from, no matter what you’re into. Be sure and take advantage of the winter break and get thee to a multiplex. I’ll see you there!

Mark Trammel
Staff Writer

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