The start of the holiday season means one thing in the film industry: a rush to the box office. Whether studios are looking for big bucks or awards, come Thanksgiving the box office is a gold mine. Here's what's on tap.
Penguins of Madagascar (PG) Nov. 26
Leaching off the successful Madagascar series, the penguins — Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private — get their time to shine. The four feathered super spies take on the world but run into some trouble trying to bring down evil octopus Dr. Octavius Brine (voiced by John Malkovich). Fortunately, the flightless birds get some help from The North Wind, a motley crew of Arctic animals led by the wolf Agent Classified (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Since it's an animated DreamWorks movie, we're going to bet the birds save the day.
Annie (PG) Dec. 19
If we're honest, the 1980s version of Annie was a bland snooze fest, but we're hopeful that the African American-centric, celebrity-produced (Jay-Z, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) flick scores. Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of a Southern Wild) takes on the role of Annie, and Jamie Foxx stars as a re-imagined Daddy Warbucks. This go-round his name is Will Stacks, a politician who needs to improve his image, so he fosters little orphan Annie. Songs, mischief, and cute puppy moments are sure to ensue, and quite possibly — and embarrassingly — a tear or two. The only thing we're wary of is Cameran Diaz's take on Ms. Hannigan. From the trailer, she looks distractingly hammy.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (PG) Dec. 19
The thing that everyone is going to talk about with Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is Robin Williams. His reprisal of Teddy Roosevelt marks one of the final roles from the deceased comedian. In the third installment of the Night of the Museum series the historical crew travels to the British Museum. Once there, Roosevelt meets Sir Lancelot (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey), a Triceratops smashes into a valuable case of memorabilia, and a monkey pees on Wild West cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) and Roman Emperor Octavius (Steve Coogan). Australian comedian Rebel Wilson joins the cast as well. And while we're not quite sure how the Secret of the Tomb — the tomb being one of the Great Pyramids — ties in, we're pretty sure you can expect some kid-friendly laughs — meaning pratfalls and fart jokes.
Into the Woods (PG) Dec. 25
The Tony-award winning Broadway musical Into the Woods gets the silver screen treatment — as well as a star-studded cast. In the Stephen Sondheim-written musical, The Witch (Meryl Streep) casts an evil spell over The Baker (James Cordon) and The Baker's Wife (Emily Blunt), so they'll never be able to have children. In order to break the curse, the Bakers must travel into the woods and obtain objects from various fairy tale favorites — and it's all done with lots of singing. Don't worry parents, the play's more racy elements have been toned down because, you know, Disney. Anna Kendrick stars as Cinderella, Chris Pine is Prince Charming, Johnny Depp takes on the role of the Big Bad Wolf, and Tracey Ullman plays the mother of Jack, of the beanstalk fame.
- Lionsgate Pictures
- Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) ups her game in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part One
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part One (PG-13) Nov. 21
We're just going to skip over our gripes of splitting the final Hunger Games book into two parts and jump right back into rooting for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence). The third installment of the franchise kicks off where we left off after Catching Fire — with Katniss finding out that most of District 12 has been destroyed, and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) is still being held captive by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the Capital. But this is Katniss, and she's not going to take the unraveling of her world lying down. No, she's going to try and salvage what she can of her country Panem, but we'll probably have to wait until the final film is released on Nov. 20, 2015 to see that.
Exodus: Gods and Kings (PG-13) Dec. 12
It's another sweeping sand-and-sandals epic from director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien, Prometheus). This time Ridley turns to the Bible and tells the tale of Moses (Christian Bale) and his rise against his adopted brother Pharaoh Ramses of Egypt. Expect to see swarms of locusts, parting seas, water turning into blood, and storms of fire in top-notch CGI glory.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Not Yet Rated) Dec. 17
Peter Jackson returns to helm the final chapter in the bloated Hobbit saga. This time Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and his furry-footed friends find themselves in a war against a lot of orcs and the evil dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) to keep Middle Earth from being demolished. The usual suspects — Gandalf (Ian McKellan), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Bard (Luke Evans), and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) — appear as well. Although Jackson scored both critically and professionally with the Lord of the Rings, his previous two Hobbit flicks were mediocre at best. We doubt this one will be much better.
Dumb and Dumber To (PG-13) Nov. 14
Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) return to the screen after 20 years. This time, instead of returning a briefcase, the duo go in search of a kidney — and a long-lost kid. Stupid but hilarious jokes are guaranteed, and hopefully it erases any memories of the failed Dumb and Dumber prequel, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.
Horrible Bosses 2 (R) Nov. 26
Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis, and Charlie Day are back and have given up on having bosses. The trio have gone into business together, creating a QVC-esque product called the Shower Buddy. After landing a huge order from two investors (Christopher Waltz, Chris Pine), they soon find out it was a bogus placement. Instead of eating the costs, the boys turn to kidnapping to get their money back. Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, and Kevin Spacey reprise their roles as well.
- Paramount Pictures
- 'Top Five'
Top Five (Not Yet Rated) Dec. 14
Chris Rock plays Andre, a comedic actor who wants to switch gears and try out his dramatic chops. Andre is also engaged to a reality star who wants to broadcast their wedding on national TV — all for the money. When a New York Times reporter (Rosario Dawson) starts to interview Andre, he begins to re-evaluate his life and, based on the trailer, ends up falling for the journo.
The Interview (Not Yet Rated) Dec. 25
Seth Rogen and James Franco team up yet again, this time as TV producer and celebrity TV host, respectively, who discover that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show and manage to wrangle an interview with the dictator. They think it's their break into "real" news, but the CIA wants them to take Kim Jong-un out. In all seriousness, North Korea issued a letter of complaint to the White House over the film.
Foxcatcher (R) Nov. 14
Steve Carell sheds his funny-man persona and physically transforms himself — he's almost unrecognizable — into wrestling coach John Du Pont. He brings U.S. Olympian Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) under his wing to train him to be a champion, but the schizophrenic coach takes things too far. And by too far, we mean Du Pont kills Schultz's brother Dave ( Mark Ruffalo) in this real-life tale. Back when the film premiered at Cannes in May, Carell's name became one-to-watch in the best actor category.
The Imitation Game (PG-13) Nov. 28
The Imitation Game focuses on British mathematician Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his race to break the German Enigma Code during World War II and save Britain — all while trying to hide his sexuality. Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode also star.
Wild (R) Dec. 5
Dealing with the death of her mother, a heroin problem, and sleeping around, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) goes on a 1,100 mile solo walk to get her life back on track.
Unbroken (PG-13) Dec. 25
If there's ever a time for emotionally heavy flicks, it's the holiday season. And director Angelina Jolie doesn't want to disappoint with Unbroken, the tale of American Olympian Louis Zamperini, who becomes a Japanese POW after serving in World War II. Throughout the film, Zamperini's grit and determination are shown as he endures everything the Japanese government throws at him — from bearing heavy wooden beams as punishment to being punched in the face by every other POW in camp. Buzz is building just based on Jolie's involvement and the Coen Brothers script, but few have seen the movie since it skipped out on the festival circuit.
The Theory of Everything (PG-13) Coming Soon
Stephen Hawking is most well known for his work in astrophysics and living with ALS, but for most of his life there was one woman by his side, Jane Wilde. (Wilde and Hawking married in 1965 and divorced in 1990.) Director James Marsh's romantic drama explores the story of how Hawking (played here by Eddie Redmayne) and Wilde (Felicity Jones) met at Cambridge and handled his ALS diagnosis. Redmayne is already stirring up some Oscar buzz, and Jones's performance has also received rave reviews.
Whiplash (R) Coming Soon
In Whiplash, J.K. Simmons stars as Fletcher, a music instructor who will stop at nothing to ensure he has the best band out there, which causes drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) to have a breakdown while trying to keep up with Fletcher's demands. Teller has been praised for his performance, but it's Simmons who's getting the Oscar buzz.