The holiday season brings a lot of things to mind. Colder weather, Christmas trees, candy canes, gift shopping, college students unable to enjoy these nice things because they are studying for finals like crazy people, and movie releases. From blockbusters to Oscar contenders, there is always a diverse range of films launched in December. Here’s a glimpse at a few that are worthy of keeping on the radar this season.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: This is it. The big blockbuster of the holiday season. From director Peter Jackson and his faithful Lord of the Rings crew comes the second installment in The Hobbit trilogy. Unexpected Journey dominated its release weekend last year to eventually cross the billion dollar mark, so there’s no questioning the looming financial success for this sequel. Unexpected did fail, however, to establish itself as the critical success like each of the original Lord of the Rings films. Critics and fans alike criticized the lack of practical effects, the inconsistent tone, and Jackson’s refusal to ever edit his movies. Still, early reviews for The Desolation of Smaug are naming it a significant improvement over its predecessor, praising the faster pace and memorable performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The Desolation of Smaug needs to show that Jackson learned from his mistakes with the first film, and that he and his team of writers can add material that is exciting to watch and melds with the pre-existing source material.
The Wolf of Wall Street: If the new Hobbit movie promises to be the blockbuster of the holiday season, then The Wolf of Wall Street is turning heads for its star studded cast and crew. Any film that has Martin Scorsese in the directors chair deserves attention, and for good reason at that. Director of The Departed, Goodfellas, and Hugo, Scorsese has been nominated for best director by the Academy of Awards a grand total of seven times. Yeah, he’s a big deal. The Wolf of Wall Street tells the true story of Jordan Belfort (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio), a young Wall Street executive whose illegal work habits fund a lifestyle of drugs and partying. Accompanied by Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill, the film has the looks of being an entertaining black comedy. For those interested, the film is based of Belfort’s memoir of the whole ordeal, which can be found here.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: The original Anchorman came out back in 2004, and to this day it still boasts a massive fan base. Will Ferrell once again dons the mustache of the ridiculous anchor man Ron , followed by his faithful news crew (portrayed by Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, and David Koechner) in this sequel. It’s likely to have more of the same odd ball comedy that the first one brought, so if the original didn’t deliver on the laughs, don’t expect the sequel to be any different. What’s really notable about this film is the ambitious and over-the-top marketing campaign that accompanies it. Will Ferrell wrote a book, launched a series of car commercials, gave the news (for real) in North Dakota, and even visited nearby Emerson College, all while in character as Burgundy. Any movie that launches such a diverse marketing campaign deserves recognition.
Her: Every year there are movie gems that somehow slip under the radar. Her, from director Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich), looks to be one of those movies. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely writer who comes to fall in love with the sentient operating system of his apartment, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Despite little advertising or public talk, Her has been receiving universal critical acclaim, clocking in at 94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and even beating out 12 Years a Slave and Gravity for the National Board of Review’s best film of the year. Whether or not this critical acclaim will translate into a strong reception from the public remains to be seen.