As you prepare to gather around the Thanksgiving table with your friends, there’s one thing to be thankful for: Oscar season is upon us! Movies are getting better and the awards are going to start trickling in. So load up on the tryptophan-laced turkey, get those holiday Fandango passes out, and let’s go to the movies!
Synopsis: Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) has the ability to time travel, which he uses to continuously place himself in the path of his one true love, Mary (Rachel McAdams). As he continually changes elements to give them the perfect relationship, repercussions happen which change his life.
What You Need to Know: Rachel McAdams is the queen of rom-coms, and this is her most magical attempt yet (although the trailer bears a resemblance to McAdams’ last time-travel romance, “The Time Traveler’s Wife“). The movie’s sweet set-up and the affable leads look darling, but our own Gabe Toro found the movie to be a buffoonish story about the male characters as opposed to the romance, which could hurt its generally female-driven audience. McAdams has cemented her place in these movies, and doesn’t appear to be breaking the mold anytime soon, so expect fans of romance and McAdams to come out in droves; it helps that the movie is directed by “Love Actually’s” Richard Curtis. “Love Actually” grossed almost $250 million around Thanksgiving of 2003. “About Time” is following the same track release date wise, but one has to ask whether the lack of a Christmas connection will help or hinder.
Release Date: November 1st in limited release; November 8th wide.
“Dallas Buyers Club”
Synopsis: Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) is a good ol’ boy, living the life in 1986. Unfortunately, he’s been diagnosed with AIDS and given thirty days to live. Refusing to accept his death sentence, Woodruff seeks to take advantage of his illness by importing non-FDA approved AIDS medication into the United States.
What You Need to Know: Oscar prognosticators are predicting a heap of awards for this gripping story about AIDS and life. The word is already out for McConaughey, who underwent dramatic weight loss to add to his performance, but the scene stealer appears to be Jared Leto as the transvestite Rayon. When Kevin Jagernauth saw the film at the Toronto International Film Festival, he praised Leto’s “rich warmth and humor.” Kevin gave the film a “B” rating, calling it “a smartly entertaining tale, delivered with respect for its subject matter.” Taking into account Hollywood’s love for social issue dramas, look for this to snag its fair share of awards come January.
Release Date: November 1st in New York and Los Angeles; November 22nd nationwide.
“The Armstrong Lie”
Synopsis: The story of disgraced Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, and how he went from universally beloved cycling hero to shamed steroid abuser.
What You Need to Know: Director Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”) originally set out to direct a documentary about Armstrong’s comeback in 2009, but for various reasons abandoned the film to tell this story of Armstrong’s battle over cheating allegations and eventual admittance to using performance-enhancing substances. Audiences who followed the case and saw Armstrong’s reactions and response to the allegations, might feel the documentary is simply treading over worn ground; a sentiment our own Oliver Lyttelton took note of in his review of the movie’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Oli praised the editing, but felt the movie lacked any significant revelations: “If you followed the scandal closely over the years, it’ll feel like going over old ground.” Regardless, consider this a contender for Best Documentary.
Release Date: November 8th in New York and Los Angeles.
“The Book Thief”
Synopsis: A young girl living in Munich helps to hide a Jewish refugee in her home at the height of World War II.
What You Need to Know: Based on the bestselling book by Marcus Zusak, “The Book Thief” is prime for an adaptation. The issue is the rather “meh” response the film has received at screenings. Despite a cast which includes Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, as well as the feature-length directorial debut of “Downton Abbey” alumnus Brian Percival, audiences aren’t buying its Oscar-bait sheen. The first trailer has almost everything required of an Oscar contender, and audiences might be dissuaded from seeing a movie they believe is purely meant to capitalize on awards potential. There’s also a question about whether this is for children or adults, although it does show some shades of “Hugo,” and that movie secured a few nominations. Oscar bait or not, the story looks compelling and should get its share of families out this holiday season.
Release Date: November 8th in limited release.
“Thor: The Dark World”
Synopsis: Norse god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must stand up against the evil Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) when he threatens Odin and Asgard.
What You Need to Know: Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise has amassed an unseeingly amount of cash, and in May of 2011 the first “Thor” film grossed almost 450 million worldwide despite mixed reviews. “Thor: The Dark World” is gaining an equal mix of positive and negative reviews although Oliver Lyttelton called the movie “enjoyable in spots, but haphazard and ultimately unsatisfying” which probably won’t ruin it at the box office, but could prove that no directed has perfected the ‘Thor’ formula yet. The addition of Christopher Eccelston is a fan pleaser, but is that enough to prevent audiences from ignoring the film’s flaws? Expect the movie to do boffo business, but fans will probably continue to rank the ‘Thor’ franchise low on their list of favorite ‘Avengers’ stories.
Release Date: November 8th.
Synopsis: Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is a small-town man who believes he’s won a million dollars. Refusing to believe it’s a scam, Woody and his skeptical son David (Will Forte) go on a road-trip to claim the prize, learning about each other in the process.
What You Need to Know: “Nebraska” is another awards darling, particularly for Bruce Dern‘s performance. Critics are remaining lukewarm on the Alexander Payne-directed venture, with both Jessica Kiang and Rodrigo Perez remaining ambivalent. In her review of the film from Cannes, Jess faulted the film’s “preplanned” plot that’s too formulaic “for us to take it fully into our hearts.” Rodrigo placed the film in his top films at this year’s New York Film Festival, but agreed he had trouble connecting to the “deadpan humanist portraits” Payne employs. Considering Payne‘s work, and the film’s small roll-out, poor reviews won’t sink this for die-hard fans of the director and general audiences will certainly come out if Dern garners any nominations.
Release Date: November 15th in limited release.
Synopsis: A commensurate underachiever (Vince Vaughn) has his world turned upside down when it’s discovered he’s fathered over 500 children based on sperm donations he made twenty years ago.
What You Need to Know: Talk about a wacky premise! “Delivery Man” is an American remake of the Canadian hit, “Starbuck,” which saw the inside of U.S. theaters this past March. The original may have been a hit in Canada, but is that enough to get audiences’ attention in the U.S.? Vince Vaughn certainly needs the hit after the dismal failure of “The Internship” this past summer. The trailer for the film appears to have the typical Vaughn shtick, but could have an added dose of heart to the proceedings. The movie is coming in under the radar, being only one of two wide release films out its particular weekend—the other being a small film called “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”—so those who aren’t interested in seeing a girl fight in dystopian society might want to seek this out.
Release Date: November 22nd.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
Synopsis: After winning the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) returns to her district only to discover her winning hasn’t changed anything. When it’s determined that the winning tributes are inspiring hope and revolution, a series of games will pit all the winners together.
What You Need to Know: Everyone expected the ‘Hunger Games‘ franchise to be big, but big is an understatement. The first in the series, released last March, grossed over $690 million worldwide and in September of this year the sequel was predicted to garner over a billion dollars! While many are saying YA novels are failures—past failures this year include adaptations of “Beautiful Creatures” and “The Mortal Instruments” (which is getting a sequel anyway)—“The Hunger Games” is a financial juggernaut. Lawrence’s Q rating has only increased in light of her Oscar win, so additional fans could come out who didn’t see the first film, but who want to continue watching Lawrence’s career. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” will definitely light up the box office this month.
Release Date: November 22nd.
Synopsis: A Catholic woman (Judi Dench) travels to various locales with a journalist (Steve Coogan) searching for the child she gave up for adoption decades ago.
What You Need to Know: “Philomena” came out to rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival, including Playlist writer Oliver Lyttelton, who gave the film a “B+” for its “crowd-pleasing” story and excellent script by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope. (The screenplay went on to win Best Screenplay the festival.) Dench could get a nomination for Best Actress for her compelling performance, as well as the aforementioned screenplay, but of course the movie has hit a snag with the MPAA, getting an R-rating for two non-sexual uses of the “F” word. As always, Harvey Weinstein is battling the rating but whether or not he emerges victorious remains to be seen.
Release Date: November 22nd in limited release; November 27th worldwide.
Synopsis: A man (Josh Brolin) is imprisoned for two decades and released with seemingly little rhyme or reason. Upon gaining his freedom he becomes determined to figure out why he was held captive, and seek vengeance on those who wronged him.
What You Need to Know: The 2005 original directed by Park Chan-wook is considered a classic, and this remake will get its fair share of scrutiny and comparisons. Director Spike Lee and leading man Brolin have been trying to head off criticisms at the pass, with the latter going so far as to get Park‘s blessing. The trailers have certainly played up the violence, and the movie moved from a rather dull October spot to a highly touted Thanksgiving weekend position; an odd move considering families probably won’t want to celebrate the holiday with a violent film like this, but enhances the possibility that Lee has something unique to offer.
Release Date: November 27th.