Holiday Films

It's blockbuster and Oscar-bait season. Here's the rundown

Darkness falls early in December, which is why we brighten the night skies with Christmas lights. It’s also one reason to take refuge in movie theaters, where you can escape the cold and darkness this year by basking in the projected fantasies of hobbits, French revolutionaries, lovers, bounty hunters, animated monsters, and circus acrobats in 3D. Here are the most eagerly anticipated movies scheduled for release this month. — Pamela Zoslov


Anthony Hopkins plays director Alfred Hitchcock in this drama, directed by Sasha Gervasi, about the relationship between the "Master of Suspense" and his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren) during the making of the 1960 Psycho. The movie studio had little interest in releasing a film about a transvestite murderer, and Hitch, despite his esteemed reputation, had to finance the film himself, a move that ultimately proved quite profitable. Alma was a powerful figure in her own right, but got little credit for her contributions. Scarlett Johanssen appears as Janet Leigh, who of course gets it in the infamous shower scene. Opens Dec. 7.

Playing for Keeps

'Tis the season for stories of redemption. In this romantic comedy, Gerard Butler plays a former sports star fallen on hard times who tries to get his life together by coaching his son's soccer team, only to find himself unable to resist all the gorgeous soccer moms. The thoughtful Italian director Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds) directs, and the cast includes Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Dennis Quaid. Opens Dec. 7.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The first entry in a planned trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 The Hobbit, Peter Jackson's new film features many of the players from his Lord of the Rings series: Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug. Guillermo del Toro, who was originally selected to direct the film, co-wrote the screenplay. The epic fantasy-adventure, in both 2D and 3D formats, hits theaters Dec. 14. Look for parts two and three in 2013 and 2014.

Monsters, Inc. 3D

"We Scare Because We Care." That's the motto of Monsters, Inc., the company that generates the city of Monstropolis' power by scaring children. The 2001 Pixar hit movie, featuring the voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, and Steve Buscemi, is being re-released in glorious 3D for a whole new generation of fans. Take the kids (or yourself) to see it starting Dec. 19.

Jack Reacher

Through the magic of Hollywood, 5-foot-7 Tom Cruise plays 6-foot-5 killing machine Jack Reacher, the protagonist of a series of books by British novelist Lee Child. In this one, five people are killed by a trained military sniper. A suspect is arrested and protests his innocence. He calls Jack Reacher, the uncannily clever military veteran-turned-drifter, to help clear him. Reacher instead sets out to prove the man's guilt, and, not surprisingly, gets "more than he bargained for." Christopher McQuarrie directs; the film opens Dec. 21.

This is 40

The talented Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) has been in the producer's chair for a lot of recent movies, but hasn't directed since the 2009 Funny People. His latest, This Is 40, is a semi-autobiographical comedy about middle-aged marriage starring Apatow's alter ego, Paul Rudd, and Lesley Mann, Apatow's wife, reprising and expanding on their roles as Pete and Debbie from Apatow's Knocked Up. The trailer emphasizes some gross moments, but don't underestimate Apatow's ability to make the most unpromising subjects funny. Opens Dec. 21.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

'Tis the season for 3D movies. This one is a surrealistic love story, produced by James Cameron (Avatar) and Andrew Adamson, featuring the famous circus troupe's acrobatics and routines from their wildly popular stage extravaganzas. The story, such as it is, follows Mia, a petite visitor to an old-time circus who falls for The Aerialist, a trapeze artist who glimpses her and then falls. Mia follows him into a parallel universe, where she meets a mad clown who escorts her through a series of dreamlike realms populated by characters from Cirque's Las Vegas shows. The story isn't really the thing; the amazing acrobatics and stunning cinematography are. Opens Dec. 21.

Not Fade Away

Sopranos creator David Chase, whose love of rock music was evident in the soundtrack for the HBO series, makes his feature-film directing debut with this story about a teenage drummer who forms a rock band in 1960s suburban New Jersey and tries to make it big. Sopranos star James Gandolfini plays the kid's dad. Opens Dec. 21.

Django Unchained

Christoph Waltz, who won an Oscar for his performance as a ruthless Nazi in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, returns in Tarantino's latest, playing a former dentist who buys the freedom of a slave named Django and trains him as his deputy bounty hunter. Django instead goes to rescue his wife, who is being held by a ruthless plantation owner played by — really? — Leonardo DiCaprio. The cast also includes Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Don Johnson. Opens Christmas Day.

Les Misérables

Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) directs the long-awaited film adaptation of the stage musical based on the 19th-century Victor Hugo novel about Jean Valjean, the paroled prisoner pursued by the relentless Inspector Javert in revolutionary France. Hugh Jackman stars as Valjean, and Russell Crowe is Javert; Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, and Helena Bonham Carter also star. Opens Christmas Day.

Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.