Holiday Movie Preview

By Karsten Burgstahler

The final two months of the year are often a mad scramble for Hollywood. Each studio tries to cram one or two major blockbusters into a little space before Thanksgiving or Christmas, resulting in an overload of hit movies. It is also the last chance for a movie to have a qualifying Oscar run if the producers dream of academy glory.

But when studios compete, audiences win. November and December are packed with buzzy dramas and big blockbusters. Here is a look at some of the fare hitting theaters this holiday season.



“Thor: The Dark World” 

November 8

Marvel’s Phase Two has already made a big impression at the box office— “Iron Man 3” opened to more than $174 million back in May and eventually grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, while “Thor: The Dark World” grossed more than $100 million in the first five days of its worldwide release. The new installment opens in the US Friday and finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) teamed up with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddelson), who is serving time for trying to take over Earth, to defeat a new threat in the form of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). The second “Thor” probably will not reach the colossal box office levels of “Iron Man 3” but it’s tracking to open higher than the original because of “The Avengers” and its wild success back in 2012.

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” 

November 22

“Catching Fire” is sliding into the pre-Thanksgiving Friday slot dominated in the last decade by the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” franchises, a sign of the confidence distributor Lionsgate has in the series. Early tracking has the film pegged at opening to $150 million; this tracking isn’t always reliable but given the success of the first “Hunger Games,” it certainly would not be surprising. The sequel finds Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) thrown back into the Hunger Games with other victors because of the Quarter Quell, a special version of the games every 25 years where a twist is put on the proceedings. Katniss begins to see the distrust in the government that has fermented in the districts and sees a revolution could be imminent. Lionsgate has laid claim to Thanksgiving through 2015 for this franchise, so expect big numbers for a few weeks after the movie’s release.



November 27

Disney has proven they can create CGI films apart from Pixar; Last year’s “Wreck-It Ralph” was a success both critically and financially. But their storytelling lacks quality without the animation giant, so it’ll be interesting to see how critics react to “Frozen,” Disney’s big Thanksgiving movie this year. “Frozen” follows Anna (Kristen Bell), a princess who must find her sister (Idina Menzel), the future queen and the reason their kingdom is locked in eternal winter. Along the way she meets Olaf (Josh Gad), a snowman who keeps losing his head and is obviously Disney’s marketing ploy to sell thousands of plush dolls. Because “Catching Fire” is pretty violent for children, “Frozen” is pretty much the only option for the whole family this Thanksgiving, which should help it cash in.

Also in November: 14 years after “The Best Man,” the cast reunites for the Christmas-themed sequel “The Best Man Holiday,” Nov. 15; Vince Vaughn is a slacker (like always) who discovers his sperm donations resulted in more than 500 children in “Delivery Man,” Nov. 22; Spike Lee remakes the 2003 South Korean cult film “Oldboy,” about a man who is locked in a prison against his will for twenty years and is released to discover the truth, Nov. 27.


“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” 

December 13

Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel trilogy continues with this second installment, which finds the adventurers going up against the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) in their journey to slay him. Like the first film “An Unexpected Journey,” “Smaug” will be presented in regular projection as well as 48 Frames Per Second, a method which some filmgoers enjoyed while other said it made them sick. Jackson’s “Hobbit” franchise hasn’t received the critical laud or the audience excitement the original trilogy mustered, but “Journey” ended up grossing more than a billion dollars worldwide and “Smaug” looks primed to do the same.

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” 

December 20

“Anchorman” wasn’t a huge hit when it first came to theaters, but on video it gained a passionate cult following—one that was strong enough to get Paramount to not only agree to a sequel almost a decade after the original, but schedule it in the prime Christmas season. The original cast returns, fronted by Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), and now they’re on their way to work for a 24-hour news channel. Joining the cast, are Kristen Wiig, as a love interest for Steve Carell’s Brick, James Marsden as a newscaster Burgundy butts heads with and Meagan Good as Burgundy’s new boss. “Anchorman” is one of the most widely quoted movies in pop culture, so “Anchorman 2” will have to work hard to live up the original’s reputation.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” 

December 25

“Wolf” was originally scheduled for a Nov. 15 release, but director Martin Scorsese’s first cut was more than three hours and the film needed more time for editing. The movie will still qualify for an Oscar run with its new release date and Paramount will now have a one-two box office punch between this and “Anchorman 2.” “Wolf” concerns the true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a stockbroker who gets in over his head because of the millions he’s making and becomes the target of a securities fraud investigation. The all-star cast also includes Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey and Jon Favreau. The Oscar buzz surrounding the movie has been considerable because of the names attached to it. However, “Wolf” is the kind of movie that could be successful both critically and financially. The movie has stiff competition in the form of “American Hustle” and “August: Osage County,” both of which will draw adult crowds on Christmas, but don’t bet against Scorsese and DiCaprio—their last effort, “Shutter Island,” was a success and their collaboration before that, “The Departed,” took home the grand prize at the Oscars.

Also in December: Christian Bale leads a big-hitter cast including Woody Harrelson and William Dafoe in the Rust Belt drama “Out of the Furnace,” Dec. 6; Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence reteam with David O. Russell in “American Hustle,” a film adaptation of the ABSCAM sting also starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams, Dec. 18; Ben Stiller stars in and directs “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” about a newsman who imagines himself on wild journeys across the world to escape his dreary life, Dec. 25.