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Holiday Movie Preview 2014

As always, Hollywood saves the best for last

  • Walt Disney Studios

    Holiday Movie Preview 2014

    ’Tis the season for Hollywood to trot out its thoroughbreds: the films that studios believe have the best shot at winning Oscar roses. Many of this breed are based on true stories — and all of them showcase stellar talents. Herewith, the year-end films we can’t wait to see.

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  • 20th Century Fox

    'Exodus: Gods and Kings' (Dec. 12)

    Director: Ridley Scott Stars: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver Hollywood has never been able to resist the potent combo of spirituality and spectacle that surrounds the book of Exodus. Dipping his toe in the Red Sea waters this time around is mega-director Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Black Hawk Down). Bale plays Moses, while hunky Edgerton stares him down as the pharaoh who won’t let Moses’ people go until all heaven breaks loose.

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  • 20th Century Fox

    'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb' (Dec. 19)

    Director: Shawn Levy Stars: Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Ben Kingsley, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson That cast list could go on and on, as most of the major characters from the first two Museum installments, plus a few new ones, tumble over each other in a third madcap adventure. The premise is little changed: The magic that brings the museum’s exhibits to life each night is in danger of vanishing. Poignantly, the film is a last chance to see Williams (as Teddy Roosevelt).

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  • Claire Folger/Paramount Pictures

    'The Gambler' (Dec. 19)

    Director: Rupert Wyatt Stars: John Goodman Jessica Lange, Mark Wahlberg Wahlberg stars as a literature professor who, when it comes to games of chance, just doesn’t know when to fold ’em. He even borrows from his mother (Lange) to stay one step ahead of the crooks who are his creditors. James Caan starred in the 1974 original — still one of the laconic tough guy’s favorite roles.

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  • Sony Pictures

    'Annie' (Dec. 19)

    Director: Will Gluck Stars: Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis Wallis, who was nominated for an Oscar for Beasts of the Southern Wild, stars in an all-new screen version of the Broadway classic. As fans of John Huston’s darkly quirky 1982 big-screen take, we’re still trying to get our heads around the idea of Foxx as Daddy Warbucks (here he’s called Will Stacks) and Diaz as the villainous Miss Hannigan.

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  • Sony Pictures Classics

    'Mr. Turner' (Dec. 19)

    Director: Mike Leigh Stars: Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Timothy Spall Does a movie about a legendary landscape artist sound about as exciting as watching paint dry? Seven-time Oscar nominee Leigh and his splendid cast are out to prove otherwise. Spall — known to U.S. audiences as the ratty Wormtail from the Harry Potter flicks — embodies J. M. W. Turner, the 19th-century British painter whose work was beloved, but whose taciturn, selfish and sometimes abusive personality forced him to spend much of his life in hiding. 

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  • Walt Disney Studios

    'Into the Woods' (Dec. 25)

    Director: Rob Marshall Stars: Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Tracey Ullman The songless trailer may lead you to think otherwise, but Into the Woods is based on Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim’s magically tuneful (yet unapologetically dark) musical. We’ve decided to trust that director Marshall, who made the masterly screen adaptation of Chicago, will do the right thing here. (Plus, how can you go wrong with Depp as a wolf and Streep as a witch?)

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  • Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount Pictures

    'Selma' (Dec. 25)

    Director: Ava DuVernay Stars: David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, Oprah Winfrey
    The human currents that flow through the river of history drive this epic retelling of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting-rights marches. The titans of the drama are here: Oyelowo as MLK, Wilkinson as LBJ and Roth as Gov. George Wallace. But lesser-known figures also get big-star treatment, including Gooding as civil-rights attorney Fred Gray and Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper — who famously dropped Selma Sheriff Jim Clark with a single punch to the jaw.

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  • Universal Pictures

    'Unbroken' (Dec. 25)

    Director: Angelina Jolie Stars: Jack O’Connell, Finn Wittrock Jolie showed a sure hand directing the 2011 Bosnian war movie In the Land of Blood and Honey. Here, working from a script written by Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo), she tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner taken captive by the Japanese during World War II. Zamperini died last year at 97, but not before the film — in development since the 1950s — was finished.

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  • Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

    'Interstellar' (Nov. 7)

    Director: Christopher Nolan Stars: Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, David Oyelowo   If any director has a chance of capturing the horrifying awesomeness of space the way Stanley Kubrick did nearly 50 years ago in 2001: A Space Odyssey, it’s Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight). His sci-fi take on scientists traveling through a black hole also costars Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Bill Irwin and Jessica Chastain. 

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  • Universial pictures International

    'The Theory of Everything' (Nov. 7)

    Director: James Marsh Stars: Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne A generation has known theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking only as the wheelchair-using supergenius who helped unlock the secrets of the cosmos. But in this film — based on a 2007 book by his first wife, Jane — his life becomes the stage for a poignant human story of love, tragedy, betrayal and hope. Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn) stars as Hawking, and Jones (Like Crazy) plays Jane. 

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  • Sony Pictures Classics

    'Foxcatcher' (Nov. 14)

    Director: Bennett Miller Stars: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum In this gripping true-life psychological drama, Carell is out to make you forget all about The Office. He plays eccentric millionaire John du Pont, a dangerously unbalanced sports enthusiast who coached Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum) in the 1980s. Mark Ruffalo costars as Mark's brother Dave, whose conflict with du Pont had tragic consequences. Director Miller (Moneyball, Capote) insinuates us into the minds of his characters, whether we like being there or not.

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  • Yana Productions

    'Rosewater' (Nov. 7)

    Director: Jon Stewart Star: Gael Garcia Bernal Fans of The Daily Show must have wondered where Stewart, its host, disappeared to for several months last year; it was to make this political drama about a journalist, played by Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries), who was detained and brutally interrogated in Iran in 2009. Rosewater is based on a true story: Maziar Bahari was arrested mainly because he had made mocking comments about Iran on Stewart’s show.

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  • The Weinstein Company

    'The Imitation Game' (Nov. 21)

    Director: Morten Tyldum Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley
    It’s awards season, so you knew Mr. Cumberbatch would turn up sooner or later, right? This time he’s British mathematician Alan Turing, who — along with a whiz-kid team played by Knightley, Matthew Beard, Matthew Goode and Allen Leech — helped crack the Germans’ Enigma code during World War II.

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  • Fox Searchlight/Everett Collection

    'Wild' (Dec. 5)

    Director: Jean-Marc Vallée Stars: Laura Dern, Thomas Sadosky, Reese Witherspoon When the going gets tough, the tough get hiking — in this case a 1,100-mile solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. Witherspoon stars as Cheryl Strayed, whose 2012 memoir told how she escaped a life of heroin abuse and random sex by undertaking a vision quest in the high country. Dallas Buyers Club director Vallée, a brutally honest filmmaker, tells a gritty story amongst the breathtaking scenery.

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