As we get closer to break, a ton of producers are churning out movies for all the people home for the holidays. A ton of big-budget films—like the final film in the Hobbit Trilogy, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Angelina Jolie’s WWII biopic Unbroken, and the fairytale musical Into the Woods—are all slated for release in the coming weeks. Here are a few more under-the-radar films that look promising and might be worth seeking out:
- Wild: dir. Jean-Marc Vallée, starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.
In her first serious role in almost 10 years, Witherspoon is getting a ton of attention for leading this true life drama about a woman who embarks on a 1,000 hike along the Pacific coast. Laura Dern plays her drug-addicted mother, and both roles look pretty raw and gritty. Wild comes out this weekend on Dec. 5.
- A Most Violent Year: dir. J.C. Chandor, starring Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac.
A drama about an immigrant father (Isaac) struggling to keep his family afloat in 1980s NYC, Chandor’s latest film is hinging its success on Chastain’s brutal performance as the corrupt wife of Isaac’s businessman. The film looks clean and moody, and could surprise audiences. It opens on New Year’s Eve.
- American Sniper: dir. Clint Eastwood, starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.
While Eastwood has had a couple misses lately in terms of his directorial efforts, this one looks really intense. The true story of Chris Kyle—the most deadly sniper in US history—the film is aiming to take a realistic look at the effects of war without glorifying Kyle’s achievements. The film opens on Christmas Day in limited release and goes wide on Jan. 16.
- Still Alice: dirs. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin, and Kate Bosworth.
A few months ago, nobody had heard of this film, but now Julianne Moore’s performance is almost guaranteed to win her a long-deserved Oscar. Centered on a linguistics professor (Moore) who gets diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, it’s a crushing and taut looking film definitely worth watching. It opens on Jan. 16.
- Big Eyes: dir. Tim Burton, starring Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Jason Shwartzman, Krysten Ritter, and Terrence Stamp.
Burton hasn’t really had a good live-action film since Sweeny Todd seven years ago. Big Eyes could go either way, but represents a change from the dark zaniness of his most recent films into something a bit more accessible. Based on pop-culture artist Margaret Keane and the husband who claimed to have painted all her works, the film opens just in time for Christmas.
Some other films coming out soon are Paul Thomas Anderson’s drug-fueled adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and Chris Rock’s comedy about acting Top Five, both of which open on Dec. 12. Also, the Seth Rogan-James Franco comedy The Interview about assassinating North Korea’s dictator opens for Christmas. Liam Neeson reprises his role as Bryan Mills one last time for Taken 3, which opens Jan. 9, along with the MLK historical drama Selma about the fight for civil rights in the 1960s—which has recently been surprising a lot of critics, but has yet to screen for audiences.
*One notable omission: The Imitation Game—about WWII logician Alan Turing and staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly—was slated for release on Nov. 21 and thus made my Fall Preview earlier in the year. However, it was pushed into a limited release on Nov. 28 and goes wide on Dec. 12. It looks great and has been getting pretty solid reviews.