COLUMN: 2015 Holiday Movie Preview



The holiday months of November and December stand to close out a strong 2015.  Some films debuting in October ("The Martian," "Steve Jobs") may have elected to take an early jump into the Oscar season, but it's here where the race really begins.  Between the year-end blockbusters and the Oscar hopefuls, this 2015 holiday movie season is packed.  Six of this website's "15 most anticipated films of 2015" are finally arriving.  Here's a full preview of this season's upcoming films.  Keep in mind release dates shift and change all the time, so check for your cities and showtimes locally first.


"Spectre"-- The entire season opens with a bang in the first week.  2012's "Skyfall" set a new high water mark for this 50+ year old cinematic institution.  The return of "Skyfall" director Sam Mendes and stalwart star Daniel Craig heighten the titular tease of a modern appearance of Bond's longest standing enemy, the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. organization.  Everyone wants to know if two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz will be the classic Bond villain Blofeld when it's all said and done.  We should be glad that not everything has been spoiled about this film.  (trailer)

"The Peanuts Movie"-- Hyped and marketed almost as long as the new "Star Wars" film, we've been preparing for the return of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang for over a year with teasers and images.  This new G-rated CGI adaptation of the classic character designs lands as strong counter-programming to "Spectre."  The family film audience is starving for this and the nostalgia factor could open this world to a brand new audience.  Even though it's going against James Bond, the studio was smart to put this one ahead of Disney/Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur."  (trailer)

"Brooklyn"-- Here's the first of many Oscar hopefuls on the schedule.  "Brooklyn" follows an Irish immigrant woman (Saoirse Ronan) as she arrives into a new life in 1950's Brooklyn but is torn between two loves (Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson) in two countries.  The film premiered back at the Sundance Film Festival in January, but has made waves at the Toronto, Chicago, and Vancouver International Film Festivals since.  (trailer)

"Miss You Already"-- "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke pairs Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette together as inseparable BFFs who are now learning to navigate adulthood, which includes pregnancy and cancer.  Drew is 40 and Toni is 42 and they haven't figured it out yet?  Fellas, be warned.  This may be your date night exchange price for dragging your significant other to "Spectre."  You've been warned.  Steer clear.  (trailer)

"Trumbo"-- Just about everything Bryan Cranston touches lately turns to gold.  He stars here as the real-life blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter and two-time Academy Award winner Dalton Trumbo who was ostracized during the Communist red scare of the 1950's.  The backstory ensemble cast next to Cranston includes Helen Mirren, Louis C.K., Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Michael Stuhlbarg, Dean O'Gorman, Stephen Root, David James Elliot, Alan Tudyk, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.  Keep an eye on this film's Oscar hopes as well.  Hollywood loves stories about Hollywood.  (trailer)


"Spotlight"-- Director Thomas McCarthy's drama chronicles the investigative journalism behind the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning 2001 coverage of the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal that rocked the nation.  Michael Keaton, looking for that Oscar he narrowly missed for "Birdman," leads the team which includes Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.  "Spotlight" is riding a 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating after impressing critics and audiences at the Venice, Toronto, Telluride, and Chicago International Film Festivals.  (trailer

"The 33"-- The remarkable support and survival story of the 2010 Chilean mining disaster is given the full movie treatment from Warner Bros. and director Patricia Riggen ("Under the Same Moon").  Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Josh Brolin, Gabriel Byrne, and long-lost Lou Diamond Philips star.  With full endorsement and participation from the survivors themselves, "The 33" has been in business in Latin America, but finally lands in America this November.  (trailer)

"By the Sea"-- Real-life super couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie star as a well-off, yet jaded married couple who take a last-chance lavish vacation in an attempt to save their crumbling and volatile marriage.  Following up "Unbroken" from last year, Jolie is behind the director's chair once again.  Let's see how much of this is acting and how much is a glamour project from the couple themselves.  (trailer)

"Love the Coopers"-- Here is your prerequisite and impending big Hollywood studio Christmas movie entry that is sure to bomb.  Lionsgate is footing this bill for John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Ed Helms, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei, and June Squibb to bicker and fail all movie.  (trailer)  

"My All-American"-- One of the screenwriters of "Hoosiers" and "Rudy" steps up to direct another historical and inspiring sports drama.  "My All-American" tells the true story of former University of Texas football player and hero Freddie Steinmark.  Up-and-coming actor Finn Wittrock plays Steinmark and Aaron Eckhart top-lines as the coach.  This film is getting the advertising bump and backing of the Christian audience, so expect a strong Bible Belt turnout.  (trailer)

"James White"-- Opening on the indie scene after spanning the festival circuit since its premiere at Sundance is "James White," a troubling drama about an unstable young man (Christopher Abbot of HBO's "Girls") coming to grips with caring for his terminally-ill mother ("Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon).  File this as the little-indie-that-could.  (trailer)

"Mia Madre"-- After competing for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and recently representing the Opening Night film of the Chicago International Film Festival, this comedy-drama from Italian director Nanni Moretti about the behind-the-scenes troubles of a film director (Magherita Buy) dealing with her personal and professional problems which include a dying mother and a jerk American lead actor (John Turturro).  (trailer)

"Shelter"-- Actor Paul Bettany makes his directorial debut with his real-life wife and Oscar winner Jennifer Connolly starring alongside his "Avengers" co-star Anthony Mackie.  The two play unlikely homeless people who fall in love and try to make the best of their situation.  This film debuts in limited release in November.  (trailer)


"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2"-- The three-year journey and four-film franchise that made Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth stars comes to a close with this knock-down-drag-out epic conclusion where Katniss Everdeen looks to take down the evil President Snow once and for all.  While you enjoy the blockbuster action, savor your final film appearance of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  (trailer)

"The Night Before"-- Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen reunite with their "50/50" director Jonathan Levine and bring Anthony Mackie into the fold as three thirty-somethings who try to reignite their old tradition of drinking and partying on Christmas Eve in New York City.  Skip "Love the Coopers" and pencil this raunchy R-rated film as your go-to Christmas movie for the season.  (red band trailer)

"Secret in Their Eyes"-- The top-notch triumvirate of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts star as FBI investigators wrestling with solving a cold case that involved the murder of one of their own children.  This dramatic thriller from writer/director Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass") is the English-language remake of the 2009 Argentinean thriller and Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner of the same name.  A roster of heavy hitters like these three should turn heads.  (trailer)

"Carol"-- Director Tood Haynes ("Far From Heaven") delivers another 2015 Palme d'Or competitor and Oscar hopeful.  Rooney Mara stars as an aspiring photographer who falls in love with an older married woman, played by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, in turbulent 1950's New York, which such a romance is socially forbidden.  Both Mara and Blanchett are getting Oscar attention for this one.  (trailer)


"The Good Dinosaur"-- Pixar's long delayed project has survived re-writes and re-casting to finally make its theatrical run.  "The Good Dinosaur" imagines how history would have progressed in an asteroid didn't cause the extinction of the dinosaurs and their time merged with that of mammals and man.  In a road/rescue scenario, a young apatosaurus befriends a little caveman boy for adventure.  Despite its troubles in getting here, expect Disney/Pixar's usual emotional swells and perfect creative beauty.  (trailer)

"Creed"-- Spinning off of the proud "Rocky" franchise, Adonis Johnson Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the troubled son of the deceased former champ Apollo Creed, seeks to follow the footsteps of his father and gets the retired Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him for the ring.  "Fruitvale Station" director Ryan Coogler takes the reins of this franchise from Stallone for what looks to be a bold and instant crowd-pleaser.  (trailer)

"Victor Frankenstein"-- Twisting the Mary Shelley classic from the new point-of-view of Igor ("Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe) instead of the tragic doctor (James McAvoy), the "Frankenstein" myth gets a new take that has been delayed by 20th Century Fox for the better part of a year.  That's likely more of a bad sign than a good one, but you have to love the casting.  (trailer)

"The Danish Girl"-- Reigning Best Actor Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne of "The Theory of Everything" guns for his second trophy in a row with this Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") adaptation of the best-selling David Ebershoff novel of the same name.  Redmayne transforms himself into artist's (Miss 2015 Alicia Vikander) husband that is asked to stand in as a female model for portaits and begins to prefer that identity.  This has Oscar push written all over it for Focus Features.  (trailer)  


"Macbeth"-- In a bold new (and hopefully faithful) adaptation of Shakespeare's royal coup and revenge tale of witchcraft, ambition, and rivalry, "Steve Jobs" star Michael Fassbender extends his Oscar resume as the title character and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard plays his wife.  Director Justin Kurzel stepped up to the big time with this film competing for the Palme d'Or in just his second feature.  (trailer)

"Youth"-- Oscar winner Michael Caine and Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel play two reunited childhood friends sharing a holiday together in the Alps reflecting on life and mortality.  Oscar winners Jane Fonda and Rachel Weisz and Oscar nominee Paul Dano co-star in this travelogue drama from Italian director Paolo Sorrento (“The Great Beauty”).  Like so many others on this preview, “Youth” competed for the Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.  (trailer)

"Krampus"-- Former superhero screenwriter Michael Dougherty ("X2," "Superman Returns") steps into the director's chair for this wacky horror comedy that re-imagines the folk tale horned companion of Saint Nicholas as a demonic force of ancient evil that is sent to people that who don't believe.  Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner lead this throwback with an 80's horror vibe.  Here's your one wide release horror entry for the season and it's sanitized down to a PG-13 rating.  Oh joy!  Apparently (inside joke), there are newlywed zany high school social studies teachers and his friends already in line for this one.  Who knew?!  (trailer)

"Life"-- Spy film director Anton Corbijn ("The American," "A Most Wanted Man") steps into historical biographies with this small-scale film documenting the brief friendship between "Life" magazine photographer Dennis Stock and departed Hollywood icon James Dean before he hit the big time with "East of Eden."  "Twilight" star Robert Pattinson plays Stock and Dane DeHaan fills the shoes of James Dean.  Ben Kingsley as studio head Jack Warner and Joel Edgerton as magazine editor John G. Morris round out the cast.  (trailer)

"Hitchcock/Truffaut"-- Documentarian Kent Jones interviews 10 current film directors, including Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and David Fincher, to discuss the impact of French New Wave director Francois Truffaut's friendship with the great Alfred Hitchcock that he highlighted in his 1966 book of the same name.  (trailer)

"Every Thing Will Be Fine"-- Revered New German auteur Wim Wenders returns for his first feature in seven yeas.  "Every Thing Will Be Fine" is a drama surrounding a writer (James Franco) following the ramifications of a tragic accident he caused for 12 years.  Charlotte Gainsbourg and Rachel McAdams add to the weight of this Toronto and Berlin International Film Festival selection.  (trailer)


"In the Heart of the Sea"-- Director Ron Howard brings the supposedly untold nonfiction story that inspired Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" to life (as authored by Nathaniel Philbrick's 2000 book).  The beefy Chris Hemsworth is the first mate of the whaling ship Essex as it battles a rowdy and angry bull sperm whale.  Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, future "Spider-Man" Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Frank Dillane, and Brendan Gleeson set sail with Howard and Hemsworth for this adventure thriller on the high seas.  (trailer

"The Big Short"-- Regular Will Ferrell vehicle director and collaborator Adam McKay (the "Anchorman" series) steps out of comedy to adapt this Michael Lewis ("Moneyball") novel about the loose business practices and profiteering of the U.S. housing bubble and crisis from early this decade.  Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling are the four-pronged figureheads of this wild true story.  Could this be the film that legitimizes someone like McKay?  He certainly has the cast and material for it here.  (trailer)   

"Legend"-- Audiences will get a double dose of Tom Hardy as he plays both of the Kray identical twin gangsters who set off a crime wave of fear in the East End of London in the 1950's and 1960's.  Emily Browning co-stars to play one of the tortured wives at their side.  Director Brian Helgeland ("L.A. Confidential," "Mystic River") knows his crime thrillers and Hardy makes just about everything more interesting.  Multiple that by two.  (trailer


"Star Wars: The Force Awakens"-- Never heard of it.  Here's some trailer.  I guess it's a big deal.  Cool title, dude.  A recent unofficial poll showed that morning wood says "The Force Awakens" to 64% of men every morning.  Maybe it will come into some money.

"Sisters"-- Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play two sisters (Fey is the fun one and Poehler is the square) who set up a huge bash and party at their beloved childhood home before their parents sell ti to another owner.  "Pitch Perfect"'s Jason Moore directs and "Saturday Night Live" writer Paula Pell pens her first feature screenplay.  With big names like Fey and Poehler, it'll probably beat that "other" movie opening this weekend that stars unknowns like John Bodega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, and trio of has-been's like Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford.  Championship!  (trailer)


"The Hateful Eight"-- When trailblazing filmmaker Quentin Tarantino show up, people listen, blood gets shed, and bladders get tested.  His latest three-hour western has eight strangers seeking refuge at a stagecoach hub during a post-Civil War blizzard in Wyoming.  Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walter Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern are your octet of soldiers, bounty hunters, fugitives, and renegades.  (trailer)

"The Revenant"-- On the day after the 2015 Oscars this past February, this very website tabbed "The Revenant" as the #1 Oscar contender for 2016.  Looking at the pedigree involved, you'll see why.  Triple "Birdman" Oscar winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu returns with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy for this revenge western thriller inspired by true events.  DiCaprio plays a men left for dead on the 1823 U.S. frontier after a scuffle, a murder, and a bear attack.  Hardy is the man with the target on his back that Leo seeks to find.  This looks righteously intense.  Will DiCaprio's raw and gritty performance finally earn him that overdue Oscar statue?  Time will tell.  (trailer)

"Joy"-- Landing at #3 on that same early 2016 Oscar prediction editorial as "The Revenent" is the third collaboration between filmmaker David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro after "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle."  The shuffle of the cards this time has Russell crafting a biography drama about inventor Joy Mangano, played by Lawrence as a struggling single mom.  Cooper plays a Home Shopping Network executive and De Niro plays her father.  Edgar Ramirez and Elizabeth Rohm are joined in the ensemble by the long-lost female quartet of Isabella Rosselini, Diane Ladd, Donna Mills, and Virginia Madsen as connected generations of Mangano women.  Russell is on a Oscar contending hot streak with this core group and he's looking to make it three in a row.  (trailer)

"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip"-- They're still making these CGI-animated chalkboard scratchers and sequels?!  Wait, this is the fourth one?!  Please go see "The Good Dinosaur" again instead.  (trailer)

"Concussion"-- The story the NFL doesn't want the public to hear about gets exposed front and center with Will Smith playing Dr. Bennet Omalu as he tries to publicize the effects of CTE from repeated head injuries that add up in the most popular contact sport in the world.  Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays his wife and Luke Wilson plays NFL commissioner Roger Goddell while Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Paul Reiser, Arliss Howard, and Eddie Marzan play rival doctors and obstacles for Omalu.  The trailer is riveting, so let's hope the full film follows suit. 

"Daddy's Home"-- Five years after "The Other Guys," Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg team up for another anti-buddy comedy as two men, one the biological father (Wahlberg) and the other the new stepfather (Ferrell), who compete for the affections of their now-shared kids.  Linda Cardellini plays the mother and referee in the middle.  Sean Anders of "That's My Boy," "Horrible Bosses 2" directs this likely R-rated affair.  (trailer

"Point Break"-- Looking to update (or, in some eyes, tread on the cult greatness), the writer of "Salt," the "Total Recall" remake, and "Law Abiding Citizen" aims to remake the 1990 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze action thriller classic.  Luke Bracey and Edgar Ramirez were cast as the leads and new extreme sports, stunts, and international heists were added to the bank-robbing surfing premise of the original.  The tough-talking Ray Winstone is your Angelo Pappas (the old Gary Busey role) and Theresa Palmer is the woman in the middle of the two alpha males.  Be ready to add this to the list of unnecessary and unsatisfactory film remakes.  (trailer