Must-See

Holiday Movie Preview: ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ and More

It's movie time! All the films to look forward to this holiday season, from ‘The Hunger Games’ sequel to Scorsese’s latest.

It’s been a pretty dismal summer movie-wise. Remember The Internship? After Earth? We hardly do, either. The fall brought some welcome relief in the form of Gravity and 12 Years a Slave, but now, we’re getting into the real bread-and-butter: awards season. The next six weeks will see a bevy of awards-bait films—and grand blockbuster entertainments—hit theaters, including The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, and much more. Here are the most anticipated movies this holiday season.

Murray Close/Lionsgate

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Nov. 22)

The second installment in the Hunter Games franchise sees a new director at the helm, Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend), and dystopian child-warriors Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) on a victory tour in their district. With a rebel uprising brewing, the pair is thrown into the 75th Annual Hunger Games against more vicious opponents, since President Snow (Donald Sutherland) has designs on eliminating them and quelling the uprising. In addition to a new director, the sequel also features some new cast additions, including Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee and the hunky Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair.

Jessica Miglio/Disney-DreamWorks II Distribution Co.

DELIVERY MAN (Nov. 22)

This Disney remake of the 2011 Canadian comedy Starbuck, also directed by Ken Scott, centers on David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn), a regular Joe who’s donated a ton of sperm under the alias “Starbuck.” When he learns he’s fathered 533 children through artificial insemination, David has to decide whether or not to reveal himself to his kids—and reveal the news to his girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders). The comedy features music by Jon Brion, and also stars Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt and SNL’s Bobby Moynihan. And check out the facts behind the movie here.

Alex Bailey/The Weinstein Company

PHILOMENA (Nov. 22)

Directed by Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons) from a screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena follows journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) who, eager for a story or book idea, stumbles upon Philomena Lee (Dame Judi Dench), an elderly woman who reveals that, 50 years ago, she had given birth to a son in Ireland out of wedlock and was forced to give him up to a convent, which put him up for adoption—sale, actually. The film, which has received rave reviews, tracks Sixsmith and Lee’s journey to find her long lost son, from the UK to the U.S., and Dench is receiving considerable Oscar buzz for her powerful performance as a grieving mother hoping to reconcile her past.

Sundance Selects

IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY? (Nov. 22)

This animated documentary is the latest work springing from the imaginative mind of filmmaker Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). It’s composed of a series of interviews and conversations between Gondry and the philosopher/linguist Noam Chomsky, which have then been repurposed into eye-catching hand-drawn animations, making this film far more thrilling and visually appealing than your typical doc.

Disney

FROZEN (Nov. 27)

The latest animated musical from Walt Disney Animation Studios (read: not Pixar), the people who brought you the excellent films Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph, is this 3-D take on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the film centers on Anna (voiced by Kirsten Bell), a courageous princess who embarks on an epic journey alongside a mountain man, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer, and a snowman to find her older sister, The Snow Queen (Idina Menzel), whose powers have kept the kingdom trapped in eternal winter.

Justin Lubin/Open Road Films

HOMEFRONT (Nov. 27)

This sounds crazy. Directed by Gary Fleder and co-produced by Sylvester Stallone, this action flick follows DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham), who moves to a quiet town with his wife, Sheryl (Winona Ryder). However, the shit hits the fan when he runs afoul of the village’s local meth kingpin, a wacko named Gator, played by the ubiquitous James Franco. The genre film also stars Kate Bosworth, Frank Grillo, and Chuck Zito.

OLDBOY (Nov. 27)

This Spike Lee-directed remake of the 2003 South Korean cult classic tells the tale of Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin), a drunken businessman who’s mysteriously abducted and housed in a motel room prison for 20 years. One day, he’s released, and sets off on a journey to find out why he was imprisoned. The incredibly violent film also stars Elizabeth Olsen as Doucett’s love interest, Samuel L. Jackson as the morally bankrupt man overseeing the prison, and District 9’s Sharlto Copley as the villain.

Phil Bray/Fox Searchlight Pictures

BLACK NATIVITY (Nov. 27)

Directed by Kasi Lemmons, this musical-drama is based on Langston Hughes’s play of the same name, and centers on Langston (Jacob Latimore), a teenager who’s sent to live with his estranged relatives (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) when his mother, Naima (Jennifer Hudson), is evicted from their Baltimore apartment. But Langston soon clashes with his new, rigid, religious caretakers, and goes on a mission to reunite with his mother. The film also stars Mary J. Blige, Tyrese Gibson, Nas, and Lemmons’ husband, Vondie Curtis-Hall.

Keith Bernstein/The Weinstein Company

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Nov. 29)

Based on the autobiography of the same name by anti-apartheid leader and former South African president Nelson Mandela, this sprawling biopic is helmed by filmmaker Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl), and sees Idris Elba (The Wire, Pacific Rim) play Mandela—from his early life as a boxer-lawyer and revolutionary to his 27 years in prison, and his fight against segregation after. Naomie Harris stars as his wife, Winnie Mandela. The film recently screened for President Barack Obama at the White House, and reportedly received glowing reviews.

Tim Jenison/Sony Pictures Classics

TIM’S VERMEER (Dec. 5)

This documentary by Teller—one-half of the magic duo Penn and Teller—has received rave reviews on the film festival circuit. It follows Tim Jenison, a Texas inventor who wants to figure out how 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”) was able to paint so photo-realistically over 100 years before photography was invented. The film spans eight years and takes Jenison from the plains of Texas all the way to Vermeer’s home in Delft, Holland.

Kerry Hayes/Relativity Media

OUT OF THE FURNACE (Dec. 6)

Written and directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), this gritty drama centers on Russell Baze (Christian Bale), a plant worker who serves five years in prison after killing a child in a drunk-driving accident. When he gets out, his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) has shacked up with the local sheriff (Forest Whitaker), and his younger brother Rodney, an Iraq War veteran, goes missing. With nothing left to lose, Russell goes on the hunt for his brother, which eventually forces him to go mano-a-mano with menacing backwoods criminal Curtis DeGroat (Woody Harrelson).

Alison Rosa/Long Strange Trip LLC

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Dec. 6)

One of the best films of the year, the Coens Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis provides a brilliant snapshot of the folk music scene in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a miserly, down-and-out musician who’s run afoul of just about everyone, including his one-time paramour (Carey Mulligan), and his pal/her new beau (Justin Timberlake). Llewyn refuses to conform to musical norms, crooning his haunting, fascinating ballads at dive bars for hats. Sensing his time to “make it” is running out, he hitchhikes from New York to Chicago to meet a record label executive (F. Murray Abraham) who may give him the audience he thinks he deserves.

Warner Bros. Pictures

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (Dec. 13)

The second installment of a three-part trilogy is a sequel to 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and based on the 1937 J.R.R. Tolkien tome. It continues the events of the first film in which Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), joined by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and 13 dwarves, heads towards the Kingdom of Erebor to face off against the evil dragon Smaug (played by Benedict Cumberbatch, via motion capture). The film also stars Richard Armitage as Thorin, leader of the dwarves, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, and Orlando Bloom as the archer Legolas.

François Duhamel/Disney

SAVING MR. BANKS (Dec. 13)

Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) from a screenplay by Kelly Marcel, Saving Mr. Banks is based on the real-life making of the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins. It tells the story of P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), author of the source material, from her childhood in Australia to the chaotic 1961 Broadway production of Mary Poppins, including her clashes with studio chief Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks. The film also boasts a stellar supporting cast, including Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Colin Farrell, and Ruth Wilson.

Lionsgate

TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Dec. 13)

The latest film in writer/producer/director Tyler Perry’s Madea franchise—the seventh, to be exact—is based on a Perry play of the same name, and sees pistol-packin’ granny Madea (Perry) getting conned into visiting her daughter, Lacey (Tika Sumpter) in the countryside for Christmas. All hell, naturally, breaks loose, and Madea shakes things up in the quaint rural town, leading to a wacky finale at their annual Christmas Jubilee. The film also stars Larry the Cable Guy, Chad Michael Murray, and Kathy Najimy (!).

Tribeca Film Festival

SOME VELVET MORNING (Dec. 16)

Written and directed by acclaimed playwright-cum-filmmaker Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men), and named after the song by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra, Some Velvet Morning follows Fred (Stanley Tucci), who arrives at the Brooklyn doorstep of his gorgeous mistress Velvet (Alice Eve). It’s been four years since they’ve seen each other, and Fred claims he’s finally split from his wife. When Velvet tries to reject him, Fred refuses, and the two engage in a wicked battle of wits.

Francois Duhamel/Sony-Columbia Pictures

AMERICAN HUSTLE (Dec. 18)

This looks amazing. The latest film from writer/director David O. Russell, whose last effort, 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, was nominated for eight Academy awards, is based on the FBI’s ABSCAM operation in the late 1970s. Con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale, unrecognizable) and his mistress, Sydney (Amy Adams), are nabbed and forced to work for FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) in a sting operation targeting the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Jennifer Lawrence, who won an Oscar for Silver Linings, stars as Irving’s wife, Rosalyn—who may prove to be the key to the whole operation.

Warner Bros. Pictures

HER (Dec. 18)

This sci-fi romance is written and directed by Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich), and stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a heartbroken romantic, who begins to form a relationship with a Siri-like advanced operation system that communicates. The friendship between Theodore and the OS voice, “Samantha” (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), soon blossoms into love. The fascinating film also stars Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and Olivia Wilde, and features music by Arcade Fire.

Gemma LaMana/Paramount Pictures

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Dec. 20)

It’s been a dreadful year for studio comedies, so here’s to hoping this long-awaited sequel to the 2004 comedy classic delivers. Directed by Adam McKay and written by McKay and Will Ferrell, the film sees Ferrell return as well-coiffed anchorman Ron Burgundy, who reunites the Channel 4 news team—Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), and Champ Kind (David Koechner)—to join a 24-hour news network in New York. The ’80s-set film also sees Christina Applegate reprise her role as Veronica Corningstone, and features Kristen Wiig as Brick’s love interest, as well as a boatload of cameos (Harrison Ford, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and more).

Carole Bethuel/Sony Pictures Classics

THE PAST (Dec. 20)

The latest work from Asghar Farhadi, whose 2011 film A Separation won the Best Foreign Film Oscar, was nominated for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Iranian Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris to finalize his divorce from his former wife, Marie (Berenice Bejo). Marie is now in a relationship with a younger Arab man named Samir (Tahar Rahim), whose wife is in a coma. Relationships between all are strained when one of Marie’s daughters from a previous marriage reveals a shocking secret.

WILDE SALOME (Dec. 20)

The documentary-drama, written, directed by, and starring Al Pacino, premiered at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, but is finally getting a theatrical release stateside. It provides an exploration of Oscar Wilde’s 1891 play Salomé, as Pacino and co. reinterpret and reimagine Wilde’s most controversial work (a similar conceit as Pacino’s 1996 film Looking For Richard). Pacino stars as King Herod/himself, while Jessica Chastain plays the scornful Salomé.

Mary Cybulski/Paramount Pictures

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Dec. 25)

The latest film from the formidable director-star pairing of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio is based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name. DiCaprio plays Belfort, a New York City stockbroker living the high life whose world soon comes crashing down when he’s implicated in a huge securities fraud case involving Wall Street corruption and the mob. The film, written by Sopranos creator Terence Winter, also stars Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, and Aussie newcomer Margot Robbie as DiCaprio’s love interest.

Wilson Webb/Twentieth Century Fox

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (Dec. 25)

This comedy-fantasy is the dream project of Ben Stiller, who directs and stars in this adaptation of James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same name. Walter Mitty (Stiller) is a Life magazine employee who works in the bowels of the company’s photo-processing department. He has a crush on his coworker, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), and his new boss (Adam Scott) is a jerk. To escape, Walter experiences vivid daydreams. One day, when a negative from famed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) goes missing, Walter embarks on a globe-spanning journey to find it.

Claire Folger/The Weinstein Company

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (Dec. 25)

Based on Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, this dark dramedy is penned by Letts, and directed by ER creator John Wells. The dysfunctional Weston clan of Osage County, Ok., is forced to reunite when the patriarch (Sam Shepard) kills himself. Violet (Meryl Streep), a pill-popping, booze-swilling cancer patient with a venomous tongue, clashes with her eldest daughter, Barbara (Julia Roberts), and the rest of the family, as several demons come out of the closet. The ensemble cast includes Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, and Julianne Nicholson.

Dale Robinette/Paramount Pictures

LABOR DAY (Dec. 25)

Based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, this film sees Oscar-nominated writer-director Jason Reitman transition from witty comedies to a dark family drama. Set in rural Massachusetts in 1987, the film centers on Adele (Kate Winslet), a depressed, lonely single mother to 13-year-old Henry (Gattlin Griffith). One day, she encounters an imposing, bearded, bleeding man (Josh Brolin) at the supermarket. The man, who is an escaped convict, abducts the family, and ties Adele to a chair. But soon, the two lost souls begin to fall for one another, and the mystery man’s past begins to reveal itself.

Universal Pictures

47 RONIN (Dec. 25)

This fantasy-samurai film is a fictionalized version of the real-life tale of the 47 ronin, a group of samurai in 18th century Japan who seek to avenge the death of their master. This $175-million blockbuster is directed by Carl Erik Rinsch from a screenplay by Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini, and stars Keanu Reeves as Kai, one of the members of the 47 ronin who are on the hunt for Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), who killed their master. Lord Kira is joined by his sidekick, Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi)—a menacing, shape-shifting spirit.

David Appleby/Sony Pictures Classics

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN (Dec. 25)

Directed by Ralph Fiennes and based on Claire Tomalin’s book The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens, this costume drama stars Fiennes as Dickens. At the height of his fame, the celebrated author of classics like Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities meets a much younger woman, Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), and falls for her. She becomes his devoted mistress until his dying day. The film also stars the great Kristin Scott Thomas and Tom Hollander.

Ben Rothstein/Warner Bros. Pictures

GRUDGE MATCH (Dec. 25)

Directed by Peter Segal (Get Smart), this comedy-sports film sees retired boxers Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) seek to settle their 30-year grudge by stepping into the ring one last time. The film, of course, pits Rocky star Stallone against Raging Bull star De Niro, and the two real-life friends also appeared together in the 1997 film Cop Land. Also starring Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart, and Jon Bernthal.

Greg Peters/Universal Pictures

LONE SURVIVOR (Dec. 27)

Peter Berg’s film is based on the real-life story of SEAL sniper Marcus Luttrell, detailed in his book of the same name, and recounts SEAL Team 10’s Operation Redwing—a failed mission to capture a notorious Taliban leader in the heart of Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. Mark Wahlberg stars as Luttrell, and is joined by his SEAL teammates Michael P. Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster), who get caught behind enemy lines after letting a group of cattle herders go free, who then alerted the Taliban.

Liam Daniel/The Weinstein Company

ONE CHANCE (Dec. 27)

Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada), this British drama tells the real-life story of Paul Potts (James Corden), a shy shop assistant and amateur opera singer who became a worldwide phenomenon after winning the reality competition Britain’s Got Talent. The film, which features a theme song by Taylor Swift, is produced by Simon Cowell, and also stars Julie Walters and Colm Meaney as Potts’s supportive parents.