The end of every year is the best. Not only are all the best holidays stacked together in the 60 day stretch from Halloween to New Year’s Eve, but it’s also where all the adult dramas are released. This is awards season, but it could also just as well be narrative season. Will the new James Bond hit $1 billion internationally as its predecessor did? Can Eddie Redmayne follow up last year’s Best Actor win with another? Can Chris Hemsworth play a Nantucket sailor? Will Concussion disgust people into giving up football? Can Leo finally win that damn Oscar?
The best part about awards season is that it gives us jumbo-lumped weekends where there is literally too much we want to watch. Hey, just like this weekend!
November 6 sees the release of three movies we here at Lit To Lens want to see. Not that we will see them — we have schedules and are also lazy sometimes — but whenever the opportunity presents itself, three movies that see screens this weekend are on our “to-watch” lists.
So if we’re busy, we understand that you are too and the opportunity cost of watching a movie in theaters can be significant (you could be cleaning your gutters or finally creating a budget worksheet or crying over the fate of your fantasy football team). Because of this, we wanted to handicap the 18 buzziest releases of the next two months in order of how excited you should be to see it. We’ll run this in reverse order where No. 18 is the title you should be least excited about and No. 1 the most.
Two important caveats: I haven’t included “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” here because I don’t need to waste your time. We are all going to see it and you should obviously be excited. There are also a few wide releases you’ll undoubtedly see previews for in the weeks ahead that I haven’t included here. I only have so much space and you don’t need me to tell you not to see the upcoming Aaron Eckhart movie. I’m sure you know better.
These are personal opinions that may likely turn out foolish, as I haven’t seen any of these movies. So spew your Katniss-filled vitriol in the comments here or find us to yell at us on Twitter. We can take it. How does that saying go? We’re made of rubber and you’re made of glue…
No. 18: “Victor Frankenstein” (Nov. 25)
Part of me wants to give Daniel Radcliffe the benefit of the doubt. He’s made some good movies since graduating from Hogwarts, but this looks messy (one that you couldn’t even clean with magic! I had to). Frankenstein reimagined as an action film. I’m not sure about that. Best case, this is Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes. Worst case, I Frankenstein – Part 2.
No. 17: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” (Nov. 20)
The fourth and final Hunger Games film based on the YA trilogy arrives in just over two weeks. I’m all shrug emoji on this because (1) Mockingjay the source material can’t support two movies and (2) this series really isn’t that interesting. I’ve read all the books and seen the previous three movies and kept trying to find something to latch onto. There’s no world here. Katniss Everdeen is a nothing part. The most interesting character is Peeta but he’s so much better than everyone you wonder why he even bothers. Sure, this movie is going to make a ton of money and spawn six more YA adaptations like “Divergent” and “The Maze Runner,” but I can cover my eyes with my hands and pretend they don’t exist.
No. 16: “Trumbo” (Nov. 6)
A period piece about the famed blackballed screenwriter starring Brian Cranston. This may actually be too low. The trailer gives me hope that the best case scenario for this is as 2015’s “Capote,” though I don’t know that Cranston necessarily gets a Best Actor nomination like Philip Seymour Hoffman did. But color me interested. More likely, this is a melodramatic, romanticized “Hollywood does Hollywood” kind of movie. The kind of movie that’s made too well to hate, but doesn’t quite do enough for you to like. I’d watch the documentary but this might work in a pinch.
No. 15: “Secret In Their Eyes” (Nov. 20)
Until a few days ago I had no idea this was a movie. Then I saw the trailer and still forgot this was a movie until I researched this post and looked at upcoming releases. I saw Julia Roberts name, wondered how I could have missed hearing about a new JR flick and then realized. A circle of un-remarkability was complete. JR plays an ex-cop out for revenge and conceivably uses a gun at some point. I don’t know that I’m in for that.
No. 14: “The Night Before” (Nov. 20)
Oh, man. This movie is going to be bad. Like, really, really, bad. It’s a party movie with three man children running around New York City the day before Christmas, chronicling all the funny things that can happen when Christianity and Judaism mix. No thanks. Based on his recent choices you can tell that Seth Rogen really doesn’t want to grow up. Instead of the same insipid movies like this and “The Interview,” why not just let him remake Peter Pan?
No. 13: “Joy” (Dec. 25)
Contemporary David O. Russell’s movies are all surface and no meat. “American Hustle” was an empty story that blinded us through the sheer wattage of its star power; “The Fighter” I liked; “Silver Linings Playbook” I did not. Who knows what “Joy” will be or how many bad headline puns it will inspire. Bradley Cooper could use a good movie and I’m a Jennifer Lawrence fan going back to “Winter’s Bone.” But some of the dialog in this trailer gives me concern (is anyone editing Russell’s scripts anymore or does he get a pass like Christopher Nolan because he prints money and racks up award nominations?).
No. 12: “By The Sea” (Nov. 13)
I’ve not seen anything Angelina Jolie-Pitt (AJP) has directed so I can’t speak to her talent there. And say what you will about her last few acting performances, but at least she is taking chances now, trying to find interesting characters to play. This film, written, directed, and starring AJP feels like a short story given visual life. That’s what interests me and also gives me pause. Watching the trailer again, I worry that the healing of a marriage by the sea won’t fill 120-150 minutes, or however long it’s going to be. But it looks sexy as hell and we know AJP and Brad Pitt have chemistry. I’m tempering expectations but also wouldn’t be surprised if I loved this enough to put it in my end of year top 10.
No. 11: “The Big Short” (Dec. 11)
There’s a ton of talent here. Carell, Bale, Gosling, etc, and of course the story of our country’s recent recession has no shortage of emotional stakes. It just seems, like “Trumbo,” a little too Hollywood-ified. If you can’t tell, I’m a sucker for unhappiness; and while I think this story can have an unhappy ending, it won’t. People lost their jobs, savings, and homes, and the banking industry got hammered with new regulations as a result of the recession. But that’s not a movie starring Steve Carell. That’s a Michael Shannon movie.
No. 10: “The Danish Girl” (Nov. 27)
I like Eddie Redmayne. We share a similar color of hair and he gave me many moments of joy watching “Jupiter Ascending” this past February (I’m of the opinion that movie was 20-30 minutes too short. I think the director’s cut, should such a thing exist, would make a lot more sense). In this movie he plays Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of gender reassignment surgery. It’s directed by Tom Hooper, of “Les Mis” and “The King’s Speech” fame. I’m excited for this. It’ll be a little heavy for some but worth it to see what should be two of the best acting performances of the year in Redmayne and Alicia Vikander.
No. 9: “Creed” (Nov. 25)
For a sport that few care about today, there are certainly too many boxing movies. It’s the most cinematic sport, for sure, and much easier to film, I would think, than others. But it’s not something that many people follow when Floyd Mayweather isn’t in the ring. And I don’t mean to suggest that this movie will bring boxing back, because it won’t, no matter how many movie stars decide to lace ‘em up. But it makes for a good story. And “Creed,” a continuation of the Rocky universe starring Michael B. Jordan and directed Ryan Coogler (of Fruitvale Station fame), looks awesome. It wouldn’t be fall without an unnecessary boxing drama, but then again there’s too much talent here to not get excited.
No. 8: “The Good Dinosaur” (Nov. 25)
It’s a Thanksgiving feast of Pixar films this year, with “The Good Dinosaur” joining summer’s “Inside Out.” This one, hypothesizing what would have happened had the dinos not gone extinct, looks just as good as any other Pixar (except Cars 2; two thumbs down). What makes me excited to see it is that it’s one of the last original Pixar’s we are going to see for a while. And it’s not that I’m not excited for Toy Story 4, it’s that I’m not excited for Finding Dory, The Incredibles 2, and Cars 3.
No. 7: “Concussion” (Dec. 25)
Will Smith helps uncover CTE and takes on the NFL. I’m worried that the people who made this movie didn’t go far enough to tell this story and that the NFL is too powerful to let Hollywood take too big a swing at its product. I hope I’m wrong. I hope they fought to tell the true story. I’m excited to see it on screen. Plus, I grew up in the 90’s. So I’m excited for any new Will Smith, even if it’s not good. As far as I’m concerned, we’re stilling living in the Willennium.
No. 6: “The Hateful Eight” (Dec. 25)
The Quentin Tarantino play we’ve all been waiting for. No one writes dialog quite like him and it seems with this movie that’s all there is. And guns, of course; most likely blood and death and meditations on race. But I’m in. He hits a sensibility that I like and I will follow his crazy mind for story wherever it goes.
No. 5: “Spectre” (Nov. 6)
Christoph Waltz was born to be a Bond villain. The Daniel Craig-starring Bond’s definitely have their own aesthetic when compared to past installments; they’re darker, not as silly. “Casino Royale” may have been the best Bond movie of the bunch, and “Skyfall” is certainly in the top 5. “Spectre” reportedly cost $300 million to produce — tied for second most ever — and opened huge in U.K. already. It opens in the states on Friday and people will be surprised if it doesn’t hit $1 billion internationally. Plus, it’s spies and the queen and $300 million worth of explosions. Queue the Sam Smith!
No. 4: “Spotlight” (Nov. 6)
I’m a sucker for the crusading journalist — “All The President’s Men” is in my top 5 — and this looks to hit a similar nerve. The story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese for which the paper won a Pulitzer, this movie has a murder’s row of talent onboard. Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci. I’m calling it now: this one takes home more awards than any other.
No. 3: “In The Heart Of The Sea” (Dec. 11)
I have a confession. On the first episode of our podcast (Listen Here!) Will (my charming co-host) and I said our next episode would cover Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and the movie “Everest.” We changed our minds. Next episode will cover 2005’s Beasts Of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala and its 2015 film adaptation. The following episode will cover In “The Heart Of The Sea,” the Ron Howard directed, Chris Hemsworth starring adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 book of the same name. I’m reading it now. And let me tell you, this movie is going to be amazing. I hope you like whale blubber.
No. 2: “Sisters” (Dec. 18)
Written by SNL-vet Paula Pell and starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as two sisters who throw one last party at their childhood home before it’s sold, I’m all in. Tina Fey hasn’t really found mainstream success as an actor – her Rotten Tomatoes page is mostly rotten, as is Poehler’s (animated movies notwithstanding) – but it’s hard to have seen the duo host the Golden Globes and not see the biting chemistry these two have. If this movie can delivery on any of that satire and find some kind of emotional core outside adults behaving like kids (damn you Seth Rogen!!) I think we’ve found the best comedy of the winter.
No. 1: “The Revenant” (Dec. 25)
I’ve watched this trailer a few times now and I’ll no doubt watch it a few more as the next two months speed past. This is another movie that we’ll be covering on an upcoming podcast (so look out for that) and there are quite a few reasons I’m excited for this one. First, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Two, Alejandro González Iñárritu, late of Birdman. Three, I’m a sucker for the American frontier and have been excited for a movie like this since I first read about Ashley’s Hundred back in college. Leo’s out for blood. Give this movie all the Oscars already.