December is typically a seminal month for studios; a final showcase reserved for Oscar contenders to give the moviegoing public a way to spend their cold weekends. 2014 is no different, but with all the releases this month, how does one wade through the awards pandering to find the truly special fare? Here are my bets for 10 flicks that look like the could be worth their weight in snow-melting salt.
12/3 - Wild - Reese Witherspoon stars as a woman who's having a rough year... it looks like she's coping with her mother's death by abusing sex and drugs, which causes her breakup. So she embarks on a 1000-mile trek to absolve herself of her sins. It looks like Into The Wild with more of a tortured soul and less of a spoiled kid going to die in the forrest.
12/12 - The Captive - It looks like Ransom meets Oldboy, and if that's the case, The Captive could be my most anticipated movie of the year. Ryan Reynolds is a great actor when given dynamite material, and with Rosario Dawson and a creepy Kevin Durand providing supporting performances could elevate this from the typical kidnapping thriller.
12/12 - Inherent Vice - I'll see anything that Paul Thomas Anderson makes and Inherent Vice is no exception, especially since it seems to be a rare comedic turn for PTA. Although I respected The Master more than I actually enjoyed it, Joaquin Phoenix was electrifying (and robbed of a well-deserved Oscar, IMHO). Inherent Vice reminds me in tone of the classic The Big Lebowski, and not just because its main characters are pot-smoking dudes caught up in a crime story. If I'm right at all, Inherent Vice will have no problem cracking my top 10 of the year.
12/12 - Exodus: Gods and Kings - Call me crazy, especially with the race controversy and silly comments being made by Ridley Scott, but this movie looks AWESOME. It returns Scott to Gladiator-esque battle sequences and another great villain in Rhamses, played by Joel Edgerton, who is obviously having some fun being wicked. Top it off with Christian Bale as Moses and a few great special effects action scenes and you have my guaranteed money.
12/19 - The Gambler - The last 2-hour downward spiral starring Mark Whalberg that I watched was Boogie Nights, and that turned out pretty damn well. Add a supporting cast bolstered by Jessica Lange and John Goodman and I just may forget Marky Mark's Transformers payday.
12/24 - The Interview - One thing is for sure: this movie is ballsy, and refreshingly original in doing so. It's a Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy that features a North Korea assassination plot. Given today's headlines, I think I'll check this one out simply out of disbelief that it got made.
12/24 - Unbroken - Angelina Jolie directs a film based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who became a POW in WWII. This may be Oscar bait, but the compelling story alone is one I'm unfamiliar with and glad to plunk down $12 to see.
12/25 - American Sniper - While I'm disappointed that Steven Spielberg didn't direct this as he originally planned to, the trailer for this true story looks like one hell of a pressure cooker experience. Bradley Cooper is at the top of his game, gaining several pounds of muscle for the role, and as far as directors go, you can do much, much worse than Clint Eastwood. I'm not sure if the subject matter is something I want to enjoy on Christmas day, but I will absolutely be seeing American Sniper before the year is out.
12/25 - Selma - There are few events in American history more deserving of a reverent memorial etched in celluloid than the civil rights movement. Oddly enough, there have not been many depictions of Martin Luther King Jr. in film. Selma seems to possess an urgency and danger that is necessary to telling the story of Dr. King. Time will tell if it's a truly great film, but with a supporting cast that includes Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, and none other than Oprah Winfrey, the odds are stacked in its favor.
12/30 - A Most Violent Year - Put Oscar nominees Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac in anything and it'll be good. Put them in a crime saga based on a true story about one of the most violent years in New York City's history and you have an Oscar contender. This feels a lot like Goodfellas, and that is not a complaint.
I will be blown up by the internets for not including Tim Burton's Big Eyes, Disney's Into The Woods, and the new Hobbit movie, but with the 10 flicks above, I'll be plenty busy at the movies in December.
What is on your must list this month? Let me know!