“Saving Mr. Banks”
Synopsis: The story behind the hectic production of Disney’s classic, “Mary Poppins,” focused on author P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and her hesitations in turning over the book to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks).
What You Need to Know: In terms of glossy marketing and star power, “Saving Mr. Banks” is firing on all cylinders. The movie has all the elements, from an A-list cast to a story about adapting a beloved classic into a beloved children’s film from one of the most beloved studios around. Seriously, you have Tom Hanks—everyone’s dream dad/uncle/grandpa—playing Walt Disney, a man synonymous with magic for children. The Oscar bait trailer and emphasis on all things Disney could come off as pandering and a desperate grab for awards, but it’s certainly weaving its magic in audience attention. Our own Oliver Lyttelton wasn’t bowled over by the film, but found it to be “a fundamentally decent, very well-acted and cannily written film” in his “B” review of the movie from the BFI London Film Festival. A prime Christmas weekend slot should be enough to tempt families to see this, and expect it to pick up some award nominations in a couple months.
Release Date: December 13th in limited release; December 20th wide
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”
Synopsis: San Diego’s top-rated news anchor, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) moves to New York to head up a 24-hour news channel, leading to a host of complications.
What You Need to Know: In 2004, director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell created a hit with “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” a movie which gave audiences belly laughs and a host of catch phrases still used today. Audiences were eager for a sequel, and while Ferrell and McKay crafted other projects, the “Anchorman” sequel loomed large. Cut to 2013, and after a barrage of trailers boasting little footage, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” has arrived. It’ll be interesting to see how this performs with audiences who might feel too much time has past, and/or weren’t wowed by the trailers. Also, the original “Anchorman” was released in the heart of summer, while its sequel is being released right before Christmas. It’s an interesting change, either signifying faith or disappointment. On top of that, McKay has talked about releasing an additional, longer cut, for theaters which is an intriguing gimmick, although doubtful in execution. Fans of Burgundy will definitely eat this one up, and if anything, it will also create new fans that may have missed the original.
Release Date: December 18th
Synopsis: A writer (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with a newly purchased operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), created to make his life easier.
What You Need to Know: Spike Jonze is a director known for his wildly inventive films, and after his 2009 adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are,” Jonze took a break from feature-length films to focus on shorts and documentaries. By 2012, he was ready to return back to the feature format and filmed “Her,” a romance about a Siri-like computer program’s relation with a mild-mannered writer. After filming wrapped that summer, audiences asked where the movie was, but they would have to wait with bated breath until this year. Cut to this season’s award calendar where “Her” is taking festivals by storm. Our own Rodrigo Perez gave the movie an “A-,” for its “disarmingly funny” examination of love and loneliness when it closed the New York Film Festival. There have even been questions of whether Johansson would see a Best Actress Oscar for her vocal work, although the Golden Globes have already deemed her ineligible. “Her” is sure to hit a sweet spot for Jonze aficionados as well as the art-house crowd with the buzz possibly infecting more mainstream audiences.
Release Date: December 18th limited; January 10th wide
Synopsis: A complicated tale of relationships revolving around an Iranian man (Ali Mosoffa) who returns to Paris to finalize his divorce from his ex-wife (Berenice Bejo) who he hasn’t seen in four years.
What You Need to Know: Director Asghar Farhadi was nominated for an Oscar just last year for his remarkable film, “A Separation,” and critics are quick to declare “The Past” another potential awards vehicle for him. The domestic drama is “mature and real in a way that dramas rarely aspire to” according to Kevin Jagnernauth’s review from when the movie showed at Cannes. Sony quickly snatched up the domestic rights, while various countries were vying to claim the movie as their own in the Oscars Foreign Language category with Iran ultimately winning. Fans of “A Separation” will definitely be out to watch another of Farhadi’s films, and with a prominent studio such as Sony backing this domestically, it should attract a wider batch of viewers.
Release Date: December 20th in New York and Los Angeles