By Kristen Lopez | The Playlist December 2, 2013 at 12:26PM
“August: Osage County”
Synopsis: When the patriarch of the Weston clan dies, the estranged family members, including the three daughters driven away by their malicious mother (Meryl Streep), reunite and dredge up the issues which separate them.
What You Need to Know: Playwright Tracy Letts won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “August: Osage County” when it premiered on-stage in 2008. His screenwriting for film, 2006’s “Bug” and last year’s “Killer Joe,” has their fair share of fans but were divisive critically. When it was announced 'August' would be receiving the adaptation treatment, fans of the original play were skeptical of how viewers would react to a rather somber and hostile work; cries which only increased when it was revealed that the play’s ending was completely redone for the screen version. One can’t argue with the talent assembled for this production: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, and Benedict Cumberbatch just to name a very few, and all of them are bringing their A-game and could easily secure Oscar nods (particularly the two leading ladies). Kevin Jagernauth couldn’t stand the movie when it played at TIFF this year, calling it an “exhausting, screechy drama;” an issue apparently tweaked in the editing room (although not confirmed) with Rodrigo Perez calling it “unexpectedly funny.” Broadway lovers will certainly want to watch Letts’s work play out on-screen, while casual observers will flock to this to witness the barrage of talent.
Release Date: December 25th in limited release
Synopsis: The true story of four Navy SEALs on a covert mission who find themselves isolated and outnumbered in the mountains of Afghanistan.
What You Need to Know: When critics started questioning “Lone Survivor” as an Oscar contender, fans were left scratching their heads. “Lone Survivor” directed by Peter Berg (“Battleship”) and starring Mark Wahlberg? Surely you jest! And despite Charlie Schmidlin’s tepid response to it at AFI Fest—he gave it a “B,“ dinging Berg for never taking the story beyond “bravery and sacrifice”—its the outlier as it’s receiving mountains of praise from other outlets. If the word-of-mouth stays strong fans will take a chance on this, coupled with the cast of leading men, including Wahlberg who has a strong track record in action.
Release Date: December 25th in New York and Los Angeles; January 10th wide
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”
Synopsis: A day-dreamer (Ben Stiller) who’s never done anything exciting with his life is forced into a journey of self-exploration as he traverses exotic locales to hunt down a photographer’s cover photo for the last issue of Life magazine.
What You Need to Know: Based on the James Thurber story, classic film fans know of the 'Walter Mitty' story through the 1947 film adaptation with Danny Kaye, of which I’m assuming this bears little resemblance. Ben Stiller takes on the mantle of directing and starring in this, something he hasn’t done since 2008’s “Tropic Thunder,” and that was a hit. The various trailers haven’t done much to play up the narrative other than a man journeying through the world to give up his fuddy-duddy existence, so audiences unaware of the original film/novel might lack information on the whimsy inherent in the tale. Rodrigo Perez was completely disenchanted with 'Mitty,' giving it a “C-,” calling it “not a terrible movie, per se, but…largely unsophisticated and prosaic in most of its sentiments.” Those who don’t enjoy Stiller in capacity, director or actor, might be turned off by this.
Release Date: December 25th
“The Wolf of Wall Street”
Synopsis: Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a highly successful stock broker living life to its utmost excesses. Given the title “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan must juggle his money, his drugs, and his women or lose everything.
What You Need to Know: Based on the utterly insane autobiography by Jordan Belfort—literally, the man did almost everything short of actually murdering someone—“The Wolf of Wall Street” is the movie to beat them all. Reteaming director Martin Scorsese with DiCaprio, prognosticators are questioning whether this is the film which secures DiCaprio his Oscar for Best Actor. Based on the wild trailers, complete with dancing DiCaprio, the odds could be in his favor. There was fear that the movie would fail to make its 2013 release date, and after “Will he or won’t he?” questions, Scorsese was able to finish the final cut with only a move of a couple weeks back to Christmas day. Clocking in as the longest Scorsese movie, at a minute shy of three-hours, and almost securing an NC-17, there’s plenty of mystery swirling around this movie to put butts in seats after unwrapping your presents.
Release Date: December 25th