The year’s final month is here. It’s usually the month where we find a lot of Oscar contenders but there is enough space for big scale commercial movies to find a spot or two. The potential Oscar front-runners tend to have a limited release around this time, and based on the buzz, they widen their theatre base as the Oscars come closer. We however still have around ten movies scheduled for a wide release over the four weekends of the year that we are left with. Of those, I have chosen five that might be worth your time as you run down the clock to the New Year Party!
5) Concussion: Will Smith is on a revival mode of sorts, still recovering from the backlash of 2013’s After Earth. Earlier this year, his con movie Focus did fairly better, though nothing terrific, possibly achieving a marginal profit. Concussion on the other hand could bring back his lost glory, where he plays the doctor who uncovered the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play. It’s a biopic, released close to the awards period, which makes it look that the studio has high expectations from the movie. Well, even if it does not work, Will Smith still has Suicide Squad, eh?
4) Joy: David O. Russell and Jennifer Lawrence are together for the third time, following the success of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. And yes, there is Bradley Cooper somewhere here too. They are a pretty terrific trio who appear to have created something wonderful even now with Joy. This movie is a biopic about a woman who rises to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty. There are definitely early talks of Oscar nominations here, and given the past track record of the folks involved in this film, I wouldn’t be betting against it.
3) The Big Short: Another biopic, another Oscar contender for certain. The Big Short is based on the fantastic Michael Lewis book of the same name which follows the paths of four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the past decade and earned from it. The movie has one of the most amazing cast seen on screen this year: Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei and Melissa Leo. Directed by Adam McKay, The Big Short, if it is anything like the book, will feel like a thriller with a lot of doses of humour.
2) In the Heart of the Sea: Few directors bring out such confidence as Ron Howard does, that you can walk into their movies blind. No need to know the background of the story, no need to watch the trailer, no need to know the cast. You place all your bets on Ron Howard having done the research, pulled out a masterful script, got the best out of the actors, and eventually created something emotionally powerful that will teach us a lesson or two on human endurance. In the Heart of the Sea is based on a true story, a tale which inspired the author Herman Melville to write the now classic book Moby Dick. At the centre of its cinematic adaptation is Chris Hemsworth who has worked hard to build a career for himself outside the Marvel universe. His acting in the sports movie Rush, a collaboration again with Ron Howard, was universally praised, and so the expectations from their latest venture is quite high. With a giant fish to assist him, Ron Howard is bound to make cinema exciting in a way that only he can!
1) Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens: What can I say about this movie that has not been said already. The coverage behind Disney’s sequel / reboot of the series is so extensive that I have kept myself away from it all. Too much knowledge about a movie tends to ruin the experience of watching it. And that is not how you would want to approach the return of a film series that has fascinated and inspired generations across the world. Star Wars is a saga like no other, and J.J. Abrams has the task of ensuring that this saga continues to remain immortal. Disney has massive plans around the series, similar to the way in which they have gone about building the Marvel cinematic universe. That is why the stakes on Star Wars: Episode VII are quite high. Analysts have predicted that box-office records worldwide could tumble when the latest Star Wars movie hits the cinemas; Disney would be hoping that is the case. Nonetheless, in J.J. Abrams I trust, the man who brought back Star Trek with his own vision and made it into a visually appealing and thrilling space adventure. Star Wars has its own legacy, its own style, its own story to tell. Maybe something grand, something worth remembering for decades, something that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…