8. Monsters Inc 3D (Dec 19)
In anticipation of next year's "Monster's University" and also in anticipation of knowing that having money is awesome, Disney-Pixar is re-releasing the 2002 classic "Monsters Inc" in 3D. The movie regrettably lost the Best Animated Film Oscar to "Shrek", but where is "Shrek'"s re-release in 3D, huh? HUH? The big question here is will this experiment in nostalgia meets modern technology lean more towards "The Lion King"'s thirty million dollar opening weekend success, or audiences' less than enthusiastic response to "Finding Nemo" returning to theaters?
7. Promised Land (Dec 28 NY, LA. wide Jan 4)
So remember that one time Matt Damon and John Krasinski got together to write a movie about fraking and had good friend Gus Van Sant pop in to direct it? It's safe to say many of us are a little befuddled yet excited by this partnership of two well known Hollywood cute-faces coming together to bring awareness to an issue through their art. The film, which also stars Frances McDormand, Rosemarie Dewitt and is-suddenly-in-everything Scoot McNairy, is about a natural gas company salesman (Damon) having his eyes opened about the dangers of fraking thanks to a small town resident (Krasinski).
6. Quartet (Dec 28 limited)
Dustin Huffman's directorial debut which has been popping up at film fests all throughout the fall is about a quartet of former opera singers reuniting at a home for retired musicians. One of them, played by Maggie Smith, natch, got all diva on the other three years ago, which means wackiness is afoot! The film has gotten exclusively glowing reviews, and should appeal to anyone who fell for earlier 2012 release "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", a category that most certainly includes one Miss Me. Anything with Maggie Smith has to be the best. It's rule number one.
5. This is 40 (Dec 21)
The quasi sequel to "Knocked Up", focusing on the best part of that film, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's characters! The film takes a comedic (yet heartfelt, it's a Judd Apatow flick after all) look at married life in your early 40s and brings back not only Rudd and Mann but fittingly hilarious Apatow offspring Maude and Iris. Filling out the cast will be everyone funny ever, from Melissa McCarthy to Jason Segel to Albert Brooks to Chris O'Down to Lena Dunham…the list goes on and on. Early word is positive, despite minor complaints that the movie is too long, but again, it's a Judd Apatow flick, what do you expect?
4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec 14)
THIS IS HAPPENING. Almost 10 years after "Return of the King" marked the first ever epic fantasy film to take home Best Picture at the Oscars, the start of a new Tolkien trilogy begins with this first installment of "The Hobbit", starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo and the returning Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis and Gandalf and Gollum, respectively. There is tons of controversy surrounding the film, whether in the form of animal cruelty, 48 fps, or the fact that that there will be roughly 8000 different ways of viewing it in theaters (okay more like 5-10), but at the end of the day, it's Peter Jackson returning to Middle Earth and so the movie's gotta rule at least a little bit.
3. Django Unchained (Dec 25)
Tarantino follows up the impeccable "Inglorious Bastards" with this freed slave takes revenge tale starring Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Christoph Waltz and perhaps most excitingly, Leonardo DiCaprio exploring the scenery chewing side of the acting world. It has all of the hallmarks of classic Tarantino - violence, coarse language, smarts, quirks, great music and an array of interesting characters. The film hasn't screened yet, so there isn't much concrete Oscar buzz to speak of, but if it's as good as we all hope it will be….dark horse?
2. Les Miserables (Dec 25)
The current Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture, this adaptation of the musical from director Tom Hooper is almost perfect. The Best Supporting Actress win is Anne Hathaway's to lose for her gut wrenching portrayal of Fantine, and expect Hugh Jackman to be nominated for his first Oscar for holding. down. the. fort. as "yeah i sing for most of the movie, so what?!" badass Jean Valjean. When your weakest link not only has an Oscar, but was nominated two additional times, (here's looking at you, Russell Crowe), you know you've got something special on your hands. Don't be surprised when the heaving sobs come on - you're not the only one, and yes, it's fine to sing during the finale - if you can even manage to hold out until then. Plus, the film is peppered with nods to mega fans of the original London production in the form of visuals and actors, and Hooper's annoying tendency to shoot from the worst and/or closest angle possible seems as though it is starting to be curbed! Sort of!
1. Zero Dark Thirty (Dec 19 NY, LA. Wide Jan 11)
Otherwise known as "Kathryn Bigelow's Osama Bin Ladin movie" or "In which Jessica Chastain battles Jennifer Lawrence for a Best Actress Oscar" or "yeah, pundits, you totes forgot about this one, didn't you?!!?!!" The film, which doesn't open wide until next year, is a dramatization of the Navy SEAL Team 6 taking out Bin Laden, an event that took the world by storm in 2011. The action drama also features Joel Edgerton, Taylor Kinney, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt and a host of others. Early screenings immediately reminded Oscar talking heads that the film not only exists, but has a damn good chance at a Best Pic nod.