Holiday Movie Preview 2013: Films opening through Christmas will be naughty, nice

The Fresno BeeOctober 31, 2013 

American Hustle, from Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell, stars Amy Adams, left, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence.

FRANCOIS DUHAMEL — Sony Pictures

Starting with Friday's release of Ender's Game, Free Birds and Last Vegas, there will be an interesting mixture of new movies hitting theaters during the next two months. This holiday season, the lineup includes big-budget, family-friendly offerings guaranteed to pack theaters during breaks at Thanksgiving and Christmas. At the same time, movies with a more serious edge — the kind that make Oscar voters take notice — also will open. Here are some of the movies opening in theaters through Christmas.

NOV. 8

Thor: The Dark World. Thor and Loki join forces to stop a major threat. My take: It won't cause as much box office thunder and lightning as the first movie. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston. Directed by Alan Taylor.

12 Years a Slave. A free man in the pre-Civil War era is kidnapped and made to work as a slave. My take: Powerful story that will be a force at this year's Oscars. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender. Directed by Steve McQueen.

NOV. 15

The Best Man Holiday.College friends get together during the holidays. My take: I pronounce this a holiday treat if it is as good as The Best Man. Starring Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall.

The Book Thief. A young girl deals with the horrors of World War II by stealing books. My take: Look for Oscar buzz around film and actors. Starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson. Directed by Brian Percival.

NOV. 22

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Katniss Everdeen must return to fight in the Games. My take: Reaction will be warm, but no box office bonfire. Starring Kentuckians Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, plus Liam Hemsworth. Directed by Francis Lawrence.

Dallas Buyers Club. Texas electrician figures out a way to get HIV medication. My take: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto make this an Oscar contender. Also starring Jennifer Garner. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.

Delivery Man. A man learns he's fathered 533 children through sperm donations. My take: It depends whether Vince Vaughn brings the funny. Also starring Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders. Directed by Ken Scott.

NOV. 27

Black Nativity. Street-wise teen embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey. My take: Success depends on how well the Langston Hughes play is adapted for the screen. Starring Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese Gibson. Directed by Kasi Lemmons.

Frozen. In Disney's latest animated film, a young woman must save a kingdom from eternal winter. My take: Icy setting will leave some very cold. Voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad. Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee.

DEC. 6

Out of the Furnace. A man must decide between his own freedom or clearing his brother's name. My take: This film would have done much better opening at a less jolly time of the year. Starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson. Directed by Scott Cooper, who grew up in Somerset.

DEC. 13

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Bilbo Baggins continues his quest to reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. My take: Loyal fans will come but won't think it's precious. Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett. Directed by Peter Jackson.

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas. Madea goes with a friend to pay her daughter a surprise visit for Christmas. My take: Perry has a proven record of hitting the right emotional notes. Starring Perry, Alicia Witt, Chad Michael Murray. Directed by Perry.

DEC. 18

American Hustle. A 1970s con man is forced to work for an FBI agent. My take: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were magical in Silver Linings Playbook. Also starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Directed by David O. Russell.

Dec. 20

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The San Diego TV personality is back behind the desk. My take: Only works if the jokes aren't reruns. Starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd. Directed by Adam McKay

Saving Mr. Banks. Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers meet while he is bringing her novel to the big screen. My take: With Tom Hanks, the movie should be supercalifragilistic expialidocious. Also starring Emma Thompson. Directed by John Lee Hancock.

DEC. 25

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.Jack Ryan uncovers a plot by his employer to back a terrorist attack. My take: Chris Pine's no Harrison Ford or Ben Affleck or Alec Baldwin. OK, maybe he's an Affleck. Also starring Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Keira Knightley. Directed by Branagh.

Grudge Match. Aging boxers, played by Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone, are coaxed out of retirement. My take: Italian Stallion vs. Raging Bull. Too bad the film's about 30 years too late. Also starring Kevin Hart. Directed by Peter Segal.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.Daydreamer goes on a real adventure. My take: Potential to be surprise hit of the holidays — or I might be daydreaming. Starring Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott. Directed by Stiller.

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