The holiday season is officially upon us, observed less through Christmas decorations and cold weather and more by the onslaught of Oscar fare hitting theaters this month. December is always a truly great time for both quality dramas and big bombastic comedies, and this year won’t be bucking that trend.

We’ve got flicks from esteemed directors such as Martin Scorsese, the Coen brothers and David O. Russell; we’ve got highly anticipated sequels; we even have Keanu Reeves fighting monsters. No need to pen a letter to Santa Claus, dear readers, for your wishes have already been granted.

Welcome to Cinema Blend’s official movie preview for December 2013. Hold onto your hats. Wait, that’s Champ Kind’s hat, so kindly give it back to him.

Inside Llewyn Davis
Their first film since 2010’s western True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis is a movie light on plot and heavy on music, as it follows the titular singer-songwriter through the folk music scene taking over New York in the 1960s. (It’s no surprise its U.S. debut was at the New York Film Festival, following a premiere at Cannes.) And just in case you can’t get enough of the music in the film, it already has a concert documentary coming out on Showtime on December 13. Will this soundtrack be more memorable than O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Director: Ethan and Joel Coen
Stars: Oscar Isaac, John Goodman, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake
Release Date: December 6 (Limited), December 20 (Wide)

Out Of The Furnace
Scott Cooper’s directorial follow-up to the country music film Crazy Heart couldn’t be further from it. Out of the Furnace follows Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney (Casey Affleck), two brothers whose impoverished lives have been built upon dreams of something better. As Russell lands in prison, Rodney sacrifices a lot to join a dangerous crime ring. Once Russell is a free man, he must decide whether to stay that way or to find a way to rescue his brother. I’m guessing he chooses to rescue him, since that’s just the kind of brother Bale is. Expect a lot of seething in this one.
Director: Scott Cooper
Stars: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson
Release Date: December 6

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the middle film in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, will follow the wide-eyed Bilbo Baggins and wise wizard Gandalf as they lead a clan of dwarves on a journey through Middle Earth so they can fight the wickedly voiced dragon Smaug. There’s nothing about this movie I can tell you that you don’t already know. Big action scenes (particularly the barrel sequence), CGI creatures and awkward dialogue will fill your time until the eventual cliffhanger leading us into There and Back Again, due out next year.
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen
Release Date: December 13

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas
Everyone’s favorite (or least favorite) cross-dressing filmmaker Tyler Perry is back with yet another chapter in the life of the sharper-tongued Madea Simmons. This latest entry is entitled A Madea Christmas, and it involves a trip into the country for a holiday visit, where it’s discovered her niece is dating a white guy. (Record skip.) And if you think that’s bad news, the guy’s father is played by Larry the Cable Guy. It’s a sassy fish out of water tale that is certain to bash a few stereotypes across the back of the head, probably with a pistol.
Director: Tyler Perry
Stars: Tyler Perry, Chad Michael Murray, Tika Sumpter
Release Date: December 13

American Hustle
This film, first titled American Bullshit, is this year’s attempt to teach the general public about America's corrupt history through huge movie stars. It's the same formula that helped Argo take over awards season last year. The story is centered on the FBI ABSCAM sting in the early 1980s in which a con man (Christian Bale) and his lady (Amy Adams) are forced to work with the FBI and go undercover into the murky underworld of the New Jersey mafia and its political cohorting. With a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro and Louis C.K., it’s hard to imagine American Hustle not making a huge dent on critics’ "Best of the Year" lists.
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper
Release Date: December 13 (limited), December 18 (wide)

Saving Mr. Banks
Nostalgia will reign during Saving Mr. Banks, which follows the life of P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the renowned author of Mary Poppins, from her Australian childhood to her close relationship with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), who persuaded her to sign over the novel’s right so that he could make what would become one of the most treasured family films in history. It will be a challenge watching Victoria Summer and Kristopher Kyer as Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, respectively, but I’m guessing this movie’s heartfelt sincerity will go unmatched this December.
Director: John Lee Hancock
Stars: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson
Release Date: December 13 (Limited), December 20 (Wide)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
They’re back! A movie that seemed inevitable and impossible all at once, Anchorman: The Legend Continues brings back the best damned news team and throws them into the world of 24-hour journalism. But do we really care about the plot here? Of course not. We want to hear Brian Fantana talk about his latest colognes and see what kind of inanity Brick Tamland will utter while under pressure. We want comedic quotes that will take us into 2014 with style. When you consider the supporting cast includes Harrison Ford, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jim Carrey, Liam Neeson and a panther-full of other talented performers, it stands to reason that the Channel 4 team might just be the best thing that ever happened to fictional cable. And if not, we can all just go back to our homes on Whore Island.
Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Will Farrell, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner
Release Date: December 18

Walking With Dinosaurs
This 3D adventure follows a small young dinosaur as he grows up to become a leader of his clan as they travel the world looking for a new habitat. Like Anchorman 2, the plot takes a backseat in Walking With Dinosaurs, but instead of raunchy jokes, audiences will be granted the awe-inspiring CGI that fills every frame of this adventure. It won’t make as big a splash as a Disney or Pixar movie, and the detailed imagery may not reach kids as much as bigger brighter colors, but I’ve got hopes that 20th Century Fox and BBC Earth production will take a dino-sized bite out of the pre-Christmas box office.
Director: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale
Stars: John Leguizamo, Justin Long, Tiya Sircar
Release Date: December 20

While Where the Wild Things Are was a cute film, it wasn’t the wacky brain-warper that writer/director Spike Jonze has built his name on, but Her seems to be a fine return to cross-genre oddities. Joaquin Phoenix plays a man whose career of writing personal letters to other people loses some of its meaning once he is left heartbroken after a long relationship ends. He then becomes enamored with a new artificially intelligent operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), and the two fall in love. Or whatever term is more suitable for their situation. There was a recent bit of controversy when Johansson’s performance was ruled ineligible for Golden Globe nominations because she isn’t physically in the movie. Boo on them, but let’s hope it’s an award-worthy performance in any case.
Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
Release Date: December 20 (Limited), January 10 (Wide)

The Past
After winning last year’s Best Foreign Film with A Separation, director Asghar Farhadi is back with The Past, another emotionally challenging drama. An Iranian man (Ali Mosaffa) who’d fled his family life for Paris is back after four years to finalize his divorce, finding his wife in a relationship with another man whose own wife is in a coma. More family dynamics come into it as some relationships strengthen and others go kaput. I’m already uncomfortable just talking about it.
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Stars: Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa, Tahar Rahim
Release Date: December 20

47 Ronin
Based on the Japanese legend of samurais who exact revenge on the man who murdered their master, Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin takes many, many liberties with the material, adding demons, ogres and other giant creatures. Oh, and Keanu Reeves. He’ll play a half-Japanese man who is broken out of slavery by the oppressed society taken over by all the monsters and such. Assuming one doesn’t take the story too personally, this actually looks like a pretty fun romp, full of ridiculous action sequences across vast, gorgeous landscapes that will hopefully balance all the on-the-nose dialogue.
Director: Carl Rinsch
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kô Shibasaki
Release Date: December 25

Grudge Match
From a Hollywood standpoint, the tagline "A Rivalry 30 Years in the Making" makes perfect sense, as a boxing film between Sylvester "Rocky" Stallone and Robert "Raging Bull" De Niro since the men gave us two of the greatest sports figures in cinema. Grudge Match will see the two aging thesps play characters coming out of retirement to face each other three decades after their last match. While it initially sounded like a film more farcical than reality-based, the previews make it look like a standard sports film perfectly aware of all those that came before it, just with a lot of age-based color commentary sprinkled around.
Director: Peter Segal
Stars: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart
Release Date: December 25

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
An updated retelling of James Thurber’s short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a high-profile comedy drama follows Ben Stiller as a LIFE Magazine employee tasked with tracking down an elusive missing photograph, But the real story is happening inside his head, where his unencumbered imagination takes him all over the world and back. As you can imagine, part of it involves attracting the eye of a pretty lady, played by Kristen Wiig. The trailers have made Walter Mitty look like an actual daydream put on film, and it hopefully puts audiences in the same free-willed state of mind.
Director: Ben Stiller
Stars: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Sean Penn
Release Date: December 25
August: Osage County
Adapted from Tracy Letts hit play, the star-studded extravaganza August: Osage County is centered on the estranged Weston family, who all gather back in the family home once the patriarch goes missing, and is later found dead. A story that deals out emotional drama and black comedy in equal strokes is always a good match for awards consideration even with a marginal cast, but this one has Julia Roberts, a drug addicted Meryl Streep, and a host of other talented actors that will presumably find themselves on nomination lists in the next few months.
Director: John Wells
Stars: Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin
Release Date: December 25

The Wolf Of Wall Street
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street will shine when Oscar nominations are revealed? Recently trimmed down due to what the prude-heavy MPAA called excessive sex and nudity, this epic look at the true life and times of stockbroker Jordan Belfort still clocks in at a hefty 179 minutes of drug-taking, money-swindling fun. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the more electric leading men out there, and it will be a pleasure to watch him rise from rags to illegally-acquired riches, taking partying and imbibing to all new levels. And it will be equally as enjoyable to watch his world come crashing down all around him.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill
Release Date: December 25
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