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December is the gift that keeps on giving

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After a November filled with beloved sci fi that could not help but disappoint fans of the book, a YA sequel that rehashed its original in dreadfully dull fashion, a super hero with the complexity of a snail, albeit one that works out a great deal, and a new Disney classic that reaffirms one’s hope for the innocence that movies are capable of producing, we step boldly into a December chock-full of intense, enlightening, and downright exciting cinema.
Yes, “Out of the Furnace” started the month off with a strong cast featuring the likes of Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, and Woody Harrelson, but the storytelling was not enough to hold critics’ attention nor intrigue audiences to investigate its gritty commentary on the working class. Still, much more awaits us this weekend with the release of three heavy hitters, if not monetarily then most definitely critically. First off is “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” and one must not forget to pronounce “Smaug” in the bizarre fashion used in every trailer. When did it stop being pronounced “Smawg?” Anyway, the film is sure to crush the box office this weekend, just as its four predecessors have done. Don’t look for a best picture nod like “The Return of the King,” as the academy only nominates far more dreary tales unless they have no other choice, as they did with the LoTR finale. Still, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, and Benedict Cumberbatch are reason enough to see this epic sequel, especially since the latter two return to the BBC’s “Sherlock” come the new year (fan girl squealing commence).
Also this weekend comes David O. Russell’s next attempt at winning best director with “American Hustle,” a film full of Oscar contenders. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are the early favorites from the film, both for supporting roles. Lawrence especially is looking strong early into the awards season, and if she wins another Oscar at age 23 she officially is the luckiest actress on the planet. Which is fine as she is adorable. A stunning period piece about corruption and greed, look for amazing costuming, writing, and a brilliantly horrifying Christian Bale, sans six-pack with a gut and a comb over. Take that Batman!
And finally “Saving Mr. Banks” opens with another Tom Hanks returning to form performance as Walt Disney opposite Emma Thompson as the fiery author of “Mary Poppins”, P. L. Travers. A supporting actor nod could make this Hanks’ best year since the early 90’s. Not that the Robert Langdon films didn’t suck. Ok, they did.
Not excited yet, because that’s just this weekend. Still to come is “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” Spike Jonze’s latest quirky romance “Her,” Scorsese’s orgy-filled “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and the film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ award-winning “August: Osage County,” featuring a scarily good cast led by powerhouse Meryl Streep. Also, the Coen brothers’ latest triumph “Inside Llewyn Davis” opens soon, a tale about a 1960’s folk musician with enough talent and not enough luck played by newcomer Oscar Isaac. Most exciting about the film though is the folk music played on screen, by Isaac himself, Justin Timberlake, and others. It features music composed by legend T-Bone Burnett in association with Mumford of “Mumford and Sons.” Angsty, heavy, and beautiful to the ear, it is a sure picture not to miss.
The season holds everything for a moviegoer to see, from fantasy to comedy to heavy drama commentating on our society, those with too much money and those with too little luck. Though no stereotypical Christmas mush lies in the future weekends ahead, there is enough to capture the imagination and move the heart.

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