Holiday blockbusters, niche and family films grace silver screen

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the lucrative and crowded holiday movie season, and this year, there’s a strong mix of family films, potential blockbusters, awards movies and niche genre fare. Here’s a look at what Hollywood has in store from now until Christmas:

“Black Nativity”

The movie musical takes on a Biblical slant, as an entirely black cast, including Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson, updates the classic nativity story for the modern day. Adapted from the 1961 Off-Broadway play from Langston Hughes, the film version of “Black Nativity” is the vision of director Kasi Lemmons, who names her main character Langston and turns him into a Baltimore teen raised by a single mother. This PG-rated family offering will hopefully offer as much inspiration as it will endless high-pitched crescendos. Opened Nov. 27.


Spike Lee remakes a brutal South Korean film, with Josh Brolin in the lead role of a kidnapped man who is suddenly released and goes searching for vengeance after 20 years of solitary confinement. Park Chan-wook’s 2003 “Oldboy” remains a controversial cult classic, so it will be interesting to see whether Lee’s version will retain the original’s sharp edges or simply recount its twisted plot. Opened Nov. 27.


Following the success of 2010’s “Tangled” and last year’s “Wreck-it-Ralph,” Walt Disney Animation Studios releases another computer-animated effort, this one a loose adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s acclaimed fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” Pixar’s John Lasseter is one of the producers, and it’s been reported that inspiration for the musical was drawn from such disparate sources as “The Sound of Music” and the 1947 psychological drama “Black Narcissus.” Opened Nov. 27.


Oscar-winning writer/director Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “The Descendants”) goes black-and-white for the tale of a father and son (Bruce Dern and Will Forte) on a road trip to collect lottery winnings. Dern won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival this summer, and the film promises to be another bittersweet family drama, even though it’s the first one Payne hasn’t written. Opened Nov. 27.

“Out of the Furnace”

The 2009 drama “Crazy Heart” won Jeff Bridges his long-overdue Best Actor trophy for playing an alcoholic country music has-been, but the character was a creation of new writer/director Scott Cooper. Cooper’s follow-up to his acclaimed debut is a thriller starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck as brothers who are separated by jail time and a violent crime syndicate in the Rust Belt. Opens Dec. 6.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

Part two of Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s pre-“Lord of the Rings” novel has something to do with a quest, a treasure and a dragon. What more do you need to know? Opens Dec. 13.

“American Hustle”

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro — all veterans of David O. Russell’s last two films “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook” — re-team with the writer/director for the 1970s-set story of New Jersey political corruption and mafia ties. The original script was on Hollywood’s blacklist of the best unproduced screenplays before Russell rescued it and added his contribution. One of the most anticipated films of the year, it opens Dec. 18.

“Anchorman: The Legend Continues”

The sequel that has both Dodge and Ben & Jerry’s shelling out cash for product tie-ins and commercials finally arrives just in time for Christmas. Gleefully sexist 70s broadcaster Rod Burgundy may be Will Ferrell’s most bizarre onscreen creation, but the absurdity of San Diego’s sassiest newsman — and constant reruns on cable TV — have made him an audience favorite. Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner are back with Burgundy for some fun on a new 24-hour news channel in this sequel. Opens Dec. 20.

“Saving Mr. Banks”

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) tries to persuade “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to let him adapt the children’s novel for the big screen in this Disney film, which is based on a true story. Opens Dec. 20.

“Inside Llewyn Davis”

Oscar Isaac received good notices at Cannes for his singing and his convincing portrayal of a fictional folk singer in the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene in this new film from writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men,” “Fargo”). The soundtrack is put together by the brothers’ Grammy-winning “O Brother Where Art Thou” producer T. Bone Burnett. Opens Dec. 20.

“47 Ronin”

The tale of the 47 ronin is a national legend in Japan, one which espouses the brand of honor and loyalty of samurai culture. This stylized 3D version stars Keanu Reeves and a cast of Japanese actors, is set in a fantastical realm and features an enormous budget of over $175 million in a crowded marketplace. Talk about a huge gamble. Opens Dec. 25.

“Grudge Match”

Robert De Niro sullies the memory of his “Raging Bull” role while Sylvester Stallone throws more dirt on the larger-than-life Rocky Balboa in this new comedy about two old boxers who get together in their 60s for a long-overdue match. Expect plenty of crude “I’m too old for this” jokes, references to their other films and a tacked-on heartwarming ending. Opens Dec. 25.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”

Chris Pine successfully rebooted Captain James T. Kirk in the new “Star Trek” films, and he’s got to be better than bland Ben Affleck, the last guy to play Tom Clancy’s American hero, so it’s okay to be cautiously optimistic about the second Jack Ryan reboot in 11 years. This movie — directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as the film’s villain — is the first Ryan film not based on an existing Clancy story. Opens Dec. 25.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

This special effects-heavy movie is adapted from James Thurber’s 1939 short story, but has been updated to contemporary times to feature a boring office worker with a rich fantasy life. Directed by and starring Ben Stiller as the title character, it received a warm response at the New York Film Festival in October and is poised to become a big family hit this Christmas. Opens Dec. 25.

“The Wolf of Wall Street”

At press time, director Martin Scorsese’s movie adaptation of a memoir from a wall street crook (Leonardo DiCaprio) who lived high on the hog in the 1990s was pushed back to a Christmas Day release, but there’s been speculation that it may not make it. With talent like Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill and Jean Dujardin also on board, it doesn’t matter when it comes out — it looks like a darkly funny must-see about a very timely subject. Opens Dec. 25.