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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to December

“THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”

Who: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Kyle Chandler and Matthew McConaughey
What: Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.
When: December 25th
Why: It’s a good thing that Martin Scorsese’s fifth collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t get pushed back to 2014 like originally suggested, because I don’t think I could’ve waited any longer for what is shaping up to be one of the director’s most purely entertaining films in years. The source material is so perfect for the big screen that the real-life Jordan Belfort probably daydreamed about who would play him in the movie version as he was living it. And you can’t get much better than DiCaprio, who appears to be at the top of his game with yet another great lead performance. The rest of the cast isn’t too shabby either, including Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill, who (quite miraculously) looks like a shoo-in for his second Oscar nomination.

“AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY”

Who: Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney and Juliette Lewis
What: A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to their childhood home.
When: December 25th
Why: This might as well be called “Oscar: Actor’s Workshop” for the amount of talent that director John Wells has managed to cram into his sophomore effort. Though Tracy Letts’ script (based on his stage play of the same) likely had a part in attracting some of the talent, once Meryl Streep became involved in the project, convincing the others probably wasn’t too difficult. That’s because in addition to Streep being one of Hollywood’s all-time greatest actors, she invites Oscar buzz wherever she goes, and “August: Osage County” is no exception. Though it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Streep and Roberts earning nods for their work here, there’s not a single weak link in the group. And with Harvey Weinstein as one of its producers, you can be sure that it’ll be front and center come awards season, whether it deserves to be or not.

“THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY”

Who: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott and Sean Penn
What: A day-dreamer escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action.
When: December 25th
Why: After watching the trailer for Ben Stiller’s latest directorial effort several times, I’m still not sure what to make of it. One on hand, it looks like a fun road trip movie with some amazing fantasy sequences, but on the other hand, it has all the warning signs of Oscar bait with a Big Message more likely to make you gag than cry. Stiller has proven that he can produce a good film (“Zoolander” and “Tropic Thunder” are both excellent comedies), but this marks a major departure for the director/actor. Though the film received some pretty strong buzz earlier this year at CinemaCon when footage was screened for those in attendance, the first few reviews to come through haven’t been quite as positive, and I’m more apt to believe those who’ve seen the entire movie than just a handful of carefully selected scenes.

“GRUDGE MATCH”

Who: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart
What: Two aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout, 30 years after their last match.
When: December 25th
Why: If you want to avoid the whole Oscar madness altogether, then “Grudge Match” is probably the film for you. Unfortunately, it looks about as bad as it sounds, with the entire advertising campaign built around the prospect of seeing Robert De Niro (aka Jake La Motta) and Sylvester Stallone (aka Rocky Balboa) face off in the ring like some kind of weird movie boxer fantasy match. It’s the kind of pairing that you’d expect to see in video game, but never on the big screen, almost as if someone who plays a little too much “Fight Night” watched “Rocky Balboa” and thought it would be more interesting to see a retired Rocky fighting someone more his own age. But this is supposed to be a comedy, and it doesn’t look very funny. In fact, it looks downright embarrassing for everyone involved, but none more so than De Niro and Stallone.

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