Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to December

“The Revenant”

Who: In the 1820s, frontiersman Hugh Glass sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling.
What: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter
When: December 25th
Why: There’s been a lot of discussion about the punishing conditions during the making of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film, and it certainly shows in the final product. “The Revenant” looks every bit as intense and brutal as you’d expect for a movie that was shot in the middle of the nowhere, which could pay dividends come awards time. After all, the Academy loves watching actors suffer for their craft, and no one has suffered more this year than Leonardo DiCaprio, who’s shot to the front of the Best Actor race following early screenings of the film. Could this finally be the year he wins that elusive Oscar?

“Joy”

Who: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Edgar Ramirez
What: The story of a family across four generations and the woman who rises to become founder and matriarch of a powerful business dynasty.
When: December 25th
Why: Though Jennifer Lawrence’s third collaboration with director David O. Russell finally puts the actress front and center, “Joy” sounds like it could be their weakest film to date. To be fair, “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle” were some of the best movies of their respective years, and while there’s been very little buzz for “Joy” so far, that’s because no one has really seen it yet. It’s hard to imagine Lawrence delivering a bad performance, and Russell has been putting out great work since 2010’s “The Fighter,” but don’t be surprised if one of them (or both) get shut out of this year’s awards.

“Concussion”

Who: Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stephen Moyer and Alec Baldwin
What: Based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player.
When: December 25th
Why: Will Smith attempts to get his career back on track with this real-life story about the man who took on the NFL – basically the American sporting equivalent of the mafia – in order to bring attention to a very important issue. Though there were rumors that Sony watered down the film at the request of the NFL, which director Peter Landesman has vehemently denied, the real problem with “Concussion” is that it risks being overlooked amid the horde of Christmas Day releases. That doesn’t bode well for the movie’s performance, and more importantly, its effectiveness in educating people about the sport’s ongoing epidemic.

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