Who: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne
What: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction, awakening two of its passengers 90 years early.
When: December 21st
Why: Stick two of the most charming actors working today in a heady sci-fi plot that will examine themes of loneliness, love and other elements of the human condition? “Passengers” already sounds like a fascinating premise, but the inclusion of Lawrence and Pratt ensures that it will be a fun one as well. Add to that the excellent prior work of writer Jon Spaihts (“Doctor Strange”) and director Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game,” “Headhunters”) and some dazzling imagery (especially that pool sequence where gravity goes out), and it becomes clear why there’s been so much buzz about this film since it entered production. This film sounds like a shot in the arm for original sci-fi, and if it performs well, it could lead to a new boom of heady, high-concept fare that the industry desperately needs.
Who: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons and John Goodman
What: An account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath.
When: December 21st
Why: While it’s only been a few short years since the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, other films like “United 93″ have shown that the best way for capturing the intensity and fear of situations like this is usually within a short span of its occurrence. The cast is stacked with capable and powerful performers, especially John Goodman and J.K. Simmons, who always turn in memorable roles, so it remains to be seen which version of Peter Berg shows up: the director of stirring dramas like “Friday Night Lights” and “Deepwater Horizon,” or the schmaltzy filmmaker that gave us bloated blockbuster fare like “Hancock” and “Battleship.”
Who: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds and Tadanobu Asano
What: In the 17th century, two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity.
When: December 23rd
Why: The return of Martin Scorsese! Oh, you need more? Well, despite other filmmakers insisting that aging directors don’t make them like they used to (cough, Tarantino, cough), Scorsese has proven quite adept at delivering new and powerful films in his advancing years, whether it’s “The Departed” or “The Wolf of Wall Street.” His latest movie looks fascinating – a harrowing tale of faith amidst strangers in a strange land. This may be a departure from his usual crime fare, but Scorsese has always hit it out of the park whenever he ventures into other genres. Solid performances from esteemed actors will deliver this simple but engaging story, but it’s really the name on the director’s chair that should be getting people into the theater.
Who: Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson and Sienna Miller
What: A story set in the Prohibition era and centered around a group of individuals and their dealings in the world of organized crime.
When: December 25th
Why: This incredibly stylized film looks to further prove Ben Affleck’s abilities as a filmmaker. Blending the noir twists of “Gone Baby Gone” with the period piece aspect of “Argo” (albeit a much different period in time), this Dennis Lehane adaptation seems perfectly within Affleck’s wheelhouse and looks to be an engaging story about the rise and fall of a criminal empire. The fact that Affleck has drawn so much acting talent to his film is also promising and will hopefully mean a fun, if dark, ride through Prohibition era gangster life. Period pieces and crime films both tend to draw accolades and awards, so combining them seems like this may be a much-talked about film in the coming year.