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Holiday film preview

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  • | 11:00 p.m. December 16, 2014
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Take the hectic out of holiday burnout by catching a great movie. It’s all about substance and style as award hopefuls are abundant in theaters this time of year. The following look as if they’re capable of raising eyebrows as well as spirits this holiday season. Cheers!

Chock-full of Oscar winners (Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon and Benicio Del Toro), this film looks deliciously deranged. Phoenix plays a stoner private-eye investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend in 1970s L.A. Directed and written by the always cutting-edge Paul Thomas Anderson. Now showing.

Director Ridley Scott goes for the spectacular in this epic story of Moses’ (Christian Bale) escape from Egypt with 400,000 slaves. Joel Edgerton plays boyhood friend and eventual archenemy, Ramses. The visuals look so breathtaking it seems to demand an audience on that count alone. Now showing.

Director extraordinaire Mike Leigh assembles a superb cast of actors (buddies from previous films) in this biographical drama about the prolific painter J.M.W. Turner. Timothy Spall portrays the 19th century British artist who helped lay the foundations for impressionism. His performance won the award for best actor at Cannes this year. Dec. 19

Quoted to be, “the least boring 196-minute movie ever made,” this award-winning Turkish film charts the course of a failing marriage. It also examines the “cynicism of the rich toward the poor.” Director Nuri Bilge Ceylan shoots on location in the steppes of Cappadocia, one of the most picturesque destinations in the world. It’s also home to wild horses. Tough on the heart but easy on the eyes. Dec. 19

A remake of the original film based on Dostoevsky’s novella: This time around it stars Mark Wahlberg as a college literature professor/high stakes gambler. Teach gets in so deep he offers his own life as collateral. If his performance is anywhere near as riveting as James Caan’s (in 1974), Wahlberg could be the winner taking all. Directed by Rupert Wyatt and also starring Jessica Lange, John Goodman and Brie Larson. Dec. 19

That’s how long Marion Cotillard’s character has to persuade fellow workers to reject a bonus for her to keep her job. Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne direct and script this social commentary on the fragility of job security among members of the lower class. The film has to be described as a “work of desperate optimism.” Dec. 24

The trailer for this film is so powerful that I was brought to tears. David Oyelowo portrays Martin Luther King in this searing expose about black people struggling to secure voters’ rights. The casting looks spot-on with Tim Roth as George Wallace, Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon Johnson and Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover. Ava DuVernay directs while Oprah Winfrey produces and stars as well. Dec. 25

Angelina Jolie gets up close and personal behind the camera to direct this true World War II epic. American soldier Louie Zampernini (Jack O’Donnell) survives 47 days at sea after his plane crashes, only to be rescued by the Japanese and imprisoned for two years. Tagline: “If I can take it, I can make it.” The trailer looks painful and powerful. Dec. 25

The shot of a child in the crosshairs of an American soldier’s rifle lends insight into how gripping this film might be. Clint Eastwood directs, and Bradley Cooper portrays Chris Kyle, who was credited for 160 kills (the most in U.S. history). Once again Eastwood explores chaos within a civilized society. Thankfully, this guy doesn’t stop making important films. Dec. 25

Remember the doe-eyed paintings of dour children back in the 1960s by Margaret Keane? Well, it seems hubby was taking credit. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz play the troubled couple in an era when women were often submissive. In a surprise move, the wonderful Tim Burton directs. Just imagine Waltz charmingly chirping, “People don’t buy lady art.” Dec. 25

A film about “money, control and fate,” set in 1981 New York City, Oscar Isaac plays a desperate immigrant chasing the American Dream. Jessica Chastain portrays his ferocious wife who supports his ruthless behavior, having come from a family involved in organized crime. J.C. Chandor directs and writes what could possibly be one fantastic modern crime thriller. Dec. 31



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