Picking up where we left off with the fall preview, the following titles will come out after Thanksgiving and before New Year’s and represents what the film industry feels is their strongest batch of product of the year. “Strong” meaning they are often downbeat dramas and primo Oscar-bait, not the mega-budget sci-fi/action/fantasy blockbusters that were strewn about the rest of the year.
As usual, the release dates of all titles are subject to change on a whim and without reason at a moment’s notice and a few of the dates are for the New York and L.A. markets. Based on the profile of each film, they’ll likely reach the Atlanta area in January and February.
BLACK NATIVITY — Based on a story by Langston Hughes, the son of a Baltimore single mother travels to New York City to spend the holidays with an estranged family he’s never known. Forrest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson head the cast under the direction of Kasi Lemmons.
FROZEN — In what looks to be yet another Disney studios animation flop, “Frozen” appears to be an unholy hybrid of “Ice Age,” “Mary Poppins” and every other animated fantasy ever made.
HOMEFRONT — Written by but not starring Sylvester Stallone, this crime thriller instead stars Jason Statham as a former DEA agent who moves his family to a small town and runs headlong into a sinister meth dealer played by James Franco.
OLDBOY — Spike Lee funded this revenge thriller online and it looks great. Josh Brolin stars as a man who was kidnapped and spent 20 years in solitary confinement for apparently no reason. Samuel L. Jackson and Elizabeth Olsen co-star.
PHILOMENA — Director Stephen Frear’s drama centers around the title character (Judi Dench) who enlists the efforts of a burned-out journalist (Steve Coogan) to help her find the son she was forced to give up years earlier.
GO FOR SISTERS — Art-house pioneer John Sayles’ most recent effort sees him returning to Texas in this story about an ex-con who enlists the help of a parole officer friend to help him find his missing child.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM –—The latest and probably not the last bio-flick about the former South African freedom-fighter turned president. Idris Elba plays Mandela and Naomie Harris co-stars as his wife Winnie.
OUT OF THE FURNACE — If the trailers are an accurate indicator, this crime drama starring Christian Bale and Casey Affleck as working-class Rust Belt brothers should be a real barn-burner.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG — In the running for the clunkiest title of the year, this second installment of the second Middle Earth trilogy looks even more dreadful and long-winded than the first.
TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA CHRISTMAS — If for no other reason Tyler Perry was beyond wise to release his latest drag comedy on the same weekend as what will more than likely be another weak and overlong Tolkien adaptation.
AMERICAN HUSTLE — Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro star in this ’70s era crime drama about a rogue FBI agent attempting to infiltrate the mob.
ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES — Shot in and around Atlanta this past summer, “A2” seems to be less of a wanted sequel (the first came out nine years ago) than one designed to boost the sagging careers of Will Ferrell and most of the rest of the cast.
HER — Director Spike Jones returns to his early days in this black comedy/fantasy piece about a lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with the voice (Scarlett Johansson) of a Smartphone app.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS — The latest from the Coen brothers is a comedic drama about a failing folk singer in early ’60s Greenwich Village N.Y. Already screened for the press, it could also be the weakest Coen film to date.
SAVING MR. BANKS — Starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, the writer of the book “Mary Poppins.” This talkathon drama centers on the period Travers’ book was being filmed and the often tempestuous working relationship between the two artists.
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS — As it was produced in part by the BBC and a few other higher-brow studios, don’t expect this animated adventure to be your typical taking-animal kiddies’ slapstick comedy.
47 RONIN — Keanu Reeves heads a mostly Asian cast in this Samurai slasher/revenge action-adventure flick about a band of fighters looking to avenge the murder of their beloved master.
GRUDGE MATCH — The second De Niro film of the week has him and co-star Sylvester Stallone playing aging boxers and lifelong enemies who try to pretend they’re young again while settling an old score.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY — Ben Stiller directs and stars in this long-in-development romantic seriocomic fantasy, based on the short story by James Thurber which may or may not look anything like the 1947 movie of the same name featuring Danny Kaye.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET — Pushed back from November (that’s usually a good sign), “Wolf” marks the fifth collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and leading man Leonardo DiCaprio, this time playing a hot-shot trader.
LONE SURVIVOR — Mark Wahlberg takes the lead in this fact-based action thriller about a group of Navy SEALs charged with hunting down and assassinating Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd in 2005.