December Movie Guide: 16 Films to Watch For

Peter Jackson takes a long-awaited journey, Jamie Foxx gets unchained and the last of the Oscar contenders arrive.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

Wow, we really did it, didn't we? 2012 is almost over. Just a few more Oscar contenders, a couple summer blockbusters in disguise and some really awful-looking "feel good" comedies are here to capitalize on the holiday season, and CraveOnline's here to tell you what to watch out for – good and bad – in our December Movie Guide. What keeps The Hobbit from being a sure thing? Is Les Misérables the last-minute gamechanging Oscar grand slam everyone thinks it is? Does the world really want to see Billy Crystal get kicked in the nuts? Find out now.

Hyde Park on Hudson (Rated R)

Starring: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams

Directed by: Roger Michell

Opening: December 7, 2012

The love affair between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley (Laura Linney) plays out as the King and Queen of England visit America for the first time.

CraveOnline’s Call: We’ve seen Bill Murray in serious roles before (Lost in Translation), but he always seemed to have been playing a version of Bill Murray. In Hyde Park On Hudson, he seems to be trying his hand at a transformative performance, and we’re desperately interested to see if he can pull it off. The director of Enduring Love and Notting Hill ain’t too bad either.

Playing for Keeps (Rated PG-13)

Starring: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Dennis Quaid,
Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Directed by: Gabriele Mucino

Opening: December 7, 2012

A former pro soccer player (Gerard Butler) reconnects with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) and son (Noah Lomax) while putting together the next phase of his life.

CraveOnline’s Call: The trailer for Playing for Keeps actually contains the phase “George Dwyer was a pro at soccer… but an amateur at life.” It’s a feel good movie about learning the importance of putting your family over your career, and seems to be marketed to families and guilt-ridden dads. We’d be okay with that if it didn’t also look so generic. They can keep it.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Not Yet Rated)

Starring: Martin Freeman, Sir Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis

Directed by: Peter Jackson

Opening: December 14, 2012

CraveOnline’s Call: The movie may be the biggest “no brainer” of the year. Peter Jackson and Tolkien? Yes, that will probably work out. The real question is whether the film’s presentation in 48 frames per second (as opposed to the usual 24) will be the theatrical game-changer that 3D turned out to be. Is this the next Avatar, or the some form of Smell-O-Vision? Advance buzz has been mixed, so you may want to wait for the reviews to come in before you decide whether you want to see it in this new format.

The Guilt Trip (PG-13)

Starring: Seth Rogen, Barbara Streisand, Adam Scott, Colin Hanks, Yvonne Strahovski

Directed by: Anne Fletcher

Opening: December 19, 2012

An inventor (Seth Rogen) goes on a road trip with his mother (Barbara Streisand) to sell his latest invention. Hilarity ensues.

CraveOnline’s Call: If you love Seth Rogen, and you love Barbara Streisand, you’re an interesting person. And you’ll probably want to see this. The rest of us haven’t been laughing too hard at the film’s trailer, which seems full of familiar road trip/embarrassing mother gags. A guy and his mother at a strip club talking about his penis? We don’t feel too guilty about skipping that.

Monsters, Inc. 3D (Rated G)

Starring: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Mary Gibbs, James Coburn

Directed by: Pete Docter, David Silverman & Lee Unkrich

Opening: December 19, 2012

Two monsters (John Goodman and Billy Crystal) make their living extracting screams from children, but their world is turned upside down when one of the kids follows them home.

CraveOnline’s Call: Like Finding Nemo, we’re sure that the 3D conversion of Monsters, Inc. will turn out just fine. We’re just happy to be seeing the somewhat underrated Pixar classic back in theaters. That climactic chase scene through all the closet doors could be stunning in three-dimensions.

Zero Dark Thirty (Rated R)

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Opening: December 19, 2012

The ten-year manhunt for Osama bin Laden leads up to the climactic raid in 2011 that took the terrorist’s life.

CraveOnline’s Call: Kathryn Bigelow knocked it out of the park with The Hurt Locker, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Can she do it again? She’s been hit-or-miss in the past (K19: The Widowmaker), but we suspect she may have hit her groove with these gutsy dramas about modern warfare.

Jack Reacher (PG-13)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie

Opening: December 21, 2012

Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) tries to prove the innocence of an accused serial sniper, based on the novel One Shot by Lee Child.

CraveOnline’s Call: The writer of The Usual Suspects has directed his first movie since 2000’s incredible The Way of the Gun, and legendary director Werner Herzog (Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Grizzly Man) is playing the bad guy? We are so there.

This is 40 (Rated R)

Starring: Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Jason Segel

Directed by: Judd Apatow

Opening: December 21, 2012

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann’s breakout characters from Knocked Up get their own spin-off, about the crises that befall their family around their fortieth birthdays.

CraveOnline’s Call: We’ll bet it’s funny as hell, but if Judd Apatow is really moving into James L. Brooks territory, we hope he can handle the balance of genuine laughs and genuine schmaltz. Meh. It’ll probably turn out okay.

Amour (Rated R)

Starring: Jean-Lous Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert

Directed by: Michael Haneke

Opening: December 21, 2012

The love of an elderly couple is tested when one of them suffers a paralyzing stroke.

CraveOnline’s Call: Okay, okay, it doesn’t sound like a hilarious thrillride, but it’s Michael Haneke. After Caché and White Ribbon, we’re not sure he’s legally allowed to make bad films.

The Impossible (Rated PG-13)

Starring: Naomi Watts , Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland

Directed by: J.A. Bayona

Opening: December 21, 2012

A family fights to reunite after getting caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tidal wave.

CraveOnline’s Call: The buzz has been excellent surrounding this natural disaster movie with a stellar cast, and we like the true story hasn’t been treated as a thriller, but rather as a serious drama. But is it frustrating to anyone that a Southeast Asian tragedy is being told from the perspective of a very, very white family? Particularly a family who, in real life, was actually Spanish?

On the Road (Rated R)

Starring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen

Directed by: Walter Salles

Opening: December 21, 2012

Jack Kerouac’s classic novel gets its very first adaptation from the director of The Motorcycle Diaries. A coming of age story about Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a writer who goes on the road with the carefree Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund).

CraveOnline’s Call: Can Kerouac’s rebellious and inspirational tome be successfully translated onto the big screen, especially so many years after its publication? We’re not so sure. Walter Salles has directed some great films before, but they have a lyrical quality that might not jibe with Kerouac’s reputation as an iconoclast. We’d be surprised if On the Road is bad, we’re just not convinced that it’s going to be particularly good yet. Wait for reviews.

Django Unchained (Rated R)

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Opening: December 25, 2012

A slave (Jamie Foxx) helps a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) track down vicious outlaws in exchange for help freeing his wife (Kerry Washington) from an evil plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).

CraveOnline’s Call: Quentin Tarantino’s long-awaited revisionist western is finally arriving this Christmas, and it looks like Django Unchained is everything we asked for. Foxx appears to be at his suave best, DiCaprio finally gets a major villain role and Tarantino’s clearly having a lot of fun with the western genre.

Les Misérables (Rated PG-13)

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter,
Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Opening: December 25, 2012

The Tony Award-winning musical, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, comes to the big screen. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is on the run from dogged detective Javert for decades before his decision to care for a young girl (Amanda Seyfried) changes everything.

CraveOnline’s Call: Tom Hooper picked a doozy for his second feature film, after 2010’s Oscar-winning The King’s Speech. The buzz is phenomenal, but is this going to be yet another impressive production that, just a few years later, feels like an Oscar bait footnote? The iconic music should probably get us through Les Misérables either way, but we’re not sold on this just yet.

LUV (Rated R)

Starring: Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Charles S. Dutton

Directed by: Sheldon Candis

Opening: December 25, 2012

A young boy (Michael Rainey Jr.) spends the day bonding with his uncle (Common) and gets wrapped up in his criminal world.

CraveOnline’s Call: The concept is emotional and suspenseful, Common’s a surprisingly good actor and the supporting cast is very impressive. LUV might just steal our hearts after all, if it can avoid the usual indie drama clichés.

Parental Guidance (Rated PG)

Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei

Directed by: Andy Fickman

Opening: December 25, 2012

Two grandparents (Billy Crystal and Bette Midler) agree to babysit their daughter (Marisa Tomei)’s children and deal with the disastrous generational divide.

CraveOnline’s Call: Billy Crystal gets hit in the nuts with a baseball bat and Bette Midler throws waffles around the kitchen. It sounds so “wacky” and “heartwarming” that we want to be sick. We suggest staying away from it.

Promised Land (Rated R)

Starring: Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski,
Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook

Directed by: Gus Van Sant

Opening: December 25, 2012

A natural gas spokesperson (Matt Damon) discovers that his job just got a lot harder when an environmental activist (Krasinski) tries to prevent his company from buying up a small town.

CraveOnline’s Call: Matt Damon and John Krasinski also co-wrote the screenplay for Promised Land, so if nothing else this film has a novelty factor. But we’re concerned that this looks like really conventional fare for the otherwise daring director Gus Van Sant (Elephant, Milk). Is it going to be a sappy Capraesque underdog story, or will the acting be so good that we don’t mind that it’s a sappy Capraesque underdog story? You might want to wait for the reviews to find out.

Disclaimer: Release dates, and our opinions, are subject to change.