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Movies to watch this winter: A guide to 2013's best late releases
Your week-by-week guide to the most promising upcoming movies, from The Hunger Games to The Wolf of Wall Street
Expectations are high for The Hunger Games' second installment.
Expectations are high for The Hunger Games' second installment. (Murray Close/Lionsgate Publicity)
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ovember is just around the corner, which means that we're right in the middle of 2013's awards season for movies. The past few weeks have seen the release of some major contenders for a Best Picture Academy Award, with acclaimed movies like Captain Phillips, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave earning heaps of positive reviews and conquering the box office.

But don't swear off the movie theater just yet — there are several months until the Oscars, and many studios are just about to unleash their heaviest hitters. What movies are worth watching in the last two months of 2013? Let The Week be your guide:

November 1: Ender's Game

What it is: This adaptation of Orson Scott Card's novel of the same name tells the story of Ender Wiggin, a young prodigy who is drafted into a program that trains children to be soldiers in an ongoing war against alien attackers.

Why you should care: The summer box office was littered with disappointing sci-fi blockbusters, but Ender's Game is 2013's last chance to turn that trend around. Fans of the beloved novel have waited more than 25 years to see the story on the big screen, and director Gavin Hood has assembled a cast of established genre veterans — including Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley — to do it. Even the trickier roles have been well-cast; though movies starring children tend to be an iffy proposition, it's hard to argue with a list of stars that includes Hugo's Asa Butterfield, True Grit's Hailee Steinfeld, and Zombieland's Abigail Breslin.

What else is coming out: Last Vegas, a movie that CBS Films unconvincingly continues to insist is more than a thinly veiled remake of The Hangover with old people; Free Birds, a dismal-looking children's animated comedy about time-traveling turkeys; About Time, which promises Rachel McAdams' unlikely second appearance in the time travel/romance genre.


November 8: Thor: The Dark World

What it is: This sequel to 2011's Thor sees the titular super-heroic demigod return to his home world of Asgard, as he takes on a new threat so dangerous that he's forced to enlist the aid of his villainous brother Loki.

Why you should care: I wouldn't blame anybody who is burned out on the superheroes, but Thor: The Dark World looks to add a few intriguing wrinkles to the genre by incorporating some Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy. Thor: The Dark World offers an interesting reversal of the first Thor's fish-out-of-water scenario: While the superhero's first outing saw him landing on Earth, this new film takes him back to Asgard with a regular human being (Natalie Portman) in tow. Director Alan Taylor has already shown he can deliver impressive-looking fantasy on a small-screen budget, with numerous episodes of HBO's Game of Thrones under his belt — so who knows what he can do with a blockbuster budget?

What else is coming out: Nothing. Hope you like superheroes.


November 15: The Book Thief

What it is: An adaptation of Markus Zusak's acclaimed young-adult novel, which tells the story of a young German girl who steals and reads books that the Nazis are trying to burn.

Why you should care: Maybe you shouldn't — The Book Thief is flying dangerously under the radar for a would-be Oscar contender that's so close to release, which could mean that Fox knows it has a turkey on its hands. But until reviews come out, there are still several reasons to be hopeful for The Book Thief: Markus Zusak's novel was embraced by reviewers and readers alike, and stars Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are reliably magnetic performers. As far as recent literary adaptations go, let's hope this is more Life of Pi than Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

What else is coming out: The Best Man Holiday, a very belated sequel to 1999's The Best Man.


November 22: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

What it is: After winning the Hunger Games alongside ally Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is called back for a second round against some of the tournament's previous champions.

Why you should care: The first Hunger Games was an unexpectedly massive hit, and fan expectations are higher than ever for Catching Fire. Fortunately, Lionsgate seems to have upped the ante in all the appropriate places. A tournament featuring previous winners of the Hunger Games is the perfect way to raise the stakes without totally selling out the original movie's premise, and new cast members like Philip Seymour Hoffman should round out the first movie's strong (if underutilized) cast. Finally, Catching Fire's significantly expanded budget — a reported $130 million, over the first film's $78 million — should go, in part, toward fixing the dodgy special effects that lessened the impact of the first film.

What else is coming out: Delivery Man, in which Vince Vaughn plays an unusually prolific sperm donor who learns he has fathered more than 500 children. Gross.


November 27: Oldboy

What it is: A Hollywood remake of Korean director Chan-wook Park's twisted thriller, which follows a man kept in solitary confinement without explanation for 20 years, only to be released for a chance at revenge against his mysterious captor.

Why you should care: There's a reason that a sizable cult has built up around the original Oldboy, which is one of the most shocking and gripping thrillers to be released in any country over the past decade. But while fans remain justly skeptical of a remake that many have deemed unnecessary, there are plenty of hopeful signs that the Oldboy remake will be a cut above your typical lazy cash-in, from director Spike Lee to a stellar cast that includes Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, and Samuel L. Jackson.

What else is coming out: Frozen, an animated comedy about a kingdom locked in eternal winter; Homefront, the 800th generic-looking Jason Statham thriller to hit theaters within the past few years.



December 6: Inside Llewyn Davis

What it is: A struggling musician (Oscar Isaac) navigates the blossoming folk music scene in New York City's Greenwich Village in 1961.

Why you should care: I saw Inside Llewyn Davis at the New York Film Festival earlier this year, and while it doesn't reach the heights of the Coen brothers' best work, it's well worth your time. The film is absolutely gorgeous, managing to capture the look and tone of the era, and the soundtrack would be worth a purchase even if it wasn't attached to the film. It's a strangely episodic and deliberately alienating film, but it works on its own terms — and it's unlike anything else you'll see in theaters this year.

What else is coming out: Out of the Furnace, a Winter's Bone-ish rustic noir that's flying under the radar despite an all-star cast that includes Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, and Forest Whitaker.


December 13: American Hustle

What it is: A stylish crime drama, set in the 1970s and '80s, that loosely follows the arc of the FBI's real-life Abscam operation.

Why you should care: If American Hustle can live up to its sky-high potential, it may be the film to beat in December — and possibly for Best Picture. Its screenplay was ranked as one of the best unproduced screenplays of the year in 2010. It's directed by David O. Russell, who's fresh off back-to-back, Oscar-nominated successes in Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter. Its massive ensemble cast boasts everyone from Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale to Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams. And every glimpse of the film released so far has absolutely oozed with style. It's a high bar, but there's so much talent involved that American Hustle stands a good chance of reaching it.

What else is coming out: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second (and hopefully more compelling) entry in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy; Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, the writer/director/star's seventh outing as the gun-toting grandmother.


December 20: Saving Mr. Banks

What it is: A whimsical, based-on-a-true-story dramedy about Walt Disney's (Tom Hanks) attempt to convince author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to let him adapt Mary Poppins for the big screen.

Why you should care: In an Oscar season that's overloaded with grim prestige pictures, Saving Mr. Banks offers a welcome respite: A serious-minded movie that's still light on its feet. It's hard to come up with two more inherently likable actors than Hanks and Thompson, and they'll be supported by talents like Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman, and Paul Giamatti. A screening at the London Film Festival earlier this month earned universally positive reviews, so let's hope Saving Mr. Banks can ride that overseas goodwill into its stateside debut.

What else is coming out: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, the long-awaited sequel to Will Ferrell's comedy about a chauvinist news anchor in the 1970s.



December 25: The Wolf of Wall Street

What it is: A decadent, debauched biopic based on the memoir by Jordan Belfort, who spent the earlier part of his career earning hundreds of millions by scamming the stock market.

Why you should care: The Wolf of Wall Street is Leonardo DiCaprio's fifth movie with director Martin Scorsese, an actor-director pairing that has repeatedly proven to be one of the most fruitful in Hollywood. The decision to have Belfort speak directly to the camera feels like a self-conscious nod to Scorsese's best film, Goodfellas, and a real-life portrait of Wall Street excess feels particularly timely.

What else is coming out: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a beautiful but bland movie about a globetrotting employee at a dying magazine; Grudge Match, a Stallone/De Niro dramedy that will finally pit Rocky against the Raging Bull; 47 Ronin, an incoherent-looking fantasy/action movie starring Keanu Reeves as a wandering sword-fighter.

Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor for TheWeek.com. He has written about film and television at publications including The AtlanticOutside Magazine, and Think Progress.

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