IMDb Picks: December

by IMDb-Editors | created - 17 Nov 2014 | updated - 12 Dec 2014 | Public

IMDb's editors share the movies and TV shows they recommend for December 2014.

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1. Peter Pan Live! (2014 TV Movie)

131 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

A live telecast of the beloved J. M. Barrie story.

Directors: Rob Ashford, Glenn Weiss | Stars: Allison Williams, Christian Borle, Kelli O'Hara, Taylor Louderman

Votes: 1,864

Last year, more than 18.6 million viewers gathered to watch Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer sing their way through NBC's ambitious presentation of "The Sound of Music Live!" Judging by the reaction of social media, a fair number of those viewers were of the car-crash rubbernecker variety, and to say critics were underwhelmed is to put it mildly.

Then again, when was the last time 18.62 million viewers came together to watch a performance on NBC that was not related to a professional sport or an award show, let alone for a musical? Thus it was no surprise that NBC signed on for another live event, this time reaching for "Peter Pan," a musical with which it already has a bit of history. (A live 1955 telecast of the musical attracted an estimated 65 million viewers, said to be the highest rating for a single night program at that point in time.)

In 2014, "Girls" star Allison Williams takes on the role made famous by Sandy Duncan and Mary Martin, but what makes this a must-see is the sure-to-be-legendary performance of the uniquely fabulous Christopher Walken as Captain Hook.

Premiere: 8pm Thursday, December 4 on NBC, with an encore presentation at 8pm Saturday, December 13.

--Melanie

2. Wild (I) (2014)

R | 115 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

76 Metascore

A chronicle of one woman's one thousand one hundred mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal tragedy.

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée | Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffmann, Michiel Huisman

Votes: 108,080 | Gross: $37.88M

Wild has been on my must-see list since it premiered to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival. When I saw the first trailer, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to Sean Penn's Into the Wild, the story of Christopher McCandless's journey to Alaska, one of my favorite films. But this film is no copycat. Based on a true story, the film documents Cheryl Strayed's 1,100-mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest trail. While the hike itself is enough to make me want to watch, the biggest draw for me is the fact that she takes this journey as a way to recover from the loss of her mother. Critics are already calling this Reese Witherspoon's best role of her career and I can't wait to see it.

  • Michelle


Wild opens in theaters on December 5.

3. The Red Tent (2014– )

Adventure, Drama, History

The story of the twelve tribes of Israel is told through the eyes of Jacob's only daughter, Dinah.

Stars: Minnie Driver, Iain Glen, Will Tudor, Vinette Robinson

Votes: 2,887

Anita Diamant's retelling of the story of Dinah, the nearly-forgotten only daughter of Jacob, remains a book club staple some 17 years after it was first published. Given its perennial popularity and its enduring themes -- the bond between mothers and daughters, the unique connection women share with life, love, and blood -- it was only a matter of time before the novel became a movie. Lifetime has given Dinah's rich tale more than the standard full-length treatment, with two nights and four hours brimming with scene-chewing performances.

At its center, Rebecca Ferguson ably conveys the headstrong Dinah's naivete and pain without plunging the tale into cheap melodrama. She and the rest of the cast make the most Diamant's tale, but if the story isn't enough to seduce you, drinking in the costumes and vistas afforded by production's Morocco locations could be seductive enough to make one take a peek at this world for a little while.

Miniseries Premiere: 9pm Sunday, December 7 and and 9pm Monday, December 8 on Lifetime.

--Melanie

4. Inherent Vice (2014)

R | 148 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

81 Metascore

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson | Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston

Votes: 80,923 | Gross: $8.11M

Inherent Vice is the latest movie from Paul Thomas Anderson, the director of Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood. That fact alone should be enough to get you to the theater.

If that’s not doing it for you, consider the stellar cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone and Martin Short. Or consider the fact that those who have seen it have described it as a mix of Chinatown and The Big Lebowski. If you’re still on the fence, consider the movie’s strong reviews: as of late November, it had an 84 rating on Metacritic.

Still not convinced? Then Inherent Vice probably isn’t for you. For everyone else, its time to start counting down the days until this expands nationwide in January.

--Ray

Inherent Vice opens in theaters on December 12.

5. Top Five (2014)

R | 102 min | Comedy, Romance

81 Metascore

A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality television star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her television show.

Director: Chris Rock | Stars: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart

Votes: 24,510 | Gross: $25.28M

Four months ago, few people had heard of Top Five, which is writer/director Chris Rock’s first movie since 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife. That was before the movie premiered to rave reviews (93 on Metacritic) at the Toronto International Film Festival, after which Paramount purchased it at a hefty cost (reportedly over $12 million) and slated it for an end-of-year release.

The trailer is packed with all kinds of stars – including Tracy Morgan, who filmed his role here before his tragic accident – and is also loaded up with laughs. One particular gem comes at the end, when Cedric the Entertainer’s character tries (and fails) to steal hangers from a hotel room. It’s impossible to describe it here, but I’ve seen it a dozen times and can’t stop laughing about it.

The movie also appears to mix in some romance and drama, along with some commentary on fame and success. Add in the New York setting, and this seems like a broadly-appealing option for adults this holiday season.

--Ray

Top Five opens in theaters on December 12.

6. Ascension (2014)

231 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

A young woman's murder causes the subjects of a century-long mission to populate a new world to question the true nature of the project as they approach the point of no return.

Stars: Tricia Helfer, Gil Bellows, Brian Van Holt, Andrea Roth

Votes: 16,162

Syfy presents an event series every December, but this one feels particularly ambitious. Upon one's first impression of "Ascension," it looks like another foray into space adventure territory, albeit with a retro twist: Sending 350 souls on a deep space odyssey that begins in 1963 means the architecture, interiors and fashion on the ship retain a "Mad Men"-flavor, minus the cigarette smoke, even in 2014.

More prevalent, and more interesting, is the series' examination of what happens when society is encapsulated at a specific point in time and completely removed from a larger world. Is that a benefit, or to its detriment? How do they evolve differently? What happens when the descendents of this mission, a generation born into their roles and forced to collaborate, experience a violent crime?

Concept is one thing, execution is another... and "Ascension" isn't perfect. The performances leave a bit to be desired, and even though it's an interesting concept, I'll admit that I struggled to get to the end of night one. So why is this a December pick?

Because the final scene of the premiere made me puzzle over everything else in the pilot, including whether the flat affectations of the group on the ship versus the actors left on Earth are intentional. Perhaps I'm just making excuses for bad acting so I'll have a reason to tune in for night two. Point being, in spite of its flaws, I want to see where this mission goes, and I suspect you might as well.

Miniseries Premiere: 9pm Monday, December 15, 9pm Tuesday, December 16 and 9pm Wednesday, December 17 on Syfy.

--Melanie

7. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

PG-13 | 144 min | Adventure, Fantasy

59 Metascore

Bilbo and company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett

Votes: 429,253 | Gross: $255.12M

Confessions of a former Unexpected Journey hater: It was The Desolation of Smaug that helped me to re-engage with Bilbo and the Dwarves and remember that, with the release of Five Armies, it will soon be possible to watch the entire Hobbit/LOTR saga in proper sequential order.

Not to mention that the titular battle should be the best extended scene rendered on the big screen this year.

And if "Regal Armor" Thorin is made available as a toy, I'll buy two (one to keep in its packaging, the other to cast love spells upon). The same goes for Bard in any form.

--Arno

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opens in theaters on December 17.

8. The Interview (II) (2014)

R | 112 min | Comedy

52 Metascore

Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapaport run the celebrity tabloid show "Skylark Tonight". When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.

Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen | Stars: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan

Votes: 282,179 | Gross: $6.11M

Over the Christmas holiday, the studios are releasing three major movies targeted at family audiences: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Annie, and Into the Woods. As a counterweight to that, Sony is releasing The Interview, an R-rated comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogen (who is also writing/directing with This is the End partner Evan Goldberg).

The movie finds Franco and Rogen on a mission from the CIA to “take out” North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which is a set-up that’s received plenty of criticism from the North Korean government: after the first trailer was released online, a spokesperson equated it to an “act of war.” The movie doesn’t appear to take itself that seriously, though: the latest trailer features the dictator gifting Franco a puppy, then driving around in a tank singing Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

That may not be your cup of tea: political satire is a notoriously inaccessible genre, and Rogen and Franco aren’t for everyone, either. For me, though, this is undeniably one of the few must-see movies of the holiday season this year.

--Ray

The Interview opens in theaters on December 25.

9. Unbroken (I) (2014)

PG-13 | 137 min | Biography, Drama, Sport

59 Metascore

After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he's caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Director: Angelina Jolie | Stars: Jack O'Connell, Miyavi, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund

Votes: 127,577 | Gross: $115.64M

Once you hear about the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II, it's pretty hard to not take interest in this film. As soon as I heard that Joel and Ethan Coen were collaborating with Angelina Jolie to write the script for Unbroken, that pretty much sealed the deal for me. The first footage from the trailer is absolutely breath-taking although I am a bit worried about the violence. Apparently it's so intense at parts that the audience has gasped out loud. But at the same time, I like the fact that Angelina did not shy away from showing that horror he endured but instead showed the strength of the man who had the courage to survive.

  • Michelle


Unbroken opens in theaters on December 25.

10. Two Days, One Night (2014)

PG-13 | 95 min | Drama

89 Metascore

Liège, Belgium. Sandra is a factory worker who discovers that her workmates have opted for a EUR1,000 bonus in exchange for her dismissal. She has only a weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses in order to keep her job.

Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne | Stars: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée, Baptiste Sornin

Votes: 40,538 | Gross: $1.44M

Marion Cotillard is developing a truly international career and her starring in a new film from the Dardenne brothers is the kind of event that should result in curious, reverent audiences packed into cramped theaters throughout the holidays and into the new year. Cotillard is definitely in the dark-horse Oscar pool for Best Actress too. Is it leading to say that this is the kind of story that would never be made in the U.S.?

--Arno

Two Days, One Night opens in theaters on December 25.

11. Big Eyes (I) (2014)

PG-13 | 106 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

62 Metascore

A drama about the awakening of painter Margaret Keane, her phenomenal success in the 1950s, and the subsequent legal difficulties she had with her husband, who claimed credit for her works in the 1960s.

Director: Tim Burton | Stars: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter

Votes: 75,225 | Gross: $14.48M

When Tim Burton went back to the Frankenweenie world, some of us wondered -- and hoped -- his career might experience a sea change and the masterful storyteller would look to more original and peculiar stories for his new projects. So here we are with Burton's latest, an attempt to correct a chapter of art history that saw Walter Keane take credit for his wife Margaret's influential paintings, and his first indie studio project since ... since ... forever?

Everyone wins here: Burton, weary Burton loyalists, leads Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, the supporting cast led by Krysten Ritter, and Margaret Keane's legacy. Though perhaps her Wikipedia page says it all: "Margaret D. H. Keane ... is an American artist ..." while her former husband's reads: "Walter Stanley Keane ... was an American plagiarist who became famous in the 1950s for claiming he had painted a series of widely-reproduced paintings depicting vulnerable waifs with enormous eyes."

--Arno

Big Eyes opens in theaters on December 25.



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