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10 Films to See In December

Written by on December 2, 2014 

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We’ve arrived at the final month of the year and, as our various wrap-ups arrive over the coming weeks (see them all here), there’s still a handful of worthwhile features to seek out. Among them is perhaps the finest film of 2014, a batch of festival favorites (mostly from this year’s Cannes), and one of the year’s biggest undertakings.

As one can see by the matinees, it was difficult to pare down to 10, as respectable, but ultimately underwhelming dramas such as Miss Julie and A Most Violent Year failed to make the the cut; we also couldn’t find a place for The Interview, which we’re hoping makes for some much-needed Oscar-bait relief come Christmas.

Lastly, it should be noted that a great number of films listed below won’t be immediately available everywhere, but will receive a staggered release continuing into next month, so return for updates. Check out the list below and let us know what you’re most looking forward to.

Matinees to See: Wild (12/3), Red Knot (12/5), Miss Julie (12/5), Life Partners (12/5), Pioneer (12/5), Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (12/10), Maidan (12/12), R100 (12/12), Top Five (12/12), Goodbye To All That (12/17), The Gambler (12/19), A Tale of Winter (12/19), Beloved Sisters (12/24), American Sniper (12/25), Big Eyes (12/25), The Interview (12/25), Into the Woods (12/25) and A Most Violent Year (12/31)

10. Unbroken (Angelina Jolie; Dec. 25th)

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Synopsis: A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.

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Why You Should See It: Angelina Jolie’s sophomore effort has barely been seen yet, but early word is on the positive, if reserved, side. While it seems tailor-made for the awards season, we hope there’s more to be experienced under the surface, particularly due to the Coens‘ involvement in scripting and Roger Deakins guiding the cinematography. It’s also seemingly the perfect stage for Jack O’Connell to showcase his talents to the world, after impressing in independent dramas such as Starred Up and ’71.

9. Exodus: Gods and Kings (Ridley Scott; Dec. 12th)

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Synopsis: The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

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Why You Should See It: Despite how one may feel about Ridley Scott‘s latest films, there’s usually something interesting going on, whether it be on the visual side (Prometheus) or thanks to the script (The Counselor). His most recent feature, a retelling of the Moses story, looks to likely fall in the former category, as it’s his biggest production yet. Early reviews have been far from overwhelmingly positive, but here’s hoping Scott and company have found a reason to revisit the Biblical epic.

8. Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore; Dec. 19th)

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Synopsis: Saoirse is a child who is the last of the selkies, women in Irish and Scottish legends who transform from seals into people. She escapes from her grandmother’s home to journey to the sea and free fairy creatures trapped in the modern world.

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Why You Should See It: As we said in our review, “Children will be consumed by the film’s visual splendor and taken by its lighthearted humor, and if they are able to leave the theater having gained anything from the central brother-sister relationship, that’s an added bonus. Parents and adults, meanwhile, would be hard-pressed not to be moved by Song of the Sea’s emotional core.”

7. Selma (Ava DuVernay; Dec. 25th)

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Synopsis: The story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic struggle to secure voting rights for all people – a dangerous and terrifying campaign that culminated with the epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Why You Should See It: Ava DuVernay‘s first studio feature premiered to ecstatic praise at AFI Fest last month, and itlooks to be the final must-see wide release of the year. The first preview sold an incredibly tense drama with gorgeous photography from Bradford Young (who’s reteaming with DuVernay after their indie break-out Middle of Nowhere). As other writers have noted, despite capturing events that occurred half a century ago, it’s shaping up to be one of the most vital films of 2014.

6. Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh; Dec. 19th)

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Synopsis: An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner’s life.

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Why You Should See It: While Mr. Turner might not be one of the finest works from Mike Leigh, it’s still a film of great emotion and beauty, with a remarkable performance from Timothy Spall. From our Cannes review: “For running two-and-a-half hours, the conversations and gestures in Mr. Turner are packed with such intense thoughts (while never taking on a sense of grand proportions) that attempting to take it all in on a single viewing can prove overwhelming. Contemplating the sublime, especially one with such deceptive crevasses, may require a lifetime.”

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