What to Watch This Winter: From Gods and Gamblers to Kings and Kingsmen!

With films like Mockingjay Part 1 and Interstellar bringing us out of the epic Fall season and into the harsh winter of Oscar competition, many films plan to surprise us and deliver amazing performances in these coming months. From Ridley Scott's epic biblical adventure Exodus: Gods and Kings to Mark Wahlberg's dangerous dabble in the gambling business as The Gambler, this winter brings chilly winds and hot new films to the moviegoers of this generation. Before some of these films hit theaters and blow our minds, here's a list of some of the films that I'm most excited to see:

Exodus: Gods and Kings- Telling of the defiant leader Moses, who risks his life and the lives of everyone he loves in order to rescue 600,000 slaves from Egypt, Gods and Kings brings the heat with the promise of both monumental visuals from the Bible, and amazing performances from the two leading men. Starring Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, Exodus unites two of my favorite actors to battle for glory. Already two strong actors that can inflict both emotion and fear upon their audiences, Bale and Edgerton seem like perfect contenders to fight for Oscars this season, hopefully delivering some memorable performances as these Biblical characters. While it may not be entirely accurate to the scripture, I think Gods and Kings will be one of the most epic films of the winter season, with great performances and daring visual effects. 

Whiplash- While this film may not be a winter film, having hit select theaters in the US around October in a limited release, I just recently discovered it, along with its hidden potential to be one of the year's best films. While I may not be able to experience the immense power of this film until it's in stores, I hope to get to see this film one day, with all its powerful greatness and intensity. Telling the story of a young drummer (Miles Teller), who enrolls at a cutthroat music school and must train with a hardened mentor (J.K. Simmons) who won't accept failure, Whiplash definitely resonates well with me, me myself once being a dabbler in the art of percussion. Already highly acclaimed at film festivals, Whiplash looks to deliver striking performances on both sides, with Miles Teller emerging from his shell of rom-coms and Divergent films, and J.K. Simmons bringing in another one of his brutally amazing roles. While I may never see it in theaters, I think Whiplash should be experienced in the biggest way possible, the film holding so much life, beating a powerful rhythm towards Oscar season. 

The Gambler- Spinning the tale of a high-stakes professor-turned-gambler who dives too deep, The Gambler appears to be a mix of The Wolf of Wall Street and Goodfellas, giving the audience both high-stakes fun and ruthless gangster violence. Starring Mark Wahlberg, best known this year for making the Transformers franchise even worse, this film looks to be an exciting gangster film to hold moviegoers over this holiday season. While it may not be as hyped and crazy as last year's Christmas blowout, Wolf of Wall Street, The Gambler appears to be heading down the same route, with the leading cast of Wahlberg, John Goodman, and Jessica Lange on the hunt for big awards.

Inherent Vice- Right from the trailer of this film, you can already see similarities between a film like American Hustle, and this film. With an ensemble cast, a crazy plot set in the 1970s, and an array of odd facial hair, the two seem like carbon copies of each other. Telling of a drug-fueled Los Angeles detective who must find his missing girlfriend who's disappeared, Inherent Vice seems simple enough…until you meet all of the odd characters that occupy this strange environment. Starring an odd-ball cast, including Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson, Josh Brolin, and Reese Witherspoon, this film screams award-worthy, just as American Hustle did last year. Already getting acclaimed reviews from critics, Inherent Vice looks to be the American Hustle of 2014, bringing powerful yet odd performances to the big screen.

American Sniper- From director Clint Eastwood, legendary actor and director of films like J. Edgar and Jersey Boys, comes his next film, American Sniper. Diving again into the world of biopics, Eastwood tells the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a renowned sniper with over 150 confirmed kills under his belt. However, along with those many kills, Eastwood also reveals the soldier's hardened past, from his love life to the most difficult decisions he was forced to make in his life. Famous for bringing emotion and heart into his films, Clint Eastwood promises another great hard-hitting film this winter, with American Sniper delivering a heart-felt tragedy of one man's powerful struggle.

Kingsman: The Secret Service- Based on the popular graphic novel about a secret spy organization that recruits an unskilled street kid to train with one of the agency's most dangerous agents in order to defeat a global threat, Kingsman is like James Bond, just with a sidekick tailing along. With a violent yet humorous trailer, showing both star Colin Firth kicking ass and Samuel L. Jackson as a merciless if not mindless villain, Kingsman shows promise, being one of those all-fun-and-games films to enjoy this winter. From the director of X-Men: First Class, Kingsman looks like a fun joyride of hilarity and high-jinks, as the bad-ass Brit Colin Firth moves from dramas and romance to dabble in the art of ass-kicking.

Unbroken- Chronicling the unbelievable true story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese in World War II, Unbroken churns out an emotional tale of bravery and heart, as it tells of one man's determination to survive in the most harshest conditions. Similar to this year's The Railway Man, about a man who recounts his time imprisoned in a foreign camp, Unbroken looks to bring even more depth and emotion than Railway Man, packed with true accounts of Zamperini's resilience and bravery amongst all odds. Even if it may not be the biggest film of the year, or it may not be directed by a world-class director, Unbroken might be the hidden gem of the holiday season, yearning for award recognition, and also looking to be the year's top war film.  

The Interview- It wouldn't be the holiday season without a loud, raunchy comedy to lighten up the dramatic and dreary mood of the competitive Oscar buzz. From the makers of past raunchy comedies from This Is The End to the nightmare that was Neighbors, this season we're brought The Interview, telling of two late-night show-runners (Seth Rogen, James Franco) who are asked to interview North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, prompting the CIA to enlist the duo in "taking him out" while visiting his home country. While I may not be the biggest fan of the genre of mindless comedies with enough inappropriate jokes to go around, The Interview actually looks equally insulting and hilarious enough to get me to the theater…or at least get me to rent it next year. Either way, this one might end up drawing a good crowd with its fun yet unrealistic plot, and its cast of comedy kings…of raunchy films anyway. 

Selma- One thing I know from past experience is that when it comes to big awards, biopics rule with a golden fist. From Lincoln to 12 Years A Slave, historical films that bring a powerful leader to the front lines usually don't walk away without a good amount of recognition. This year, with films like Unbroken and Selma bringing great men to the big screens, the Oscar race will be harder than ever, with so many great performances coming our way. Selma, the biopic about Martin Luther King Jr.'s monumental marches for civil rights, is no different, delivering a powerful array of performances, along with conveying an unforgettable message in the process. Starring David Oyelowo, one of the best nearly unknown actors out there, Selma is probably one of my most-anticipated winter films, combining my love for both great biographical films and movies with harrowing messages of leadership and bravery.

Mortdecai- Johnny Depp is back, and not without his trusty array of odd personalities! Returning from a rather bland scientist in Transcendence, Depp channels a sort-of Jack Sparrow persona to play Charles Mortdecai, an oddball art dealer out to find a stolen painting linked to millions in Nazi gold. Tasked with traversing the world with the help of his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow), a demanding inspector (Ewan McGregor), and his grateful and quite resourceful servant (Paul Bettany), Mortdecai must face some of the deadliest obstacles in the world in order to retrieve the painting. Looking to be a fun-filled comedy-adventure to end January with a bang, Mortdecai's wild ride should be a great time at the theater this winter.    

Honorable Mention: Now it's time to list the films that didn't completely sell me, but still hold enough excitement and seasonal joy to mention. From fairy tale to orphan musicals and over-animated Hobbit films to lacking comedies, these films may be worth seeing in theaters, but might not do well in the long run:

Top Five- Written and directed by the star, comedian Chris Rock, about a comedian who struggles to make it as a serious actor in the wake of his televised wedding to his reality-TV star wife, Top Five is basically a Tyler Perry movie without Madea in it. With a meaningful yet simple plot of a comedian who wants to be a serious actor, the film lacks in almost everything except a decent cast and a few whole-hearted jokes here and there. With stage comedians from Chris Rock to Kevin Hart, as well as decent film actors like Rosario Dawson and Whoopi Goldberg, making up most of the cast, Top Five might be an entertaining Christmas film for Tyler Perry fans and possibly for Madea fans as well, but might lack in real emotion and plot to compete this season.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies- Continuing the outstretched plot of the single Hobbit book, and drawing out even more visual effects to bait the fans of Middle-Earth back to the theater for more popcorn-craming fun, the third and final Hobbit film plans to end things like director Peter Jackson always wanted: with yet another 3 hour film of legendary capacity. While I may not be a fan of --*ducks for cover*-- the Lord of the Rings books and films (not ever reading nor seeing them), the Hobbit films never succeeded in gaining my attention…until now. With an even larger scale than the past films, as well as being the film to end all fantasy films, this final film looks nonetheless epic as hell, possibly being able to force me to watch it, as well as force me to watch the past 5 films (but maybe not the Hobbit ones).

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb- With every mediocre sequel, usually comes its own equally mediocre sequel. Let's say, for example, the Night at the Museum films, having one great first film, a sequel that was okay, and then a third film that is well…unneeded, to say the least. Following its predecessor, which threw our protagonist Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) into the massive Smithsonian museum back in 2009 to battle evil Egyptians, the third film tackles a similar yet broadened plot, sending Daley and Company worldwide to save the magic that brings the museum to live. While it may not be very close on my movie radar, I still enjoyed the last two films, greatly enough for me to somewhat anticipate this third copycat.

Annie- Rebooting, or rather retelling, the classic story of a young orphan who is adopted by a millionare in hopes of giving the girl a better life, Annie brings the tale to this generation, altering the plot, but still holding the same profound message of how love can bring a unlikely family together. Starring rising actress Quvenzhane Wallis, who stole the show with a phenomenal performance in 2012's Beasts of the Southern Wild, along with the ever-smooth Jamie Foxx, this musical of the holiday season hopes to gather the character's past fan-base, as well as the kids of this generation, to sing-a-long with this fun-filled remake. A fan of both the original film, as well as Wallis' potential acting chops, this film may bring me to the theater, unless the musical part of it holds me back.   

Into the Woods- Speaking of musicals that may hold me back, there comes Into the Woods, another dive into the dark twists of fairy tale characters. Following past attempts to bring characters like Snow White and Alice in Wonderland to the big screen with darker, more grown-up tones, this year brings a mix of Les Miserables and those films with Into the Woods, telling of a witch (Meryl Streep) who tasks several fairy tale characters from Cinderella to Jack and his beanstalk to each learn a lesson after she curses a baker and his family. While it may have a confusing plot of twisted story-lines and colorful characters, I hope this film can bring both the intensity that the Les Miserables film did, and the creative imagination in order to make these characters fun and relevant again.

Well, that concludes another lengthy post about what films you should see this winter season. Whether you agree or disagree with my list, leave a comment below telling me what films you're most excited for this season. Don't forget to follow, share, and come back for more movie reviews, trailer breakdowns, and more! Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


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