Most-Anticipated Winter Films: From Violent Shakespeare to Battles in Space!

As the time for lightsaber battles and...err, I mean gift-wrapping and egg nog nears ever so close, a plethora of epic and long-anticipated films are gearing up to take on not only the Christmas Day hoards of moviegoers, but also the mouth-watering opportunity of getting their name on the high-exalted Oscar ballot. With many films on the way already looking to snatch up the prize, we also have many long-awaited flicks that are just here to please the nerds. From the continuance of massive franchises like Star Wars and X-Men to a gracious number of book adaptations, this winter will surely pack a punch right from the start.   

Franchises Expanded:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- Probably one of the most-anticipated films of the year, the rebirth of the acclaimed Star Wars franchise has much more than a few Jedi mind tricks up its sleeve, as it hopes to reinvent the nearly 40-year series for the new generation. Set nearly 30 years after Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens picks up with a new set of faces to take on the galaxy, including John Boyega's Finn, Daisy Ridley's Rey, and Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron. Alongside the original cast of Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewy, together the team takes on a new threat to the galaxy, one that threatens not only the lives of millions, but also the fate of the Force and its influence. Now, not much may need to be said to convince fans to see this one, but still, this film will surely be the thing fans have been dying to see from the franchise since 1983.  

Deadpool- While it might not be directly connected to the flawed yet generally successful X-Men franchise built by 20th Century Fox, the third solo spin-off in the series (following the dreadful X-Men: Origins and the one good Wolverine film) is something fans have been clamoring for for decades. Finally bringing a comic-faithful Merc With A Mouth to the big-screen, Deadpool revives the character from his soulless form in Origins, and leaves us with the one thing comic fans deserve. Promising a gritty, foul-mouthed action-comedy set in the same world as Wolverine and the X-Men, the film reenlists star Ryan Reynolds for one last shot at the character he was born to play.  Hoping to both expand the X-Men film universe past the likes of Logan and his pals, while also tossing insults at both Origins and Reynolds' last outing as a superhero in Green Lantern, Deadpool could be next year's Kingsman...or the next Fantastic 4. 

Zoolander 2- Just as Will Ferrell's Anchorman produced an equally hilarious and equally obnoxious sequel in 2013, the cult-classic Zoolander returns to the screen for more flashy and crude comedy. With star male models Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) returning, as well as the promise of the same stupid hilarity we got in the first flick, this sequel may not spawn a blockbuster franchise like Star Wars or X-Men, but it will surely rely on fans of the original to back it up. Hoping the sequel evokes a similar sense of hilarious mishaps, without becoming too ignorant for its own good, Zoolander 2 could either be a surprise hit, or just as forgettable as the Anchorman sequel.      

Literary Facelifts, the Violent and the Elegant:

Macbeth- From the think depths of the cultured mind of William Shakespeare and the thousands of earlier renditions, the violent play of treason and treachery comes to life once more in its most cinematic form yet. Starring the brilliant duo of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the leading couple who kill the king of Scotland in hopes of taking power for themselves, Macbeth's most recent adaptation relies on everything from its radiant cast to its fantastic cinematography to get people to sit through two hours of Shakespeare. Possibly my second most-anticipated film of the winter season, Macbeth looks to be a visceral experience of bloodlust and brilliant performances, offering up a simple yet complex tale of one man's desire for domination.  

Brooklyn- With a wholesome story of an Irish immigrant in 1950s New York, who must tackle both the struggles of a new land, as well as temptations of two lovers across oceans, Brooklyn came under my radar this Fall, slowly grasping at my interest these last few weeks. Promising a beautifully-crafted tale of heartbreak and new discoveries, Brooklyn (based on the novel by Colm Tóibín) looks to be yet another artful and surprising indie flick for the Oscar race. With a delightful cast of C-list actors rising from the shadows, including the beautiful Saoirse Ronan and one of my favorite low-on-the-radar actors Domhnall Gleeson, Brooklyn already looks to be a hit among the critics, hopefully telling a story worthy of the big screen.

In the Heart of the Sea- Another of this year's biggest book adaptations is Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea, the breathtaking tale of crewmen of the sea vessel Essex, who face brutal conditions in their survival after being attacked by a behemoth of a whale in 1820s New England. Spinning a daring tale of true events (events that inspired the legendary story of Moby Dick), director Ron Howard intertwines his brilliant cinematography and storytelling to deliver another beautiful-looking film. Along with its star-studded cast, including a skinny Thor in Chris Hemsworth, future Spider-Man Tom Holland, and Cillian Murphy, In the Heart of the Sea may have been pushed back many times in the past few months, but hopefully it'll have been a film worth waiting for.

The Danish Girl- From the director of Les Miserables and The King's Speech, and starring the emotional powerhouse that is Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl looks to be engulfed in award-worthy gold. Elegant in design, and telling a profound tale of the first transgender pioneer, this film -- based on the novel by David Ebershoff -- already has nods of Oscar nominations, enlightened by its fabulous cast led by Redmayne and Testament of Youth and Ex Machina star Alicia Vikander. Hoping that this film showcases yet another groundbreaking performance from Redmayne, following his memorable take on Stephen Hawking in 2014's The Theory of Everything, as well as another artful direction from Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl may not be at the top of my list, but it'll surely be a key player come award season. 

Thrillers and Killers:

The Revenant- From Birdman director Alejandro G. Iñárritu comes another one of my most-anticipated films of the winter. The Revenant, which pits real-life frontiersman Hugh Glass against the deadly winters of what would later become the Dakota Territory, after being mauled by a bear and left to die, holds just enough intense intrigue and star power to keep its dark premise in the light. Equipped with leading men Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, two actors who've earned my ticket with nearly every film they put to screen, The Revenant relies on both its menacing cast of bearded mountain men and unique cinematography to draw me into yet another biographical thriller. With hopes of earning both leading men their well-deserved Oscar noms, especially the always-snubbed DiCaprio, this film looks both brutal and visceral, two aspects that will surely make it a great film to see in theaters.

The Hateful Eight- While The Revenant may be considered a Western thriller, the ultimate Western flick this winter has to be the next film from Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight. Bringing together a brilliant cast of crooks and criminals, including Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern, Tarantino returns to the Western genre, following his brutally fantastic last film Django Unchained. A talented director in his own realm of unique filmmaking, movie lovers can't deny that Mr. Tarantino is one of the most dynamic and memorable directors out there today. Spawning films from Kill Bill to Pulp Fiction, the director's talent for mixing a great cast with even greater writing will definitely shine once more in this next no-holds-barred tale of cold vengeance and cruel deception.

Point Break- The first reboot of the winter season, Point Break takes us back to the thrilling shores of Southern California to take on even more extreme heists than we did in 1991. Retooling the cult classic, which starred Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze as two surfers who quickly become addicted to the art of extreme thievery, Point Break revives rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah and charismatic thief Bodhi for some updated thrills for the new generation. Holding relatively true to the original film, this reboot actually looks to be quite the thrill ride. Hopefully fueled by more than just big-budget action, Point Break could end up being one of the most pleasing reboots in a while, evoking the same high-octane rush with just a bit more at stake.    

Influential Men of History, From Wall Street Winners to Track Star Sprinters:

Race- Uniting two things I love, biographical films and track and field, Race tackles the struggling story of adversity and triumph about the record-breaking runner Jesse Owens. Fueled by determination and a will to win, Owens races his way to the top at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, overcoming racial adversity in Nazi Germany. With a tale as profound as that, and an interesting cast including Selma star Stephan James, comedic actor Jason Sudeikis, and William Hurt, Race could end up being the next Unbroken, ironically both films being set in the same time period. Looking to be another inspirational tale of heroism and history, I'll definitely be seeing Race in theaters this winter.  

Life- Another film that nearly slipped under my radar this winter was the biopic about the close bond between Life magazine photographer Dennis Stock and famed actor James Dean. Life, which stars Robert Pattinson as Stock and Dane DeHaan as Dean, evokes a similar feeling like 2013's Inside Llewyn Davis did, mixing calm and unique cinematography with sharp and witty dialogue. Looking to be an artful film -- one that may not appeal to everyone -- I may not see this one in theaters, but it definitely looks like another biopic worth checking out.     

Concussion- Just as he portrayed the struggling businessman and father Chris Gardner in 2006's The Pursuit of Happyness, the always-watchable Will Smith returns to the biographical scene as he takes on the life of pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu. Tasked with uncovering the secret behind brain damage suffered by professional football players of the NFL, Omalu must do whatever it takes to change the ideals of the people who deny his research. While I may not be a huge fan of football, Concussion holds a dynamic tale of truth and the conflicts behind it, led by one of Hollywood's most bankable actors. Among the dozen of other big films releasing on Christmas Day, Concussion could claim a spot on the Oscar stage, just as long as Smith can pull on the same emotional strings he did back in 2006.

The Big Short- With a top-tier cast, including Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Steve Carell, The Big Short takes us into the elaborate world of finances and corrupt banking, as it explores the flow of ideals and cash during the so-called "Financial Crisis of 2007–2010". Following four outsiders who saw the collapse of the economy far before the banks ever did, Big Short dives into the dark world of corrupt businessmen and their monumental investments. Mixing the emotions and political intrigue of the author of Moneyball and The Blind Side with the comedy behind the director of Anchorman and Step Brothers, The Big Short could be another hilarious and well-acted biopic about the economy and banks (just not as vulgar as The Wolf of Wall Street).  

Christmastime Comedies, the Clever and the Crude:

Joy- Another biographical film I failed to mention above was the inspirational tale of "Miracle Mop" inventor and struggling mother of three, Joy Mangano. The woman behind Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle director David O. Russell's newest film, Joy, Mangano is embodied by the amazing Jennifer Lawrence. Radiant in everything she does (well, maybe not everything), Lawrence looks to be shooting for her next chance at an Oscar, as she portrays the strong-willed Joy in her journey to build up her business empire. Surrounded by the usual David O. Russell crew, including Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, Joy will definitely be mentioned somewhere come award season, as its impeccable cast and director team up once more to deliver a sharply-tuned comedic drama.   

Sisters- Just as Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly made us laugh our asses off with their cult comedy Step Brothers back in 2008, another pair of siblings take the stage in Sisters. Reuniting life-long friends Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as two sisters seeking to reignite their glory days, Sisters packs in as much vulgar comedics and guest stars to appeal to the mass audiences of middle-aged women. While not as sentimental as the last Fey-Poehler collaboration on film in 2008's Baby Mama, the successful duo of Saturday Night Live fame will surely have enough chemistry between one another to make this film worth seeing.

Daddy's Home- Another duo reuniting this winter is the hilarious Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. With Ferrell teaming up with nearly every comedic actor out there today, from Zach Galifianakis in The Campaign to Kevin Hart in Get Hard, one of my favorite team-ups was between him and Wahlberg in 2010's The Other Guys. Reuniting once more for Daddy's Home, Ferrell and Wahlberg toss away their roles as partners-in-crime from Other Guys and become two feuding fathers, trying to win the love of their children. Fueled solely on the duo's comedic chemistry, Daddy's Home may not be a success, but it still could be as enjoyable as Ferrell's recent roles.

Hail, Caesar!- Hailing from the minds of the brilliant Coen brothers, who have brought both dark comedy and cynical drama to their films -- from cult classics Fargo and The Big Lebowski to cut-throat thrillers True Grit and No Country for Old Men -- Hail, Caesar! may just be the duo's next big hit. Set in 1950s Hollywood, where a frantic producer tries to tackle everything from a kidnapped movie star to a young starlet struggling through love, this dark comedy tosses us yet another dazed and confused flick, one that will surely keep us entertained throughout. With the Coen's sharp writing and fantastic direction, Hail, Caesar! could end up being the funniest and wildest film to come this winter season.

Now that I've shared my list, what films are you most excited about this winter? Which films do you think will rule the award season? Let me know in the comments below, and remember to share this post with your other movie-loving friends! Also, stay tuned for my reviews of the final Hunger Games film, as well as the surprise hit drama of the winter, Brooklyn. All this and more, coming soon!  

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