7. “Inside Llewyn Davis” (December 20)
What it’s about: In the folk scene of Greenwich Village in 1961, a musician by the name of Llewyn Davis is struggling to make something of his career. Formerly of a folk music duo, Davis is attempting to craft solo stardom while relying on the kindness of friends to help keep a roof over his head. He’s talented, yes, but not at all likeable, as the audience learns while following Davis from one couch to the next.
Who it stars: Oscar Issac (Llewyn Davis); John Goodman; Garrett Hedlund; Justin Timberlake; and Carey Mulligan.
The buzz: Ethan and Joel Coen wrote and directed this humorous drama, and T-Bone Burnett executive produced the soundtrack. Like “O Brother Where Art Thou?,” the music from “Inside Llewyn Davis” is as integral to the project as the performances.
8. “Saving Mr. Banks” (December 20)
What it’s about: Before 1964′s “Mary Poppins” became a classic, a battle was waged between the character’s creator, P. L. Travers, and the man who promised his daughters he’d turn the mystical nanny into a movie, Walt Disney. “Saving Mr. Banks” recounts Disney’s persistent wooing of Travers and the behind the scenes give-and-take that led to “Mary Poppins” being made.
Who it stars: Tom Hanks (Walt Disney); Emma Thompson (P. L. Travers); Colin Farrell; Paul Giamatti and Bradley Whitford.
The buzz: Directed by John Lee Hancock, critics have praised Disney for not turning “Saving Mr. Banks” into a self-admiring love letter — a feat owed in great amounts to the performances of Hanks and Thompson.
9. “The Wolf of Wall Street” (December 25)
What it’s about: In the 1990s, penny stockbroker Jordan Belfort was living a life of extreme decadence won from his fraudulent scheming — that is, until his house of cards began to crumble and resulted in his arrest. Belfort’s swindling, already captured in his memoir “The Wolf of Wall Street,” is making the leap to the big screen with Leonardo DiCaprio as the “wolf” himself.
Who it stars: Directed by Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street” also stars Jonah Hill; Margot Robbie; P.J. Byrne and Jon Favreau.
The buzz: The movie’s release recently had a close call when it looked like it was going to drop off the 2013 calendar altogether; thankfully, Paramount is still going to make the cut with the December 25 release date. The combination of Scorsese and DiCaprio isn’t always a sure thing — remember “Shutter Island”? — but we’re placing our bets with this delicious look at the perils of excess.
10. “August: Osage County” (December 25)
What it’s about: The story here originated with Tracy Letts’ award-winning 2007 stage production, which has been transformed for the screen with John Wells at the helm. “August: Osage County” reunites the three daughters of the Oklahoma-based Weston family, grounded by cancer-stricken matriarch Violet, after a painful loss. What results is a darkly funny examination of the ties that bind.
Who it stars: This cast is virtual awards-season catnip, packed with the likes of Meryl Streep (Violet), Julia Roberts, Margo Martindale, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor and Sam Shepard, among others.
The buzz: Early reviews from film festivals suggest that “August: Osage County” hasn’t rid an ounce of its theatricality as it moved from stage to screen, and Meryl Streep in particular goes big with her role. Yet subtle and compelling performances from supporting cast, mixed with the story’s juicy, humorous drama, should nonetheless make it a draw.
it a draw.