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New in Theaters December 25: Into the Woods, Unbroken, The Gambler and... The Interview?!

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By Chris Kavan - 12/24/14 at 07:07 AM CT

The big news going into the long Christmas holiday is that Sony, reeling from a massive hacking attack and then a far worse public backlash for the way they handled things, is indeed releasing The Interview on Christmas. However, if you expect it at your local multiplex, too bad, as it is only opening in a handful of independent theaters around the nation. If you're lucky enough to be near one of these theaters, I encourage you to go - and be sure to post your review (good or bad) right here. Beyond that, the year isn't likely to make many gains over the record 2013 season - we have a musical, a biographical drama and a crime drama. The Hobbit is likely to lead all newcomers.

INTO THE WOODS We already have one family-friendly musical in theaters in the form of the re-vamped Annie. But that's apparently not enough for Hollywood, as Rob Marshall and Walt Disney are delivering a Christmas treat based on the hit Broadway musical Into the Woods. The cast looks pretty amazing - Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, Lucy Punch, James Corden and Tracey Ullman are just some of the names lending their vocal talent to this lavish production. For certain audiences, this is probably a dream come true - at least some of the people listed about can probably sing really well - but that certain audience is not me. I'm not averse to musicals (I did like Les Miserables quite a bit, actually) but this whole fantasy, "let's throw a bunch of fables together" thing just doesn't seem like my cup of tea. Wicked I could deal with - not so much this. However, there is a build-in audience, it has some major stars and it does look pretty entertaining. It has the best chance out of the new releases to score big - we'll see if it does.

UNBROKEN Angelina Jolie has proven she has talent in front of the camera time and time again. With In the Land of Blood and Honey she also proved she could work behind the camera as well. If that was a warmup then Unbroken is her hitting her stride. Based on the true story of Louis Zamperini - from high school to Olympian to WWII pilot to surviving at sea to Japanese POW - this is a story Hollywood couldn't make up because the truth once again prove it is so much more interesting than fiction. Jack O'Connell takes on the role of this amazing person - and the supporting cast: Jai Courtney, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock and Japanese pop star Takamasa Ishihara (taking on a much different role as the relentless POW director) have all been receiving praise - as has Jolie herself. It remains to be seen whether Unbroken makes the big awards show (it was left out of the Golden Globes) but has already earned a handful including the AFI Movie of the Year and O'Connell has racked up quite a few awards himself. Unbroken may not be quite as epic as it wants to be - but I think it still looks mighty inspirational and quite powerful in its own right. While the awards-season hype may be a big overdone, there is no doubt it should have a decent opening.

THE GAMBLER The Gambler was originally scheduled to be released in 2015, but after some apparently better-than-average audience feedback, it was pushed to the plum spot at the end of December. The film follows Mark Wahlberg as Jim Bennett, professor by day, gambling addict by night - and, of course, he gets way in over his head and involved with some nasty loan sharks and even less savory characters (not to mention getting involved with a student and trying no to disappoint his mother) - so, yeah, a lot of drama here. Again the cast looks pretty good. Besides Wahlberg, there is John Goodman, George Kennedy, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson and Michael Kenneth Williams. A lot of talent here - but I don't know how distinguished this crime drama is over the standard fare. The people involved may be able to elevate the genre, but from what I've seen it doesn't seem to different than half a dozen other films of the same kind.

THE INTERVIEW Sure, I know this film is only going to be shown in a handful of theaters nationwide, but I would be remiss if I didn't include it here. The Sony hacking scandal has been a major debacle and this is some small consolation for the many, many, many people who have been very vocal (famous or not) for how stupidly this whole thing has been handled. I don't care if the this is the most unfunny, dumb, revolting, moronic and downright terrible film - I can almost guarantee every showing will be sold out just to spite those who would dare challenge our freedom (or at least our ability to watch crappy movies). Hard to say if this is a win or just a cop out on Sony's part, but, hey, at least some people will get to see this film - and it bodes well for a VOD and DVD release in the future.

A handful of other films are also going to be in limited release, including awards-season contenders Selma, American Sniper and Tim Burton's Big Eyes. We'll see how their openings compare to the likes of Theory of Everything, Birdman and Foxcather. I'll see you back on Sunday after the long holiday weekend with the finally results.


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