Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Winter Movie Previews

Holidays used to be a chance to relax and enjoy time with family. Now, it means going to see the newest movie releases. Not that we are complaining, though, because it’s also the time of year when all the awards contenders leave their fancy festivals and the rest of us get to see what critics have been raving about for months. What’s there to look forward to this year? Let Cadenza tell you.

“The Book Thief” (Nov. 15)

Hollywood’s latest book-to-film adaption promises to bring tears and an emotional catharsis this November. “The Book Thief,” written by Marcus Zusak, tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany. Although book burnings are common and free thoughts are oppressed, Liesel’s love of reading and writing connects her with everyone she meets, from her mayor’s grieving wife to the Jewish man whom her adoptive parents are hiding in their basement. Although many of her neighbors conform to Adolf Hitler’s rules, Liesel’s innocent and unaltered mind enables her to realize that her world is truly cruel and unfair. However, she never stops trying to help those in need, and her encounters with good empower her to keep hop even in the darkest moments. The trailer for the film reassures fans of the book of its merit; the characterizations, setting and acting all seem impeccable. Details about this film have been largely kept in the dark since it was first rumored a few years ago, and it has still not been revealed who will be voicing the narrator and main character, a personified Death. Originally planned for a January 2014 release, “The Book Thief” was pushed up to November in order to bolster its chances for award season. And, provided the film stays true to the content of the novel, its chances of winning big are quite high. — Kimberly Henrickson

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (Nov. 22)

For those of you who live under a rock and still haven’t read Suzanne Collins’ ridiculously popular “Hunger Games” trilogy, here’s what you can expect from the second installment in the series: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” finds recent Hunger Games victors Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) crisscrossing the nation of Panem on a sinister victory tour. The couple—now engaged—is quickly realizing that the stunt it pulled in the Games could still prove deadly. Katniss has become a sort of figurehead for the people of Panem, inspiring uprisings that provoke the wrath of the already repressive Capitol. And just when Katniss thinks things can’t get any worse, the Capitol announces that the 75th Hunger Games will pull from the existing pool of victors—meaning that she and Peeta are going right back into the Games. “Catching Fire” will certainly ratchet up the suspense as Katniss and Peeta struggle under the Capitol’s ire. Viewers will also be introduced to a ton of compelling new characters, like dreamy District 4 victor Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin). “Catching Fire” was also handed a much bigger budget than the first film, allowing the filmmakers to make the world of “The Hunger Games” all the more dazzling and immersive through visual effects. The story of “Catching Fire” is certainly dense—director Francis Lawrence has already announced that multiple plot points were cut or changed—but J-Law’s acting chops and the novel’s compelling storyline guarantee that this film will be another fiery success. — Katharine Jaruzelski

“Nebraska” (Nov. 22)

What would you do if you thought you had won the lottery? What would your friends do if you won the lottery? In “Nebraska,” elderly Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) believes he has won a sweepstakes prize for a million dollars, and his son (Will Forte), despite thinking it is a scam, has to travel from Montana to Nebraska to get the prize. The movie is directed by Alexander Payne, whose last movie, “The Descendants,” was set in Hawaii. This movie’s setting could not be more different, and Payne enhances the bleakness of the landscape by shooting in black and white. Payne has shown himself to be adept at directing the drama of family life while still finding joy, and the trailer looks to capture that, along with the idiosyncrasies of the flyover states. Woody doesn’t live in a world of poverty, but he and his acquaintances are not accustomed to decadence either, and as the rumor of his jackpot spreads, friends and family start to pop up, expecting to get something. The problem comes from the fact that they start to take advantage of Woody before he even has the money. Don’t let the black and white scare you away from what will be a thoughtful but entertaining movie experience this November. — Trevor Leuzinger

“American Hustle” (Dec. 18)

Let me get this out first: I love Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. They were beautiful together in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and I fully support anything they do. So I highly recommend going to see “American Hustle,” which was directed by David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) and written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer. The film is based on the FBI’s Abscam operation in the 1970s and 1980s, which was a sting operation that targeted public corruption. Aside from Cooper and Lawrence, this film also stars Christian Bale as con man Irving Rosenfeld and Amy Adams as Rosenfeld’s lover, Sydney Prosser. The couple is recruited by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) and thrown into the dangerous yet exciting world of the New Jersey mafia. Jeremy Renner plays Carmine Polito, the mayor of Camden, N.J., who becomes involved in both the con artists’ scheme as well as the feds’. Lawrence plays Rosenfeld’s wife, who might bring the whole world to an end. Full of 1970s’ mustaches, aviator sunglasses, deception, affairs, politics and beautiful people, “American Hustle” is a film to see when you’re home for winter break. — Elena Wandzilak

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (Dec. 25)

As I get older, I find myself appreciating movies that have impressive cinematography and special effects as well as movies that choose good music, so the first time I found myself watching the trailer for “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” I was blown away by the wide shots of Walter Mitty jumping out of a helicopter into the ocean as well as the choice to use Of Monsters and Men’s “Dirty Paws.” I sat in my room and watched the trailer five times because I felt so emotional and inspired. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is the second film adaptation of James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same name. It chronicles the life of Walter Mitty, played by Ben Stiller, who works at Life magazine and happens to live inside of daydreams. (What?) When he loses a picture that is needed for the magazine’s final issue, he sets out on a journey to discover not only the picture but also what it means to truly experience life itself. Throw in Kristen Wiig as Mitty’s love interest, Adam Scott as the jerk boss, Shirley MacLaine as Mitty’s mother and Kathryn Hahn as Mitty’s sister, and this movie really takes off. Will Mitty find the picture? Will he learn what it means to live in the real world? Will he get the girl? Don’t miss “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” when it comes to theaters on Dec. 25. — Elena Wandzilak

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878