2012 Holiday Movie Pool Preview | Skyfall | The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey | The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2

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2012 Holiday Movie Pool Preview

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Wreck-It Ralph
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi
Rise of the Guardians
Zero Dark Thirty
Jack Reacher
Parental Guidance
This Is 40
Red Dawn
The Guilt Trip
The Man with the Iron Fists
Killing Them Softly
Playing for Keeps
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
Hyde Park on Hudson
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas
Just like death and taxes, the only other inevitable thing in life is the Holiday Movie Pool. Heading into our 16th year, we're still younger than Justin Bieber, but we've definitely had to start shaving. Luckily, Hollywood started shaving as well as there seems to be a lot less "we must make mega-bucks" movies this season. Of course, that only makes it harder for poolers, as being faced with having to choose between the over-achieving film that will make $100 million and the big-budget failure that "only" makes $100 million is more harrowing than Sophie's Choice.

Will the winner this season be the book reading club? We've got Tolkien, Fleming, and Stephanie Meyer (one of these things is not like the other). Will the winner be kids flicks as there's only two? We've got video games and Santa Claus. Will the winner be an "award" films? 'Tis the season when a surprise critical sensation like Hitchcock can preoccupy theatergoers for weeks on end.

All we know for sure is it's going to be a wild ride with some sure things and a whole lot of IDKs. Here's where Roxette would say, "Come on, join the Joy Ride." I'm more partial to the first part of that chorus, "Hello, you fool."

In case if you don't know what's coming out for this holiday season of 2012, check below for a detailed list of this year's crop!

- Flight
Just the other day someone asked me, "When are any good films coming out?" Enter Denzel Washington and Robert Zmeckis! Denzel rode American Gangster to a Holiday Top Five finish in 2007 under similar circumstances. In the more competitive 2010, however, his Unstoppable was ironically stopped. Which Denzel do we get here? Also, after a string of motion capture animation films, this is director Richard Zmeckis' first live-action movie since he made Wilson a household name in Castaway. Spaulding and Rawlings hope this is their year!

- The Man with the Iron Fists
Former Wu-Tang Clan member RZA directs this kung-fu mash-up with a little help from Quentin Tarantino and his Hostel creating buddy Eli Roth. If it wasn't for Russell Crowe's appearance, this has a total B-Movie cast list including Lucy Liu (who hasn't had her name this high in the credits since Ecks vs. Sever... oh yes, I went there!) and WWE wrestler Batista. Then again, maybe even with Russell Crowe it's a B-Movie cast. He hasn't had an A-Grade hit since, wow, A Beautiful Mind in 2001 (we're giving 90% of the "hit" status of American Gangster to Denzel Washington... try telling me AG would've been as big a hit with Don Cheadle in his role). Hope the film doesn't sink like an iron fist.

- Wreck-It Ralph
Disney's latest non-Pixar films have ranged from great (Tangled) to huh (Chicken Little). The tale of Wreck-It Ralph as a video game villain who leaves his game seems like a cool idea to fanboys, but how will that translate to the people who don't know Q-Bert from a Q-Tip? Likewise, while I'm normally against the "big names" being voice actors for no reason, Disney here went sideways and got pseudo-names. Actors you know, yet not actors that you'd ever pay to see (which translates to actors you can't book on talk shows to build interest in your movie). It might not mean much as it's the first family film of the season, yet it'll be "Game Over" soon if it's not actually a good movie.

November 9
- Skyfall
Oh, James, how you tease me so. As successful as the Bond films have been, they have yet to top a Holiday Movie Pool. Is this the year 007 can be 001? All signs point to the franchise being back on the brain after the "50 Years of Bond" hype. As disappointing as Quantum of Solace seemed, though, that film performed nearly as well as Casino Royale. Does that mean the films can actually make more if they're good or that they have their ceiling no matter the quality of the material? Regardless, this better be just the start of Adele singing Bond songs. If we have to go back to someone like Ke$ha singing them, I'm going to strike [duh-duh duh-duh duh] like Thunderball!

November 16
- The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
After four films and the entire history of vampire lore being tossed aside, we're finally at the end of our Twilight series. Do we have the big Harry Potter "gotta-see-it-18 times-because-it's-the-last-one" fandom phenomena or is it the "really, they're still making these?" ambivalence. It's been four long years since the first Twilight. High school girls have become colligates. Colligates have become young working women. The only audience that seems the same is the soccer mom/cougars who embarrassed their daughters by showing up at the midnight showings with them. Those people still have nothing better to do.

- Lincoln
Hot on the heels of the summer dud Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter comes the less supernatural biography of our 16th president. Steven Spielberg directs Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, who took over once Liam Neeson felt he was too old for the part (even though Day-Lewis is only five years younger). So, what you're saying is twice when given the chance to cast an American for this iconic American character, they went the other way. Sounds like a confederate ploy to me.

November 21
- Life of Pi
Saw an ad calling this movie the next Avatar. Yes, if Avatar was about being shipwrecked with a deadly tiger, then this movie is very much that next Avatar. Director Ang Lee presents another visual marvel as only he can, however, I'm pretty sure when he was making this movie based on the same-named bestselling book, he never said the words, "I bet this can be the next Avatar." Then again, maybe the film version shows the shipwrecked boy discovering an unobtanium deposit on his island and he has to defend it from greedy developers. Now we're talking the next Avatar!

- Red Dawn
Let's be honest, the first film wasn't great. Just because you saw something when you were a kid doesn't mean it's still awesome. Otherwise, Mork & Mindy and Saved By The Bell never would've left the air. So, producers take a name people remember, they make a new film out of it, and hope young people actually still care about having to defend their hometown from a foreign invasion 20 years after the end of the cold war. Uh huh. I think they'd rather just sit around and tweet about it: "Those guns they're using are so second generation hand-me-downs from the first Gulf War... Lame!"

- Rise of the Guardians
DreamWorks Animation picks up the latest William Joyce collaboration. Based on his books, "The Guardians of Childhood," it involves Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy needing to band together to stop the Boogeyman. Joyce's work has also been used for Fox's Robots, Disney's Meet The Robinsons, and with Fox again for next year's Epic. Talk about passed around! Oh, and speaking of big name voice casts, this one has Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, and Chris Pine. DreamWorks has never met a name they wouldn't cast.

- Silver Linings Playbook
A quirky comedy-drama from director David O. Russell that is probably trying to head more the "award" route, but has enough talent to get noticed otherwise as well. Bradley Cooper stars as a man who has to move back with his dad, Robert DeNiro, tries to reconcile with his ex-wife, Julia Stiles, and runs into a girl with problems of her own, Jennifer Lawrence. Somewhere in here Chris Tucker shows up, which is in and of itself a huge deal as he hasn't been in a non-Rush Hour movie since, um , the first Rush Hour movie. Holy crap, what has he been doing for 15 years?!

November 30
- Killing Them Softly
Brad Pitt stars as an underworld enforcer who investigates who stole from the mob during one of their poker games. I'm guessing by the type of unsavory characters we're dealing with here, there's going to be very little of killing anyone softly. So why'd they go with that title? There's always the Roberta Flack classic about someone killing her softly with his song. I'm hoping Brad doesn't sing here or we all might be getting killed.

- Hitchcock
Another "award" type film with some mainstream potential, Anthony Hopkins stars as the legendary director with Helen Mirren as his wife. The movie revolves around their complicated but loving relationship during the making of the movie Psycho. Not sure there's anything here that could've been more complicated as the original ending of Hannibal where Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling become lovers.

December 7
- The Fitzgerald Family Christmas
After the past holiday family movies with largely African American casts or Hispanic American casts, it was only right for Ed Burns to deliver one with an Irish American cast. While there seems like some joke Monty Python could get away with telling in here, I think the main point is the same: During the holidays, no one actually makes time to see movies about the holidays! We're all too busy just trying to get through it.

- Hyde Park on Hudson
Bill Murray stars as F.D.R. (What, an American playing an American president?!) with Laura LInney playing his distant cousin who he had a "very close" relationship with. Putting quotes around "very close" indicates at minimum they had a deep emotional connection even if they never physically acted upon it. Austin Powers probably would've just summed it up as "They felt groovy about each other, yeah, but it was just wrong time, wrong place, baby."

- Playing for Keeps
2010's How Do You Know was a completely non-descript romantic-comedy with Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson. It featured a slapped together movie poster that conveyed nothing. How Do You Know you're seeing the exact same movie? Check out Playing for Keeps! It features almost the exact same non-descript poster and a cast of Gerald Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, and Dennis Quaid. How Do You Know was about Reese as a pro-softball player (no, really!) at a crossroads. Playing for Keeps is about Gerald Butler as a former athlete at a crossroads. The phrase I used in 2010 was How Do You Know your movie sucks. In 2012, we found the answer: it looks like Playing for Keeps!

December 14
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
11 years ago, Peter Jackson began the adventure of filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy where each book became its own movie. Now he's filming a book shorter than any of the trilogy books and forcing it into three pieces. If Kevin Smith thought there were a lot of walking scenes in the first trilogy, they're going to wear through 10 pairs of shoes in this one! There's been fuss over geeky stuff like the 48 fps resolution, yet mostly I think those who liked the first three will come flooding back to return to the shire. My only fear is that by cutting the book into thirds, there won't be a lot to do once you get there.

December 19
- Zero Dark Thirty
Three years ago Kathryn Bigelow remade a name for herself with The Hurt Locker and became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director to boot. She returns back to the frontline with this tale about the decade-long pursuit of Osama Bin-Laden. Most of the military movies built around the Iraq war have been box-office kryptonite. Will this be the one that bucks the trend or does it belong on the History channel after UFO Hunters and before Cajun Pawn Stars

December 21
- Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
It's all the glamour, style and beauty of a real Cirque du Soleil performance but at 10% of the normal cost. I hope they include subtitles because I never know what's going on when I'm at these things. Do they really have to be that French? Can't they just dial it back a little and maybe try being Belgian for a change?

- Jack Reacher
When I saw the first trailer, I couldn't tell if this was Tom Cruise trying to make a Steve McQueen film like Bullet or something like Roadhouse and channel his inner Swayze. Maybe it's both! This tale drops the super deadly Jack Reacher in the middle of small town America and all hell breaks loose. It's just what Chuck Norris would do, you know, with a $2 million budget and then the film that would gross $10 million. This one cost $80 million. Whoops.

- This Is 40
Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann recreate their characters from Knocked Up to show what married life it like when you turn 40. Isn't this why God invented Parenthood? I feel like one of those astronauts who didn't feel the need to see Apollo 13 because he was actually up there. This is probably the only scenario I never need to see. Well, that and any links to the Hulk Hogan Sex Tape. It's gotta tell you something when you put the word sex up there and you still say, "Nah, I'm good. I don't need to see that."

December 25
- Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino returns to the screen with his tale of a bounty hunter and a slave who seeks revenge on his former master. After Inglorious Basterds almost doubled what the two Kill Bill flicks made combined, people clearly have moved on from his ill-fated Grindhouse attempt. Jamie Fox play the title character, Christoph Waltz plays the bounty hunter, and Leo DiCaprio himself plays the southern gentlemen they're hunting down. With a hipster factor of warp 9, let's see if those hipsters can actually come out to see the film given the holiday plans they have with their minivans.

- The Guilt Trip
Seriously, can we blame Ben Stiller for this? He resurrects Barbra Streisand to play his mom in the lame Meet the Focker movies and now she's playing Seth Rogen's mom in a buddy/road comedy. This is like Albert Brooks worst nightmare. The mirror may have had two faces, but they both were bad. Some things are better left The Way We Were.

- Les Miserables
Didn't I already see this film with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush? Man, this remake and reboot thing is really out of hand! Oh, that was the version based on the book. This is the version based on the musical that's based on the book. Totally different. Now we can hum songs about the Master of the House and Castle in the Clouds while we watch hundreds of hopeless and helpless people die over the last 45 minutes. Much better! Huge Jackman brings the muscle, Russell Crowe brings the paunch, Anne Hathaway brings the purty, and Amanda Seyfried brings the sigh of relief as she actually gets to be in a musical with people who can sing, unlike Mamma Mia.

- Parental Guidance
Has Christmas become AARP Weekend at the box-office? How many retirement home bus trips are planned already? Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star as the grandparents who watch Marisa Tomei's kids when she has to go away. Wait, why is the only person within ten years of me leaving this picture. Stay! Please stay... Don't leave me with these crazy, old, cranky people! I'm beginning to see why her kids are going to rebel.

by Matt Neuenburg on 10/24/2012

Movies Mentioned in this Post: Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, Django Unchained, Flight, Hitchcock, Hyde Park on Hudson, Jack Reacher, Killing Them Softly, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Parental Guidance, Playing for Keeps, Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, The Guilt Trip, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Man with the Iron Fists, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, This Is 40, Wreck-It Ralph, Zero Dark Thirty
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