December 2015 Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
December 3, 2015
7. Concussion (December 25th)
After many years in a wilderness of one form or the other, Will Smith is making his return in somewhat non-traditional fare: first, there was lower-key thriller Focus last February, and next year he'll add his name to the remarkably dark supervillain tale Suicide Squad. In between, though, is this football drama with more than a few hints of awards appeal. Here, Smith adopts a foreign accent and reserved manner to play Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian forensic pathologist who confronted the NFL over injuries causing devastating brain damage to their players. While Concussion doesn't quite seem like a crowd pleaser (how many potential viewers are not exactly ones apt to accept the NFL as a villain?), it seems to be getting some good notices, and the supporting cast is heavy, including Luke Wilson as Roger Goodell and a dramatic role by Albert Brooks, who often pops up in heavier fare these days (see also Drive and A Most Violent Year).
Much like Focus before it, Concussion will sink or swim on Smith's star power, bolstered as it will be by respectable reviews. The release date may not scream football, but Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday did well enough ($75 million) 16 years ago on the same date. By the way: the trailer's pointed highlight surely must be Smith commanding "Tell the truth! Tell the truth," at which point one is sorely disappointed not to see Jack Nicholson reply "You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!"
Opening weekend: $17 million / Total gross: $61 million
8. The Big Short (December 11th, limited; wide on the 23rd)
This adaptation of Michael Lewis's non-fiction book about financial malfeasance is another big-name extravaganza, headlined by Christian Bale, looser after his solemnity in Exodus, Ryan Gosling, in his first studio film in a while, Steve Carell, still carrying immense critical respect post-Foxcatcher, and Brad Pitt, who's once again been adorned with a beard, a mustache, and other apparel designed to bland up his looks. The Big Short appears to aim somewhat in the ballpark of American Hustle, another financial fraud-savvy title released in December and carried by a lot of movie stars. The characters here don't seem nearly as outrageous, even given the fact that the film is helmed by Adam McKay, a veteran of raucous comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers, next to which The Big Short looks positively subdued. Still, reviews seem to approve, and Carell is again the subject of what now seems like annual Oscar buzz. On the other hand, The Big Short proudly carries its subject matter (the lead-up to the 2008 recession) in its trailers, but that's not necessarily a time period many casual audiences are excited at revisiting: financial wrongdoings can seem like a cheerless memory making blight on a festive season. The all-star line-up will help, of course, but I don't know if the film has a path to being really big, especially playing opposite a title like Joy.
Opening weekend: $19 million (5-day) / Total gross: $51 million