Now that December is upon us, you can expect to hear about a lot of new releases you probably won't be able to see right away, unless you happen to live in a major market. Unfortunately, this is how it goes with films vying for year-end awards notice. Some of these hopeful contenders will show up at your multiplex around Christmas, when the marquee will be filled with so many new releases your head is likely to spin. Others will expand in January, and still others won't go wide until the Oscar nominations are announced on February 2. Meanwhile, we'll continue to see some titles released that don't have the benefit of an Oscar campaign and some that don't have the qualifying status to warrant such promotion.
This week's unLimited features a sure-thing Oscar contender, a dark comedy unlikely to be considered for any honors and a documentary that isn't qualified to be up for an Academy Award. Support independent fillm; check them out if and when you can.
What it is: Black comedy in which a high-powered lawyer (Meg Ryan) finds out her husband (Timothy Hutton) is having an affair with a younger woman (Kristen Bell) and wants out of the marriage. Rather than let him go, she holds him captive by duct-taping him to a toilet. Then, to complicate things, a young gardener (Justin Long) takes the couple hostage as he robs their house. Cheryl Hines, best known as Larry David's fictional wife on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," makes her directorial debut.
Why you should be interested: The film was written by the late Adrienne Shelly, who made the very sweet and very charming "Waitress," so this should be similarly smart and funny, albeit darker in tone. Also, it's said to feature Ryan's greatest comedic performance in years, and seems more akin to kidnap films like "The Ref" and "Ruthless People" than wronged-wife pics like Ryan's last movie, "The Women."
How you can see it: "Serious Moonlight" opens in select theaters in New York, California, Missouri and Michigan this Friday and will expand to a handful of other locations through December (see the current list of bookings here). If the film isn't scheduled to play in your area, and you can't get your local cinema to book it, Magnolia Pictures also offers it simultaneously on its video-on-demand channel, where available.
What it is: Documentary about a treasure hunter, Lance Larson, who goes in search of two separate fortunes, each buried during World War II -- one in Austria, the other in the Philippines. The film cuts between the separate stories, as he attempts to find the treasures with help from the veterans who hid their respective loot 60 years ago.
Why you should be interested: This is one of the simultaneously funniest and most bittersweet documentaries I've seen in a long time. It features enough adventure, family drama and history to grab your attention better than any Hollywood movie coming out this week. And if you're a fan of the TV show "Hoarders," you will definitely love one of the two vets, as he has trouble locating his treasure map among his piles and piles of crap.
How you can see it: "Loot" opens in NYC this Friday, but the doc already premiered on HBO2 back in May, so you may be able to catch it there at some point. Otherwise, hopefully it will be released to DVD soon.
"Up in the Air"
What it is: Comedy-drama in which George Clooney plays a constantly traveling man whose job is to terminate corporate employees around the country. Just as his jet-setting career and lifestyle become threatened, he becomes involved with a woman (Vera Farmiga) who is his female counterpart. The rest of the cast includes Jason Bateman, Zach Galifianakis, Danny McBride, J.K. Simmons, Anna Kendrick and Sam Elliott. Written and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jason Reitman ("Juno").
Why you should be interested: Possibly the most buzzed-about movie of this awards season, people have been hyping the movie as the best picture of the year and talking Oscar nominations for Clooney, Kendrick, Farmiga and Reitman since the film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September.
How you can see it: "Up in the Air" opens in select theaters Friday, but it is set to expand next week and go completely wide later this month. With all the Oscar buzz, it's sure to hit your neighborhood at least by March, but more likely by year's end.