With the month of November drawing to a close, we're almost at the end of the holiday movie season and the end of an exceptionally good year for movies. With audiences already enjoying popcorn flicks like Twilight and Oscar bait like Lincoln, there’s something for everyone this season, and there’s more to come. Here’s a look at some of the movies that will fight for the money in your wallet this December and a couple flying under the radar that might be worth checking out.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)
In the first film of a new trilogy somehow culled from a single book (and a relatively simple one at that), audiences can welcome the chance to return to Middle-earth for the first time in nine years — in 3D and with the new Dolby Aquos sound system to boot. Peter Jackson’s latest epic, which follows unlikely hero Bilbo Baggins on a quest to help a group of dwarves reclaim its lost treasure, should be an adventure for both Tolkien fans and anyone wanting a helping of fantasy. It’ll also ignite plenty of discussions over its revolutionary 48 frames per second presentation. If you live in New Zealand you’re probably going to see it anyway, since this movie seems to be the entirety of the country’s economy and its sole reason to exist these days. Not yet rated at press time.
Zero Dark Thirty (Dec. 19)
If you live in New York or Los Angeles you can catch this film from The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow. More than a follow-up to that film, Zero Dark Thirty recounts the story of the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden (and of course, that fateful night in May 2011). Given the extremely positive early reviews, audiences can expect real-life drama, action and intensity, aided by a stellar cast that includes Jessica Chastain, James Gandolfini and Joel Edgerton. The film expands to wide release on Jan. 11, 2013. Rated R.
Jack Reacher (Dec. 21)
Tom Cruise proved that he’s still got it with last year’s Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and he returns to dish out more cinematic punishment as the title character in Jack Reacher, based on Lee Child’s novel One Shot. After a sniper leaves five people dead with six bullets, Reacher delves into a web of mystery behind that missed shot. If Tom Cruise as a dark, brutal character (I’m going off of the ominous tagline here) isn’t enough, the supporting cast also features Robert Duvall and Richard Jenkins. Rated PG-13.
This is 40 (Dec. 21)
Throughout his career, Judd Apatow has mined comedic gold out of relatable characters with everyday problems, but there’s a special place in the Apatow-verse for Knocked Up and its hapless families. This Is 40, the quasi-sequel to Knocked Up, follows Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they examine their lives a few years after the events of that film. If This is 40 is anything like Knocked Up, it’ll be a smart romantic comedy that takes a look at family and age with Apatow’s signature combination of crude humor and emotional depth. This is 40 also stars Jason Segel, Albert Brooks, Melissa McCarthy and Megan Fox (because why not?). Rated R.
The Impossible (Dec. 21)
The uplifting true story of one family’s survival and attempt to reunite in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, The Impossible is purported to be a bona fide tearjerker — and with one look at the trailer, it isn’t hard to believe. Starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, The Impossible looks to be an intriguing combination of disaster movie and deeply emotional family drama. If you can catch The Impossible in limited release, you might not want to miss it. Rated PG-13.
Les Misérables (Dec. 25)
The first of two prestigious films battling for your attendance on Christmas Day (and the movie your Facebook friends won’t stop talking about) is Les Misérables, the long-awaited film adaptation of the successful musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel. If you want to see how director Tom Hooper tops The King’s Speech, or if Russell Crowe can really sing, or if the whole movie moves you as much as the two-minute trailer did, or if — let’s face it, there are plenty of reasons to see this movie. Boasting a ridiculously overqualified cast (Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried) and a slew of talent behind the camera, Les Mis could be the epic musical we’ve all been waiting for. Rated PG-13.
Django Unchained (Dec. 25)
In the blood-soaked “southern” Django Unchained, the freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx), with the help of a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), takes revenge on the plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) imprisoning his wife. Oh yeah, and Quentin Tarantino directed it. The last time Tarantino gave us a history lesson we got to explore a considerably more entertaining (if uncomfortably violent) end to World War II, so this makes one wonder what will happen when QT takes on the antebellum American south. Django Unchained should be a wild pastiche of music, genres and characters — which is more than enough to get Tarantino fans and everyone else into the multiplex. Not yet rated at press time.