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Top Holiday Films

10 don't-miss movies of the holiday season

The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio
The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Anchorman 2 movie
The cast of Anchorman 2
Paul Walker in Hours
Paul Walker gives a great performance in Hours. Paul Walker/Facebook
American Hustle movie scene with cast
The cast of American Hustle Photo by Francois Duhamel/Sony PIctures
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller YouTube
47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves
47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves
The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio
Anchorman 2 movie
Paul Walker in Hours
American Hustle movie scene with cast
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller
47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves

We have made a list — and checked it twice — to ascertain what’s in store for audiences during the holiday movie season. It’s quite possible that one or two may turn out to be the equivalent of coal-stuffed stockings. But when it comes to movie-going, it’s always the season to be hopeful. Here they are, in order of release date.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 
Opens December 13

Who’s in it? Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry, James Nesbitt, Orlando Bloom

What’s the pitch? Gandalf and the guys finally get their act together and take it on the road to Mirkwood.

Why see it? Early reviews indicate that, if you like this sort of thing, you’ll like a lot more than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Opens December 13

Who’s in it? Paul Walker, Genesis Rodriguez, Kerry Cahill, Yohance Miles, Matt Cook, Nick Gomez

What’s the pitch? During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a desperate New Orleans father (Walker) struggles to keep his prematurely born daughter alive while operating a battery-powered ventilator in an abandoned hospital.    

Why see it? For some, I am sure, it may seem too soon after Walker’s tragic demise to see him in a life-or-death situation on screen. All I can say is his performance arguably is the finest of his all-too-short career. And the film itself is a small-scale, high-impact drama that likely will impress you more than many of the heavily hyped blockbusters of the season.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Opens December 18

Who’s in it? Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig

What’s the pitch? Legendary San Diego newsman Ron Burgundy tries to stay classy — and, more important, recover from a career setback — by reestablishing himself as a marquee player at the first 24-hour cable news network. In this endeavor, he is accompanied by sportscaster Champ King (Koechner), weatherman Brick Tamland (Carell) and field reporter Brian Fantana (Rudd).

Why see it? Don’t know about you, but I feel like I can’t not see it after weeks of enduring the ubiquitous and relentless hard-sell promotional campaign. It’s like this movie is The Borg: Resistance is futile.

American Hustle
Opens December 20

Who’s in it? Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence

What’s the pitch? In the late '70s and early '80s, a maverick FBI agent (Cooper) employs an ace con artist (Bale) and his va-va-voom partner in crime (Adams) to launch the sting operation that would be known as Abscam.       

Why see it? Director David O. Russell reunites with the stars of his Silver Linings Playbook (Cooper, Lawrence) and The Fighter (Bale, Adams) for a darkly comical con movie based on real-life events. Not surprisingly, there already has been much talk about Oscar nominations.

Inside Llewyn Davis
Opens December 20

Who’s in it? Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, Justin Timberlake

What’s the pitch? Joel and Ethan Coen go acoustic for this seriocomic musical drama, set in Greenwich Village during the early ’60s, about a guitar-strumming folk singer (Isaac) whose career is going nowhere fast.

Why see it? You did see that this is a Coen brothers film, right? And if that’s not enough, consider: T Bone Burnett once again serves as musical producer for the Coens. If you recall, one of their previous collaborations — O Brother, Where Art Thou? — worked out fairly well.

Saving Mr. Banks 
Opens December 20

Who’s in it? Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker

What’s the pitch? Walt Disney (Hanks) tries to convince starchy novelist P.L. Travers (Thompson) to let his studio adapt her classic book Mary Poppins into a musical movie. It is not an easy task.

Why see it? If you’re a sucker for movies about moviemaking — or at least when those movies are appreciably better than last year’s ill-conceived Hitchcock — you’re doubtless already looking forward to this one as a Christmas present for cineastes of all ages. Advance word has been sufficiently promising to increase anticipation.

August: Osage County
Opens December 25

Who’s in it? Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard

What’s the pitch? It’s the big-screen version of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, about a domineering family matriarch (Streep) who’s visited by her extended family following the suicide of her husband.  

Why see it? The acting duel between Streep and Roberts (as the matriarch’s equally strong-willed daughter) should be reason enough to visit the megaplex.

47 Ronin
Opens December 25

Who’s in it? Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi

What’s the pitch? After a wicked warlord kills their master, 47 newly unemployed samurai join forces with a previously ostracized half-breed (Reeves) as they journey through a savage world populated by CGI bogeymen of various shapes and sizes.

Why see it? Can’t deny that there has been significant negative buzz about this large-scale fantasy flick, which originally was supposed to open last year and has reportedly burned through tens of millions while scenes were reshot and special effects were made more special. But the finished product, judging from trailers and TV spots, could be a spectacular action-adventure epic that’s worth the wait.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty  

Who’s in it? Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Sean Penn

What’s the pitch? A shy Life magazine photo editor (Stiller) must stop daydreaming about heroic deeds and indulge in real-life derring-do while seeking a missing shot by a legendary photographer (Penn).  

Why see it? Stiller serves as director and star for this long-delayed, eagerly awaited adaptation of the classic 1939 James Thurber short story. It would appear his latest double-duty effort is subtler and more sentimental than Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, earlier comedies that employed him on both sides of the camera. But inquiring minds want to know: Will it be as overall nifty as Reality Bites, his debut feature as a director?         

The Wolf of Wall Street
Opens December 25

Who’s in it? Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jean Dujardin, Matthew McConaughey

What’s the pitch? Director Martin Scorsese and superstar Leonardo DiCaprio — together again! — join forces for the stranger- and wilder-than-fiction story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who savored a wild life of sex-drugs-and-greed excess until his world came tumbling down in the late 1990s.

Why see it? Some early viewers have compared it — favorably — to Scorsese’s GoodFellas and Casino. Others insist it’ll grab a fistful of Oscar nominations and actually will go home with a few of the golden statuettes. Strangely enough, however, there’s been no word yet as to whether co-star Matthew McConaughey has delivered the goods one more time to cap off the year of his career renaissance.

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