WHEN December rains get you feeling Grinchy, there's no better cure than the upcoming lineup of holiday films, several of which are poised to enter the Oscar race next year. (A few are definitely not.) See if you can spot the difference.
Peter Jackson again tackles Tolkien in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) goes on a quest to revitalize the conquered dwarf kingdom of Erebor, and gets more than he bargained for, including a pact with Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen), 13 dwarves, sorcerers, and Gollum (Andy Serkis) who leads him to a strange and "precious" ring. Too many stars to mention: just assume all your LOTR favourites will be there.
Hyde Park on Hudson tells the true story of the first-ever visit of British monarchs (Samuel West, Olivia Colman) to the United States in 1939, on the cusp of the Second World War. Bill Murray plays an eccentric FDR, who made it happen. He could not have done it without his sympathetic "friend" and distant cousin Margaret Stuckley (Laura Linney) and his steel-nerved wife (Olivia Williams) by his side.
See the results of helicopter parenting first-hand in The Guilt Trip, starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand as mother and son who go on a cross-country business trip together to sell his latest invention.
The Academy Award-winning Monsters Inc is back, this time in 3D, all the better to see Sully's fuzzy blue coat and Mike's one bulging eye. Featuring the voices of John Goodman and Billy Crystal, the two buddies turn Monstropolis upside down when they accidentally let a human child into their world.
In this self-proclaimed "sort-of" spin-off from Judd Apatow's 2007 hit Knocked Up Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd are the parents of growing kids, wondering where their 20s and 30s went. If this sounds normal to you, just wait until you watch Paul Rudd poke a rival parent's nipple (Melissa McCarthy) or stick a giant starfish down his pants. Jason Segel, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks and the Apatow girls co-star in This Is 40.
A powerful, true survival story comes courtesy of The Impossible, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as Maria and Henry, whose Thailand Christmas vacation with their three sons is run over by one of the worst natural disasters in recent history, the 2004 tsunami. The tales of tragedy and survival as family members fight to reunite with one another are sure to trigger floodgates of another kind: bring tissues.
Tom Cruise stars as Jack Reacher, an ex-military cop who fights bad guys but doesn't play by the rules. "You don't find this guy unless he wants to be found," Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) directs Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, David Oyewolo, Richard Jenkins and, most interestingly, a one-eyed Werner Herzog. How can you resist?
Old-school parenting trumps touchy-feely parenting in Parental Guidance, wherein Billy Crystal and Bette Midler look after their three grandkids while mom and dad (Marisa Tomei, Tom Everett Scott) are away.
Expect plenty o' killing from director Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, which features more than a dozen murders in the trailer alone. Jamie Foxx stars as the title character, a bounty hunter searching for his wife (Kerry Washington) sold into the grimy hands of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson join the mayhem.
Fans of the musical can't wait for Les Miserables, director Tom Hooper's big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo's epic novel about a hunted prisoner who takes in a factory worker's daughter and raises her as his own. Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, Amanda Seyfried and yes, even Sacha Baron Cohen sing their hearts out.