The award season is now in full swing, and this year’s crop of films continues to have audiences racing to the theatre to watch the latest flick. This month has everyone asking one question in particular about two mainstream Hollywood releases: “The Hobbit” or “Les Miserables”?
Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) is bringing a musical to theatres Dec. 25 with his adaptation of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.” The film includes a star-studded cast of Hugh Jackman (“Real Steel”), Russell Crowe (“A Beautiful Mind”) and Amanda Seyfried (“Dear John”) and is set in Paris just before the June Rebellion of 1832.
The film also stars Anne Hathaway (“The Dark Knight Rises”), whose musical performance critics are already calling Oscar-worthy. The production of this film marks a first for recording live vocals in which the actors used ear pieces with live piano accompaniment to sing the songs, rather than pre-recording the soundtrack and having actors lip-synch during filming. “Les Miserables” is receiving great amounts of buzz for the season, but faces one large competitor: Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien novels have anxiously anticipated “The Hobbit” since 2003’s release of “Return of the King,” the final film in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Martin Freeman (“Sherlock”) plays Bilbo Baggins, a young hobbit traveling from Middle Earth with wizard Gandalf, Ian McKellen (“The Da Vinci Code”) to reclaim a treasure guarded by Smaug, a dragon residing on the Lonely Mountain.
In addition to McKellen, a number of familiar faces from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy return for this film, including Cate Blanchett (“Hanna”), Elijah Wood (“Celeste and Jesse Forever”) and Andy Serkis (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”). “The Hobbit” is the first of a three-part series from Peter Jackson, and offers nearly three hours of epic-fantasy cinema beginning Dec. 14.
The screen will also offer nonfiction stories this month, with films on a visit from the British monarchy to the United States during World War II and a family’s fight to survive the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami.
“Lincoln,” currently still in theatres, portrayed President Abraham Lincoln during a climatic point of the civil war. Now, Rob Michell (“Notting Hill”) directs a story about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, just as the United States is on the brink of joining World War II in “Hyde Park on Hudson,” in theatres Dec. 7. The film stars Bill Murray as FDR, housing the the first-ever trip from the British monarchy to the United States, and includes the memorable moment in which the President served hot dogs to the King of England during a lunch.
Fast forwarding 60 years later, Naomi Watts (“J. Edgar”) and Ewan McGregor (“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) enact a true story about a British family (but in reality a Spanish family) on vacation in Thailand. Within moments, their paradise is drastically changed as the first wave from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami powers through their hotel, separating the family. After garnering critical acclaim, following its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, the film looks to portray a family’s struggle to reunite during the chaos of one of the world’s worst natural catastrophes.
December is not short on simple romantic comedies, including “This is 40,” (Dec. 21) Judd Apatow’s spin-off of “Knocked Up.” The film stars Paul Rudd (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and Leslie Mann (“The Change-Up”), returning to their roles as Pete and Debbie, struggling to make it through family life and marriage. Over the years, Apatow has offered a number of comedic films, including his work on “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Funny People,” and looks to add this new comedy to his list of accomplishments.
Additionally, director Anne Fletcher, whose previous films include “Step Up,” “The Proposal” and “27 Dresses,” offers “The Guilt Trip” Dec. 25, starring Seth Rogen (“50/50″) and Barbra Streisand (“Little Fockers”). In the film, Streisand plays Rogen’s mother, joining him on a road trip to sell his latest invention and rekindle a relationship with her lost love. The film marks Streisand’s first starring role in a film since “The Mirror Has Two Faces” in 1996.
Christmas Day should collect big bucks for the box office. In addition to the “The Guilt Trip” and “Les Miserables,” Director Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”) offers a film that’s just the opposite of a romantic comedy, with the release of his new western “Django Unchained.”
Jamie Foxx (“Horrible Bosses”) plays a freed slave looking to save his wife, played by Kerry Washington (“Fantastic Four”) from notoriously brutal plantation owner, Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (“Inception”). Foxx is assisted by German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz (“Water for Elephants”), who garnered an Academy Award for his last performance as a Jew hunter in Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards.” Also making an appearance is Samuel L. Jackson in his fifth Tarantino film.
While the calendar year may be coming to a close, the box office’s varied offerings should yield high numbers in this final month. Following the stress of finals, take some time to relax and prepare for the awards season with any number of these new and exciting flicks.