Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Just what we wanted!

December brings gift-wrapped Tolkien fantasy, Cirque spectacular, Les Miz music, Tarantino edge, Streisand, Cruise and rude comedy under the big-screen tree

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As American Thanksgiving officially yields to the Christmas season, Hollywood is praying for one thing: momentum.

And no, Momentum is not the name of a Jason Statham action movie.

It is what was gained after the Thanksgiving weekend yielded more than $200 million in box-office receipts, setting a new three-day record, mostly on the strength of the Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II, Skyfall and Lincoln.

Considerable box office is pretty much guaranteed since the coming month is offering up a renewed franchise entry, a long-awaited film version of a Broadway smash, a rude middle-aged comedy, a Tom Cruise action movie, a 3D theatrical spectacle, a pair of erstwhile diva singers playing aging mothers, and oh yes, another inventive approach to history courtesy of Quentin Tarantino.

Dec. 14

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is director Peter Jackson's return to the enchanted realm of J.R.R. Tolkien, an inevitable move, really, since the Lord of the Rings movies collectively grossed close to US$3 billion worldwide. This time, Martin Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins (played by Ian Holm in LOTR), the titular adventurer who accompanies the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and 13 dwarfs on a journey to a mountain inhabited by a dragon named Smaug. While The Hobbit was a comparatively slim single volume compared to the thick Ring trilogy, it is still getting a three-movie treatment, with Part II (The Desolation of Smaug) and Part III (There and Back Again) due to release in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

And this time, it's all in 3D.

Dec. 19

The Guilt Trip offers up the strange but potentially rewarding casting of Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as a mother and son who take a cross-country voyage of discovery together.

Recognizing a space for some seasonal animation magic, Disney/Pixar fills the void with a new 3D version of Monsters Inc.... which also functions as a primer for the prequel Monsters University in June of 2013.

Dec. 21

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away offers the best seat in the house for a Cirque show, for the comparatively affordable cost of a 3D movie ticket. Presented by James Cameron (which should be a guarantee of quality 3D), the film follows the parallel journeys of a young couple attempting to reunite, with loads of acrobatic/hallucinogenic entities getting in their way.

This Is 40 is an unofficial sequel to Judd Apatow's Knocked Up focusing on the married couple Pete and Debbie played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, again directed by Apatow. John Lithgow and Albert Brooks boost the movie's comedy potential playing Debbie and Pete's respective dads.

In the novels, Jack Reacher is a giant of a man. In the movies, he's Tom Cruise. But this adaptation of Lee Child's two-fisted ex-military investigator hero by writer-director Christopher McQuarrie may still deliver the action movie goods. And with one notable exception, it has the field to itself. The exception being...

Dec. 25

Django Unchained, from director Quentin Tarantino, promises to do for the institution of slavery what Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds did for Nazi Germany. In other words: history be damned. Jamie Foxx stars as a freed slave who joins up with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from the decadent plantation of a depraved southern gentleman (Leonardo DiCaprio). Have no doubt: things will get strange.

Les Miserables, a hit musical of Andrew Lloyd Webber proportions, finally gets its big-screen treatment as Victor Hugo's tragic novel comes to life with the help of Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe as, respectively, the fugitive Jean Valjean and the relentless Inspector Javert, with support from Anne Hathaway as Fantine and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette.

Parental Guidance stars Bette Midler and Billy Crystal as a pair of grandparents who attempt to bring some old-school child-rearing techniques on their grandkids while their parents go away on business.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2012 ??65535

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