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Of hobbits and horses

An Unexpected Journey through the pop world

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'You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,' but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.

MOVIES

BIG RELEASE: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)

THE BIG PICTURE: A quest to find a lost dwarf kingdom does not sound like blockbuster material. It sounds like material for a group of four-eyed teenage misfits with 10-sided dice and imaginary 11 girlfriends (Confession: mine broke up with me when I was 16). But author J.R.R. Tolkien and the imagination of director Peter Jackson have done the unthinkable: made fantasy hip and appealing to a mass audience. The Hobbit is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings. Divided into another trilogy, the new series tells the story of how hobbit Bilbo Baggins first found the "precious" ring that will go on to change Middle Earth forever. Gandalf (Ian McKellan) and Gollum (Andy Serkis) are back in the saddle for this adventure, along with 13 battle-hardened dwarves who do a lot more than whistle while they work and overuse the phrase "heigh-ho." Their sound is a battle cry -- and they'll need it when they (and Bilbo) go up against goblins, orcs, wargs, vile sorcerers and even a vicious dragon.

FORECAST: Gollum may love to hate those "nasty hobbitses," but Hollywood -- and audiences -- can't get enough of them. It's a good thing Kristen Stewart wasn't cast in this fantasy film. With all that hanky-panky she got up to on the set of Snow White and the Huntsman, 13 dwarves could have been a lot of temptation -- and a lot of tabloid fodder. And if her sexually charged performance in On the Road is any indication, Stewart is a bit of a wild card on road trips. This could have been a very Unexpected Journey, indeed.

TV

BIG EVENT: The Horses of McBride (Dec. 16, CTV, 7 p.m.)

BIG PICTURE: The small screen delivers a new movie this week. The Horses of McBride is based on a true story (i.e. no hobbits). This two-hour holiday film stars Aidan Quinn and Kari Matchett and is inspired by real-life events in McBride, B.C. and the Rockies. This touching story tells the tale of a small town that comes together to rescwue two starving horses trapped in a snowy prison in the Canadian Rockies -- more than 50 kilometres from any road.

FORECAST: This one could get you in the holiday spirit. One girl's determination inspires her community to forgo their yuletide celebrations and save the animals. And they do it the old-fashioned way: one shovel full of snow after another. (Who knows? Along the way, they may even find a lost dwarf kingdom or two.)

MUSIC

BIG RELEASE ON DEC. 11: Bruno Mars (Unorthodox Jukebox)

BIG PICTURE: A fitting title for an unorthodox musician who pulls from a jukebox-worth of influences on this, his second solo album. Bruno Mars mixes soul, R&B, and electronica, surrounding himself with a lot of talent in the studio. Collaborators include jazz wunderkind Esperanza Spalding (for a duet), hit-making DJ and producer Diplo and the groovy rhythm section of the Dap-Kings (Sharon Jones, Amy Winehouse's Back to Black).

FORECAST: Unorthodox Jukebox may be more experimental than Bruno Mars' debut, Doo-Wops & Hooligans (2010), but it will do more for the longevity of his career. (For the record, I've always dreamed of owning my own little "Unorthodox Jukebox" that plays nothing but Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong, '80s sitcom theme songs and Morgan Freeman documentary voiceovers.)

HONOURABLE MENTION: Green Day (Tre!). Lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong may have gone to rehab, but the band stuck with its ambitious 2012 release plan. Tre! is exactly what the title suggests: the prolific punk rockers' third album of the year. (Take that Peter Jackson: try putting one of your hobbit trilogies out in 12 months!)

twitter.com/PopForecast

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 9, 2012 ??65525

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