The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy follows a young hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman of “Sherlock” fame), as he is brought along on a journey by the wizard Gandalf the Gray (Sir Ian McKellen) in which they encounter a hoard of goblins and murderous trolls, among other things. Peter Jackson, who directed the acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, helms this highly anticipated prequel. After their scene-stealing performances in Knocked Up, onscreen couple Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann performs in this film about mid-life crises. Directed by Judd Apatow, This is 40 follows Rudd, Mann and their family as they struggle with turning 40 and what this means in their lives. The film also features Bridesmaids' Chris O'Dowd and Melissa McCarthy, along with Megan Fox and funnyman Jason Segel.
With early showings already generating major Oscar buzz, the anticipation is high for Les Misérables. Tom Hooper, who directed 2010 Academy Award winner The King's Speech, directs the musical, which features an A-list cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. An intriguing aspect of this adaptation is that all of the singing performed in the movie was done live on set, which should really help inject more emotional intensity into the story.
It's been three years since Quentin Tarantino's last film hit theaters. Inglorious Basterds was the auteur's highest grossing movie and earned eight Oscar nominations. Tarantino's follow-up, Django Unchained, is his tribute to spaghetti westerns and features a slave-revenge narrative. With an A-list cast including Leonardo DiCaprio as a slave owner, Jamie Foxx as the titled Django and Basterds Oscar winner Christoph Waltz as a bounty hunter, Django is sure to be one of the most exciting films released on Christmas Day.
In February 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman ever to win the Academy Award for Best Director. Her follow up, Zero Dark Thirty, holds the potential for her to take home a second golden statue. The New York Film Critics Circle as well as the National Board of Review have already named Zero Dark Thirty Best Picture and honored Bigelow as Best Director. This unflinching film detailing the decade-long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden could well be the gritty masterpiece of post-9/11 cinema that we've been waiting for.
Coming on the heels of the presidential Lincoln, Hyde Park on Hudson continues 2012's fascination with past commanders in chief. Starring Bill Murray as former President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first lead role since 2005's Broken Flowers and an unusual foray into the dramatic, Hyde Park tells the story of King George VI's visit to FDR's estate in upstate New York as both nations sit on the cusp of World War II. Though early reviews have been mixed, Hyde Park presents a chance for Murray to snag an Oscar nomination.