Happy holidays for film buffs | TheUnion.com

Happy holidays for film buffs

Ian McKellen returns in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first installment of Peter Jackson’s new triology. Illustrates FILM-HOLIDAY (category e), by Stephanie Merry (c) 2012, The Washington Post. Moved Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. (MUST CREDIT: James Fisher/Warner Bros.)
The Washington Post | WASHINGTON POST

The Oscar race heats up as the year winds down, and the final stretch of 2012 promises a pageant of movies by directors already certified by the Academy. Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth with “The Hobbit,” and Ang Lee helms the adaptation of “Life of Pi.”

Nov. 16

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2”

Stars: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner

Story: After four years, the box office juggernaut reaches its conclusion with a raging interspecies battle that finds vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob fighting on the same side – along with Bella, naturally.

Buzz: Fanatics have begun readying their Team EdCob T-shirts for opening night, because advance ticket
sales already are breaking box-office records. At this pace, the
final installment could very well beat the staggering opening-weekend haul of $138.1 million that “Breaking Dawn Part I” raked in last November.

“A Royal Affair”

Stars: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard

Story: The film is based on the true tale of Christian VII, the mentally ill 18th-century Scandinavian monarch who was openly dismissive of his wife. So she slept with his doctor-confidante.

Buzz: The Danish film was a hit at the Berlin Film Festival, where it brought home an award for the screenplay, written by director Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, and an acting prize for the consistently brilliant Mikkelsen — best known stateside as the James Bond villain who cries blood – portraying doctor Johann Friedrich Struensee.

“Anna Karenina”

Stars: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Story: Prepare for another movie version of Leo Tolstoy’s anguished masterpiece about an aristocratic woman who has an affair with a count and suffers the harsh consequences.

Buzz: Director Joe Wright set much of the movie on a theater stage invisible to the characters, driving home the concept of being trapped in preconceived roles.

It’s an inventive move that’s getting as much praise as flack. There undoubtedly will be more kudos, as Wright’s movies are dependably beautiful, and Oscar-winning screenwriter (not to mention Tony-winning playwright) Tom Stoppard penned the adaptation.

“Chasing Ice”

Story: The documentary follows “National Geographic” photographer James Balog on a painstaking trek to set up time-lapse cameras across the Arctic in order to chronicle changes in glaciers.Buzz: The images are magnificent, the findings troubling. And the eye-opening footage of the rapidly melting ice caps took home awards at both Sundance and the SXSW Film Festival.

“Silver Linings Playbook”

Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Story: A down-on-his-luck man moves back home with his parents and tries to win back his estranged wife, then forms an unlikely friendship with a young spitfire.

Buzz: The Oscar chatter surrounding David O. Russell’s quirky dramedy has only increased since the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it took home the people’s choice award.
But the director behind “Three Kings” and “The Fighter” isn’t the only one receiving accolades; Lawrence, who was nominated for an Oscar for “Winter’s Bone,” could once again land on the short list for best actress.

Nov. 21

“Life of Pi”

Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain

Story: Ang Lee steers this adaptation of Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel about an Indian boy who finds himself adrift on an ocean alongside a Bengal tiger.

Buzz: Critical response to the movie after the New York Film Festival was fairly glowing.

Praise went to screenwriter David Magee, who managed to stay faithful to the beloved bestseller, while viewers appreciated a film that looked spectacular enough to merit its use of 3-D.

“Red Dawn”

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson

Story: Remember that 1984 cult classic that starred Patrick Swayze and preyed on our Cold War-era fears by portraying a Colorado town invaded by communists?

Only one thing is more improbable than that plot: the idea that someone thought, “Now is the time for a remake.”

Buzz: A long delay between conception and opening weekend usually indicates trouble.

In this case, the release of Dan Bradley’s directorial debut was first thwarted by distributor MGM’s Chapter 11 restructuring and further delayed by the ridiculed post-production decision to transform the Chinese intruders into North Koreans.

“Rise of the Guardians”

Stars: The voices of Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin

Story: The Dreamworks-produced CG-animated feature sounds like “The Avengers” for the little guys, as Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny and a Russian-accented Santa team up to take down the evil Pitch, a bogeyman who threatens to infiltrate the dreams of children.

Buzz: Early word is that the movie, based on books by William Joyce, could shape up to be a fairly run-of-the-mill adventure. In a season somewhat deficient in kid-friendly features, “Guardians” has one thing going for it: a lack of competition.

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