Holiday movie preview: Which films are naughty or nice?
This holiday season is filled with gifts from an eager-to-please movie industry. The question is, will any of them be a shiny new bicycle, or are they all mere stocking stuffers?
This time last year, moviegoers were already itching to unwrap big presents like the Tom Cruise action flick "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," the American version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and the French novelty "The Artist." This year, however, there are only a few obvious show stealers. One is certainly Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," and another is the star-studded musical "Les Misérables." But how much excitement is there for Cruise's "Jack Reacher," Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" and Ang Lee's spiritual parable "Life of Pi"?
We won't know for some time whether any of those movies proves to be a hit. Meantime, there's some buzz around "Hitchcock," starring Anthony Hopkins as the Master of Suspense, and Judd Apatow's "This Is 40," a spinoff of "Knocked Up." And don't forget "Zero Dark Thirty," a drama about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden from the makers of the Oscar-winning war film "The Hurt Locker."
Here's a sneak peek at the movies under the tree this holiday season.
Red Dawn A remake of the 1984 Cold War flick about teens defending their turf against Russian invaders -- only this time it's the North Koreans. With Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and Josh Peck. Directed by Dan Bradley.
Rise of the Guardians Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy unite to battle a common foe in this animated film. With the voices of Jude Law, Isla Fisher, Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine and Hugh Jackman.
The Central Park Five The story of the Harlem teenagers who spent years in prison for a 1989 rape until DNA evidence proved their innocence. Ken Burns ("The Civil War") directs this documentary with his daughter Sarah and her husband, David McMahon.
Hitchcock Anthony Hopkins plays the rotund cinematic genius in this story about the making of "Psycho." Helen Mirren plays his wife; Scarlett Johansson is Janet Leigh. L.I.'s Ralph Macchio plays the screenwriter, Joseph Stefano.
Beware of Mr. Baker Ginger Baker, one of rock's greatest and wildest drummers (Cream, Blind Faith), tells his story. Jay Bulger directs.
The Collection A secret party at an undisclosed location turns out to be a trap set by a psychopathic killer in this follow-up to 2009's "The Collector." With Emma Fitzpatrick and Josh Stewart.
Killing Them Softly Brad Pitt rejoins director Andrew Dominik ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford") in a crime drama about bunglers who knock over a mob-protected card game. With Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini and Richard Jenkins.
Playing for Keeps A romantic comedy about a down-and-out soccer star (Gerard Butler) who returns home to coach his son's team. With Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Deadfall Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde are siblings on the run after a botched casino heist. With Sissy Spacek, Kris Kristofferson and Kate Mara.
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas Edward Burns' latest focuses on a large Irish-American clan preparing for yuletide on Long Island. With Kerry Bishé and Connie Britton.
Hyde Park on Hudson Bill Murray is President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Laura Linney plays his "intimate," Daisy, in this period comedy-drama. Directed by Roger Michell ("Notting Hill").
Lay the Favorite A comedy about a Las Vegas gambler (Bruce Willis), his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and his pretty new apprentice (Rebecca Hall). Based on a memoir by Beth Raymer. Stephen Frears directs.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey The first of Peter Jackson's next Tolkien trilogy, starring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Andy Serkis as Gollum mark their fourth time in the roles.
Stand Up Guys Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin are retired gangsters who reunite for one more night of mayhem. Directed by Fisher Stevens.
Any Day Now In the 1970s, a gay couple (Alan Cumming and Garrett Dillahunt) fight for custody of a boy with Down syndrome.
The Guilt Trip Seth Rogen is a struggling inventor who embarks on a cross-country road trip with his mother, played by Barbra Streisand. Directed by Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal").
Zero Dark Thirty The story of the Navy SEAL operation that killed Osama bin Laden last year. With Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, both of "The Hurt Locker."
Not Fade Away Inspired by seeing the Rolling Stones on "The Ed Sullivan Show," a group of New Jersey kids starts a band. This is the first feature film from "The Sopranos" creator David Chase.
On the Road Walter Salles directs the film version of Jack Kerouac's legendary 1957 novel. Starring Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty, Kristen Stewart as his girl Marylou and Sam Riley ("Control") as Sal Paradise.
This Is 40 Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their roles as Pete and Debbie, the beleaguered couple from 2007's "Knocked Up." Judd Apatow returns to direct.
Jack Reacher Tom Cruise plays the wandering crime-fighter created by novelist Lee Child in this action film from writer-director Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects"). Werner Herzog plays the villain.
The Impossible A family of five vacationing in Thailand tries to reunite after being pulled apart by the 2004 tsunami. With Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor.
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away Director Andrew Adamson films the artier-than-Ringling troupe. In 3-D.
Django Unchained Quentin Tarantino's Western stars Jamie Foxx as a freed slave who becomes a bounty hunter. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz.
Les Misérables Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen gather for the screen version of the hit musical based on Victor Hugo's novel. Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") directs.
Parental Guidance A child-rearing comedy about two grandparents (Bette Midler, Billy Crystal) who go old school on the kids. Also starring Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott.
Promised Land John Krasinski and Matt Damon co-wrote and star in this drama about two corporate salespeople trying to buy drilling rights in a struggling farm community. Directed by Gus Van Sant; based on a story by Dave Eggers.
Quartet Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly as opera singers living in a retirement home for gifted musicians.