Previews - 5 very important holiday flicks

They have many leather-bound books and smell of rich mahogany

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (PG-13)
?The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wasn't just a long movie, it felt like one. Didn't we just finish watching it, like, last week? Perhaps the second chapter of Peter Jackson's three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel will pick up the pace a bit, despite a reported 170-minute running time. The cast of characters expands, with Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and the 13 dwarves now encountering the wary men of Lake-Town as well as hostile elves, with Orlando Bloom reprising his Lord of the Rings role as elfin archer Legolas. The biggest draw of The Desolation of Smaug, both figuratively and literally, will be the long-awaited, treasure-hoarding Smaug the dragon, with Benedict Cumberbatch providing the voice and motion-capture moves. (Since Cumberbatch plays Holmes to Freeman's Watson, it's like a "Sherlock" reunion in Middle-Earth.) (Opens December 13) — Curt Holman

Wolf of Wall Street (R)
?For the second time this year, Leonardo DiCaprio will play a young, successful man caught up in questionable financial deals and the lurid life of New York's monied elite. For the first time this year, it has the chance to be a decent movie. Unlike Baz Luhrmann's obnoxious adaptation of The Great Gatsby, Martin Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street has been rumored to be one of the year's best. A passion project for Scorsese and DiCaprio, who have been attached to the film for almost a decade, Wolf tells the true story of Jordan Belfort, a stock broker whose lavish downfall into a life of drugs and prostitutes led him to years in jail for illegal trading schemes. Expect Caligula-esque sex scenes and plenty of dark humor. (Opens Christmas Day) — Wyatt Williams

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (PG-13)
?Over the last decade, the duo of writer/director Adam McKay and actor Will Ferrell have produced a string of comedic hits, none of which, though, have surpassed the memorable success of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. With Ferrell perfectly cast as a moronic, hyper-confident, misogynist news anchor and a story of media competition with plot twists that verge on the surreal, Anchorman created an iconic, bizarrely quotable commentary on television news. (Indeed, CL once had an editor-in-chief who could not get through a meeting without quoting the film.) If the leaked images of filming in Atlanta — reporters battling gladiator-style in Piedmont Park, Peachtree Center transformed into Rockefeller Center, and so on — are any indication, this sequel, which explores the beginning of cable news, should be worth the ticket. (Opens December 18) — WW

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG)
?This fanciful dramedy's route to the screen seems as long as a voyage undertaken by the title character. James Thurber's classic 1939 short story of the same name depicted a white-collar drone more interested in his daydreams than his actual life. Loosely adapted into a Danny Kaye comedy in 1947, a remake was conceived for Jim Carrey in the mid-1990s. Ben Stiller directs and stars in the finished product, with the title character playing a zoned-out Life magazine employee smitten with a co-worker (Kristen Wiig). The film's expanded six-minute trailer suggests that the title role shakes off his propensity for fantasy to embark on a quest to find a long-lost image from a legendary photographer (Sean Penn). The cast includes Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn, and Adam Scott in an arrestingly weird beard. (Opens Christmas Day) — CH

August: Osage County (R) ??If you saw 2011's darkly comic Killer Joe, you'll know that writer Tracy Letts can treat family gatherings like blood sports. His sprawling, Pulitzer-winning play August: Osage County (staged by Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in 2011) eschewed physical violence for emotional conflict, but proved no less brutal. The big-screen version features a stellar cast, anchored by Meryl Streep as a profane matriarch with cancer and a pill addiction, who primarily contends with her eldest daughter (Julia Roberts). The ensemble includes Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Juliette Lewis, and the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch. Director John Wells previously helmed the low-key downsizing drama The Company Men, so it's unclear whether the feature film will aim for award-season uplift or no-holds-barred domestic in-fighting. (Opens Christmas Day) — CH

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