December is typically the time of the year that builds to a strong end - and in 2012, the latter part of the month will hit moviegoers with a wide array of films. While the obvious choice for most anticipated of the month goes to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, there are still several new films worth checking out before we turn the calendar to 2013 - including the highly-anticipated next features from two critically acclaimed directors.
And, of course, there are a few hit or miss titles, many of them comedies, that could make a sizeable splash thanks to this very family-friendly movie going season.
Here are the 7 films we are looking forward to in the month of December.
'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'
It's been a long time coming for the feature-film adaptation of The Hobbit, but it's finally in capable hands and set to debut in just a few short weeks. By no means do we intend to discredit Guillermo Del Toro's work on the project, or his selection as the film's first director, but we really can't imagine anyone but Peter Jackson directing The Hobbit.
And now that we know An Unexpected Journey is just one in a planned three-part film series there's the sense that Jackson is ready to deliver yet another epic tale. It could be argued that The Hobbit, unlike Lord of the Rings, could be succinctly summed up in one, maybe two films, but that's just not Jackson's style. Hopefully this second trip to Middle-earth is just as enchanting as the first.
'Monsters Inc.' (3D)
Like Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. is getting the Disney/Pixar 3D treatment in the hopes of reintroducing the feature to a whole new generation of children. And like Nemo (which has a sequel, Finding Nemo 2 on the way), Monsters will reacquaint audiences with characters they will be seeing again, in next summer's prequel film, Monsters University.
Disney and Pixar 3D re-releases thus far have enjoyed moderate success dependant on moviegoers' fondness for the property, so we will see how well Monsters Inc. matches up with the likes of Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. Either way, we're intrigued by the prospect of seeing Sully's luscious purple and blue locks in 3D.
'The Guilt Trip'
A road trip comedy starring Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand has the potential to be a laugh riot or an absolute flop. And the presence of director Anne Fletcher -- who is mostly known for romantic comedies - and writer Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love) further tosses The Guilt Trip into uncertain territory.
Nevertheless, the movie, which sees Rogen's character, a desperate inventor, on a cross-country road trip with his mother (Streisand), still has us intrigued. It has the makings of an absolute disaster, sure, but we’re hoping to be surprised.
'This is 40'
Judd Apatow's 2007 film Knocked Up featured a "B-plot" that focused on a married couple, played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, whose line of communication had become rather complicated. Apatow's follow-up, This is 40, picks up with Rudd and Mann's characters 5 years down the road, as they continue to bicker their way through married life.
Apatow's films - from The 40-Year-Old Virgin to Funny People - have drawn from Apatow's own life experiences, but This is 40 appears to be the most personal of his features thus far. But rest assured there will be plenty of R-rated humor to even out the earnest story beats.
When it was first announced that Tom Cruise would be playing the title character in Jack Reacher - an adaptation of author Lee Child's "One Shot" - many scoffed at the idea. Jack Reacher, the star of many of Child's novels, is written as a 6'5'', 250-pound man that is equal parts brute strength and tactical fighter - an image that doesn't exactly scream "Tom Cruise."
While Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol proved Cruise still has the chops to pull off a demanding action role, even at the ripe age of 50, it's still unclear how his onscreen persona will compare with fans' vision of Reacher. Nevertheless, when he headlines an action film, moviegoers tend to take notice.
Though the term auteur was tossed around more often in the early days of filmmaking than it is now, there are still a few that live up to the term, with one of best examples being Quentin Tarantino. His latest film, Django Unchained, is positioned as an ode to the spaghetti westerns of the '60s, featuring Jamie Foxx as the title character.
Foxx, however, is only the tip of the iceberg in a cast that also includes Christoph Waltz (who won an Oscar last time he starred in a Tarantino film) and Leonardo DiCaprio (who was originally rumored to play the role that went to Waltz). A Tarantino film is a rare commodity, and they typically are meticulously crafted with pop-culture references, musical cues, and intense dialogue-driven scenes, so here's hoping that if it is indeed one of the last films he directs before retiring, that Django Unchained ranks up there with the best.
2011 Oscar-winner for Best Director, Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), is following up his critically-acclaimed biopic with Les Misérables, an adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical. Set in the aftermath of the French revolution, Les Misérables follows the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), but is also a sweeping epic about the characters Valjean encounters in his search for a new life.
The presence of Hooper alone would be enough to get the critics buzzing, but it is Anne Hathaway and her incredible singing voice that has people eagerly anticipating the film as well. Musicals of this caliber have fared quite well during the awards season, so we will see if Les Miz can keep the trend going.
Anthony Taormina blogs at Screen Rant.