As the end of the year approaches, so do the biggest movies — new works by Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, Ben Stiller, Spike Jonze and other heavyweight directors. For those with more populist tastes, there is also an Anchorman sequel and a boxing comedy in which Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro square off in the ring to determine who is the bigger raging bull.
Here is a list of films scheduled for release between now and early January. Somewhere in this group, Oscar winners lurk, although the Justin Bieber documentary is probably not one of them.
Out of the Furnace: Christian Bale and Casey Affleck play troubled brothers who cross paths with a murderous thug (a scary Woody Harrelson) in writer-director Scott Cooper’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Crazy Heart.
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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: The second chapter in Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel promises more dragon action, more eye-popping 3D and a return appearance by Legolas (Orlando Bloom). Unfortunately, Jackson continues to favor butt-numbing running times: This one runs a whopping 161 minutes, but at least that’s nine minutes shorter than the first picture.
Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas: Writer-director Tyler Perry reprises his popular heroine, this time doling out heart-warming wisdom and laughs in a small rural town preparing its annual holiday celebration.
American Hustle: The always-unpredictable David O. Russell ( The Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, Three Kings) travels back to the 1970s for this crime caper inspired by the Abscam scandal about a con man (Christian Bale), his loony wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and his British partner in crime (Amy Adams) who are forced to collaborate with a loose-cannon FBI agent (Bradley Cooper). Their target: A New Jersey politician (Jeremy Renner).
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues: San Diego TV personality Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) expands his horizons by moving to New York to work at a 24-hour news station. His crew (Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner) come along for the ride. Jim Carrey, Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson, Kristen Wiig, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amy Poehler and practically every other actor in Hollywood join in the silly fun.
Saving Mr. Banks: Emma Thompson is P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks is Walt Disney in this comic drama about their tumultuous collaboration on the making of 1964’s classic Mary Poppins.
Inside Llewyn Davis: Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen continue to top themselves with this melancholy, brutally funny story about a perpetually sad folksinger (Miami’s Oscar Isaac) trying to eke out a living in 1960s bohemian New York as a musician. Carey Mulligan is his bitter ex-girlfriend and Justin Timberlake plays a happy-go-lucky pop singer.
Walking with Dinosaurs: Using 3D computer-generated animation, this science-based adventure promises the most realistic look to date at what life on Earth was like when dinosaurs ruled the planet.
47 Ronin: Carl Rinsch makes his directorial debut with this spectacular adventure about a warrior (Keanu Reeves) who helps a group of 47 samurai avenge the murder of their leader.
August: Osage County: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and Julianne Nicholson are part of the all-star cast of this adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer prize-winning play about a disastrous family reunion. There will be shouting.
Grudge Match: Aside from the inexplicable success of The Expendables series, Sylvester Stallone has been having a rough time drawing much of an audience. But this comedy about two retired boxers (Stallone and Robert DeNiro) who step into the ring to settle a longstanding grudge has the feel of a crowd-pleasing hit.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: Idris Elba ( The Wire, Prometheus) stars in this biopic of South African leader Nelson Mandela, from his rural childhood to his ascencion to the presidency.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: James Thurber’s beloved 1939 short story about a mild-mannered dreamer gets a second film adaptation. The first, made in 1947, was a musical starring Danny Kaye. But director Ben Stiller, who also stars, has opted to go the fantasy route, using sensational special effects and remote locations overseas to portray a milquetoast’s gradual embrace of life and all its risks and pleasures. Kristen Wiig co-stars as the woman who unwittingly inspires him to break out of his humdrum shell.
The Wolf of Wall Street: Judging by the trailers and posters, director Martin Scorsese has turned Jordan Belfort’s tell-all account of his wild and crazy life as a corrupt Wall Street investor into an over-the-top, epic-length (nearly three hours) comedy. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the crooked moneyman, while Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin and Margot Robbie play some of the hangers-on and collaborators in his crazy circus of white-collar crime.
Justin Bieber’s Believe: The first behind-the-scenes documentary that followed the teen pop star on and off-stage (2011’s Never Say Never) grossed $100 million. Naturally, they’ve made another one. But with all the negative publicity Bieber has created for himself lately, have his 15 minutes elapsed?
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones: The fifth installment in the phenomenally successful franchise of found-footage horror movies in which families are terrorized by supernatural forces.
Her: The buzz is strong on director Spike Jonze’s unusual romance between a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) and the intuitive computer operating system that speaks to him in a female voice (Scarlett Johansson). Think Siri, except here she’s named Samantha.
Lone Survivor: Writer-director Peter Berg redeems himself from the disaster that was Battleship with this intense, fact-based story about a groups of SEALs (including Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Taylor Kitsch) who were sent on a failed mission in 2005 to capture or kill a Taliban leader.