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Originally published Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 5:38 AM

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31 movies (including one big hobbit) for the holiday season

A look ahead at the holiday movie season, by Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

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Yes, some of the big ones are already in theaters: "Lincoln," "Skyfall," "Anna Karenina," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Life of Pi." But, as we approach the season of Oscar bait (and the kind of weather that makes it appealing to hole up in a multiplex), there's plenty more in store. Here are some highlights, listed chronologically, of the upcoming holiday movie season — including a really big musical and a really big hobbit.

Be forewarned: All dates are tentative and as changeable as a vampire's hairstyle.

Nov. 30

"Barrymore." Christopher Plummer, finally and rightfully an Oscar winner for "Beginners," plays legendary actor John Barrymore in this filmed version of the Broadway play — for which Plummer won a Tony Award in 1997.

"The Big Picture." This French drama, based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy, follows a man (Romain Duris) whose seemingly perfect life has gone suddenly and terribly awry. Also starring Catherine Deneuve.

"Hitchcock." Anthony Hopkins dons prosthetics to play the Master of Suspense, here depicted in the throes of making "Psycho." Helen Mirren plays his wife Alma Reville; Scarlett Johansson is Janet Leigh; James D'Arcy is Anthony Perkins. Avoid showering immediately afterward.

"Killing Them Softly." Is it smart to rob a Mafia-protected card game? Probably not, but some guys in this crime drama do it anyway, thus necessitating the presence of Brad Pitt as an enforcer who must track them down. Also with James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta; directed by Andrew Dominik ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford").

Dec. 7

"It's a Wonderful Life." Frank Capra's wondrous holiday classic gets its 42nd annual airing at the Grand Illusion, through Dec. 27. Merry Christmas, movie house!

"Lay the Favorite." From director Stephen Frears ("The Queen," "Dangerous Liaisons") comes this Las Vegas gambling comedy, starring Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Vince Vaughn and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

"Mekong Hotel." Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul follows up his Cannes award-winning "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" with a story of ghosts and past lives in a guesthouse on a Thailand river.

"North Sea Texas." The Texas Bar at a Belgian seaside resort is the setting for this tale of a lonely boy and his new friends — a prizewinner at the Montreal Film Festival.

"Playing for Keeps." Hollywood's ongoing attempt to turn out a decent romantic comedy (aren't we about due for one? Please?) continues, with Gerard Butler as a strapping soccer coach who discovers a romantic bonanza: soccer moms.

Dec. 14

"Any Day Now." Winner of the audience award at last spring's Seattle International Film Festival, this drama stars Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt as a '70s gay couple fighting to keep custody of a mentally handicapped teen.

"Deadfall." Not to be confused with "Skyfall" — there are no gadgets or martinis here; just a contemporary drama about a heist gone terribly wrong, starring Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde.

"Fred Won't Move Out." Elliott Gould stars as an aging man reluctant to leave his home of 50 years in Richard Ledes' indie drama.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Hobbits! Wizards! Dragons! Ian McKellen! Bret McKenzie! Peter Jackson shooting in 48 frames per second! Let's save a few exclamation points for the rest of the series, shall we?

"Hyde Park on Hudson." Period-drama alert: Bill Murray plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Laura Linney his cousin and eventual mistress; Roger Michell ("Notting Hill") directs.

Dec. 19

"Monsters Inc." Back to the scare floors with Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), Sulley (John Goodman) and the Pixar gang, this time in 3D.

"The Guilt Trip." Hmm ... Barbra Streisand as Seth Rogen's mother? Well, maybe. Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal") directs this tale of a mother/son road trip. I'm guessing Streisand doesn't sing to Rogen, but we shall see.

Dec. 21

"Barbara." Germany's Academy Award entry this year is a period drama about a Berlin doctor secretly planning an escape to West Germany.

"Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away." Andrew Adamson ("Shrek," "Narnia") directs this 3D adventure, featuring the famously elastic performance troupe.

"The Impossible." Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor must survive a deadly tsunami in Thailand in this based-on-real-life drama, directed by J.A. Bayona ("Orphanage").

"Jack Reacher." That just sounds like the name of a Tom Cruise character, doesn't it? Indeed it is. He plays an ex-military investigator on the trail of a murderer; Rosamund Pike and Werner Herzog (!) co-star.

"Not Fade Away." From David Chase (creator of "The Sopranos") comes this tale of a '60s music group — in New Jersey, of course — seeking stardom.

"This Is 40." Written, directed and produced by Judd Apatow, and starring his real-life wife (Leslie Mann) and daughters ... hmm, think this one's personal? Anyway, it's a sort of sequel to "Knocked Up," focusing on supporting characters Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) as they face middle age.

Dec. 25

"Django Unchained." A pre-Civil War tale of the unlikely alliance between a slave (Jamie Foxx) and a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz), this is Quentin Tarantino's latest, co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson.

"Les Miserables." Do you hear the actors sing? (And now do you have that "Les Mis" song stuck in your head?) The blockbuster musical comes to the big screen, directed by Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") and starring Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. Singing, as you might have heard.

"Parental Guidance." Grandparents Artie (Billy Crystal) and Diane (Bette Midler) take care of the grandkids. No, really, that's the plot. Crystal and Midler as a couple, though, sounds promising.

Coming in 2013

The following movies won't arrive in Seattle theaters until after the New Year, but all are Oscar-eligible for this year (opening in New York and/or Los Angeles before the end of 2012):

"Amour." Michael Haneke's tale of an elderly couple facing the end of their years together won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

"Promised Land." John Krasinski and Matt Damon joined up to write the screenplay (based on a Dave Eggers story about drilling rights in a rural town) to Gus Van Sant's latest; both star in the film, along with Frances McDormand and Rosemarie DeWitt.

"Rust and Bone." Oscar buzz is building for Marion Cotillard's performance in this French drama, in which an injured whale trainer (Cotillard) and a homeless drifter (Matthias Schoenaerts) forge a tentative bond.

"Stand Up Guys." Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin play a trio of retired gangsters who reunite for that proverbial One Last Job.

"West of Memphis." From Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg ("Deliver Us From Evil") and producer Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings") comes a new documentary about the trio wrongly accused of murder in a small town — the West Memphis Three.

"Zero Dark Thirty." Kathryn Bigelow follows up her Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" with another military drama: this time, about the hunt to find and kill Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton star.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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