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Originally published December 1, 2013 at 5:08 AM | Page modified December 2, 2013 at 7:10 AM

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A ‘Hobbit,’ an ‘Anchorman’ and 30 other holiday-season movies

A list of major movies opening during the holiday season of 2014, including “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and more.

Seattle Times movie critic

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It’s the holiday-movie season — and time for a sleigh full of sequels, stockbrokers, singers, secrets, Stillers and Streeps. What more could one wish for? Here are some of the season’s highlights; note that release dates are tentative and can change quicker than an Emma Thompson eye roll.

Dec. 6

At Berkeley.” Master documentarian Frederick Wiseman (“Titicut Follies,” “La Danse,” “Boxing Gym”) turns his sights to the University of California, Berkeley, in this four-hour documentary — which, if it’s like his other films, will seem too short.

Caught in the Web.” Directed by Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige (“Farewell My Concubine,” “Together”), this contemporary drama unfolds around a case of Internet shaming.

Let the Fire Burn.” Jason Osder’s found-footage documentary examines a 1985 incident in Philadelphia, in which police violently clashed with a black activist group. It was a prizewinner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Out of the Furnace.” Writer/director Scott Cooper, whose lovely “Crazy Heart” won an Oscar for Jeff Bridges, returns with a crime drama in which Christian Bale searches for his missing younger brother (Casey Affleck). Nice supporting cast: Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe.

The Punk Singer.” A hit at the Seattle International Film Festival last spring, Sini Anderson’s documentary profiles riot grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna.

Dec. 13

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” It’s baaaack ... and all of you Tolkien fans know who Smaug is, right? Peter Jackson’s trilogy-based-on-one-book saga continues, with the usual cast of thousands.

Improvement Club.” Local artist/filmmaker Dayna Hanson directs a tale of a Seattle performance-art group, described as “equal parts musical comedy, dance film and mockumentary.”

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?” Michel Gondry directs a film that’s essentially a series of interviews with philosopher Noam Chomsky, rendered in hand-drawn animation — and aren’t you glad somebody’s out there making films like that?

Saving Mr. Banks.” You will not be able to stop humming “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” after this film, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Emma Thompson plays author P.L. Travers opposite Tom Hanks’ Walt Disney in this comedy about the making of the movie “Mary Poppins.”

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.” More Madea for the holidays, with writer/director/actor Tyler Perry reprising his beloved signature character for some Christmas cheer.

Dec. 18

American Hustle.” Look for perms aplenty in David O. Russell’s 1970s fact-based tale of con men and the FBI. With Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence (yes, it’s a “Silver Linings Playbook” reunion, with disco), Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner.

Dec. 20

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” Nine years after “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” comes the sequel, and ... well, the legend continues. Will Ferrell stars, with Christina Applegate, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.

Inside Llewyn Davis.” For those who love folk music — or those whose idea of folk music is Christopher Guest’s “A Mighty Wind” — comes the Coen brothers’ latest, about a musician (Oscar Isaac) struggling to establish his career in early-’60s New York.

Walking with Dinosaurs.” The story of an “underdog dinosaur” (is that really a thing?), this 3-D family film promises that its audience will walk through prehistoric times.

Dec. 25

“47 Ronin.” Keanu Reeves leads a band of 47 samurai warriors (how’s that again?) in this action thriller directed by Carl Rinsch (“The Gift”).

August: Osage County.” Just in time for the holidays: a story of an Oklahoma family more dysfunctional than yours. It’s based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play and stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Sam Shepherd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor and Chris Cooper.

Believe.” A Justin Bieber documentary. Beliebe.

Grudge Match.” This should be one hell of a grudge: Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone play old boxing rivals in Peter Segal’s comedy — and yes, according to the poster, they do get into the ring one last time.

Her.” One of the more off-the-wall entries in this year’s list of Oscar hopefuls is this Spike Jonze comedy, in which a writer (Joaquin Phoenix, who apparently didn’t quit acting after all) falls in love with an operating system (played, somehow, by Scarlett Johansson).

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” Idris Elba and Naomie Harris play Nelson and Winnie Mandela in this historical drama from Justin Chadwick (“The Other Boleyn Girl,” “The First Grader”).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” This one’s been in development hell for nearly 20 years — and here it finally is, with Ben Stiller directing and starring as daydreaming hero Walter Mitty. Based on the 1939 James Thurber short story and previously made into a film in 1947.

The Wolf of Wall Street.” Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up yet again, this time for a tale of Wall Street corruption, with DiCaprio playing real-life stockbroker Jordan Belfort.

But wait, there’s more

As always, a handful of movies are Oscar eligible for this year but won’t screen in the Seattle area until early 2014. Some of those titles:

The Invisible Woman.” Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as Charles Dickens in this historical drama about the novelist’s relationship with a young actress (Felicity Jones).

Jodorowsky’s Dune.” A documentary about a Chilean filmmaker who, long ago, tried to make a film version of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”

Labor Day.” The latest from Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” “Juno”) stars Kate Winslet as a woman who shelters an escaped convict (Josh Brolin).

Lone Survivor.” Mark Wahlberg plays a Navy SEAL captured in Afghanistan while on a covert mission.

One Chance.” David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”) directs this fact-based comedy about an opera singer competing on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Oscar-nominated short films. An assortment of the Academy Award nominees in the short-film categories (live-action, animated, documentary) will screen in late January.

The Rocket.” Australia’s nominee for the foreign-language film Oscar centers on a child’s journey through Laos.

Tim’s Vermeer.” From magician duo Penn & Teller comes this documentary about a different kind of magic: how the painter Vermeer created his photography-like effects.

The Unknown Known.” Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris (“The Fog of War”) turns his cameras to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The Wind Rises.” Animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s latest looks at the life of Japanese fighter-plane designer Jiro Horikoshi.

Moira Macdonald: or 206-464-2725.

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