Unlike past years, Hollywood has not saved their best for last in 2012. Many of the “prestige” titles that usually get the highly coveted Christmas Day slots (“Lincoln,” “Life of Pi,” “Skyfall,” “Flight” and “Argo”) were all out before Thanksgiving and although there still is a typical year-end log-jam, none of the titles appear to be either Oscar-caliber or must-see productions, save for Quentin Tarantino’s hotly anticipated “Django Unchained.”
Here are most of the higher-profile releases coming out in December and as always, all release dates are subject to change.
• PLAYING FOR KEEPS — The once go-to romantic comedy male lead Gerard Butler tries to rekindle his former high spot on the acting food chain with this sports uplift production about a former soccer player who attempts redemption by coaching a little league team.
• THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY — Almost a decade after the last installment of one of the most lucrative franchises in history (“The Lord of the Rings”), director Peter Jackson offers a prequel that will almost certainly score big with the Tolkien faithful.
• HYDE PARK ON HUDSON — Bill Murray plays it down as Franklin Roosevelt in this art-house drama portraying the 32nd president as a politically astute, eminently friendly but morally questionable man who let the loftiness of his office overrun his social life.
• GUILT TRIP — Barbra Streisand steps out of retirement for the umpteenth time and joins her son (Seth Rogen) on an impromptu road trip in a comedy that promises equal grins and grimaces.
• MONSTERS INC. 3-D — Same ol’ Disney repackaged. If you already own the DVD or Blu-ray, you’re fine; don’t even bother.
• CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY — The world’s greatest designer of instant-gratification acrobatics takes one of their more accessible incarnations and makes it cheaper for the masses.
• JACK REACHER — Tom Cruise stars as a investigator hot on the trail of a killer who picks his victims randomly. The success or failure of this venture will depend entirely on the strength of the screenplay written by director Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”).
• THIS IS 40 — A sequel (of sorts) to writer/director Judd Apatow’s monumentally successful “Knocked Up” with the former supporting characters (played by Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann and the sturdy Paul Rudd) assuming the lead roles.
• ZERO DARK THIRTY — Switched in the summer from a pre- to post-election release date, this latest effort from director Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) is an action/thriller about the secret military mission that culminated in the assassination of terrorist Osama bin Laden.
• DJANGO UNCHAINED — The long-awaited Civil War-era spaghetti-western from Quentin Tarantino stars Jamie Foxx as the title character; an escaped slave that attempts to free his wife from a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio) with the help of a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz).
• LES MISERABLES — This latest incarnation of the Victor Hugo novel could prove to be more than yet another recycle because the cast (Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and others) sang their songs live and not in a studio during post-production. Whatever.
• PARENTAL GUIDANCE — With lots of Botox and multiple lifts supporting them, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents and temporary guardians of children that have been spoiled by their “helicopter” parents. It could turn out to be topical and funny or a total embarrassment.
• PROMISED LAND — This Red-State-slanted cause drama stars co-writer Matt Damon as a corporate saleman looking to drill for natural gas in a town, who is met by opposition from a grassroots campaign.