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Six must-see holiday movies

'Life Pi' features Suraj Sharmas Pi Patel.  |  20th Century Fox photo

"Life of Pi" features Suraj Sharma as Pi Patel. | 20th Century Fox photo

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FOR THE CHILDREN

“RISE OF THE GUARDIANS” (Opened Nov. 21): Children are in trouble when an evil spirit named Pitch decides to attack. This calls for a team called the Guardians including a tattooed North aka Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin), E. Aster Bunnymund aka the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman), Tooth aka the Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher) and Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine).

“DINO TIME” (Dec. 7): Three tykes go back 65 million years and meet some friendly dinosaur types. Voices include Dolton native Jane Lynch, Rob Schneider and Melanie Griffith.

“MONSTERS, INC. 3D” (Dec. 19): There are the same monsters, but in more rounded 3-D form.

Cindy Pearlman

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Updated: December 24, 2012 6:25AM



The big screen might not be big enough this holiday movie season.

A tsunami is churning, Hugh Jackman is crooning, Kerry Washington is swooning. Oh, and Gollum is getting precious again with the jewelry.

Barbra Streisand, Jamie Foxx and Bette Midler are back under the tree. Decking their halls are filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino and Peter Jackson.

There are big stars, big plots and big things on the line, like an Oscar nomination or 10.

If you prefer something slim, check out Anne Hathaway trying to get a good meal in “Les Miserables.”

“Hollywood is going big this season,” director Guillermo del Toro said. Not content to work on just one blockbuster, he produced “Rise of the Guardians” and cowrote “The Hobbit.”

“I guess you could say that I’m doubly excited because of the fan response,” he said.

“It does your heart good to know that people have the dates of these films’ openings circled on their calendars at home. These films are a part of their holiday season.”

What should you circle — and circle back to — during the rush-rush of the holiday season?

Here are six you can’t miss:

‘Life of Pi’ (Opened Nov. 21)

STARRING: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain and Tabu. Directed by Ang Lee.

UNWRAPPED: Lee tells the story based on the famed book about a young boy whose family is moving a zoo via the sea.

When disaster strikes, the boy embarks on a journey in a small boat with a frightening Bengal tiger.

STOCKING STUFFER: “The tiger was never on the boat when I was on the boat,” Sharma said.

“We had three or four tigers on the set and you had to be careful. I really wanted to badly pet them, but they do think of you as dinner.”

‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ (Dec. 14)

STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage and Andy Serkis. Directed by Peter Jackson.

UNWRAPPED: It’s the first part of director Jackson’s three-film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic book set 60 years prior to “The Lord of the Rings” action.

Yes, we finally get to see the fateful day when Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) runs into Gollum for the first time as the little Hobbit journeys to Lonely Mountain to reclaim a treasure.

STOCKING STUFFER: Del Toro, who helped write the film, said it wasn’t easy.

“It was four of us locked up in New Zealand for two years,” he said. “Let’s just say it was the adventure before the adventure.”

He added, “It’s exciting to be part of something so big, but I’m under strict orders not to say anything about it.”

‘The Impossible’ (Dec. 21)

STARRING: Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona.

UNWRAPPED: Watts and McGregor star in the true story of a family caught in the 2004 tsunami that left 230,000 dead.

Five years in the making, the film centers on a severely injured young mother and her son who drift away while the father must tend to the other two boys and reunite his family.

STOCKING STUFFER: Director Bayona said he didn’t skimp on the actual wave washing over the family.

“We hired six F/X companies and it took over a year to create 10 minutes of film,” he said.

The harrowing sequence is enough to make moviegoers feel as if they’re slipping away down an avalanche of water.

‘Not Fade Away’ (Dec. 21)

STARRING: John Magaro, Jack Huston and Will Brill. Directed by David Chase.

UNWRAPPED: Chase, who created the TV show “The Sopranos,” stays in New Jersey but goes back to the 1960s to tell the tamer story of a group of pals who form a rock ’n’ roll band.

James Gandolfini plays one of the boy’s fathers, and Brad Garrett and Lisa Lampanelli are feeling the beat.

STOCKING STUFFER: Reteaming with Gandolfini was a natural reunion for Chase.

“It’s such a pleasure to hang out with him, and he really understands my writing,” said Chase, who added that the father role is close to his heart.

“I was having trouble writing it even though it was based on my own father. When I finished the first or second draft, I pictured Jim in the role and it all clicked.”

On the set, it clicked even more. “I really dig his acting,” Chase said of Gandolfini. “We know what we are talking about and communicate easily.”

And never did this father remind him of a certain dad named Tony Soprano. “It really is something different,” Chase said.

‘Les Miserables’ (Dec. 25)

STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. Directed by Tom Hooper.

UNWRAPPED: It’s the stage musical based on Victor Hugo’s iconic novel, brought to the big screen.

In 19th century France, a paroled prisoner called Jean Valjean (Jackman) seeks to be redeemed.

STOCKING STUFFER: Jackman didn’t just sit back when it was announced that “Les Mis” was coming to a nearby multiplex.

“This was my dream and I chased it hard,” he said. “This is the movie musical that had been calling to me for a long time. I just hope I can do the role justice.”

‘Django Unchained’ (Dec. 25)

STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Don Johnson and Kerry Washington. Directed by Quentin Tarantino.

UNWRAPPED: It’s just your average Hollywood drama-western about a slave-turned-bounty hunter who makes it his mission to rescue his wife from an ultra-heinous Mississippi plantation owner.

It’s Tarantino, so expect the holiday red (as in blood) to flow.

STOCKING STUFFER: Ask Washington, who plays the wife, to explain what it’s like to work with Tarantino and she sums it up in one word: “intense.”

She calls the film “an epic love story and a rescue story about a freed slave who will go to any lengths to save his wife.”

Washington added, “I’m the damsel, the princess who is rescued from the tower.”

As for reteaming with her “Ray” star Foxx, she joked, “We actually went back to New Orleans where we shot ‘Ray’ to film this epic.

“I said, ‘Last time, the combo won you an Oscar, Jamie. So this is what we’ll do every 10 years: Go to New Orleans and you win an Oscar.’ ”

Big Picture News Inc.



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