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New in Theaters December 21 and 25: Jack Reacher, This is 40, Guilt Trip, Django Unchained, Les Mis

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By Chris Kavan - 12/20/12 at 06:20 PM CT

Welcome to an extra special weekend box office. As Christmas falls on a Tuesday, we not only have the regular Friday releases, but a few heavy hitters dropping on the 25th. It's going to be a very busy box office - The Hobbit will probably win the weekend, but come Christmas Day (and the ensuing week) I have a feeling it's going to be a bloody western or sweeping musical epic that will unseat a return trip to Middle Earth.

DJANGO UNCHAINED The last time Quentin Tarantino decided he wanted to rewrite history, he was awarded with a slew of Acadamy Award nominations and even won (congrats to Christoph Waltz - and well deserved). But can history repeat itself? I'm hoping for the best and from what I've gathered from the trailers (as well as some Golden Globes nominations), it's looking like Django Unchained could easily give Inglourious Basterds a run for its money. Whether it's Leonardo DiCaprio relishing his role as a certified villain or Jamie Foxx playing the silent, dangerous bounty hunter - this looks like one exceptional western. I've heard the n-word is dropped almost constantly - but, hey, if we're talking about historical accuracy, that's the way it is. Pushing boundaries is nothing new and I doubt my ears will melt. This is one I hope the Academy doesn't shy away from because of its nature - hopefully Tarantino will enjoy another awards show.

LES MISERABLES Although Les Miserables has been brought to the big screen many times before, this is the first time it has been brought to the big screen as a musical. Plus, as has been reported, in order to get a more emotional investment from his actors, director Tom Hooper had them sing live on set. Although Entertainment Weekly had a rather unfavorable review for the film, overall it has been getting solid reviews (and everyone is saying Anne Hathaway is all but a lock for Best Supporting Actress). I admit, I have a soft spot for good musicals - West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof - even Rent - and I while I have never seen Les Miserables on stage, I know the music and I have to say I'm not ashamed to admit I'm looking forward to seeing how it translates to a movie.

JACK REACHER I know from experience that Tom Cruise can carry an action film (Mission:Impossible proves that) but there are a lot of people familiar with the source material a bit surprised, perplexed and downright angry that Cruise was picked to play Jack Reacher. I'm not familiar with the source material, so I can't get too upset - but from what I've seen from the trailers, Reacher is some sort of justice-dealing vigilante - kind of like Liam Neeson in Taken - and while Cruise can carry an action film - I just don't see him as "bad-ass killer" material. I have a feeling that action aficionados are going to wait for Django Unchained to hit, meaning this will probably only open to middling numbers (especially against Middle Earth).

THIS IS 40 While Judd Apatow has been a busy bee producing a number of hit films, as a director he's been pretty quiet - with Funny People being his last full-length feature back in 2009. With This is 40, he takes two familiar characters introduced in Knocked Up (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as Pete and Debbie) and essentially revisits their lives as they turn 40. I have a feeling from the previews that you're going to have to be an Apatow fan to get into this - an acquired taste to be sure. Still, I like Rudd and Mann has always been good in her roles and I dug their chemistry in Knocked Up. I doubt this is going to set any records, but it's one I wouldn't mind checking out - probably streaming as opposed to the theater - but I think it will work out just fine.

THE GUILT TRIP This movie is squarely aimed at your mom - and I don't mean that as an insult (though some may easily take it that way). Maybe I should say mothers in general - as Barbara Streisand plays the world's most meddling "meaning to do well" mother and Seth Rogen plays the put-upon son. Just the poster makes me wince - I can't imagine having to sit through this (not even with my mother). This is one of those movies that just make me cringe - but who knows - maybe the middle-aged mother crowd will show up en masse and push it much higher than I'm expecting. It wouldn't make me happy - but stranger things have happened.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE Ugh - it takes a lot to top The Guilt Trip for sheer torture, but Parental Guidance may win the battle. It's about grandma and grandpa (Bette Midler and Billy Crystal) have to deal with the grandkids and all the wacky stuff this generation is into while the fogies wax poetic about the good old days. I've seen trailers - and the so-called "jokes" made me groan and heave simultaneously. Look - Crystal was good back in the day (and is still one heck of an Oscar host) but this has "fail" written all over it. Maybe your grand parents will like it - as for me, I'm putting my fingers in my ears, closing my eyes tight and pretending I never saw a trailer for this in the first place.

Although I think The Hobbit is going to have enough gas left in the tank to win the weekend - as Christmas dawns, the one-two punch of Django and Les Mis should be able to topple the MIddle Earth juggernaut. It's not a lock - but I have a feeling that with awards on the horizon, these two films are going to get a significant bump in interest - plus, they both look pretty darn good on their own. I'll be back Sunday with the initial results and next week with the rest. Until then - keep warm, safe travel and happy holidays to all!


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