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Commentary: Winter film releases make braving cold weather worth it

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Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, left) and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) attempt to scam an undercover agent in Columbia Picutres’ ‘American Hustle.’ The film is set to release in theaters Dec. 18.  Credit: Courtesy of Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Productions

Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, left) and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) attempt to scam an undercover agent in Columbia Picutres’ ‘American Hustle.’ The film is set to release in theaters Dec. 18.
Credit: Courtesy of Francois Duhamel / Annapurna Productions

While cold weather might have you wanting to cozy up inside this winter break and rewatch “Harry Potter” for the 13th time or recite every word of “A Christmas Story,” instead consider venturing outside for the short time it takes to walk from house to car and then from car to movie theater. Here are five films that should make braving the cold worth it this December.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” — Dec. 13

I’m still salty “The Hobbit” was broken up into a trilogy, but I’ve missed seeing Orlando Bloom in long, blond hair and pointy ears.

The second installment of the trilogy, however, looks to be a bit more action-packed than the premier “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey;” there is, after all, a fire-breathing dragon.

The film picks up where the first left off, chronicling the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, “The World’s End”), Gandalf (Ian McKellen, “The Wolverine”) and a troop of dwarves on a mission to reclaim their mountain castle from the dragon Smaug.

While “The Hobbit” films might lack some of the epic luster of Peter Jackson’s previous “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, you can’t just not see them.

“American Hustle” — Dec. 18

I got dragged to see “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and ended up loving it. I’m hoping that’s what happens with director David O. Russell’s newest film, “American Hustle.”

Russell seems to know what he’s doing and the verdict is out that everyone has a huge crush on Jennifer Lawrence, so you won’t want to miss this fictional retelling based on a real life scandal.

The film recounts the story of a con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale, “The Dark Knight Rises”, husband of Lawrence’s character, Rosalyn), who with his partner (Amy Adams, “Man of Steel”) work with a crazy FBI agent (Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”) to bring down a New Jersey politician (Jeremy Renner, “The Avengers”).

While the previews show a bunch of beautiful people running around in ridiculously perfect late-1970s clothing, some emotional depth is left to be desired. Maybe Russell should hire someone better to make his previews or maybe his strategy is to make sure everyone is pleasantly surprised.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” — Dec. 20

I don’t know if I’m more excited for another Coen brothers’ movie with a killer soundtrack or to see Justin Timberlake act and sing in a Coen brothers’ movie with a killer soundtrack.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” tells the story of an aspiring folk singer Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac, “Drive”) romping around Greenwich Village trying to make it as a musician in 1961 with an adorable orange cat in tow. The film is inspired by folk singer Dave Van Ronk’s posthumous memoir “The Mayor of MacDougal Street.”

Joel and Ethan Coen made an unprecedented splash with the soundtrack to their 2000 film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” The soundtrack won the 2002 Album of the Year Grammy and was part of a pop culture shift back toward traditional and bluegrass music. The soundtrack to “Inside Llewyn Davis,” released Nov. 1, might turn out to be just as influential.

“Saving Mr. Banks” — Dec. 20

This is the movie that you should take your grandma to when you’re dying to get out of the house the day after Christmas. It will restore her faith in humanity, and you’ll be rejuvenated to finish out your stay at your parents’ house with a more pleasant demeanor.

The adorable-looking film stars Emma Thompson (“Love Actually”) as P.L. Travers, author of “Mary Poppins,” and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, who is working to make the novel into what will become its iconic film.

Supposedly “Saving Mr. Banks” is inspired by the true and never-before-told back-story of how Disney had to work to get the curmudgeonly Travers to grant him the rights to the novel, which turns out to be based on her own childhood in which a real-life Mary Poppins saved Travers’ own father.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” — Dec. 25

This could be a Martin Scorsese-directed prequel to “The Great Gatsby.”

Another movie based on a true story, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is adapted from a memoir of the same title by Jordan Belfort. In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio, as Belfort, plays an insanely wealthy New York stockbroker.

Combining crime and comedy, if not romance, DiCaprio is again in a role where his wealth and status are challenged by crime and corruption, and while there’s no mysterious Meyer Wolfsheim, there is the federal government. Belfort rebelliously refuses to cooperate in a fraud case involving the mob, corporate banks and Wall Street.

Matthew McConaughey and Jonah Hill co-star in the film, with McConaughey as Mark Hanna, Belfort’s mentor and Hill as Donnie Azoff his lovable sidekick.

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