The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Starring: Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Luke Evans
Director: Peter Jackson
The Scoop: A decade later, "The Lord of the Rings" director finally unveils the first volume of his three-part epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit." Many of the stars are back from "The Lord of the Rings," including McKellen as Gandalf, with Freeman on board as main hobbit Bilbo Baggins. One of the most anticipated films of the century.
Special Features: Featurettes, trailers
Rated PG-13, 160 min. | Watch the trailer
Filmmaker Ryan Coogler makes his feature directorial debut with this drama centered on the tragic shooting of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a vibrant 22-year-old Bay Area father who was senselessly gunned down by BART officers on New Year's Day in 2009, and whose murder sent shockwaves through the nation after being captured on camera by his fellow passengers. Octavia L. Spencer, Melonie Diaz, and Kevin Durand co-star. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
12 Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor stars in the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man in 1800s New York State, who was kidnapped and forced into slavery on a plantation near New Orleans, and his subsequent fight for freedom with the help of a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt). Steve McQueen (Hunger) directed from a script he co-wrote with John Ridley, based in part on Northup's memoir. Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Giamatti co-star. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi
Director Lee Daniels (Precious) teams up with Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Danny Strong to tell the remarkable story of White House butler Eugene Allen (played by Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker), who served eight U.S. presidents over the course of 30 years, and witnessed sweeping social change during his three decades of service at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Inspired by Wil Haygood's ~Washington Post article, The Butler features Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, John Cusack as Richard M. Nixon, and Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan. Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Jane Fonda, David Oyelowo, Lenny Kravitz, Melissa Leo, and Vanessa Redgrave co-star. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Cormac McCarthy provides his first original screenplay with this Ridley Scott-directed thriller starring Michael Fassbender as a lawyer who dabbles in trafficking drugs only to realize just how dangerous a situation he's gotten himself into. Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, and Cameron Diaz head up the rest of the starring cast. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi
20 Feet From Stardom
Director: Morgan Neville
The Scoop: Filmmaker Morgan Neville pays homage to some of the greatest vocalists you've never heard of in this documentary. While the lead singers in rock, pop, and R&B are the ones who get the glory, knowledgeable music fans will tell you the backing vocalists often add the touches that make a performance truly memorable, and though many backup singers have the respect of their peers in the music business, they're all but unknown to the average listener. Twenty Feet From Stardom pays homage to some of these unsung heroes, including Darlene Love (the uncredited lead voice on some of Phil Spector's most memorable productions of the 1960s), Merry Clayton (who contributed a striking vocal cameo on the Rolling Stones & "Gimme Shelter", Lisa Fischer (who has appeared on albums by Sting, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin, as well as touring with the Rolling Stones, and the Waters Family (they sang with Michael Jackson on the album ^Thriller and lent their voices to the films The Lion King and Avatar).
Rated PG-13, 89 min. | Watch the trailer
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Starring: Richard Linklater
The Scoop: Nine years after Before Sunset, their highly-regarded sequel to Before Sunrise, director Richard Linklater reteams with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, which finds their characters together raising twin daughters. Jesse (Hawke) attempts to maintain a relationship with Hank, his teenage son from his first marriage, but their bond is strained even though Hank has just spent the summer with his dad and step-family. Meanwhile, Celine (Delpy) must make a difficult decision about her career. As with Before Sunset, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy share credit for the screenplay.
Rated R, 108 min. | Watch the trailer
As I Lay Dying
Writer/director/star James Franco dabbles in experimental filmmaking with this ambitious adaptation of William Faulkner's famed stream-of-consciousness novel. Told from the multiple perspectives of a poverty-stricken, rural Mississippi family determined to honor their late matriarch Addie's (Beth Grant) dying wish to be buried in Jefferson, the film follows the grieving clan on their arduous journey through difficult terrain. Headed by newly widowed father Anse (Tim Blake Nelson) the family includes a son named Darl (Franco), his siblings Jewel (Logan Marshall-Green), Cash (Jim Parrack), and Vernon (Danny McBride), as well as their sister Dewey (Ahna O'Reilly). As the family make their way to Addie's final resting place, the narrative of the film continually shifts through their unique perspectives. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Only God Forgives
Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling reunite for this intense crime drama set in Thailand, and following a powerful crime boss seeking bitter vengeance for the murder of her son. English gangster Julian (Gosling) and his brother Billy are the owners of a Thai boxing club that covers for a lucrative drug smuggling operation. Using the business as a front, they deliver the drugs to London, where their ruthless mother Jenna (Kristin Scott Thomas) sits at the head of a powerful criminal empire. Upon learning that Billy has been murdered, Jenna travels to Bangkok to claim his body, and bury the people responsible for his death. Later, as the death toll rises along with the stakes, an intense conflict leads to a last chance for salvation. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
The Lords of Salem
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Meg Foster
Director: Rob Zombie
The Scoop: Shock rocker turned filmmaker Rob Zombie continues his particular brand of "white trash horror" with the sordid tale of Heidi (Rob's talented wife Sheri), a radio DJ who's given a box containing a vinyl record, a "gift from the Lords." The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of the violent past of Heidi's town, which puts her on a terrifying journey that will no doubt include confrontations with the likes of such regular Zombie-players as Sid Haig, Ken Foree, Daniel Roebuck, Dee Wallace and good ol' Udo Kier.
Rated R, 101 min. | Watch the trailer
Nothing Left to Fear