Thursday December 20, 2012.
Welcome to the 2012 Christmas Bumper edition, covering all films releasing from December 26 to January 3: our combined 824th, 825th & 826th editions. Next edition January 10.

EDITORIAL - Use-by date is here for movie awards, argues Andrew L. Urban.

Movies opening December 26:
(NZ/US, 2012) Dir: Peter Jackson. Stars Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett. "The story itself is clear enough, and the creative grunt and technical sophistication are superb. I have a reservation about the tone of pantomime that is established at the start of the film, but the much anticipated 48 frames per second 3D presentation seems glorious to me," says Andrew. "Jackson's adroit direction and the brilliance of the creation of the reality are the film's high points. Whether there is the substance enough to support three films in the trilogy will be revealed in the next of the series, but as far as technical wizardry goes with its superb 3D effects, it is in its visuals that The Hobbit excels," says Louise.

NEWS: Gossip-free zone
* Awards Season: golden glow for Aussie stars Kidman, Jackman and Watts;
* Fourth wise man brings movies to baby Jesus in Tromaville;

BOX OFFICE: Reports & charts every Monday & Thursday (after 4pm) - except Dec. 27 and Jan 31.

Win one of 10 copies of Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, courtesy Roadshow Home Entertainment. Available on DVD and Blu-ray from December 21. Please note: prizes will be posted out in January.

Movie reviews:
(UK, 2012) Dir: Tom Hooper. Stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Isabelle Allen, Eddie Redmayne. "Having a cast of superb actors was more important to Hooper than casting a team of great singers; but make no mistake, there isn't a second grade singer among them," says Andrew. "Tony-award winning musical delivers everything at its creative peak - drama, performance, filmmaking and the language of music that delivers its message like no other. An emotional tour de force," says Louise.
HUGH & RUSS - Two sides of the Aussie coin.
TIM & ERIC - UK's producing dynamos tell Andrew L. Urban the secret of their success.

Movie reviews:
(UK, 2012) Dir: Dustin Hoffman. Stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay. "I smiled throughout this funny, stirring and uplifting film in which talents, egos and temperaments dance in time with the music," says Louise. "The humour is wry, the drama is intimate and the rhythm of the editing carries us through to a satisfying ending," says Andrew.
PAULINE COLLINS - talks to Andrew L. Urban.

Movie review:
(US, 2012) Dir: Rich Moore. Voices of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman. "With its inventive premise, clever script and wacky characters, this family friendly film tells the story of the video game's bad guy, whose colourful adventures and life affirming journey allow him to realise his true worth," says Louise.

Movie reviews:
(US, 2012) Dir: Ron Fricke. Documentary. "Magical, spiritual, meditative and calming, 20 years post Baraka, Samsara is everything we could ask for - a wondrous, informative and inquisitive work of art. It's as though creator Ron Fricke cocoons our senses with his visions of the ever-shifting world in this wheel of life," says Louise. "Beauty and brutality in nature and in humanity are juxtaposed with visual artistry that is a result of both the images themselves and how they are edited together," says Andrew.

Movie reviews:
(UK, 2012) Dir: Ben Wheatley. Stars Alice Lowe, Tony Way. "The sheer and utter Englishness of the characters and the circumstances in which they become serial killers has a certain understated Gothic appeal in this story of two new lovers on the road ... not only black in a comedic way, it is also grounded in bleak drama," says Andrew. "Director Ben Wheatley well captures the nuances of the quirky relationship between Chris and Tina, as they surmise that if shortening someone's life reduces their emissions, murder must be green," says Louise.

Movie review:
(US, 2012) Dir: Andy Fickman. Stars Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Bailee Madison, Madison Lintz, Tom Everett Scott. "Billy Crystal and Bette Midler playing grandpa and grandma is in itself a funny picture, although only as a comic sketch .The premise of a sort of culture clash between old school and new age parenting is full of promise, but the screenplay largely fails to exploits the possibilities," says Andrew.

Movies opening January 1 & 3:
(US, 2012) Dir: Ang Lee. Stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain, Gerard Depardieu, Rafe Spall, Tabu. "Allegorical and open to interpretation, Yann Martel's bestselling novel offers un-parallelled challenges for any filmmaker to bring its story to the screen; it is with breathtaking cutting-edge technology and invisible visual effects that Oscar-winning director Ang Lee hones his craft to deliver a remarkable, unforgettable cinematic experience," says Louise. "The close up, the eyes, the emotions, the enormity of the angry sea ... Ang Lee's vision for adapting the novel to the screen is extraordinary in its ambition and wondrous in its execution," says Andrew.

INSIDER BRIEFING - It has taken 12 years to bring Life of Pi to the screen, from a genuine worldwide best seller. It has everything you go to the movies for - and can't get anywhere else, as producer Gil Netter remarked. Andrew L. Urban pores through the notes by the filmmakers to compile a background briefing.

Movie reviews:
(US, 2012) Dir: Christopher McQuarrie. Stars Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, Jai Courtney, Robert Duvall, Werner Herzog. "What I like about Jack Reacher is that it is different from the run of the mill action thriller in that it constantly surprises with elements that keep us on edge," says Louise. "In genre terms it's a police procedural, but director Christopher McQuarrie (of The Usual Suspects fame) shows how to make even a creaky genre turn into a powerful action thriller," says Andrew.
CHRIS MCQUARRIE - Interview by Andrew L. Urban.

Australian premiere release - DVD:
(US, 2012) Dir: John Stockwell. Stars Cam Gigandet, Xzibit, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Freddy Rodriguez, Anson Mount, Kathleen Robertson. "If you want a proficient, dramatized re-enactment of the May 1 - 2, 2011 mission to kill Osama bin Laden, Seal Team Six meets the bill," says Andrew. (In stores from January 2, 2013)

Preview trailers of the latest films on your own screen:
Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, stars Foxx, diCaprio, Waltz;
Flight, stars Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle;
Gangster Squad, stars Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn;
Anna Karenina, stars Keira Knightley, Jude Law;
Lincoln, stars Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field;

At a glance:
TOP 20
Short and sweet (or not) opinions on the most popular current releases. An easy reference for choosing which movie to see tonight ... or tomorrow ... or right now! (Occasionally we also slip in a few of the editors' favourites if they don't make the top 20...)

Stars Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell. "Every bit as scrumptious as anticipated," says Louise.

Stars Jean Reno, MichaŽl Youn. "If you're in the mood for a quick bite, you will not be disappointed," says Andrew.

Stars Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel, Samantha Morton, Paul Giamatti. "several targets emerge in the screenplay: obviously the rich, those new money rich whose souls have withered on Wall Street," says Andrew.

Stars Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton. "You best surrender and let Wes Anderson seduce you and draw you into this whimsical, magical fairy tale meant equally for adults and pre-teens," says Andrew.

Stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, Matthew McConaughey. "I loved every minute of this well-told and brilliantly created film that reinforces the complexities and incongruities of the human condition," says Louise.

Stars Sylvester Stallone, Liam Hemsworth, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme. "You can almost feel the spray of the alpha male in this ballsy action adventure filled with bulging muscles, heavy artillery and massive stunts," says Andrew.

Competition winners:
To win double inseason passes courtesy Paramount Pictures, we asked: Which movie detective or private eye would you like to have dinner and why? Lesleigh Stewart (QLD): Bond; James Bond. Because he is so suave and sophisticated some might rub off on me.

To win a copy courtesy Roadshow Home Entertainment, we asked: Who among family and friends is expendable if you won the lottery - and why? Sam Clifton (QLD): Ha ha - you're working hand in hand with my in-laws; I'm not going to fall into your trap and cause a huge blow up that's my fault!

Every Australian film we have ever reviewed (film / DVD / video release), or have reported from the set, or featured in any way, is listed here, going back to films made even before the launch of Urban Cinefile, such as The Piano, Romper Stomper, Muriel's Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Australia (pic) and dozens more. Over 500 films.

This travelling life:
Join Andrew L. Urban in Mexico, Monaco, Hong Kong, Connecticut, Austrian Tyrol (pic) ... and Alien in Switzerland!

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