By EW Staff
Updated November 06, 2013 at 05:00 PM EST
  • Movie

For movie lovers, ’tis the season to be very jolly indeed. The studios are stuffing the cineplexes with a lot of high-profile films, from Peter Jackson’s epic The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to more intimate Oscar bait like Stephen Frears’ Philomena starring Judi Dench. In our annual Holiday Movie Preview, Entertainment Weekly looks at the biggest movies and key figures behind them. Plus, our resident Oscarologist Anthony Breznican details all the front-runners in this year’s Oscar race. Check out what’s in store for the Holiday Movie Preview:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: We report from the New Zealand set of the second installment in Jackson’s three-part adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic. Fans grousing about the director’s deviations from the canon in the last movie have more fodder this time. The film features two brand-new characters who did not appear in the book: the towheaded elf Legolas, a Lord of the Rings fan favorite again played by Orlando Bloom, and a female elf named Tauriel played by Lost‘s Evangeline Lilly. Co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens says she’s bracing for the response of devotees. “The reaction will be the reaction,” she says. “It is scary. But I truly believe she’ll become a favorite.”

Christian Bale: Since hanging up his Batcape, the Oscar-winning actor has returned to his roots — going Method in two high-profile new films about men on the edges of society. In Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace, he adopts a blue-collar Pennsylvania accent to play a steelworker seeking to help out his troubled brother (Casey Affleck). And in David O. Russell’s American Hustle, he packs on pounds — and sports a memorable combover — as a 1970s con man pressured into helping the FBI with a sting operation. To appear shorter than costar Bradley Cooper, Bale even changed his posture — and herniated two disks for his troubles. “The old L4 and L5,” he says with a sigh. “I didn’t mean to do that, but yeah. I was just in bad bloody shape.”

Judi Dench: The Dame is back in the Oscar hunt with Philomena, in which she plays a real-life Irishwoman who went in search of the son she was coerced into giving up for adoption as a teenager. The 78-year-old actress recently underwent a knee-replacement operation, but she’s quick to dismiss some of the more dire tabloid deadlines about her health, and the macular degeneration that has affected her eyesight. “I’m not going blind!” she insists. “Hundreds of thousands of people have got the same thing, and you just get on with it.”

Spike Lee: The Brooklyn-based filmmaker’s new joint is a departure: a “reimagining” of the 2003 South Korean cult hit Oldboy. But then, Lee has never been easy to categorize, jumping from low-budget indies and documentaries to more mainstream projects like Inside Man. “My mindset has always been that I’m an independent filmmaker that works in Hollywood,” he says.

For exclusive photos from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and details about all the season’s big new movies, get your copy of Entertainment Weekly’s Holiday Movie Preview, on sale Friday! And check out our exclusive Hobbit photos on Facebook.

American Hustle

  • Movie
  • R
  • 138 minutes
  • David O. Russell