By Sarah Choudhary

The newest Bond film, “Skyfall,” promises a healthy dose of seriousness and thrill.

As winter approaches, movie lovers will soon have many exciting options to choose from, kicking things off with “Skyfall” (Release date: Nov. 9). This is the 23rd film in the James Bond series, and Daniel Craig’s third turn as Agent 007. After infusing a much-needed dose of seriousness into 2006’s “Casino Royale,” but faltering in 2008’s disappointing “Quantum of Solace,” Bond returns in a film that director Sam Mendes says was directly influenced by “The Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan’s realistic take on the Caped Crusader. Javier Bardem, who chilled audiences as the psychotic villain in “No Country for Old Men,” is sure to be a formidable opponent to Craig’s sleek, no-nonsense Bond.

History buffs can look forward to “Lincoln” (Nov. 16), director Steven Spielberg’s big-budget examination of one of America’s most beloved presidents. Two-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis assumes the role of the 16th president, and, as demonstrated by his powerful performances in “There Will Be Blood,” and “Gangs of New York,” Lewis excels in period dramas. “Lincoln” draws together an ensemble cast, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Lincoln’s son, but it is unclear whether the film, which centers on the last four months of Lincoln’s life, will appeal to mainstream audiences or only history buffs.

Released on the same day as “Lincoln” is the last installment of “The Twilight Saga:   Breaking Dawn: Part Two.” Continuing the unfortunate tradition of splitting adaptations into two parts, “Breaking Dawn” concludes Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward’s (Robert Pattison) tale, as they attempt to protect their child from evil forces.

The calendar year will draw to a close with several literary adaptations coming to screens. “Anna Karenina” (Nov. 16) stars Keira Knightley as the titular heroine, who is drawn into a dangerous love triangle. Knightley’s best work has come in period dramas, such as “Pride and Prejudice,” and the film features sumptuous costumes and art direction.

“Life of Pi” (Nov.  21) is the highly-anticipated adaptation of Yann Martel’s bestselling novel of the same name, centering on a young boy’s desperate time stranded on the ocean, alone in a lifeboat with a tiger. The film was shot in 3D, has gorgeous visual effects and, with its story of an underdog fighting for survival, it may be this year’s “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Already the winner of several major awards is “The Silver Linings Playbook” (Nov. 21), starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as two dysfunctional loners struggling with mental health issues. Despite the bleak subject matter, the film has been praised as a heartwarming drama-comedy, with a lot of witty humor and strong performances from the entire cast. Directed by David O. Russell, whose last film, “The Fighter,” won two Oscars, “Playbook” has gotten positive reviews and could be a sleeper hit which may propel Lawrence to her second Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Perhaps the most anticipated film of the late fall season is “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Dec. 14). Director Peter Jackson’s first film in a recently announced trilogy brings audiences back into his vision of a richly realized Middle-Earth, where Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and a band of dwarves must fight to regain their homeland and treasure from a vicious dragon. Expectations for the film are extremely high, after the unprecedented financial and critical success of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which grossed nearly $3 billion and won 17 Oscars.

However, “The Hobbit” lacks the life-and-death stakes of the “Rings” trilogy, and comes from a simpler novel. Freeman, who starred in BBC’s original version of “The Office,” and currently stars in the popular “Sherlock” series, is a well-established comedic actor and should be able to capitalize on the more humorous aspects of the film, which features a cast of 13 dwarves.  Many cast members from the original trilogy have returned to reprise their roles, such as Frodo (Elijah Wood), Gandalf (Ian McKellan), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and an improved digital incarnation of Gollum (Andy Serkis).

The highly-anticipated adaptation of the beloved stage musical, “Les Miserables,” (Dec. 14) features an all-star ensemble cast, including Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter and Amanda Seyfried. This film version has set itself apart from numerous other adaptations by recording actors singing live on set, which means they are able to make the songs part of their dramatic performance, reducing some of the unsettling post-production effects that shows like “Glee” have overused in their musical numbers. Most of the cast have already demonstrated their vocal talent, while Hathaway’s emotional rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” in the film’s first trailer has also raised expectations for the sweeping film.

Quentin Tarantino fans will get a Christmas treat when “Django Unchained” (Dec. 25) is released. Tarantino already tackled Nazis in “Inglorious Basterds,” and now approaches slavery in this pulpy take on the traditional western, which stars Jamie Foxx as a freed slave who works with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to free his wife from a corrupt plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).


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