Can epic action and nut-job laughs get respect on awards night? Unlikely, but watch these three try.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (11/22)
Jennifer Lawrence won her Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook. But some would have given her the nod for The Hunger Games. As Katniss Everdeen, the renegade teen who's willing to fight to the death in a televised gladiator event, Lawrence showed remarkable physical and emotional grace. Katniss fights again in Catching Fire, the second part of the Hunger Games trilogy (Mockingjay comes next year) and finds a new love in Finnick (Sam Claflin). So, if any pop movie can hit the audience sweet spot, this is the one to do it.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (12/13)
Hollywood never argues with a balance sheet. And the first chapter in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, took in a billion-plus. Sorry, but the movie was an overinflated bore. Watching Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) hang with Hobbits is no match for The Lord of the Rings. Part II promises more creatures, including scary Azog and the fierce dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Fire-breathing gets them every time.
Anchorman 2 (12/20)
If you think 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy isn't funny, and I mean time-capsule funny, go screw yourself. You and I are through. That's why I eagerly await Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The Seventies have moved into the Eighties, and Ron and the San Diego news team are now working at a 24-hour cable channel in New York. That means Ron (Will Ferrell, nuts and loving it) reunites with Brick (Steve Carell), Brian (Paul Rudd), Champ (David Koechner) and Veronica (Christina Applegate). Harrison Ford, Kristen Wiig and Sacha Baron Cohen get tossed in for potluck. Does the sequel stay classy? How could it not?