Returning characters and new faces light up the season’s silver screen

Photo by MURRAY CLOSE -- Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, from foreground to background, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy are featured in a scene from 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.'
Photo by MURRAY CLOSE -- Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, from foreground to background, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark and Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy are featured in a scene from 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.'

Holiday hit list

The holiday movie season is fast upon us. This year’s offerings include two sequels to mega-hits, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.” The adventures of Jennifer Lawrence’s resourceful Katniss Everdeen in “Catching Fire” and the dragon-fighting Martin Freeman as Hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins in “Desolation of Smaug” are destined to slay the competition.

Some other sequels, too, are poised for big box office numbers. Will Ferrell, accompanied by other original “Anchorman” cast members, returns as the seriously funny TV newsman Ron Burgundy in the unpretentiously titled “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.” New Orleans native and movie mogul Tyler Perry reprises his role as Madea in his first holiday film, “Tyler Perry’s Madea Christmas.”

Louisiana-filmed movies opening this season include the New Orleans-shot “Dallas Buyers Club,” featuring Matthew McConaughey as a scrappy Texas electrician who battles the 1980s medical establishment. Also shot in the New Orleans area, action-thriller “Homefront” features British action star Jason Statham as a former DEA agent who moves to a small town in Louisiana and finds anything but the peace and quiet. There’s also the Pittsburgh-set but New Orleans-shot boxing comedy, “Grudge Match,” starring Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone.

A trio of awards contenders arrive in late December. The Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” follows a week in the life a struggling folk singer in 1961. Two double-Oscar winners, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, head the cast of “Saving Mr. Banks,” a behind-the-scenes account of Walt Disney’s quest to make the movie musical “Mary Poppins.” Another likely Oscar nominee, Bruce Dern, stars in “Nebraska,” the new film from Alexander Payne, director of “Sideways” and “The Descendants.”

The season’s other late-arriving Oscar bait includes a full-dress biopic of South African President Nelson Mandela, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”; the all-star ensemble drama “August: Osage County”; and a new collaboration from actor Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Many of the films opening from now through December are listed below. Opening dates are subject to change and, especially for smaller, art-house films, openings vary from market to market.

FRIDAY

WEDNESDAY

DEC. 6

DEC. 13

DEC. 18

DEC. 20

DEC. 25