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

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

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB: In this New Orleans-shot film based on a true story, Matthew McConaughey plays Texas electrician Ron Woodroof. In 1985, Woodroof was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. Bucking the medical establishment, he acquires non-toxic alternative treatments from throughout the world, via legal and illegal means, and establishes a “buyers club” to help fellow HIV-positive people get access to the treatments.

DELIVERY MAN: Vince Vaughn stars as affable underachiever who learns that his anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago helped create 533 children. The father of many discovers his true self and the dad he wants to be.

KILL YOUR DARLINGS: Murder and poetry collide in this based-on-a-true-story drama involving young beat poets Allen Ginzberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Featuring Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Elizabeth Olsen. Opens Friday in New Orleans.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE: The second film adapted from Suzanne Collins’ immensely popular “Hunger Games” books begins as heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) returns home safely after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games. Katniss and her fellow “tribute” winner, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), must now embark upon a “Victors Tour.” Katniss comes to believe that a rebellion is forthcoming even though the Capitol remains under the dictatorial control of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

WEDNESDAY

BLACK NATIVITY: In writer-director Kasi Lemmons’ adaptation of the Langston Hughes play, Langston (Jacob Latimore), a street-smart teen from Baltimore, goes to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his relatives, Rev. Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). Frustrated by Rev. Cobbs’ rules, Langston decides to go home to his single mom (Jennifer Hudson). He subsequently takes an inspirational journey, making new friends along the way and learning the real meaning of faith and family. The all-star cast includes New Orleans R&B singer Luke James, Mary J. Blige, Nas and Vondie Curtis-Hall.

FROZEN: From Walt Disney Animation Studios, “Frozen” focuses upon a fearless optimist, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell), who goes on an epic journey with mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his faithful reindeer, Sven. They search for Anna’s sister, Elsa (Idina Menzel), who has covered the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter.

HOMEFRONT: In this New Orleans area-filmed action-thriller, Jason Statham plays a former DEA agent who moves to a small town in Louisiana. Statham’s hopes of living a quiet life are shattered when he and his young daughter become entangled with a meth manufacturer who hopes to expand his territory. Gary Fleder (“Runaway Jury”) directs from a script by Sylvester Stallone. James Franco and Winona Ryder co-star.

PHILOMENA: Based on BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith’s book, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,” the film details an Irish woman’s search for the child she delivered out of wedlock and gave up for adoption in the United States. Lee and Sixsmith worked to locate the long-lost child.

THE BOOK THIEF: During World War II, a girl named Liesel finds solace in stealing books and sharing them with others. In the meantime, her parents are hiding a Jewish refugee in their home. The cast includes Sophie NĂ©lisse, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.

DEC. 6

OUT OF THE FURNACE: Christian Bale plays a man who, disappointed by the response of law enforcement, takes matters into his own hands after his younger brother disappears. The crime-drama-thriller’s top-flight cast includes Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker.

DEC. 13

THE ARMSTRONG LIE: In 2009, Alex Gibney began making a film about cyclist Lance Armstrong’s comeback. The project was shelved when the Armstrong doping scandal erupted but then re-opened after Armstrong’’s confession. “The Armstrong Lie” presents an insider’s view of a sports hero’s fall.

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG: Director Peter Jackson returns with the second of his three Hobbit films. In the new adventure from “The Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson, title character Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the wizard and 13 dwarves seek to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor. Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey and Martin Freeman reprises his role as Bilbo.

TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA CHRISTMAS: Madea does Christmas in writer-director-star Tyler Perry’s first holiday movie. Perry promises that the story, a comedy triggered by a culture clash between Madea and her family and their new in-laws, has no silent nights. Perry co-stars alongside Kathy Najimy, Chad Michael Murray, Anna Maria Horsford, Alicia Witt and Larry the Cable Guy.

DEC. 18

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES: San Diego TV newsman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) returns to the news desk. Burgundy’s co-anchor and wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), man on the street Brian Fontana (Paul Rudd) and sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner) are reunited for the purpose of making the first 24-hour news channel a hit.

AMERICAN HUSTLE: Con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are forced into working for an off-the-hook FBI agent (Bradley Cooper). Other characters include Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a volatile New Jersey political operator caught between the Feds and conartists. Meanwhile, Polito’s unpredictable wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), could bring everything crashing down on everyone. David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Fighter”) directs.

DEC. 20

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS: The new film from Joel and Ethan Coen depicts a week in the life of a struggling young folk singer in Greenwich Village in 1961. Oscar Isaac plays Llewyn Davis and T Bone Burnett, the Coen brothers’ frequent musical collaborator, supervises the soundtrack. The cast includes Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake and F. Murray Abraham. Opens in New Orleans on Dec. 20.

SAVING MR. BANKS: Two two-time Oscar winners, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, co-star in this behind-the-movie account of the making of the classic Walt Disney musical, “Mary Poppins.” Thompson plays the difficult “Mary Poppins” author, P.L. Travers. Hanks portrays the determined to make his movie Disney.

NEBRASKA: After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, an elderly dad (Bruce Dern) convinces his son (Will Forte) to make a road trip to claim his supposed fortune. Directed by Alexander Payne (“Election,” “Sideways,” “The Descendants”). Opens in New Orleans on Dec. 20.

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: Computer-animation and 3-D technology take modern humans to the world of dinosaurs. Justin Long is the voice of Patchi, an underdog dinosaur who must fight to survive. The voice cast also features John Leguizamo as Alex, Tiya Sircar as Juniper and Skyler Stone as Scowler.

DEC. 25

47 RONIN: Keanu Reeves returns to action-adventure. After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore their people’s honor.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY: Based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “August: Osage County” is about a family of strong-willed Midwestern women who, following a family crisis, return to the house and dysfunctional woman who raised them. The all-star cast features Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.

GRUDGE MATCH: Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone play old boxing rivals in Pittsburgh who leave retirement to fight a final match. Not another of Stallone’s Rocky movies, this comedy co-stars Kevin Hart, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal and Kim Basinger.

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM: Based on former South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, the film covers his early life, coming of age, education and the 27 years he spent in prison prior to becoming his country’s president. Idris Elba plays Mandela and Naomie Harris co-stars as Winnie Mandela. Justin Chadwick directs.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY: Ben Stiller directs and stars in an adaptation of James Thurber’s classic story of a day-dreamer who escapes his average life by disappearing into fantasies of heroism, romance and action. Stiller’s co-stars include Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Shirley MacLaine and Sean Penn.

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN: Nelly (Felicity Jones), a happily-married mother and schoolteacher, is haunted by her past. Her remorse- and guilt-fueled memories take moviegoers back in time to her relationship with Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes), with whom she discovered an exciting but fragile complicity. No local release day yet.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese reteam for a drama based on the spectacular rise and disastrous fall of stockbroker Jordan Belform, poster boy for Wall Street excess and greed. Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin co-star.