The West

Hobbit set to lure big crowds
Hobbit set to lure big crowds

Peter Jackson set the Boxing Day box-office record in 2003 with the conclusion to his epic Lord of the Rings cycle, The Return of the King, bagging a mind-boggling $5.3 million.

He is back with another Middle-Earth adventure, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and another shot at a record on the biggest day on the Australian movie calendar.

The Hobbit has already raised the bar for a December opening in the US with $US84.8 million ($81.8 million) and has continued to dominate the global box office in its second week.

However, Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's LOTR prequel is unlikely to challenge The Return of the King as the Christmas-time box-office champ because his new movie is simply not in the same class.

The Return of the King won 11 Oscars, including best picture, and is in the top 10 biggest-selling movies of all time. The Hobbit has had lukewarm reviews with much of the animosity centred on Jackson's decision to shoot in a new format called High Frame Rate.

While The Hobbit boasts any number of striking sequences, topped by the famed debate between Bilbo Baggins and Gollum, the shift from 24 frames-per-second (the industry standard since the beginning of cinema) to 48 frames-per-second renders the image so sharp it feels like high-definition television. Ironically, in seeking greater realism Jackson has made a fake-looking movie.

Only four locations in Perth will be screening The Hobbit in the new format.

Less-than-enthusiastic reviews, however, will not stop The Hobbit dominating the multiplexes today, with the big challenge coming from Tom Hooper's adaptation of the long-running stage musical Les Miserables.

Les Mis has also had mixed reviews but there's no question that it's a crowd-pleaser, with tears flowing as freely as the champagne at the Perth premiere last week.

There's also lots of buzz about the Oscar prospects of Hugh Jackman, who at last gives a quality big-screen performance after a patchy career in which he's done little other than flex his biceps, and Anne Hathaway, who all but steals the show with her wrenching rendition of I Dreamed a Dream.

But if hairy-footed hobbits and dying waifs are not to your taste, there are plenty of other choices.

The Billy Crystal-Bette Midler comedy Parental Guidance, about the clash between modern and old-fashioned parenting, and Wreck-It-Ralph, a visually sumptuous celebration of old-school video games, are good for all ages; while the mature audience will appreciate Quartet, a Marigold Hotel-type comedy-drama set in a home for retired musicians.

See Today movies for reviews of Les Miserables, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Wreck-It-Ralph.

The West Australian

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