4. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Dec. 14). Director Peter Jackson is wringing three films out of J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 book — which amounts to a movie per 100 pages (and whatever Jackson seized upon in other Tolkien works). The prequel to "Lord of the Rings," out just in time for the book's 75th anniversary, stars Martin Freeman (Dr. Watson in BBC "Sherlock") as Bilbo Baggins who leads a band of 13 dwarves and the wizard Gandolf (Ian McKellen) towards a treasure in the illegal keeping of a dragon named Smaug. The next two installments will come out December 2013 and July 2014. Texas, Virginia, and California have been leading the look-ups; intriguingly, east of the Mississippi looks to be more like hobbit country than the west.
3. "Lincoln" (Nov. 9, expands Nov. 16). No political fatigue
here: President No. 16 has been enjoying a cultural resurgence, thanks
to the current president's constant invocation of his idol, several new
biographies, an election year, and this year's earlier cinematic of the
log-cabin Republican as a vampire hunter. Steven Spielberg is sticking
to a more conservative script, based on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's famed biography: The director bought the film rights before she barely started the book. (Kearns Goodwin, for her part, praised the movie set.) British-born Daniel Day-Lewis plays the president — a replacement for Irish-born Liam Neeson, who considered himself
too old (although at 60, he's only four years older than when Lincoln
died, but maybe audiences would've expected a "Taken" reversal in the
assassination scene). The biopic also features Sally Fields, the
ubiquitous Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Strathairn, and Tommy Lee Jones.
Although Lincoln was a man of Kentucky and Illinois, it's Montgomery,
Alabama, that leads the regions in tracking the movie online.
(Considering the anti-slavery Lincoln wasn't even on the ballot in
Alabama, we've come a long way, indeed.) The movie's also prompting
online searches for "abraham lincoln quotes," "mary todd lincoln
"how tall was abraham lincoln," "abraham lincoln gettysburg address," "robert todd lincoln," and "was abraham lincoln a vampire hunter."