In Singapore cinemas this December (Clockwise from the top): 47 Ronin, American Hustler, Police Story 2013, 12 Years a Slave, Firestorm and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. PHOTOS: GOLDEN VILLAGE/ TYPHOON CREATIONS/ UIP/ SHAW ORGANISATION/ ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Christmas stocking is bursting at the cinemas this holiday season, with more than two dozen movies opening this month.

There is something for every discerning taste, from major blockbuster films such as Peter Jackson’s much-anticipated The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, to Steve McQueen’s acclaimed drama 12 Years A Slave. Then there is horror flick In Fear, about a couple’s night drive gone terribly wrong, and irreverent comedies such as Last Vegas starring heavyweights Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline.

For fans of Chinese films, there are several major flicks featuring big-name stars, including Firestorm starring the evergreen Andy Lau.

The packed film schedule is due to the healthy Christmas box-office receipts, second only to earnings during the Chinese New Year period.

A spokesman for Golden Village, which is releasing the likes of Firestorm and Roman Polanski’s drama Venus In Fur, says this is “a very special year-end for cinemagoers as there are really a lot of movies to choose from”.

She adds: “This is especially so for the Asian films, as usually it is the Hollywood titles that fill up most of the dates during this time. So there is something for everyone.”

From Bollywood action to Hollywood-style samurai intrigue, Life! picks 20 movies for all tastebuds.

1. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
Director: Peter Jackson
Stars: Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitrage and Evangeline Lilly
Now in Singapore cinemas

What: In this second part of the film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit, hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Freeman) continues his journey into the Kingdom Of Erebor along with his team of 13 dwarves and wise wizard Gandalf (McKellen), in order to take down Smaug the dragon (Cumberbatch). It will be the first time Cumberbatch of Sherlock Holmes fame shows off his silky voice as the dragon here, which fans of Hollywood’s It boy will surely be excited about.

2. 47 Ronin
Director: Carl Rinsch
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rinko Kikuchi and Tadanobu Asano
Opens: Dec 19

What: This is Hollywood’s take on a classic Japanese tale about a group of samurai who avenge their master’s death. What it means is that a Caucasian actor is thrown in the mix – in this case, a “half-breed” played by Reeves.

First-time feature film-maker Rinsch also added plenty of fantasy elements, including a sultry witch character (Kikuchi), to spice things up. Watch out for a cameo by Rick Genest, the model known for his full-face and body skeleton tattoos, who shot to fame in Lady Gaga’s 2011 music video, Born This Way.

3. Control
Director: Kenneth Bi
Stars: Daniel Wu, Yao Chen, Leon Dai, Simon Yam and Kara Hui
Now in Singapore cinemas

What: This noirish thriller is about insurance salesman Mark (Wu) whose life is turned upside down when he starts getting calls from a creepy mystery man who uses him to commit crimes. Mark continues to do his bidding to prevent the mystery man from hurting his mentally unstable mother (Hui).

Fans of hunky Wu will be pleased to see him take the lead role again, his first since 2011’s Overheard 2.

4. Firestorm
Director: Alan Yuen
Stars: Andy Lau, Gordon Lam and Yao Chen
Now in Singapore cinemas

What: This Hong Kong action flick has the always reliable leading man Lau (above) in the role of seasoned cop Inspector Lui, who is eager to nab mob boss Cho Nan (Hu Jun) once and for all, a criminal who has gotten away with jail sentences once too often due to lack of court evidence.

At the same time, the inspector is unsure whether to trust his old schoolmate and ex-con Pong (Lam), who volunteers as informant on an upcoming job.

5. Police Story 2013
Director: Ding Sheng
Stars: Jackie Chan, Liu Ye and Huang Bo
Opens: Dec 24

What: In the latest reboot of Chan’s popular Police Story series, the Hong Kong action superstar plays detective Zhong Wen, who finds himself taken hostage in a crowded bar by its angry owner.

Chan previously said in interviews that last year’s movie CZ12 would be his final full-blown action flick, but going by the stunt sequences in the trailer for this movie, it appears he has not retired from the genre yet.

6. Walking With Dinosaurs
Director: Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale
Voiced by: JohnLeguizamo, Justin Long and Tiya Sircar
Opens: Dec 19

What: Produced by BBC Earth, this drama is about three pachyrhinosaurus, following their lives from birth all the way into adulthood.

Said to be accurately based on natural history and scientific research, this US$85-million (S$106.8-million) flick looks set to be as educational as it is entertaining.

7. House Of Magic
Director: Jeremy Degruson and Ben Stassen
Opens: Dec 26

What: This animation flick from nWaves Pictures (Sammy 2, 2012) is about a stray cat whose life is changed forever when he is welcomed into the enchanted home of an old magician. Cute character designs and colourful backdrops make this movie the perfect choice to bring your kids to.

8. Venus In Fur
Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner
Now in Singapore cinemas

What: Based on David Ives’ 2010 play of the same name, this French-language drama from Oscar-winning director Polanski (The Pianist, 2002) is about a woman named Vanda (Seigner) who is determined to prove to writer-director Thomas (Amalric) that she is the perfect actress to play the lead in his new play. The film lost to Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is The Warmest Colour for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year, but Polanski (with Seigner and Amalric) is always a director to watch.

9. Chinese Puzzle
Director: Cedric Klapisch
Stars: Romain Duris, Kelly Reilly and Audrey Tautou
Now in Singapore cinemas

What: In this third instalment of the Spanish Apartment trilogy (following L’auberge espagnole, 2002, and Russian Dolls, 2005), the director and cast reunite to continue the story of estranged couple Xavier (Duris) and Wendy (Reilly). When Wendy takes their two children to move to New York to live with her new boyfriend, Xavier follows quickly, determined not to have his kids grow up without their father. Tautou, often described as France’s Audrey Hepburn, reprises her role as Maxine, Xavier’s former flame.

10. Last Vegas
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Stars: Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline
Now in Singapore cinemas

What: Think The Hangover (2009-2013) movies, but with a group of older guys.

The cast of heavyweight actors play four friends who go off to Las Vegas to have a bachelor party when one of them, Billy (Douglas), finally decides to get married. It is always refreshing to see such big stars take things less seriously, at least once in a while.

11. The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
Director: Ben Stiller
Stars: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn
Opens: Dec 25

What: Based on James Thurber’s 1939 short story of the same name, this comedy-drama revolves around Walter Mitty (Stiller, above right), a staff of Life magazine with a penchant for fantastical daydreaming.

When he sets off on a journey around the world to source a picture for the final issue of the magazine, he discovers that there is even more adventure in the real world than he could ever have dreamt of.

12. Thanks For Sharing
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins and Gwyneth Paltrow
Opens: Dec 26

What: This romantic comedy follows a group of very different people all struggling to overcome their addiction to sex. Sounds scintillating enough for a lighthearted movie afternoon.

13. 12 Years A Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender (both left) and Benedict Cumberbatch
Opens: Dec 19

What: Based on the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, this film from award-winning director McQueen (Shame, 2011) is about a free black man who gets sold into slavery in America in 1841.

Northup ended up working in plantations for 12 years before getting released.

Since the film’s premiere in the United States in October, it has gotten wide acclaim from critics and is considered a frontrunner for the Oscars.

14. American Hustle
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence
Opens: Dec 26

What: This crime drama explores the story of a con man (Bale) who is recruited to work for FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper).

All eyes will be on the award-winning trio of director Russell and his Silver Linings Playbook (2012) stars Lawrence (who got the Oscar for Best Actress for the role) and Cooper, to see if they have as much chemistry in a crime drama as they did in the comedy.

15. Dhoom 3
Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Stars: Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra
Opens: Dec 20

What: In this third instalment of the popular Dhoom action series, Bachchan and Chopra reprise their roles as police officers Jai Dixit and Ali, while stars Khan and Kaif are introduced as the new baddies.

More intrigue, more death-defying stunts, more colourful dance sequences? Why not?

16. In Fear
Director: Jeremy Lovering
Stars: Alice Englert, Iain De Caestecker and Allen Leech
Opens: Dec 19

What: Young couple Tom (De Caestecker) and Lucy (Englert) stop over at a rural hotel and soon discover that they are the target of a scary stranger.

Driving off in their car to escape, they are trapped in a maze of dark and creepy countryside roads that seem to lead to nowhere.

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Dec 4, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.