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'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' trailer: Bring on the firepower -- VIDEO

More action! More adventure! More delicate Elvish romance! The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug promises it all in this new trailer, which previews the middle film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.

Among the goodies you can expect in movie number 2: the return of Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, who may or may not take the Hobbits to Isengard; the debut of new characters like Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, an elf warrior maiden who catches Legolas’s eye, and Mikael Persbrandt’s skin changer Beorn, who can shift between man and bear forms; and a bigger role for Smaug the Dragon, played via motion capture by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch. (Cumberbatch and Hobbit star Martin Freeman already know each other well; they’re co-stars on the British crime drama Sherlock.)

Will Smaug please fans who greeted An Unexpected Journey with lukewarm reviews? It’s too soon to tell — but feel free to speculate after watching the trailer below.

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'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' trailer: Here be dragons, or at least one -- VIDEO

The one thing that might make you yearn for the end of summer blockbuster season?

That would be the first trailer for Peter Jackson’s second Hobbit film, a clip that’s chock-full of action, pounding music, mid-air leaps, imposing CGI beasties, Evangeline Lilly as an elf warrior maiden, Orlando Bloom as your onetime crush object Legolas, Ian McKellen’s beard, Martin Freeman’s scared face, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s titular fire-breathing dragon. The sooner the sun-filled months are over, the sooner it will hit theaters — The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug premieres Dec. 13.

Check out the trailer below:
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Martin Freeman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 2013 Oscar nominees honored at Shorts Awards

Martin Freeman starred in one of the lengthiest movies of 2012, but Friday night he was honored for his work in films with much shorter runtimes and much smaller budgets than the 169-minute-long Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. At the third annual ShortsHD Shorts Awards, Freeman picked up the Visionary Actor Award.

The English actor has continued to make short films, even after performing in high-profile projects like BBC’s Sherlock and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“I love doing [short films] for the same reason that everyone in this room really likes them – because very often it’s the time that you get to really express an idea or ideas without someone breathing down your neck or without someone arguing about how big your trailer is,” Freeman told the audience gathered at the Paley Center for Media last night. “No one’s getting rich or famous out of it, but people are actually trying to express something – and it doesn’t take 18 months like The Hobbit does.” READ FULL STORY

Movie Talk with Owen & Lisa -- A 'small movie' called 'The Hobbit'

In the latest edition of “Movie Talk with Owen & Lisa,” EW critics Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum discuss “a small movie called The Hobbit.” Back in the days of The Lord of the Rings, Lisa was the Tolkien devotee, and Owen the appreciative not-quite-a-fan. Have their perspectives changed with the latest cinematic return to Middle Earth? Watch their full discussion below. READ FULL STORY

'The Hobbit' premiere: New Zealand fans get first peek at Peter Jackson's epic

Wearing elf ears and wizard hats, sitting atop their dad’s shoulders or peering from balconies, tens of thousands of New Zealanders watched their favorite Hobbit actors walk the red carpet Wednesday at the film trilogy’s hometown premiere.

An Air New Zealand plane freshly painted with Hobbit characters flew low over Wellington’s Embassy Theatre, eliciting roars of approval from the crowd.

Sam Rashidmardani, 12, said he came to see Gollum actor Andy Serkis walk the red carpet — and he wasn’t disappointed. “It was amazing,” Rashidmardani said of the evening, adding his Gollum impression: “My precious.”

British actor Martin Freeman, who brings comedic timing to the lead role of Bilbo Baggins, said he thought director Peter Jackson had done a fantastic job on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. “He’s done it again,” Freeman said in an interview on the red carpet. “If it’s possible, it’s probably even better than The Lord of the Rings. I think he’s surpassed it.” READ FULL STORY

Casting Net: Wes Bentley, Brit Marling join Lincoln biopic 'The Green Blade Rises.' Plus: Martin Freeman, Judi Dench, Steve Coogan

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• Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games) and Brit Marling have joined The Green Blade Rises, a biopic about U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s early years, including his father’s abandonment of him in the wilderness, according to a press release. Pegged as “the untold story of America’s greatest hero,” the movie will star Bentley as Lincoln’s first teacher, with Marling as Lincoln’s biological mother. Terrence Malick is producing from a script by AJ Edwards, who makes his directorial debut. The film also stars Diane Kruger and Jason Clarke as Lincoln’s step-mother and father.

• Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are set to star in in Philomena, based on the real-life story of a Irish woman searching for the son she put up for adoption in America as an unwed mother in the 1950s, adapted from journalist Martin Sixsmith’s book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a 50 Year Search. Dench will play Philomena Lee, and Coogan will play Sixsmith. Stephen Frears (The Queen) is directing from a screenplay co-written by Jeff Pope and Coogan. [Variety]

• The Hobbit star Martin Freeman, plus Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, and Rosamund Pike, have joined the cast of the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost comedy The World’s End, according to a press release from Focus Features, which will distribute the film in North America. The film teams director Edgar Wright again with Pegg and Frost, following their pairing up in Wright’s 2004 comic zombie romp Shaun of the Dead and 2007′s Hot Fuzz. Wright co-wrote the script with Pegg. The movie centers on five childhood friends who reunite for a marathon pub crawl they attempted 20 years earlier, but also grapple with the future of humankind.

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'The Hobbit' behind-the-scenes diary: Comic-Con! Goblin-town! Yak hair! Legolas! -- VIDEO

HOBBIT-PRODUCTION

Fun fact! Over the 18 months of principal photography on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again, the production went through an estimated 450 miles of yak hair.

That’s but one of the many oddly illuminating details tucked inside director Peter Jackson’s latest video production diary from the New Zealand set. Though it mostly chronicles the final days of shooting, the video starts with a charming prologue at San Diego Comic-Con, capturing the whirlwind of interviews and signings for The Hobbit folk like Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, and Andy Serkis before their massive panel in Hall HREAD FULL STORY

'The Hobbit' Comic-Con panel: Peter Jackson gifts a bounty of footage upon Hall H

The Project: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again

The Panel: Director Peter Jackson, along with stars Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, and Andy Serkis (also second unit director), surprise guest Elijah Wood, and screenwriter Philippa Boyens. Moderated by the Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick

Footage Screened: The panel began with the latest behind-the-scenes video blog dispatch — which Peter Jackson has been posting regularly on The Hobbit‘s official Facebook page — on the final five days of production. We’ll post it on EW.com when it goes live, but there was a wealth of lovely moments, including interviews with Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, and Stephen Fry, all of whom seem to figure more prominently in the second film, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, which includes the climatic confrontation with the dragon Smaug. We also saw the final day of production on both the second unit — directed by Andy Serkis — and the main unit, including a scene between Bilbo (Freeman) and Gandalf (McKellan) with this dialogue (which was heard, but not seen):  READ FULL STORY

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