This weekend, millions of Americans trekked across Middle Earth with Bilbo Baggins. The result? The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was No. 1 at the North American box office. It joins the list of other films that ranked No. 1 one their opening weekends, such as Underworld Awakening, Paranormal Activity 4 and Batman.
But here's the thing: The weekend battle at the box office doesn't necessarily decide the war in Hollywood, says Edward J. Epstein, author of The Hollywood Economist. Epstein says to be skeptical of what you read in Hollywood rags.
On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with "F" and the second word starts with "LA."
Last week's challenge: Name a major U.S. city in two words. Take the first letter of the first word and the first two letters of the second word, and they will spell the standard three-letter abbreviation for the state the city is in. What city is it?
We leave you tonight with a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa. He wrote it last night after hearing about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. And we asked him to read it for us tonight. It's called "Rock Me, Mercy."
In rural Chester County, Pa., about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, thick fog swirls around the trunks of knotty trees. This piece of 18th-century farmland could, by all outward appearances, be one of the misty forests of Middle Earth, the setting of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings fantasy novels.
You may have heard of a little movie called Les Miserables, coming to many, many theaters on Christmas Day. It's based on a 27-year-old musical that was in turn based on Victor Hugo's classic 150-year-old novel about a man, Jean Valjean, who stole a loaf of bread and served 19 years on a chain gang. After his parole, he takes on a new identity and finds happiness and prosperity — until he's tracked down by his old jailer. The epic story plays out over decades, eventually peaking against the backdrop — and the barricades — of the French student rebellion of 1832.
Dr. Francis Collins is the director of the National Institutes of Health, which among other things means he's going to outlive us all. We've invited him to play a game called "OWWW!" Three questions about athletes and the surprising ways they find to injure themselves, inspired by Bleacher Report's list of The 50 Weirdest Injuries in Sports History.
On Friday night on PBS, Great Performances presents a documentary about the making of a Beatles TV special from 1967 — Magical Mystery Tour — then shows a restored version of that special. Magical Mystery Tour has the music from the U.S. album of the same name, but it's not the album. It's a musical comedy fantasy about the Beatles and a busload of tourists taking a trip to unknown destinations.
Kathryn Bigelow's kill-bin-Laden thriller Zero Dark Thirty is cool, brisk and packed with impressively real-sounding intelligence jargon. It presents itself as a work of journalism — just the facts, ma'am — but there's no doubting its perspective. It's the story of America's brilliant, righteous revenge.
The prologue is a black screen with sounds of Sept. 11: a hubbub of confusion and then, most terribly, the voice of a woman crying out to a 911 operator who tries vainly to assure her she'll be OK. The recording is genuine.