A guide to planning your holiday moviegoing
FANTASTIC MR. FOX
Director Wes Anderson’s stop-motion tale of furry critters outwitting local farmers doesn’t look like most kid-friendly films. ”Wes didn’t change his style to fit an animated film — he brought the genre to him,” says Jason Schwartzman, who voices the titular Mr. Fox’s young son. ”It appeals to the child in adults and the adults in children.”
An overachieving teen (Emmy Rossum) gets tangled up in a love triangle during her last days of high school.
Rising star Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma) plays a soldier just back from Iraq who joins the Army’s Casualty Notification service.
OH MY GOD?
Director Peter Rodger interviews the likes of Hugh Jackman and Ringo Starr for this documentary about faith.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an American DJ in the 1960s who flouts U.K. radio restrictions on rock music.
The newest from director Roland Emmerich (The Day After Tomorrow) stars John Cusack as a writer who tries to keep his ex-wife (Amanda Peet) and kids safe when the earth is hit by a cataclysm.
The flip of a coin sets off two alternate realities for a young couple played by Towelhead‘s Lynn Collins and (500) Days of Summer‘s Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
WOMEN IN TROUBLE
The lives of 10 women intersect over the course of a day in this comedy from Snakes on a Plane co-writer Sebastian Gutierrez.
In Asia, director John Woo’s two-part epic about the battle ending China’s Han Dynasty ran five hours. Americans will make do with a 148-minute version.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON
Part 2 of the hit franchise finds Bella (Kristen Stewart) forging an unlikely friendship with a werewolf (Taylor Lautner) while vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) is away. ”Bella knows herself more now,” Stewart says of her character. ”You take her more seriously, and she’s making these decisions that are going to determine the rest of her life.”
BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS
This reimagining of the 1992 dirty-cop thriller, from director Werner Herzog (Rescue Dawn), casts Nicolas Cage as a good man gone deliriously bad in the post-Katrina Big Easy.
THE BLIND SIDE
Get ready to have your tears jerked: Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw play a real-life Memphis couple who take in a homeless black teen — who goes on to become a pro football star.
The latest collaboration between Penélope Cruz and Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar (Volver) involves a call girl-turned-actress (Cruz), a millionaire, a film director, and a fateful car crash in the Canary Islands.
THE MISSING PERSON
Oscar nominees Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) headline this post-9/11 hard-boiled thriller.
Gael García Bernal is a videogame tycoon, and Michelle Williams is his ER-doc wife in the first English-language film from Swedish director Lukas Moodysson (Together).
An American astronaut (Dwayne Johnson) beomes an unwitting ”alien” invader in this animated family flick set in a world inhabited by little green people.
Three disparate and desperate men (Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Seymour Cassel) come together in New York City’s most frequently overlooked borough.
UNTIL THE LIGHT TAKES US
Murder, suicide, and arson loom large in this doc about the rise of black metal, a genre born in early-’90s Norway.
ME AND ORSON WELLES
For his first major dramatic role, High School Musical vet Zac Efron picked this Richard Linklater-directed film, in which he plays an aspiring actor who talks his way into Orson Welles’ legendary ’30s Mercury Theatre troupe.
Korean superstar Rain stars in the martial-arts pic, directed by Wachowski brothers protégé James McTeigue (V for Vendetta).
A shoo-in for your dad’s favorite holiday movie, the comedy stars John Travolta and Robin Williams as two guys who get stuck taking care of a pair of 7-year-olds.
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
Disney’s hand-drawn animated tale puts a new spin on an old story: A waitress (Anika Noni Rose) kisses a frog…and then turns into a croaking creature herself. After a limited run in NYC and L.A., the movie opens nationwide on Dec. 11.
Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s bleak novel, the film stars Viggo Mortensen as a dad guiding his son through the perils of a postapocalyptic world, while Charlize Theron pops up in flashbacks of their old lives.
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE
A married woman (Robin Wright) looks back on her life in a star-packed ensemble drama featuring Julianne Moore, Keanu Reeves, Blake Lively, and Alan Arkin.
Columbus Short (Stomp the Yard) plays a rookie armored-truck guard who finds himself standing between his fellow guards (including Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, and Jean Reno) and the $42 million they aim to steal from their truck.
When a young wife (Natalie Portman) learns that her military husband (Tobey Maguire) has gone missing in Afghanistan, she turns to his ne’er-do-well brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) for solace.
A newly widowed dad (Robert De Niro) tracks down his three grown kids (Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Sam Rockwell) when they all cancel their trip home for a visit.
THE LAST STATION
During Leo Tolstoy’s last months, his wife (Helen Mirren) and his biggest follower (Paul Giamatti) clash over the legacy of the literary giant (Christopher Plummer). SERIOUS MOONLIGHT
Meg Ryan stars as a scorned wife who takes her wayward husband (Timothy Hutton) hostage in hopes of reconciling their marriage.
A group of doofy college kids spend a semester abroad in Transylvania. They meet vampires with silly accents. Cue inevitable high jinks.
UP IN THE AIR
George Clooney plays a corporate downsizer obsessed with frequent-flyer miles, and Vera Farmiga (Orphan) the fellow traveler with the boarding pass to his heart, in director/co-writer Jason Reitman’s Juno follow-up.
American audiences may be unfamiliar with the true story behind Clint Eastwood’s latest film, about a white South African rugby star (Matt Damon) who partnered with the nation’s first black president, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman). Damon, too, had been in the dark. ”I didn’t understand how Mandela had used this team to bring the country together [after apartheid],” says Damon. ”When you talk about that 1995 Rugby World Cup to anybody in South Africa, their eyes tear up.”
THE LOVELY BONES
After the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, director Peter Jackson scales down his scope — not to mention his budget — to adapt Alice Sebold’s 2002 best-seller about the murder of a 14-year-old girl (played by Atonement‘s Saoirse Ronan).
A SINGLE MAN
Fashion icon Tom Ford makes his feature debut with this drama about a gay English prof (Colin Firth) reeling after the death of his partner.
THE YOUNG VICTORIA
Queen Victoria’s life story is etched in history, but star Emily Blunt insists this period piece offers a fresh perspective. ”The Victorian age that everyone talks about is dour [and] repressed,” says Blunt, who plays the British monarch. ”No one knows about the love and the passion.”
Finally, instead of just talking about director James Cameron’s 3-D, sci-fi, pricey, the-future-of-movies-is-riding-on-it follow-up to Titanic, we actually get to see it. And then start talking about it all over again.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?
You didn’t? Well, it seems that bickering marrieds Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Paul (Hugh Grant) saw a murder in Manhattan and were whisked into the Witness Protection Program in Wyoming — which is so not Meryl and Paul.
Adapted from the stage musical — itself an adaptation of Federico Fellini’s classic 8½ — Nine boasts Daniel Day-Lewis as a struggling director, a parade of Oscar darlings (including Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, and Judi Dench) as the women in his life, and Chicago director Rob Marshall at the helm.
An undercover cop in modern Romania stakes out a pot-smoking kid.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL
The helium-voiced stars of the 2007 megahit are back for more CG fun. But this time they’ve got company: the Chipettes.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS
Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law each helped complete Heath Ledger’s tragically unfinished performance in this fantasy from director Terry Gilliam (Brazil).
Romantic-comedy auteur Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give) directs a grown-up romp that follows a divorcée (Meryl Streep), her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin), and her architect (Steve Martin).
Director Guy Ritchie and Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. shake the dust off the legendary 19th-century supersleuth for a new big-screen adventure: Downey’s Holmes takes on an evil occultist (Mark Strong) with the help of his trusty sidekick, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), and a lovely con woman (Rachel McAdams).
THE LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND
Working from an unproduced screenplay by Tennessee Williams, Bryce Dallas Howard plays a strong-willed heiress in 1920s Memphis, and Chris Evans the farmhand who draws her affections.
THE WHITE RIBBON
Director Michael Haneke (Caché) follows the curious and often cruel goings-on within a German village right before World War I.
YOUTH IN REVOLT
Michael Cera, Hollywood’s go-to guy for undersexed teen roles, is at it again in this adaptation of the 1995 cult-hit novel about an awkward high schooler who falls for a worldly girl (newcomer Portia Doubleday). But there’s a twist: The Juno star also plays François, the protagonist’s suave alter ego. For help, the actor went straight to the source material. ”It was nice to turn to the book whenever I had a question about the characters,” he says. ”They’re so vivid. It was right on the page.”
CRAZY ON THE OUTSIDE
Tim Allen’s directorial debut is a dark comedy about an ex-con (Allen) who tries to get his life back on track while courting his parole officer (Big Love‘s Jeanne Tripplehorn) and keeping his meddling sister (Sigourney Weaver) at bay.
In a world populated almost entirely by vampires — as opposed to vampire movies — one fang bearer (Ethan Hawke) researching a blood substitute stumbles upon a way to make the vampires human again.
A woman (Amy Adams) schemes to propose to her boyfriend (Adam Scott) in Ireland on Feb. 29, when local legend says he can’t refuse.
With the help of a warmhearted Senegalese woman (Sanaa Lathan), a grumpy divorcé (Matthew Broderick) snaps out of his funk.
THE BOOK OF ELI
In their first feature since 2001’s From Hell, the Hughes brothers (Menace II Society) give us a post-apocalyptic thriller about a nomadic fighter (Denzel Washington) who may hold the key to humankind’s salvation. Think The Road, but with more explosions.
Director Andrea Arnold won a Jury Prize at last spring’s Cannes film festival for this gritty drama about a rough British teen.
A Shrek-style animated spoof, featuring the voices of Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler and Heroes‘ Hayden Panettiere.
QUEEN TO PLAY
A French hotel maid (Sandrine Bonnaire) falls in love with the game of chess, thanks in part to her American mentor (Kevin Kline).
Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany) and his wife (Jennifer Connelly) struggle to reconcile science and faith.
In this drama based on a true story, a father (Brendan Fraser) teams with an oddball scientist (Harrison Ford) to find a cure for his two kids’ fatal genetic disorder.
A vengeful God seeks to wipe out humanity with an army of angels, but one (Paul Bettany) joins up with a ragtag crew of humans — including Dennis Quaid and Tyrese Gibson — and tries to fight back.
After one bad deed too many, a surly hockey player (Dwayne Johnson) nicknamed the ”tooth fairy” (due to the teeth he knocks out) gets the attention of real tooth fairies, who draft him into duty for a week.
EDGE OF DARKNESS
Can you believe Mel Gibson hasn’t starred in a movie since 2002’s Signs? In this thriller from Casino Royale director Martin Campbell, the star gets back in action as a Boston cop who uncovers a government conspiracy linked to his daughter’s murder.
THE SPY NEXT DOOR
Jackie Chan plays a secret agent — and martial-arts expert, naturally — saddled with babysitting three smart-mouthed kids.
WHEN IN ROME
An unlucky-in-love tourist (Kristen Bell) gets hounded by suitors (including Josh Duhamel) after she steals coins from a magic fountain in the Eternal City.
— Adam Markovitz and Adam B. Vary, with additional reporting by Josh Rottenberg and Christine Spines
AWARDS SEASON CALENDAR
Thursday, Dec. 3 — National Board of Review awards announced
Tuesday, Dec. 15 — Golden Globe nominations
Thursday, Dec. 17 — Screen Actors Guild award nominations
Sunday, Jan. 3 — National Society of Film Critics Awards
Thursday, Jan. 7 — Directors Guild of America film-award nominations
Monday, Jan. 11 — Writers Guild of America film-award nominations
Tuesday, Jan. 12 — National Board of Review dinner
Sunday, Jan. 17 — Golden Globes
Saturday, Jan. 23 — SAG Awards
Sunday, Jan. 24 — Producers Guild of America Awards
Saturday, Jan. 30 — DGA film awards
Tuesday, Feb. 2 — Oscar nominations
Saturday, Feb. 13 — Art Directors Guild Awards
Saturday, Feb. 20 — WGA Awards
Sunday, Feb. 21 — BAFTA Awards
Friday, March 5 — Indie Spirit Awards
Saturday, March 6 — Razzie Awards
Sunday, March 7 — Academy Awards