Summer blockbuster time is long over. The fall movie doldrums are coming to an end. That can only mean one thing: The holiday movie season is about to start. For the next couple of months, Hollywood studios like 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. and DreamWorks will begin jamming as many computer-animated, 3D cartoons into the cineplexes as possible. At the same time, the Weinstein Company will begin its annual carpet-bombing campaign of Oscar contenders. So what will it be, moviegoers? Singing cartoon chipmunks or staid biopics about old British people?
Remember: All opening dates are subject to change.
Feature: Film Guide
Holiday Film Guide 2011
J. Edgar Hoover vs. Margaret Thatcher, The Muppets vs. The Chipmunks, Santa’s son vs. Bella’s baby
Visionary director Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) turns his attentions to Greek mythology and does it up 300-style. In 3D!
Leonardo DiCaprio hooks up with director Clint Eastwood to tackle this decades-spanning biopic about controversial FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover.
Jack and Jill
Adam Sandler, never one for subtlety, gives up entirely and dresses in drag to play a family guy and his annoying twin sister who’s visiting for the holidays.
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Critics are falling all over themselves to praise Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s little sis Elizabeth for her portrayal as a naive but increasingly paranoid young woman who escapes from an abusive cult.
The Skin I Live In
Pedro Almodóvar (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Kika, All About My Mother) turns down the camp to helm this psychosexual horror drama about a looney plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas) and his unwilling guinea pig (the flawless Elena Anaya).
Michael Shannon (“Boardwalk Empire”) stars as a farmer plagued by apocalyptic visions who questions whether to hide his family from a coming storm.
Happy Feet Two
The tap-dancing, computer-animated penguins from Happy Feet return for ... more tap dancing, one presumes.
Critics can’t quite decide who they love more: Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene or British newcomer Felicity Jones in this lovely, low-key romance about long-distance lovers.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1
So, um, moody high schooler Bella is finally getting married to one of the vampires. Which pisses off the werewolves. Or so I gather.
From Aardman Animations (makers of the “Wallace & Gromit” series) comes this computer-animated tale of Santa Claus’ geeky young son, who tries to save Christmas for one overlooked little girl.
This mostly wordless romantic comedy from France about a silent movie star who worries about the arrival of “talkies” has been the toast of this year’s film festival circuit.
A Dangerous Method
Director David Cronenberg (The Fly, Dead Ringers, The Brood) deals with some slightly less bloodthirsty doctors in this biopic about the tangled, three-way relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and a sexy crazy lady (Keira Knightley).
Alexander Payne (Sideways) directs, George Clooney stars in this tale of a Hawaiian landowner who tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife is sidelined by a boating accident.
Martin Scorsese directing a kids’ film? Why not? Based on the award-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, the film spins the steampunk-inspired tale of an orphan who lives in a Parisian train station in 1930. He uncovers a mystery involving his late father, filmmaker Georges Méliès and a humanoid automaton.
Writer/star Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) tries to breathe life back into the Muppet franchise with this classic, ensemble-style flick in which Kermit and company mount a long-overdue Hollywood comeback.
My Week With Marilyn
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) takes on the iconic role of Marilyn Monroe in this pic about the star’s brief, tense interaction with Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) during the making of The Prince and the Showgirl.
All sense of decorum is abandoned in this blood-
New Year’s Eve
The romantic comedy Valentine’s Day made a lot of money, so producers picked another holiday and rounded up yet another massive ensemble cast (Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Sofía Vergara, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Duhamel, Alyssa Milano, Hilary Swank. Lea Michele ... I could go on).
A college kid on suspension (Jonah Hill) gets roped into babysitting the neighbor’s kids, resulting in an evening far raunchier than anything in 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Gary Oldman stars as John le Carré’s famed spy George Smiley in this Cold War thriller about Soviet spies inside MI6.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked in 3D
If you can’t work it out from the titular pun, I’m not gonna spell it out for you.
The hit stage play God of Carnage comes to the big screen with Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christopher Waltz and Kate Winslet as two sets of parents having a “cordial” meeting concerning their children’s schoolyard fight.
The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher? Sounds like a home run. Or whatever they do to win the game in cricket.
Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson in another rollicking, if not strictly historically accurate, adventure of the world’s best consulting detective.
Diablo Cody (she of Juno fame) pens this comedy about a soon-to-divorce writer (Charlize Theron) who returns to her small, Minnesota hometown looking to rekindle a romance with her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson).
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
Adventurous boy reporter Tintin—the famed creation of French writer/artist Hergé—comes to life as a computer-animated, motion-capture cartoon courtesy of director Steven Spielberg. There’s pirate treasure!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The art-house exploitation hit goes Hollywood with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara (The Social Network) taking over the lead roles from ... those Danish people whose names we can’t pronounce.
Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise is back for more spy-fi tomfoolery. On the plus side, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) is being groomed to take over the franchise.
In the Land of Blood and Honey
Angelina Jolie writes and directs this dark, Romeo and Juliet-style story about a Bosnian and a Serb who fall into a relationship during the Bosnian War. There’s rape and torture!
We Bought a Zoo
Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson do just what the title says in this true-life-inspired comedy-drama from director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire).
The Darkest Hour
Aliens invade. In Russia. In 3D. Why should L.A. get all the fun all the time?
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A 9-year-old amateur inventor / jewelry designer / astrophysicist / tambourine player searches New York City for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father who died in the Sept. 11 attacks. Tom Hanks is the dad. You will probably cry.
Steven Spielberg (who’s having a busy holiday season) directs this adaptation of the sensational stage play about a young British farm lad who goes on a quest to find his pony, which was drafted into service on the front lines in World War I.
Not content to let that Meryl Streep bitch hog all the accolades for her U.K. accent, Glenn Close ties on an Irish brogue to play a 19th-century woman who poses as a man to work as a butler in a posh Dublin hotel.