Four Massachusetts-made movies (THE TOWN, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, COMPANY MEN, and THE FIGHTER) lead the parade of new films opening nationally in the last quarter of 2010.
By Ty Burr and Wesley Morris
September 12, 2010
Summer’s over and the movies are getting serious again: Of the 100 or so new releases between now and New Year’s Eve, fewer than 20 are even potential comedies. But where last year’s fall slate came down to a pitched battle between big (“Avatar’’) and little (“Precious,’’ “An Education,’’ “Up in the Air’’), the 2010 pop dialectic looks to be between old and new.
There are series summings-up: the first part of the last chapter of “Harry Potter’’ and the last chapter of the first film version of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling crime trilogy. There are belated sequels: “Little Fockers’’ comes six years after “Meet the Fockers,’’ the new “Wall Street’’ is 23 years overdue, and “Tron: Legacy’’ had to wait almost three decades to see digital daylight.
Remakes? We’ve got ’em, from “Let Me In,’’ a Hollywood redo of the Swedish vampire drama “Let the Right One In,’’ to the Coen brothers taking on 1969’s “True Grit.’’ And, as always, there are the dramas rooted in celebrities of the past, whether they’re poets (Allen Ginsberg as played by James Franco, in “Howl’’), rockers (Aaron Johnson’s young John Lennon, in “Nowhere Boy’’), or horses (the various equines playing “Secretariat’’).
That was then, here’s now: the dramas and betrayals behind the founding of Facebook in “The Social Network,’’ the effect of downsizing on “The Company Men,’’ the neo-nudie underground of “Burlesque.’’ There are directors taking chances — Clint Eastwood with the supernatural drama of “Hereafter’’ and Darren Aronofsky with the psychological ballet wars of “Black Swan.’’ There are actors bringing in labors of love: Mark Wahlberg with his Greater Beantown boxing movie, “The Fighter.’’
What there doesn’t seem to be is a sense of 2010 as a movie year, as there was in 2009 when the fantasy of “Avatar’’ went up against the harsh realities of “The Hurt Locker.’’ Maybe ambitious moviegoers will just have to content ourselves with movies that are good, or at least try to be. For everyone else, there’s always “Jackass 3D.’’
45365 – The title is the ZIP code of Sidney, Ohio, a typical small American town on which directors/brothers/local boys Bill and Turner Ross train their cameras and try to capture the breadth and depth of life itself.
Alpha and Omega 3-D Indie powerhouse Lionsgate joins with India’s Crest Animation for this computer-animated family fare about two wolves — the snippy daughter of the pack’s alpha male and a goofball “omega’’ — who get “volunteered’’ to repopulate a national park. That’s some first date. Hayden Panettiere and Justin Long provide the voices, with Christina Ricci, Danny Glover, and the late Dennis Hopper chipping in a few howls.
Devil – Five people get stuck on an elevator and one of them is Satan? Best high-concept schlock premise ever. Actually, it’s not clear from the trailers whether a passenger or the skyscraper itself is possessed. Writer-director brothers Drew and John Erick Dowdle are established hands at location-based horror from 2008’s “Quarantine.’’ Also, don’t tell anyone, but M. Night Shyamalan wrote the original story.
Easy – A The very appealing Emma Stone finally gets a comedy to herself. She plays a student done in by rumors of lost virginity. With Amanda Bynes and Penn Badgley. The “A,’’ by the way, is a “Scarlet Letter ’’ reference.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child – Director Tamra Davis (“Billy Madison,’’ “Crossroads’’) was close friends with Basquiat before the artist’s death, at 27, in 1988, and decided to use her archival footage of him as the basis of this documentary, a more realistic take on his life than Julian Schnabel’s 1996 “Basquiat.’’ It comes off the festival circuit with radiant reviews.
Mademoiselle Chambon – A French drama about a discreet love affair between a happily married mason (Vincent Lindon) and his son’s schoolteacher (Sandrine Kiberlain). They meet when he comes to class to talk about his job. Aure Atika plays the wife. From a casting standpoint, this movie’s sexiness is off the charts. Directed and co-written by Stéphane Brizé.
The Town – Ben Affleck’s improbable career as a director continues. So does his preoccupation with Boston as a criminal wonderland. Affleck plays the ringleader of a group of bank robbers from Charlestown. He starts a relationship with the bank manager (Rebecca Hall) he just held hostage. Jeremy Renner plays his homie. Jon Hamm plays the FBI agent in pursuit. Based on a Chuck Hogan novel (“Prince of Thieves’’). Beware. The accents could have minds of their own.
The Virginity Hit – “Porky’s’’ for Generation YouTube: A teen nerd (Zack Pearlman) builds a Web documentary around the attempts of his fellow nerd (Matt Bennett) to become a man. Too bad no one told the girlfriend. The fake-documentary shenanigans come from producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, whose Funnyordie.com serves as conceptual incubator. Let’s hope the film doesn’t live up to its promo tag: “An Epic Fail.’’
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop – Admit it: You’ve been waiting all these years for a Chinese western remake of “Blood Simple,’’ the Coen brothers’ 1984 debut film. Legendary director Zhang Yimou (“Raise the Red Lantern,’’ “Hero’’) aims to please in this slapstick fable set among epic landscapes. It’s over-the-top Asian fusion with a heaping side dish of Sergio Leone spaghetti.
Catfish – Before “The Social Network’’ in October makes you want to destroy your Facebook page, this documentary about a virtual relationship that goes sour will make you wonder whether Facebook can destroy you.
A Film Unfinished – This documentary revises the meaning of a Nazi documentary about the Warsaw ghetto after a discovered reel of footage suggests that portions of the film were staged.
Heartbreaker – A charming Paris hustler (Romain Duris of “The Beat That My Heart Skipped’’) runs a profitable business breaking up couples but finds a challenge when he’s hired by the father of a woman (Vanessa Paradis) engaged to be married in a week. You could watch this in French or wait for the inevitable Hollywood remake with Dane Cook.
Jack Goes Boating – Philip Seymour Hoffman directed and stars in this adaptation of Bob Glaudini’s stage comedy about a New York City limo driver who starts seeing a woman (Amy Ryan) who works at a funeral home. John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega play Jack’s friends.
Kings of Pastry – Fans of “Top Chef’’ and “Cake Boss,’’ start your whisks: The new film from documentary legends D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus (“The War Room’’) focuses on the grueling three-day Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition, in which the winning pastry chef is named the “best craftsman in France’’ by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole – A computer-animated fantasy-adventure about warrior owls — think “Lord of the Rings’’ with raptors. It’s from the makers of the penguin-themed “Happy Feet,’’ who clearly intend to work their way through the entire biological class of Aves — perhaps a romantic comedy about the Eastern wood-pewee will be next.
Never Let Me Go – What’s the mystery of Hailsham, an elegant British boarding school that keeps its students on an oddly short leash? Readers of Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed 2005 novel know, and now moviegoers get to watch Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, and Carey Mulligan (“An Education’’) wrestle with their feelings and their destinies. Mark Romanek (“One Hour Photo’’) directs.
The Romantics – It’s a decade after college, two of the gang are getting married, and it’s up to the rest to take stock, especially passive-aggressive writer Katie Holmes, who’s still pining for the groom. Producer Galt Niederhoffer adapts her own novel for her directorial debut; Josh Duhamel, Adam Brody, Anna Paquin, and Elijah Wood fill out the roster for this uneasy comedy-drama reunion.
The Sicilian Girl – The true story of a young woman who spilled the beans on her Mafia family was already the subject of a documentary in 2002. Now it’s a flashy art-house thriller by Marco Amenta and starring Veronica D’Agostino.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – In a time of financial strife, isn’t Oliver Stone just the man we need to hear from? This sequel to his 1987 film brings back the oily Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas), who’s released from prison and more or less resumes his old ways. He’s gone a little soft, trying to fix things with his daughter (Carey Mulligan), who’s engaged to a younger version (Shia LaBeouf) of her father’s old protégé from the first movie. With Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, and Frank Langella.
You Again – And the unstoppable rise of 88-year-old Betty White to 21st-century superstardom continues. All right, White only plays the grandma of lead Kristen Bell, who’s busy trying to sabotage the marriage of her brother to her high school rival (Odette Yustman). Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis also star in the frantic comedy, but, really, it’s Betty’s world and they just get to live in it.
Barry Munday – Patrick Wilson (“Watchmen’’) goes for the character role as Barry, an office-park Lothario who loses his testicles and gains an unborn child in the same week. Nice to see the redoubtable Judy Greer (“13 Going on 30’’) as the mother of Barry’s child, and any planet that envisions Cybill Shepherd and Malcolm MacDowell as her parents is a planet we want to visit. Briefly. Chloe Sevigny costars in this oddball comedy.
Breath Made Visible – A documentary about the modern dance pioneer and cancer survivor Anna Halprin, still performing at 88.
Buried – Here’s a filmmaking challenge: How do you make a suspense thriller about a man buried alive actually suspenseful and thrilling without leaving the confines of the box? Judging from rapturous festival response, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes has ingeniously pulled it off. Ryan Reynolds plays the hero, a US trucker in Iraq being held for ransom. His cellphone costars.
Freakonomics – Six documentary filmmakers — including the directors of such films as “Jesus Camp,’’ “Taxi to the Dark Side,’’ “Super Size Me,’’ “Capturing the Friedmans,’’ and “The King of Kong’’ — take different approaches to the best-selling book.
Howl – Rather than make a straightforward documentary or conventional biography about the poet Allen Ginsberg, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (“The Celluloid Closet’’) combined the two. Their film is a kind of dramatic reenactment of what inspired Ginsberg to write his most famous work, which ignited a trial over whether it should be banned. James Franco plays Ginsberg. Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker, Alessandro Nivola, and David Strathairn play assorted members of the court proceedings.
Last Train Home – Lixin Fan’s acclaimed blurring of the fiction/nonfiction line, following some of the 130 million Chinese laborers who return home every year to see their families for New Year’s.
Let Me In – The Swedish hit film about a lonely little boy who befriends a little-girl vampire is now an American movie more or less about the same. Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Road’’) plays the kid. Chloe Moretz plays the vampire. Richard Jenkins plays her, well, father (you’ll have to see the original for yourself). Is there any way Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield,’’ TV’s “Felicity’’) can come up with an equivalent to the original’s precision framing and high suspense? Pray.
The Social Network – This drama about the founding of Facebook has already managed to annoy its subjects, who insist the movie is two-plus hours of lies. But Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing’’) wrote the script, and David Fincher directed, so there’s every reason to believe that even if the details of infighting over the site are off, the argument it presents will be fascinating. With Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake.
Waiting for ‘Superman’ – Documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth,’’ “It Might Get Loud’’) takes on the US education system, not by aiming to depress us (easy enough to do) but by focusing on five families around the country trying to get their kids into better schools. In other words, a suspense drama with our future at stake.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger – Woody Allen heads back to England; after “Whatever Works,’’ that’s fine by us. The London-set comedy involves several couples in various states of disappointment and lust; and the cast, as always, is the come-on: Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, and Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire.’’
Chain Letter – A crazed killer comes after teenagers when they refuse to forward the chain letters he sends them via cellphone and e-mail. Are you kidding? That makes them heroes in our book. The tagline is “Break the chain, feel the pain’’ — let’s hope they’re talking about the audience.
I Spit on Your Grave – The notorious 1978 grindhouse “classic’’ about a rape victim who has her revenge in super-bloody fashion gets a reboot for the torture-porn era. Proudly spurning an R-rating, the new unrated version is coming off the gutbucket horror-fest circuit with stories of passed-out patrons and fleeing audiences. Sarah Butler plays the victim/victimizer this time around.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story – A depressed teenager (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental facility, where he falls for one fellow patient (Emma Roberts) and befriends another, played by Zach Galifianakis, who’s in a lot this year but could be best in this. The directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (“Half Nelson’’) adapted Ned Vizzini’s novel.
Life As We Know It – The television writer and producer Greg Berlanti (“Brothers and Sisters,’’ “Eli Stone’’) directed this movie about two single people (Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel) who raise the daughter of two friends who died in a car accident. Do you smell Emmy?
My Soul to Take – Sixteen years after the Riverton Ripper was put to rest, he may be back to kill the teenagers born the day he died. Twenty-six years after “A Nightmare on Elm Street,’’ director Wes Craven is still beating an undead horse.
Nowhere Boy – The British artist Sam Taylor-Wood directed this dramedy about the unofficial adolescence of John Lennon, played by Aaron Johnson (“Kick-Ass’’). It’s based on Julia Baird’s memoir, more or less, about being Lennon’s half-sister.
Secretariat – The horse that won the 1973 Triple Crown and landed on the covers of Time and Newsweek gets his own movie. The real subject of Randall Wallace’s sports drama is Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), a proper housewife and mother who finds her proto-feminist passion in a horse only she believes can do it all. John Malkovich plays eccentric trainer Lucien Laurin.
White Wedding – A multiracial, multilingual romantic farce from South Africa, with the groom (Kenneth Nkosi) and best man (Rapulana Seiphemo) getting lost on the way to Cape Town with a British tourist (“Venus’’ star Jodie Whittaker). Winner of several recent festival audience awards, it looks like a sweet and simple crowd pleaser.
Inside Job – Charles Ferguson’s Oscar-nominated 2007 documentary “No End in Sight’’ laid out the who/why/what/when of the Iraq War in scrupulously damning fashion. Now he promises to do the same to Wall Street in this careful parsing of the 2008 financial meltdown. Bring your outrage. Matt Damon narrates.
Jackass 3D – And you didn’t think there was anywhere left for these guys to relieve themselves. Now their scatological, bone-fracturing stunts are on the bridge of your nose. Just thank your lucky stars it’s not in Smell-O-Vision.
My Dog Tulip – This adaptation of J.R. Ackerley’s cult memoir about his eccentric relationship with a headstrong German shepherd is not your typical dog story. For one thing, filmmakers Paul and Sandra Fierlinger have animated the film with 58,000 hand-drawn frames. For another, there’s soft-core doggie sex as Ackerley (voiced by Christopher Plummer) tries to find Tulip a mate. So don’t take the kids. Take yourself. Isabella Rossellini and the late Lynn Redgrave provide additional voices.
RED – If the idea of such Tasteful Oldster Thespians as Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman shooting guns and tossing explosives alongside Bruce Willis sounds amusing, this is the action comedy for you. They play retired CIA agents framed for an assassination. Based on the DC Comics graphic novels by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. Mary Louise-Parker gets involved somehow.
Tamara – Drewe When she returns to her childhood home, a wallflower (Gemma Arterton) reinvents herself as a sexpot. A crowd-pleaser, based on the comic strip that ran in Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Directed by Stephen Frears (“The Queen’’).
Carlos – The French director Olivier Assayas follows last year’s quiet family drama “Summer Hours’’ with something completely different: a five-hour, high-energy epic about Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, the Venezuelan terrorist also known as Carlos the Jackal (Édgar Ramirez). The original version ran on French television in three parts. Apparently, the theatrical version is several hours shorter.
Cell 211 – A gritty Spanish prison-riot drama that cleaned up on the awards circuit in its home country and now tries its luck here. The main characters are a new guard forced to pretend he’s a prisoner and Badass, the top jailhouse dog. Actually, the name Malamadre translates as “Bad Mother,’’ but apparently that’s not scary enough.
Conviction – The 2010 entry in the annual Hilary Swank Oscar sweepstakes casts the actress in the true-life role of Betty Anne Waters, the Ayer woman who fought for years to free her brother from a wrongful murder conviction. Let’s hope Swank can bring more oomph than she did as Amelia Earhart; truth be told, the awards buzz on this movie is for Sam Rockwell as the brother. Nice local angle, too — so why’d they film it in Michigan?
Hereafter – Clint Eastwood tries one of those overlapping narratives à la “Babel’’ and “Crash.’’ This one, written by Peter Morgan (“The Queen,’’ “Frost/Nixon’’), has some elements of the supernatural, and follows a handful of characters touched in some way by death. The cast includes Matt Damon, Cécile De France, and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Paranormal Activity 2 – Yes, we know. But at least it’s not in 3-D.
Stone – Edward Norton breaks out the cornrows and deep-fried accent to play a convicted criminal who sics his hotsy-totsy wife (Milla Jovovich) on his straight-arrow parole officer (Robert De Niro) in John Curran’s suspense drama. Based on the trailer, De Niro is sitting back and letting the young pup do all the Acting in this one.
The Company Men – The film and television producer John Wells (“ER’’) wrote and directed this drama about three executives whose firm unceremoniously cuts them loose. Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones are the suits. Maria Bello and Rosemarie DeWitt are the women in their lives. Kevin Costner plays Affleck’s brother-in-law, a contractor who offers him a construction job.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Despite lying near death and on trial for three murders, Lisbeth Salander (or Swedish actress Noomi Rapace’s version of her) finally brings the mysterious cabal to its knees. The concluding installment in the first adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling trilogy arrives here just as hype for the Hollywood version starts cranking up. We [heart] Noomi.
Kuroneko – Kaneto Shindo’s grisly horror film about a ghost-slaying warrior in feudal Japan returns from the dead. Its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 1968 never happened because of the strikes and student riots.
Monsters – A sleeper genre entry that could be this year’s “District 9.’’ Illegal aliens — as in extraterrestrials — have been quarantined in Mexico and two humans have to cross the infected zone to get home. What sounds like an action film is by all reports a love story, and an oddly touching one at that. Filmed by first-timer Gareth Edwards on a budget of $15,000.
Nora’s Will – From Mexico, a comedy about a woman whose suicide sends her children, grandkids, and ex-husband snooping around her apartment. What they discover changes their perception of her. Written and directed by Mariana Chenillo.
Saw 3D – Because it’s not really viscera unless it’s coming out of the screen at you on the end of a pointy stick.
Due Date – Director Todd Phillips did so well with his last movie, a little comedy called “The Hangover,’’ that he got to do whatever he wanted as a follow-up. What he wanted was to pair “Hangover’’ madman Zach Galifianakis with Robert Downey Jr. as an odd-couple twosome on a cross-country road trip. Love Downey, not yet tired of Galifianakis, let’s hope it’s funnier than the trailers.
Fair Game – A political thriller about the CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) whose cover was blown by the White House. Sean Penn plays her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, and the film is about how both her spy job and the ensuing scandal affect their marriage. Directed by Doug Liman (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith’’).
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf – You’ve probably been reading this preview and thinking, “Seriously, where are the Oscar movies?’’ Apparently Lionsgate feels the same way. It has moved Tyler Perry’s film of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 poem-play (sorry, we buried the lead!) from January to November. Shange’s “choreopoem’’ comprised 20 themed spoken-word monologues, delivered by a handful of women. The movie’s cast includes Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, and Whoopi Goldberg. No word, yet, on a role for Madea.
Megamind – The latest family fare from DreamWorks Animation pits the big-brained supervillain of the title (voiced by Will Ferrell) against heroic Metro Man (Brad Pitt). Sounds a little too close to “Despicable Me’’ for comfort, but since supporting voices Jonah Hill, Tina Fey, and David Cross are in, so are we.
Vision – Barbara Sukowa stars as Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th- century Benedictine nun, who made time among other interests (science, philosophy, medicine, environmental activism) to fight for more prominent roles in the order for women. Directed by the German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta (“Rosenstrasse’’).
Welcome to the Rileys – James Gandolfini plays a starchy businessman who begins caring for a teenage prostitute (Kristen Stewart) he meets while at a convention in New Orleans. Melissa Leo plays his uptight wife. Eventually, everyone loosens up and a kind of makeshift family materializes. Directed by Jake Scott.
127 Hours – How do you follow up multiple Oscar wins for “Slumdog Millionaire’’? If you’re writer-director Danny Boyle, by telling the grueling true-life tale of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a mountain climber who survived a devastating accident in Moab, Utah, by making some very difficult decisions about what to pack out and what to leave behind.
Boxing Gym – Frederick Wiseman’s documentary is set at Lord’s Gym, a boxing facility in Austin, Texas. His cameras watch members train and sweat and chitchat.
Morning Glory – The movies seem to like comedies about television news. This one stars Rachel McAdams as the beleaguered producer of a “Regis and Kelly’’-style talk show. Harrison Ford is the serious newsman hired to lend gravitas to fluff. Diane Keaton is the airhead of the operation. Let’s hope it’s funnier than the maudlin trailer. Directed by Roger Michell (“Notting Hill’’) and written by Aline Brosh McKenna, who provided a very good script for “The Devil Wears Prada.’’
Skyline – Aliens descend upon Los Angeles and hoover up the humans: just another day in La-la Land. Actually, the marketing campaign for this effects-heavy sci-fi thriller includes the season’s best reach for highbrow cred, quoting physicist Stephen Hawking’s recent warnings about alien invasion and offering this movie as “proof.’’
Tibet in Song – A documentary about Tibetan folk music and the history of Tibetan life under Chinese rule.
Unstoppable – A runaway train carrying toxic chemicals is barreling toward town, and only a burned-out engineer (Denzel Washington) can stop it in time. Sound far-fetched? It really happened in Kenton, Ohio, in 2001, although by the time director Tony Scott (“Top Gun’’) gets through with this story, the locals may not recognize it.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I – And so begins the ultimate chapter in the epic saga of Hogwarts — wait, we meant penultimate, since the filmmakers have split J.K. Rowling’s final book in two. Whether that’s to do right by Pottermaniacs or just to take more of our money depends on how cynical you are. Regardless, the stakes couldn’t be higher as Harry, Hermione, and Ron turn fugitive before the final showdown against Voldemort. After six movies, this is childhood’s end — or close to it.
The Next Three Days – Paul Haggis (“Crash’’) directed and co-wrote this thriller about a professor (Russell Crowe) taking matters into his own hands to get his wife (Elizabeth Banks) out of prison for murder. Both a remake of a 2007 French film (“Anything for Her’’) and something that Mel Gibson might have passed on.
Wasteland – An apocalyptic action-horror film with zombies and shots of mini-skirted women walking through the desert. Directed by someone called Kantz.
Burlesque – The “Showgirls’’ of the new millennium? One can only hope. Kristen Bell plays a diva in the world of modern burlesque — think stripping with a sense of history and a sense of irony — and Christina Aguilera (in her film debut) is an upstart dancer. The compendium of facial tectonics known as Cher plays the club owner. Both Diablo Cody (“Juno’’) and John Patrick Shanley (“Moonstruck’’) tinkered with the script — that’s either a good sign or a really bad one.
Faster – Just when you’d written off Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson, the former wrestler bounces back from comedies and kiddie fare into an R-rated action flick. He’s an ex-con seeking revenge against the baddies who killed his brother. Billy Bob Thornton complicates matters as a cop on Johnson’s tail.
The King’s Speech – The little-known story of the future King George VI (Colin Firth) — a chronic stutterer and father of the current Queen Elizabeth — and his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). Will the king’s elocution improve in time to help steady England during World War II? With Helena Bonham Carter, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon, and Derek Jacobi. Bring a tissue.
Love & Other Drugs – In Ed Zwick’s romantic dramedy, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a sleazy pharmaceuticals salesman whose latest product is Viagra. He meets Anne Hathaway on a sales call and starts a relationship. The trailer is intriguing. But, ladies, when did the heroes of these movies become so tan and loathsome?
Made in Dagenham – The story of how, in 1968, the female employees at a British Ford plant stood up against sexual harassment. Could it all possibly have been as feel-good comic as it looks here? With Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson, Richard Schiff, and Bob Hoskins.
Tangled – You wouldn’t know it from the title, but this is Disney’s new princess movie, a 3-D CGI retelling of “Rapunzel’’ that Glen Keane (supervising animator on “Aladdin,’’ “Beauty and the Beast,’’ and other modern Mouse House classics) envisioned as a Rococo painting — specifically Fragonard’s “The Swing’’ — sprung to life. Mandy Moore gives voice to the follicly gifted heroine, while Zachary Levi, TV’s “Chuck,’’ is her bandit love interest.
White – Material In the latest film by Claire Denis (“35 Shots of Rum’’), Isabelle Huppert plays a white farmer who operates an African coffee plantation that she refuses to abandon in the midst of civil war. Christopher Lambert plays her husband. Isaach de Bankolé plays the rebel she and her family harbor at their peril.
Marwencol – A documentary about a man with brain damage who becomes obsessed with the 1/6-scale world of World War II figurines he builds in the backyard of his Kingston, N.Y., home.
Miral – Julian Schnabel (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’’) directed this adaptation of the Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal’s autobiographical novel about an orphan (Freida Pinto) who joins the First Intifada. The movie also aims to tell the story of the modern Middle East from the perspective of the Palestinians. With Hiam Abbass, Alexander Siddig, and Vanessa Redgrave (you didn’t think Schnabel would make this movie without her, did you?).
Do It Again – A documentary in which Globe arts reporter Geoff Edgers tries to reunite the Kinks, a band whose brothers, Ray and Dave Davies, haven’t really ever gotten along. Directed by Robert Patton-Spruill (“Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome’’).
Black Swan – The inner life of a very high-strung ballerina. In a role that could kick her up to the big leagues, Natalie Portman plays a mentally fragile dancer who gets sucked into a psychological pas de deux with rival Mila Kunis (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall’’) as both women vie to replace the company’s prima ballerina (Winona Ryder). Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler’’) directs one of the season’s must-sees.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn – Treader It looked touch-and-go there for a bit. After tepid box office for 2008’s “Prince Caspian,’’ Disney opted to drop distributing the Walden Media adaptations of C.S. Lewis’s classic fantasy-allegory. Fox came to the rescue and here’s the third installment, with the Pevensie kids back in Narnia with — joy — stroppy Will Poulter (“Son of Rambow’’) as nasty cousin Eustace Scrubb.
The Fighter – Are we running out of titles for boxing movies? This one stars Mark Wahlberg and is about the life of the Lowell welterweight “Irish’’ Micky Ward. Christian Bale plays Ward’s half-brother Dickie Eklund, Amy Adams is Ward’s girlfriend, and Melissa Leo is his mom. The director, somewhat improbably, is David O. Russell (“I Heart Huckabees’’). A scan of the credits fails to turn up anyone playing the late Arturo Gatti, who was Ward’s most ferocious opponent.
The Tourist – After winning an Oscar for 2007’s “The Lives of Others,’’ director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck could have gone Hollywood. Instead, he brought Hollywood to him, enlisting Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, and Paul Bettany in a moody romance that features Venice as a major character. In recent interviews, the director has dropped references to “North By Northwest,’’ “The Thomas Crown Affair,’’ “The Thin Man,’’ and “The Pink Panther.’’ If only.
How Do You Know – As in: How do you know when you’re in love? Also: How do you know if writer-director-legend James L. Brooks is working at the level of “Broadcast News’’ and “Terms of Endearment’’ rather than “Spanglish’’? We’ll have to take it on faith, just like his characters do. Reese Witherspoon plays a pro softballer torn between businessman Paul Rudd and dude Owen Wilson; Brooks totem Jack Nicholson plays Rudd’s lovably shady dad.
The Tempest – Julie Taymor is a director of adequate fearlessness. She can be gimmicky (“Across the Universe’’). She can even be somewhat conventional (“Frida’’). But she’s always interesting. In this version of the Shakespeare desert-island play, she’s cast Helen Mirren as Prospero (it’s Prospera now). Djimon Hounsou is Caliban, Felicity Jones is Miranda. Ben Whishaw is Ariel, David Strathairn is Alonso, Chris Cooper is Antonio, and Russell Brand is Trinculo. See? Interesting.
Tron: Legacy – How is this the most breathlessly awaited sci-fi movie of the year? The 1982 original was a digital-animation breakthrough and a commercial stiff, but the cult has been building for years and now it’s clamoring for its IMAX 3-D. Jeff Bridges returns as both software programmer Flynn and his in-computer digital avatar Clu — we told you the first movie was ahead of its time — and those neon drag races look cooler than ever.
Yogi Bear – Live-action meets digitized cartoon icons. The result features Dan Aykroyd doing Yogi’s voice and, as Boo-Boo, Justin Timberlake. A perfect reason to start a forest fire.
Gulliver’s Travels – Jack Black stars in this comedy about a mailroom drone at a New York magazine who gets a writing assignment that sends him to the Bermuda Triangle. His wrecked ship strands him in a land where he’s the biggest guy in town. With Emily Blunt, Jason Segel, and Amanda Peet. Yes, Jonathan Swift is credited.
Little Fockers – Stiller, De Niro, Danner, Streisand. Rinse. Repeat, until, hopefully, we get to edgier stuff, like “Mother Fockers’’ and “Demon Fockers From Pluto.’’
Somewhere – Another Sofia Coppola movie, another hotel, another misfit, another girl. But wait: The hotel is LA’s scrappy Chateau Marmont, the misfit is a burned-out Hollywood star played by Stephen Dorff, and the girl is his 11-year-old daughter, played by Elle Fanning. The trailer, wordlessly playing out under a charming Phoenix song, makes it look sweet and minor key.
The Illusionist – From the talented animator Sylvain Chomet (“The Triplets of Belleville’’) comes what looks like an elegy for old-fashioned entertainment. In the 1950s, a magician is upstaged by the arrival of rock ’n’ roll and forced to perform in less glamorous, fringier venues.
True Grit – Before you get bent out of shape about those snarky Coen brothers sullying the memory of John Wayne, you should probably know that the brothers are basing their remake of the 1969 western more on Charles Portis’s much-loved 1968 novel. And doubtless Jeff Bridges’s Marshall Rooster Cogburn will be a very different creation from the Duke’s. So, chill. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin costar; newcomer Hailee Steinfeld plays stubborn young Mattie Ross.
The Debt – In 1965, three Mossad agents — Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas — were assigned to kill a Nazi war criminal. When their target resurfaces 30 years later, they might have to do the whole thing over again. They’re older now, but they’re better actors, too — Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds, and Helen Mirren, who has succeeded at being in everything this year but “Yogi Bear.’’ Directed by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love’’), the movie is a remake of a taut 2007 Israeli thriller of the same name. Now no one sounds Israeli. In this new version, Mossad must be Hebrew for Old Vic Theatre Company.
Blue Valentine – One of the buzz movies of last January’s Sundance finally hits commercial theaters, with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams — two of the best young actors we’ve got, folks — playing a couple over the long ups and downs of a six-year relationship. Derek Cianfrance’s film is “Scenes From a Marriage’’ American-style — not exactly a date movie, but its rawness and those central performances should earn it respect.
ALSO IN DECEMBER
Budrus – A documentary in which Ayed Morrar, a Palestinian community organizer, and his 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, try to save their village from Israel’s West Bank barrier.
Ty Burr can be reached at email@example.com; Wesley Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on movies, go to boston.com/movienation.