by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN Contributing Writer
Things heat up quite a bit in November and December. Harry Potter is back for the first installment of his final adventure, Denzel Washington battles it out with a runaway train, and James Franco is forced to use his arm as a cutting board after getting stuck in a very tight place a long way above the ground. Valerie Plame's story gets the Hollywood treatment, as does a WWII British monarch with a very bad stuttering problem, while Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor engage in a bit of prison-yard romance blurring the line between fact and fiction into virtual insignificance. Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton team up for a newsroom comedy some think might be an Oscar contender, while Cher returns to the silver screen for the first time in over a decade - and she's brought along Christina Aguilera with her.
The final months of the year offer something for everyone (even the Coen brothers taking on a John Wayne Western classic and Natalie Portman getting so worked up about her future as a ballerina she begins to metamorphose into a swan), and the only question remaining is which films will rise to the occasion and which ones will disappear into cinematic insignificance.
127 Hours - Director Danny Boyle and actor James Franco team up to tell the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who got himself trapped inside a gigantic crevice and had to resort to means beyond the pale in order to free himself. Definitely not for the squeamish, especially if you don't know what Ralston did to cut himself free.
Due Date - Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis on the road trip from hell as constructed by The Hangover director Todd Philips. Jaime Foxx and Michelle Monaghan costar.
Fair Game - No, Doug Liman's (The Bourne Identity) film is not a remake of the Cindy Crawford action bomb, but is instead a dramatic thriller based on the events surrounding CIA spy Valerie Plame's outing by White House officials. Naomi Watts and Sean Penn star. Expect Fox News to cry foul. A lot. And very, very loudly.
Megamind - Dreamworks 3D animated epic about two alien beings - one heroic, one not so much - battling it out for the attentions of the Earth's populace. Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, and Tina Fey provide the voices.
My Dog Tulip - Animated import about a man who rescues a German Shepherd, leading to their eventual friendship.
Tamara Drewe - Stephen Frears' (The Queen, The Grifters) latest concerns a young journalist (Gemma Arterton) returning to her childhood home to find it up for sale.
Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf - It's a Tyler Perry movie. It will not screen for critics. It features a large all-star African American cast. It will be a hit. It will also probably be terrible.
Morning Glory - Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson, and Harrison Ford team up for a television newsroom comedy under the direction of Roger Michell, the man behind such multifaceted winners as Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, and Venus.
Skyline - In what looks like a cheap Syfy Channel doomsday knockoff but with better effects, the guys behind Alien vs. Predator: Requiem spin a yarn about bright lights in the sky, foreshadowing an alien invasion we apparently asked for.
Unstoppable - Director Tony Scott and actor Denzel Washington re-team for the fifth time, bringing us a thriller about an out-of-control locomotive carrying combustible materials and the dedicated engineer driven to stop it before it causes citywide devastation.
Waste Land - Director Lucy Walker's (Countdown to Zero) superb documentary about music, art, community, and the transformational power all of them can have on the human condition.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I - The Boy Who Lived faces off against He Who Cannot Be Named for the final time - sort of. The climax of their showdown doesn't actually happen until the sequel, released next July.
The Next Three Days - A whirlwind murder mystery directed by Oscar-winner Paul Haggis (Crash) and starring Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, Elizabeth Banks, and the always great Brian Dennehy.
Vision - Independent horror offering about a lethal DVD. Hey, remember when they told this same story, only it was a VHS tape and involved a reeaallly creepy little girl with incredibly stringy hair?
Burlesque - Cher. Christina Aguilera. Alan Cumming. Stanley Tucci. Kristen Bell. Cam Gigandet. Music. Costumes. Makeup. Feathers. Right now, every single musical-loving Gay man (as well as a fair share of Lesbians and drag queens) reading this newspaper just doubled over in ecstatic hyperkinetic euphoria. As for the rest of us? We're looking to buy some earplugs.
Faster - The Rock returns to his down and dirty action roots, teaming up with Billy Bob Thornton for a supposedly very violent story about an ex-con looking to avenge his younger brother's death.
The King's Speech - Oscar buzz is all over this one, everyone from Venice to Telluride to Toronto screaming that director Tom Hooper's follow up to The Damned United is only the year's second Best Picture lock next to Chris Nolan's Inception. I kind of hope this is true, because if so that means star Colin Firth has a great shot at picking up the Best Actor award he lost out to Jeff Bridges last year.
Love and Other Drugs - More Oscar bait, this time one featuring Anne Hathaway as a young Parkinson's sufferer who enters into a quirky, unpredictable romance with a self-centered drug company rep played by Jake Gyllenhaal.
Tangled - Rapunzel finally lets down her hair in this 3D CG animated effort from Disney. Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi provide the voices.
Marwencol - Simply awesome documentary about Mark Hogancamp, a man who loses his memory after a brutal attack and then proceeds to create the fictional WWII world of Marwencol using Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls as tools to hopefully recover it.
Black Swan - Have you seen the trailer for Darren Aronofsky's (The Wrestler) latest? I swear it looks like The Red Shoes but on acid. Natalie Portman reportedly gives a brilliant performance in a film I'm absolutely aching right down into my marrow to get a chance to see.
I Love You, Philip Morris - Delayed for what seems like an eternity, this Jim Carrey/Ewan McGregor prison romance-drama-comedy hybrid finally gets a domestic release, more than likely for about a week before its distributor unceremoniously shuffles it off to DVD.
Miral - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly director Julian Schnabel tackles Arab-Israeli conflict by centering his story on an orphaned Palestinian girl thrust right into the center of all the carnage.
Tibet in Song - Tibetan documentary about recent struggles to gain freedom from Chinese rule and about the nation's people and culture as told through song.
The Warrior's Way - Eastern meets Western in this tale of an Asian assassin trying to find peace and tranquility in the wilds of the American west.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - The third foray into author C.S. Lewis' mystical world, only this time it is Fox, not Disney, holding the purse strings while director Michael Apted (Gorky Park, Gorillas in the Mist) takes over for the departing Andrew Adamson who helmed the previous two adventures.
The Fighter - Biopic about boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo and directed by the fiery and controversial David O. Russell (Three Kings, Spanking the Monkey).
The Tourist - In his first film since the remarkable The Lives of Others, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ensnares Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in a Hitchcockian web of mistaken identity, espionage, and romance where nothing is as it seems and everything is in question. One of December's most intriguing titles.
White Material - French auteur Claire Denis (Chocolate, Nenette and Boni) returns with another African adventure, this one filled with civil and racial conflict and starring the always incomparable Isabelle Huppert.
How Do You Know - Typically crazy James L. Brooks (Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment) stew involving a former star softball player (Reese Witherspoon), a self-centered pro baseball sensation (Owen Wilson), and a corporate stooge in the middle of a midlife crisis (Paul Rudd). Jack Nicholson also stars, and considering this is a Brooks film, he'll probably get an Oscar nomination just for showing up.
Made in Dagenham - A dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant starring Miranda Richardson, Bob Hoskins, Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike, and Rupert Graves that I have heard absolutely nothing about.
The Tempest - Director Julie Taymor (Titus, Across the Universe) tackles one of Shakespeare's craziest plays, casting Helen Mirren (in a bit of a gender switch) in the title role.
Tron: Legacy - Almost three decades after the original changed computer graphics in film forever, Disney returns to the gaming grid with this a filmed in 3D epic starring a returning Jeff Bridges in guises both young and old.
Yogi Bear - Dan Aykroyd is Yogi. Justin Timberlake is Boo-Boo. Anna Farris is just picking up a paycheck. You don't have to be smarter than the average bear to know this one's going to be a disaster.
Gulliver's Travels - A new take on the Jonathan Swift classic featuring Jack Black and Emily Blunt. Monsters vs. Aliens director Rob Letterman makes his live action debut.
Little Fockers - Part three in the ongoing war of wills between Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. Apparently, everyone, including Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand, return for what will hopefully be the Focker family's last focking adventure.
Somewhere - Another drifty mood piece about celebrity and & well, I'm not quite sure, from Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola, and based on the buzz out of Venice, I'm not sure those who have seen it know, either.
True Grit - Coen Brothers remake of the John Wayne's 1969 Oscar-winning classic will supposedly steer closer to Charles Portis' source material. The actors along for the roundup include Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.
The Debt - Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Worthington, and Ciarán Hinds in a thriller about three former Israeli Mossad agents who must discover whether or not they killed the wrong man by mistake 30 years prior.
Blue Valentine - Cryptic, non-linear romantic saga about a married couple's (Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams) highs and lows as seen through the spiraling kaleidoscope of time.
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