Holiday Movie Preview: 23 Intriguing Films (and over 40 Others)

  • Publish Date: November 9, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments

Friday, December 2


Steve McQueen’s follow-up to 2008’s Hunger 82 re-teams the director with that film’s star, Michael Fassbender, but this time the setting is present-day New York, and the one-word title refers to a different physical and emotional toll: sexual addiction. Fassbender plays Brandon, whose life is disrupted when his sister Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan, asks to stay at his apartment. Praise has been almost universal for the film and for Fassbender’s performance, for which he was named best actor at the Venice Film Festival. The only thing that might prevent him from having a chance to duplicate that feat at the Oscars is the film's NC-17 rating.


Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's revenge tale Coriolanus LA/NY, which gets a one-week Oscar-qualifying tryout before returning to theaters on January 20.

A departure for director Luc Besson, biopic The Lady LIMITED stars Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Australian novelist Julia Leigh's debut film, the Cannes-screened Sleeping Beauty LIMITED, stars Emily Browning as a university student who performs a special service at a high-end brothel.

Outrage LIMITED is a return to the violent, deadpan rhythms of director and star Takeshi Kitano's earlier crime films.

Dane Cook (yes, the comedian) and Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) star in Answers to Nothing LIMITED, a Los Angeles-set drama revolving around a child’s kidnapping.

Documentary Knuckle LIMITED spends over a decade inside the Irish Traveller community, with a focus on bare-knuckle boxing.

Khodorkovsky LIMITED (11/30) examines the eventful life of Russian billionaire-turned political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Based on the novel by Luke Whisnant, Watching TV with the Red Chinese LIMITED centers on three Chinese students who struggle to adapt to their new lives in New York in the summer of 1980.

Friday, December 9

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Watch Trailer

Based on the Jean le Carré novel of the same name, the Cold War thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy looks at the “Circus,” the highest level of the Secret Intelligence Service, and veteran spy George Smiley’s attempt to uncover a Soviet mole within the organization. Gary Oldman plays Smiley, and he’s joined by an incredible cast of actors including Colin Firth, Tobey Jones, Ciarán Hinds, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hardy. Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In 82) directs, and early reviews have been good.

We Need to Talk About Kevin LIMITED Watch Trailer

Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel We Need To Talk About Kevin stars Tilda Swinton as a mother struggling to come to terms with the horrible actions taken by her sociopathic son, played by Afterschool’s Ezra Miller. John C. Reilly plays the father, and Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood provides the score (as he did for There Will Be Blood). This is Ramsay’s first film since 2002’s Morvern Callar 78, and her style combined with the difficult subject matter almost guarantees this will be a challenging film that could indeed have people talking.

Young Adult LIMITED; OPENS WIDE DEC. 16 Watch Trailer

If it works once, why not try it again? Jason Reitman and his Juno 81 screenwriter Diablo Cody combine forces again for the dramedy Young Adult, which stars Charlize Theron as a recently divorced young-adult fiction writer who returns home to rekindle her high school relationship with Patrick Wilson. One small problem (or is it?): he happens to be married with kids. Supporting the leads are Elizabeth Reaser as Wilson’s wife, and Patton Oswalt as a former classmate of Theron’s. J.K. Simmons (who played Juno’s dad) narrates.


Like its critically derided predecessor Valentine's Day, Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve is an ensemble rom-com telling a variety of stories that unfold on a single (holi)day; the large cast includes Robert de Niro, Halle Berry, Katherine Heigl, Jon Bon Jovi, and Ashton Kutcher.

A raunchier take on the Adventures in Babysitting formula, The Sitter finds Jonah Hill supervising three kids on an out-of-control adventure through New York City; David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) directs.

It's a good thing that Madonna has a new album coming out in 2012; it may help fans forget about her second directorial effort, the historical romance W.E. LA/NY, which took a beating from critics after screening at the Venice Film Festival.

Acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland's Polish-language Oscar hopeful In Darkness LIMITED is a claustrophobic Holocaust tale about a profiteer who helps Jews evade Nazi capture in the sewers of German-occupied Poland.

Four one-time college buddies (Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven, and Christian McKay) reunite and freak out in Mark Pellington’s divisive I Melt with You LIMITED.

Three beautiful women and a drug deal gone wrong are at the heart of Catch .44 LIMITED, which sounds like a straight-to-video crime drama except that it is actually screening in theaters; the above-average cast includes Bruce Willis, Forest Whitaker, and Malin Akerman.

Bollywood rom-com Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl LIMITED centers on a womanizing con man who finally meets his match.

Friday, December 16

Carnage LIMITED Watch Trailer

Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s darkly comedic play God of Carnage generated major buzz at its premiere in Venice, and early reviews have been fairly strong. The story unfolds in a single evening as the parents of two boys who got in a fight after school come together to discuss the incident. Let’s just say the parents aren’t too well behaved, either. The cast includes Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as one couple and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as the other. Polanski filmed in Paris and luckily did not have to complete it while in jail as he did his last film, The Ghost Writer 77.

Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol IMAX ONLY; ELSEWHERE ON DEC. 21 Watch Trailer

The fourth Mission: Impossible film has several things going for it (though its awkward title isn't one of them). First is director Brad Bird, who is both new to the series and new to live-action directing, though he's certainly no amateur, given that his resume includes such critically acclaimed films as The Incredibles 90 and The Iron Giant 85. Throw in action sequences that were partially shot with large-format IMAX cameras in locations ranging from Dubai to Moscow, and a strong cast that adds Jeremy Renner and Tom Wilkinson alongside returnees Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames, and we might be willing to overlook Cruise's recent mediocre streak and the fact that Ghost Protocol has four credited writers. The film will open early on 250 IMAX screens on Friday the 16th (preceded by a six-minute preview of The Dark Knight Rises in 70mm IMAX venues) before moving into regular theaters the following Wednesday.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Watch Trailer

Director Guy Ritchie and stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams all return for their second go at the legendary literary character Sherlock Holmes. This time they are joined by Noomi Rapace as a gypsy, Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, and Jared Harris as Sherlock’s arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty. This time, the action carries over to France, as Holmes attempts to uncover a vast conspiracy that could change the course of history.


Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are stranded on a deserted island and must battle each other to the death is how we wish the actual plot summary of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked would read; instead, the trio (and humans Jason Lee, David Cross, and Jenny Slate) merely get caught in a wacky, high-pitched adventure after their ship runs aground.

The documentary Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel LIMITED looks at the life and career of legendary filmmaker Roger Corman.

Documentary Addiction Incorporated NY (12/14) examines the career of the Philip Morris research scientist who ultimately became the star witness against the tobacco industry.

Wednesday, December 21

The Adventures of Tintin Watch Trailer

The first of Steven Spielberg's two Christmas-week releases is already a massive hit around the globe after opening in a few dozen countries over the past two weeks. Based on Belgian artist Hergé's Tintin comic books (which have long been popular in Europe), this 3D, performance-capture, computer-animated adventure follows a young reporter and his trusty dog around the world as they investigate a mystery relating to a model ship. The vocal cast includes Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, and—it is a mo-cap film, after all—Andy Serkis, while the credited writers include Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Steven Moffat (Doctor Who, Sherlock), and Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). Peter Jackson, who produced this film with Spielberg, will direct the sequel, though not until he completes the Hobbit films.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Watch Trailer

David Fincher directs Steve Zaillian’s English-language adaptation of the first of Stieg Larsson’s three novels featuring Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, and what are we supposed to expect? The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas. The film’s release will finally end a clever marketing run that’s included a leaked red-band teaser, an old-school long trailer, a controversial (NSFW) poster, many magazine spreads, and multiple websites that eventually led to a scavenger hunt. Rooney Mara takes on the role that brought Noomi Rapace international acclaim in the original Swedish film adaptation, and Daniel Craig plays Blomkvist, while Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson, Goran Visnjic, Embeth Davidtz, Joel Kinnaman, and Steven Berkoff round out the international cast.

Friday, December 23

We Bought a Zoo Watch Trailer

A strong cast headlined by Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson (and also featuring Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning, and Patrick Fugit) marks Cameron Crowe's return to dramatic filmmaking for the first time since 2005's tepid Elizabethtown 45. Based on the memoir by Benjamin Mee, the literally titled We Bought a Zoo centers on a man who unexpectedly moves his family to a run-down zoo (in California, rather than the book's England) and attempts to bring it back to life while his wife is dying from cancer. (It's less depressing than it sounds.) Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi provides the score.


Angelina Jolie's debut as writer/director, In the Land of Blood and Honey LIMITED looks at how the Bosnian War impacts the relationship of a Serbian soldier and a Bosnian woman.

With Pina LIMITED, Wim Wenders uses 3D to celebrate the life and work of the legendary choreographer Pina Bausch.

The 3D Indian action thriller Don 2 LIMITED is a sequel to 2006's Don: The Chase Begins Again.

Sunday, December 25

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close LIMITED Watch Trailer

The second Jonathan Safran Foer novel to get a big-screen adaptation (after Everything Is Illuminated), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close centers on a precocious young boy (newcomer Thomas Horn) who sets off on a journey through New York City after discovering a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the 9/11 attacks. Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock also star for director Stephen Daldry (The Hours), working from a script by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump).

War Horse Watch Trailer

Steven Spielberg makes his bid for another best picture nomination with this adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel. Spielberg was actually inspired to make the film after seeing a production of Nick Stafford's award-winning stage adaptation in London (now a hit on Broadway as well). The story revolves around the relationship between Albert (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) and his horse, Joey, during World War I. The strong supporting cast includes Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Thewlis, and Niels Arestrup.


3D alien invasion thriller The Darkest Hour finds Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby among a group of five young people stranded in Moscow when aliens attack.

Friday, December 30

The Iron Lady LA/NY Watch Trailer

Meryl Streep puts on her best English accent (and some bad dental work) to play former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in a biopic that reunites the actress with her Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd. The remainder of the cast is actually British, with Jim Broadbent in the biggest secondary role as Thatcher's husband. Streep might be a sure thing as an Oscar nominee, but the film will just barely qualify for this year's awards by squeezing in a few showings in Los Angeles and New York beginning on December 30. Expect a nationwide release on January 13.


Winner of the cinematography award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Dee Rees' debut feature Pariah LIMITED (12/28) looks at the struggles of Alike, a African-American teenager beginning to embrace her lesbianism.

The Iranian family drama A Separation LIMITED won five awards (including the Golden Bear) at this year's Berlin International Film Festival.

The small Rocky Mountain town of Angels Crest LIMITED is torn apart when tragedy strikes a young father (Thomas Dekker) who is trying to raise his 3-year-old son amid trying circumstances.

TBD December

Albert Nobbs LA/NY Watch Trailer

Glenn Close stars as a woman who lives in disguise as a man for two decades to secure decent work at a Dublin hotel in male-dominated 19th century Ireland, but comes to regret the decision to do so after falling in love. Close won an Obie for playing the same role on stage in the play The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs during the 1980s, and the actress herself adapted the play for the screen, along with John Banville (Booker Prize-winning novelist of The Sea). Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer, and Brendan Gleeson also star, while Rodrigo García (Mother and Child 64) directs. The film will open nationwide in late January after a brief Oscar-qualifying run toward the end of December (aimed, primarily, at getting Close an acting nomination).


Zhang Yimou's historical drama The Flowers of War LA/NY, starring Christian Bale, will also get a limited Oscar-qualifying run at some point in December before opening wider in the new year.

What do you think?

Which films are you looking forward to this holiday season? (Or does the lineup lack anything that interests you?) Let us know in the comments section below. For a frequently updated listing of all upcoming film releases by date, including films arriving in 2012, visit our Movie Calendar.

Comments (3)

  • evanhenry  

    I love this movie! It is quite different than regular one.
    Kitchen Cabinet Design

  • RickFlairbombed  

    "We need to talk about Kevin" is the most intriguing of all these films. Johnny Greenwood was screwed out of a much deserved film score for There Will Be Blood, and John C. Reilly playing a serious role in what sounds like a very bleak film will be worth seeing. Unfortunately it's a limited release, but if it gets enough acclaim, could move to more mainstream theaters.

  • Happymonk  

    I've already seen Tin-Tin, it is very good. I'm surprised it's taken this long for it to come out in America (and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, that's already stopped showing in the UK).

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