The holiday movie season kicks off this week with one of the biggest movies of the year, the second-to-last in the Harry Potter series. Here are some of the movies I am most looking forward to for the rest of this year:
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (November 19) He who most not be named has hidden pieces of his soul in seven different places that must be found so he can be vanquished for good. Harry, Ron, and Hermione leave their beloved Hogwarts for a treacherous and terrifying journey as the final battle looms.
Burlesque (November 24) Cher is the old-timer who coaches would-be performer Christina Aguilera in this big-talent, skimpy-costumes diva-thon, also starring Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, and Alan Cumming.
Love and Other Drugs (November 24) Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal reunite (they were an unhappy couple in “Brokeback Mountain”) in this very sexy love story set in the midst of the boom in pharmaceutical marketing during the early years of anxiety and ED medication. Director Edward Zwick (“thirtysomething,” “Legends of the Fall,” “Blood Diamond”) expertly blends comedy, romance, sex, and healthcare into one of the most moving films of the year.
Tangled Just one last fairy tale princess had not yet had the full-on Disney treatment, so now Rapunzel gets her turn. Mandy Moore provides the voice of the princess in the tower who believes that the evil witch who kidnapped her is her mother and “Chuck’s” Zachary Levi is the swashbuckling thief who discovers her when he is trying to find a place to hide. With Pixar’s John Lasseter in charge and a tuneful score from Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast”) this will be a treat for the whole family.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (December 10) The third in the C.S. Lewis series finds Lucy and Edmund Pevensie returning to Narnia through an enchanted painting. Prince Caspian, now king, takes them on a boat called the Dawn Trader to find the seven lords his evil uncle banished from Narnia years before.
The King’s Speech (December 10, limited release) Colin Firth is a lock for a second Best Actor nomination in a row in this true story of King George VI (father of the current Queen Elizabeth) who needed help with his speech impediment when his brother resigned and he unexpectedly became the country’s leader just as WWII was beginning. Geoffrey Rush plays the highly unorthodox speech therapist and Helena Bonham Carter is utterly charming as the Queen.
How Do You Know (December 17) James L. Brooks, the man behind “Terms of Endearment,” “Broadcast News,” and “As Good as it Gets” knows how to make us care about characters with big flaws who struggle to find love. Reese Witherspoon plays a former athlete torn between a baseball player (Owen Wilson) and a disgraced executive (Paul Rudd), co-starring Brooks’ lucky charm, Jack Nicholson.
Tron: Legacy (December 17) This fanboy favorite is the sequel to the 1982 cult classic starring Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner as men who became characters in a racing computer game. The original was ahead of its time but the sequel (in 3D, of course) looks as though that time is finally here, with eye candy galore as the son of Bridges’ character (Garrett Hedlund) enters the game through an old arcade machine and finds his father. Bridges and Boxleitner return and are joined by Olivia Wilde and Michael Sheen and a lot of special effects that really look very special.
Gulliver’s Travels (December 22) Jack Black plays Gulliver, whose journey takes him to a land where the people are all about six inches tall in this film based on the Jonathan Swift classic novel. The cast includes Emily Blunt (“The Devil Wears Prada”) as the princess and Jason Segal.
True Grit (December 22) The Coen brothers are behind this remake of the film that brought John Wayne an Oscar, a western about a little girl who hires a gunman to find the man who killed her father. Matt Damon and “No Country for Old Men” star Josh Brolin join promising newcomer Hallee Steinfeld in what is sure to be a post-post-modern take on the Old West.
Country Strong (in limited release December 22) Gwyneth Paltrow learned to play guitar for this story of a country singer trying for a comeback. Real-life country star (and fine actor) Tim McGraw plays her husband and Leighton Meester plays a beauty-queen and upcoming singer.
Casino Jack (in limited release December 29) Kevin Spacey plays lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was one of the most powerful and connected men in Washington until it turned out he was a crook.
Also coming up and worth noting: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in “The Tourist,” a thriller about a traveler who becomes caught up in intrigue and adventure when he meets a beautiful woman; “Tiny Furniture,” the acclaimed debut from 24-year-old writer/director/star Lena Dunham based on her own experience of trying to find her way after graduation — and co-starring her own mother and best friend and filmed in her parents’ apartment; “Made in Dagenham,” the true story of the fight for equal pay for women in 1968 England, starring Sally Hawkins and Miranda Richardson; “Nutcracker in 3D,” the classic ballet filmed in immersive splendor; “Black Swan,” a twisted story about ambition and power set in a ballet company, starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis; “Night Catches Us,” about a former Black Panther returning home in 1976 for his father’s funeral and confronting painful memories, with Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington; “The Company Men,” with Ben Affleck as a downsized executive trying to find a way to move forward, “The Illusionist” is the latest animated film from the people who made the fabulous “Triplets of Belleville;” and “Saturday Night,” a documentary about what goes on behind the scenes at “Saturday Night Live,” directed by “127 Hours” and “Howl” star and all-around polymath James Franco.