RadioBDC Logo
Dangerous | Big Data Listen Live
THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

With '80s vibe, Hollywood retraces its steps

Get Adobe Flash player
By Wesley Morris and Ty Burr
Globe Staff / September 11, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

The upcoming movie season feels a bit like the second half of the 1980s, when studios were making big dramas and comedies, often with major stars. Those movies weren’t terribly risky but they were also satisfying entertainments that people wanted to see. Consider “Moneyball,’’ based on Michael Lewis’s baseball bestseller and starring Brad Pitt. Or “The Ides of March,’’ with George Clooney (who directed) starring as a presidential candidate.

Biopics were very ’80s (“Gandhi,’’ “Out of Africa’’). This season we have Leonardo DiCaprio as a certain FBI director in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar.’’ Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender play, respectively, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method’’ (Keira Knightley plays their patient).

No one’s more ’80s than Steven Spielberg. The end of the year offers a double helping. Spielberg’s motion-capture version of the Tintin comic books opens three days before his “War Horse,’’ an epic about a boy’s thoroughbred conscripted into military service.

Glenn Close and Meryl Streep duke it out again for chief grande dame of cinema stardom. Close plays a 19th-century Irishwoman who, for a good job, disguises herself as a man in “Albert Nobbs.’’ So you’re probably thinking: “The Oscar is hers.’’ But now we have to tell you that in “The Iron Lady’’ Streep plays Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher, and it all brings us back to 1980-something when Close and Streep were perennial nominees and - in the minds of some moviegoers - rivals.

How ’80s is this season? There’s a remake of “Footloose.’’

If this all sounds safe, safety might be what we need in these times of crisis, uncertainty, and runaway partisanship. We could all use some help. Wait, that movie’s already come out, and it could use some help itself.

So here’s a list of titles scheduled to open in area theaters between now and the end of the year. Dates are subject to change.

SEPTEMBER 16

Drive “The Fast and the Furious’’ for espresso-sipping hipsters. Ryan Gosling, still glowing from “Crazy, Stupid, Love.’’ plays an unnamed stunt driver hired by a crime syndicate. Carey Mulligan - little Miss “Education’’ herself - is the single mother he aims to protect. Danish whiz-kid Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bronson,’’ the “Pusher’’ trilogy) directs at Mach 10.

Farmageddon - The War on American Family Farms Making her filmmaking debut, Concord resident Kristin Canty offers up this documentary on agribusiness’s assault on small farmers.

Gun Hill Road Esai Morales plays Enrique, a paroled ex-convict trying to make things right with his wife, Angela (Judy Reyes), and son, Michael (Harmony Santana). Since the latter now goes by Vanessa, there are issues. An inner-city melodrama that comes off the festival circuit buoyed by tearfully happy audience reaction.

I Don’t Know How She Does It Underrated director Doug McGrath (“Nicholas Nickelby,’’ “Infamous’’) brings Alison Pearson’s novel to the screen starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Kate Reddy, hedge fund manager, mother of two, and breadwinner for husband Greg Kinnear. It’s a comedy, but so, allegedly, was “Sex and the City 2.’’ Parker’s career could use the lift and so could we.

The Interrupters The latest galvanizing slice of Chicago life from documentarian Steve James (“Hoop Dreams’’) follows CeaseFire, a group of local activists who intercede in gang conflicts and teach resolution. In case you wanted a movie about actual heroes instead of psychos in Spandex.

The Lion King 3D A move so obvious it has to work. Plus: Opening-day attendees will receive a pair of Simba 3-D glasses.

Straw Dogs A remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah potboiler in which Dustin Hoffman and Susan George fight off English inhospitality. Somewhat predictably, the director Rod Lurie transfers the action to the American South. His hillbillification stars James Marsden and Kate Bosworth as the couple, and Alexander Skarsgard as the hunky harasser. An act of chutzpah that has “are you kidding me’’ written all over it.

SEPTEMBER 23

Abduction A workout video in which the “Twilight’’ star Taylor Lautner shows us how to flatten and sculpt our tummies. Wait. One second, please. Uh huh. Uh huh. Gotcha. So apparently, this is an action movie directed by John Singleton in which Lautner runs around with his shirt on. The title had us confused. Sorry about that.

Dolphin Tale This live-action family film brings us a boy (Nathan Gamble) who crusades for a prosthetic tail for his dolphin friend. Directed by the actor Charles Martin Smith, the movie stars Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, and, as a prosthetics genius, Morgan Freeman, whose terribly C. Everett Koop-look here might be much too much for the planned 3-D.

Happy Happy Or: “Adultery, Norwegian-Style.’’ Two neighboring couples, both married with kids, combine and recombine in lustfully neurotic ways. A bleakly comic Sundance prizewinner whose original Norwegian title translates as “sickeningly ecstatic.’’

Killer Elite No relation to the 1975 Sam Peckinpah spy thriller of the same name, this action drama pits special-ops fighter Jason Statham and grizzled mentor Robert De Niro against the head of a secret military society (Clive Owen). As they used to say on “SNL,’’ Que es mas macho? Expect millions of spent shell casings and maybe a glimmer of intelligence.

Limelight Finally, the documentary in which the 1980s Manhattan club owner Peter Gaiten sets the record straight about his years at the center of New York’s nightlife. Presumably this would include his deportation to Canada.

Moneyball Michael Lewis’s very good book about how the Oakland A’s and their general manger, Billy Beane, applied a lot of analytics to make its franchise work. How that plays as a movie is a mystery. One assumes having a screenplay credited to Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian gets you part of the way there, and casting Brad Pitt as Beane gets you the rest. Directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote’’). With Philip Seymour Hoffman and, for comic relief, Jonah Hill as Beane’s protégé.

SEPTEMBER 30

50/50 When a healthy young guy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gets a cancer diagnosis, his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), his therapist (Anna Kendrick), and mother (Anjelica Huston) help him cope. No one helps more than his best friend (Seth Rogen). This might be “Terms of Endearment’’ aimed at 27-year-olds, which means that the Shirley MacLaine character isn’t Huston. It’s Rogen. Directed by Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness’’).

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 A documentary dumpster dive that collates rare archival footage, shot over eight years by Swedish TV crews, of the US Black Power movement in ascension and decline. Seeing Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, and Eldridge Cleaver without a filter of US media hysteria is revelatory.

Courageous Four policemen come to terms with their duties as law enforcement officers, friends, and fathers in the latest inspirational melodrama from director Alex Kendrick and Christian-oriented Sherwood Pictures (“Fireproof’’).

Dream House Is Daniel Craig a happily married dad or a mental patient who may have killed his wife (Rachel Weisz) and children? Neighbor Naomi Watts isn’t telling and neither is the trailer, which makes this thriller from Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot’’) look like “Family Reunion on Shutter Island.’’ At least Weisz felt safe enough around Craig to marry him in real life.

Machine Gun Preacher Are you a Sudanese orphan in need of protection from the Lord’s Resistance Army killers? Well, here comes Gerard Butler, playing Sam Childers, an American biker and former addict who in the early 1990s had a religious conversion that sent him to Darfur. A drama, directed by Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland,’’ “Quantum of Solace’’), with Michael Shannon, Kathy Baker, and, as Mrs. Childers, Michelle Monaghan.

Margaret The story behind writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s truly long-awaited follow-up to 2000’s “You Can Count on Me’’ may be more notable than what’s onscreen. A drama about the emotional crisis of a Manhattan high school girl (Anna Paquin, 22 when the film was shot in 2005), “Margaret’’ has been the subject of two lawsuits and endless recuts, including one overseen by Lonergan-supporter Martin Scorsese - although no one seems sure which version will finally hit theaters. Matt Damon, Olivia Thirlby, and J. Smith Cameron costar.

Restless Gus Van Sant directed this weepy romance between two young eccentrics played by Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper, Dennis’s son. Adapted by Jason Lew from his play.

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil In this horror-comedy, some spring-breaking teens go on a mistaken rampage when they think two hillbillies (Alan Tudyck, Taylor Labine) have kidnapped one of their girlfriends.

What’s Your Number Frustrated single gal reviews her last 20 boyfriends to see if she missed Mr. Right. She’s assisted in her task by a handsome but loutish neighbor who just may turn out to be - wait, let’s not give it away. A Katherine Heigl movie that unaccountably stars Anna Faris. Chris “Captain America’’ Evans plays the lout.

OCTOBER 7

Blackthorn An intriguing western mood piece about the aging Butch Cassidy (Sam Shepard), who rides out of Bolivia to visit his long-lost son with Etta Place. On the way he tangles with a young fugitive (Eduardo Noriega) and a Pinkerton detective (Stephen Rea). Spain’s Mateo Gil, writer of “Vanilla Sky’’ and “The Sea Inside,’’ directs.

Dirty Girl The British actress Juno Temple plays a slatternly Oklahoma teen on a road trip to Los Angeles with a gay pal (Jeremy Dozier). She’s looking for her birth father. Written and directed by Abe Sylvia, and with Milla Jovovich as the teen’s mother.

The Ides of March George Clooney directed, stars in, and co-wrote this presidential campaign drama with ye olde all-star cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Giamatti, and Ryan Gosling, as a backstabbing staffer. The idea of Clooney for president might be too depressing for Obama supporters. Clooney does appear to have it all, even the constant Warren Beatty comparisons. But if he’s truly Beatty’s second coming, where, oh, where is his Jack Warden?

Mozart’s Sister In René Féret’s dramatic re-imagining, we discover that Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart (Marie Féret, René’s daughter) might have been as talented as her younger brother, who’s played by David Moreau.

Real Steel In some parallel universe in which boxing is done by Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Hugh Jackman gets to train its Rocky. He’s egged on by the spunky 11-year-old son (Dakota Goyo) he didn’t know he had.

Thunder Soul In the mid-1970s, Houston’s Kashmere High School Stage Band became the Kashmere Stage Band, which spent a memorable chunk of the decade as a funk powerhouse whose percussion, bass, and horns are almost as foundational for some hip-hop as James Brown’s. This documentary reunites a lot of the players for the first time in 35 years.

The Way Emilio Estevez directs his father, Martin Sheen, in a drama about a man who takes the Way of St. James pilgrimage in the hope of understanding his dead son. Start your Charlie Sheen metaphors now.

OCTOBER 14

The Big Year Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Steve Martin play three competitors in an annual bird watching tournament that sends participants on a year-long hunt to identify the most species. Based on a very entertaining work of nonfiction, “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession’’ by the journalist Mark Obmascik.

Footloose Yes, we know: How dare they remake the ’80s cheese classic while the greatness that is Kevin Bacon still walks among us? Dancer Kenny Wormald plays the rebel teen who moves into a town where singin’, dancin’, and just havin’ fun are taboo. Dennis Quaid is the meanypants town preacher and Andie MacDowell plays his wife: Gen Xers, prepare to feel old. Written and directed by Craig Brewer, who gave us 2005’s “Hustle and Flow.’’

The Skin I Live In The 19th feature (more or less) from Spain’s unstoppable Pedro Almodovar is something different: An art-house thriller that reunites the director with actor Antonio Banderas for the first time since 1990’s “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!’’ The star plays a brilliant plastic surgeon whose thirst for revenge leads him into territory depraved even for Almodovar. Bone up by screening George Franju’s 1960 art-horror classic “Eyes Without a Face.’’

The Thing Despite the title, this isn’t a remake of John Carpenter’s gory 1982 cult remake of 1951’s classic “The Thing From Another World.’’ It’s a prequel, OK? Mary Elizabeth Winstead (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’’) does her best Ellen Ripley as a scientist stuck in an Antarctic research station with an alien shape-shifter.

Toast A teenager (Freddie Highmore) competes with his stepmother (Helena Bonham Carter) for the affection of his father (Ken Stott), through his stomach, which winds up making him very ill. And not emotionally. Based on the memoir of the food writer Nigel Slater, who maybe should have called it “Running With Pies.’’

OCTOBER 21

Margin Call It’s late 2008: Do you know where your economy is? A low-level risk analyst (Zachary Quinto, “Star Trek’’) gets a glimpse of oncoming disaster when he inherits a data-filled USB stick from a departing boss. Half financial thriller, half multi-character melodrama, the film has a powerhouse cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, and Penn Badgley.

Martha Marcy May Marlene More than once, some of us have seen this movie - about a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) who escapes a religious cult - and still can’t remember the proper title. The escapee winds up in the home of her sister (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), causing the expected complications: They can’t get that name right, either. Sean Durkin wrote and directed this film, his first. With John Hawkes as the cult’s leader, naturally.

The Mill and the Cross They’ve adapted novels, plays, video games, and theme park rides into movies - why not a Flemish Renaissance painting? Pieter Bruegel’s 1564 “The Procession to Calvary’’ is brought to plotless, eye-dazzling life by filmmaker Lech Majewski. Featuring Charlotte Rampling and Rutger Hauer as Bruegel, it’s an art-house special in every sense.

Paranormal Activity 3 Increasingly, the objective word is “normal.’’

Take Shelter Oh, Michael Shannon, we should all know that if anyone’s going to make a movie about a man suffering from either real apocalyptic visions or actual dementia, that movie should star only you. So, kudos to the writer and director Jeff Nichols, who follows basic common sense and casts you. We should also have known that such a movie would also star Jessica Chastain as Mrs. Shannon. You will try to escape her this year, and you will fail. Talk about paranormal activity.

Three Musketeers Geez Louise, now they’re just adapting candy bars? This one stars Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, Juno Temple, Milla Jovovich, and Christoph Waltz. Do they know?

OCTOBER 28

Anonymous Roland Emmerich wrangles the likes of Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis, Derek Jacobi, and Vanessa Redgrave for a shadowy political thriller whose tagline asks, “Was William Shakespeare a fraud?’’ Over the years, it’s been tempting to ask the same about Emmerich.

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life Was Serge Gainsbourg France’s answer to Dylan? French comics wunderkind Joann Sfar has adapted his own graphic novel about the life of the protean, multi-talented singer-actor of the ’60s and ’70s. With Eric Elmosnino as Gainsbourg and Laetitia Casta as part-time lover Brigitte Bardot.

In Time OK, OK, Justin Timberlake’s a movie star. But is he the kind of movie star that can anchor a deadly serious sci-fi thriller about a future where no one ages past 25 and lives to tell about it? In other words, do audiences really want to see Mr. SexyBack in “Logan’s Run’’? And what’s with Amanda Seyfried’s hideous red wig?

Johnny English Reborn Rowan Atkinson tries his nincompoop superspy shtick again. That it wasn’t terribly funny the first time appears to be of little consequence. But there is a part for Gillian Anderson, as a fellow agent. So, really, why complain?

The Rum Diary Hunter S. Thompson’s novel about love, drinking, and envy at an American newspaper in 1950s Puerto Rico is now a Hollywood movie starring - who else? - Johnny Depp. Written and directed by Bruce Robinson (“Withnail and I’’), and costarring Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, and Richard Jenkins.

So Undercover This would be the listing for which it’d be wise to put down that cup of coffee. Miley Cyrus plays a “street-smart, tough private detective’’ hired by the FBI to protect a dopey sorority girl, who in a total lack of inspiration, is not also played by Miley Cyrus. This could turn out to be the worst movie of the fall, but it’s got the best title.

NOVEMBER 4

Like Crazy Drake Doremus’s little indie tale of young love and long-distance passion was the must-see movie of last January’s Sundance, with the actress Felicity Jones (“The Tempest’’) as an instant festival It girl. She plays a British student who falls for young American Anton Yelchin and overstays her visa. The bureaucracy of true love never did run smooth.

My Week With Marilyn In 1957, Marilyn Monroe went to London to film “The Prince and the Showgirl.’’ This movie gives us Michelle Williams as Monroe and focuses on the week she spent being escorted around the city by a member of the crew (Eddie Redmayne) after the departure of her husband, Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). Directed by Simon Curtis. With Emma Watson, Julia Ormond, Judi Dench, and Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier, which, had he not been cast, might have turned him litigious.

Puss in Boots We take Antonio Banderas for granted. It has to stop. Not only could he use a hit, he needs something to remind us that he’s still alive. This “Shrek’’ spin-off and a kinky reunion with Pedro Almodovar ought to do it.

Revenge of the Electric Car Gas-guzzlers have filed restraining orders. A documentary by Chris Paine.

Tower Heist Alan Alda is a Bernie Madoff-style crook, and the working stiffs who ran his apartment building want their pension money back. Security man Ben Stiller leads the heist crew and ex-con Eddie Murphy is the break-in expert, but the cast of this action comedy also includes Tea Leoni, Matthew Broderick, and Casey Affleck. Oh, and Gabourey Sidibe’s Hollywood reward for her work in “Precious’’? She plays a maid.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas Trust me, if you’re in the right, ah, frame of mind for this third ode to the stoner buddies, you won’t even need the 3-D glasses.

NOVEMBER 9

J. Edgar We know what you’re thinking. Leonardo DiCaprio as the legendary head of the FBI? Maybe that woman who plays the gym teacher on “Glee,’’ but Leo? On the other hand, Clint Eastwood’s directing, and if there’s anything we’ve learned over the decades, it’s to trust in Clint. The script by Dustin Lance Black (“Milk’’) is said to focus on Hoover’s early successes and private dramas. Armie Hammer - the Winklevi of “The Social Network’’ - plays Hoover’s very best pal Clyde Tolson.

NOVEMBER 11

Immortals It’s not “300.’’ It’s just brought to you by some people who produced “300’’ and - despite a plot in which a stonemason (Henry Cavill) wars against King Hyperion and stuff - looks almost exactly the same. But in 3-D and with Mickey Rourke as the king.

Jack and Jill Adam Sandler plays his own twin sister in another proudly stupid Sandler farce. Fine, there’s an audience for these things - otherwise they wouldn’t keep making them - but can someone please explain why Al Pacino is here playing himself? Should we stage an intervention or just revoke his Oscar?

Melancholia The end of the world according to Lars von Trier. His version is a stunningly visual tale of two sisters - Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg - on an enormous estate in the days before a runaway planet threatens to collide with Earth. Dunst plays the moody sister whose depression dovetails with all the astronomical doom. In May, she won the best actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Other F Word Andrea Blaugrund’s documentary explores what happens when rock stars become fathers - that they know of, that is.

NOVEMBER 18

Carnage Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning play, “God of Carnage,’’ comes to the screen with its cruel ironies intact, and just to stir the pot, Roman Polanski’s directing. Two couples meet to discuss their young sons’ playground brawl and the evening quickly falls apart. Polanski knows something about tension in close quarters and the casting’s sublime: Kate Winslet and Christophe Waltz as the Cowans and - the mind boggles - Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as the Longstreets.

A Dangerous Method You can have your superhero match-ups. We’ll take the historically-based smackdown between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and his disciple Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) as they vie for the treatment and affections of an attractive young patient (Keira Knightley). David Cronenberg directs and early word is that it’s one of his more cerebral outings. Aside from the spankings.

Happy Feet Two Maybe this sequel will come with the prescription for Paxil we didn’t get with the ecologically dismayed, penguin-infested 2006 original. The featured voices include those of Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Sofia Vergara, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Pink.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy John Le Carré’s 1974 novel, about a retired agent, has been turned into BBC miniseries for both television and radio. This is the first film adaptation. Gary Oldman plays George Smiley. Colin Firth is Bill Haydon. Tom Hardy is Ricki Tarr. Ciarán Hinds is Roy Bland. And John Hurt is, of course, Control. So from a casting standpoint, this promises to be a combination of prime rib and grade-A ham. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, a Swede whose previous film was the chilly vampire romance “Let the Right One in.’’

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 Taking a marketing cue from the “Harry Potter’’ universe, the final book of the “Twilight’’ tetralogy has been split in two, with the second half coming in November 2012. Can even Twi-hards keep the faith that long? Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson), and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) continue to work out their human/vampire/wolfman triangle - and Bella’s carrying a little fangster, so there goes the virginity metaphor - but most of us have long since joined Team I Really Don’t Care. Still, Bill Condon’s directing for the first time since “Dreamgirls.’’

NOVEMBER 23

Arthur Christmas The Aardman Animation folks, whose stop-motion stylings have brought us Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer’’ video, Wallace and Gromit, and “Chicken Run,’’ now offer a tale of Santa’s son, Arthur, who helps deliver a missing present before December 25. James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, and Jim Broadbent supply the voices.

The Artist No, it’s not a biopic about Prince. It’s weirder than even that: a rapturous black-and-white silent drama about a Hollywood star of 1927 (Jean Dujardin) and his romance with a dancer (Berenice Bejo) as the talkies loom. Michael Hazanavicius writes and directs; he and his stars were last seen in the droll “OSS 117’’ spy comedies. There’s style to burn here, and they loved it at Cannes and Telluride.

The Descendants Isn’t it funny? You can go a whole year with no George Clooney, then he can’t be escaped. This film, about a Hawaiian land baron who reconnects with his daughters, teams Clooney with the writer and director Alexander Payne, who hasn’t made a film since 2006’s “Sideways.’’ The pairing sounds right. And it’ll be fascinating to see whether Payne has found the tone necessary to convince us that the wonderfully gawky character actress Judy Greer could be Clooney’s wife.

Hugo Yes, it’s a kind of children’s book. But anyone who’s read it knows the unusual magic afoot and why a man with Martin Scorsese’s eye would have been drawn to it. An orphan (Asa Butterfield) living in a Paris train station befriends an indigent toymaker who turns out to be the great movie pioneer Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley). With any luck, the kid will be a stand-in for Scorsese, and Méliès the director’s artistic yardstick. With Jude Law, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone, and Sacha Baron Cohen.

The Muppets How do you revive an entertainment franchise identified so closely with a creator two decades in the grave? With love, respect, and a ton of guest stars. Actor and Muppet-maniac Jason Segal wrote the script and stars with Amy Adams as the resident humans trying to help Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and the rest battle crusty old Chris Cooper. Danger sign: the presence of credits for digital-effects technicians. This is one project that should be fully felt.

Piranha 3DD That second “D’’ isn’t a typographical error. Whether or not it’s a marketing error remains to be seen.

DECEMBER 2

Answers to Nothing More intertwined LA stories a la “Crash,’’ “Magnolia,’’ and “Short Cuts,’’ courtesy of writer-director Matthew Leutwyler. A missing child case is the connection among the various tales of agony and infidelity, and Dane Cook hopes to break out of his comedy rut with a seriously dark turn.

Outrage Takeshi Kitano’s draws another yakuza bloodbath. Bring goggles.

DECEMBER 9

I Melt With You Mark Pellington’s anti-bromance split Sundance audiences right down the middle, with some loving and others loathing this tale of 40-something pals Rob Lowe, Jeremy Piven, Christian McKay, and Thomas Jane hashing over their failures during a long, debauched weekend.

New Year’s Eve Remember last year’s multi-character romance “Valentine’s Day’’? That went well enough for screenwriter Katherine Fugate and director Garry Marshall to reteam for another holiday. The vast guest list includes Ashton Kutcher, Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron, Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vergara, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, Ice Cube, Julie Andrews - wait, maybe it’s easier to tell you who isn’t in it.

The Sitter Jonah Hill plays a suspended college kid who has a wild night with the kids he doesn’t want to be taking care of. The credits don’t say, but this positively reeks of the old Elisabeth Shue hit “Adventures in Babysitting.’’ The director is David Gordon Green, although a little of the Takeshi Kitano yakuza treatment would be welcome here, too.

W.E. One of the many things to admire about Madonna is that she really doesn’t care what we think. Somehow, she’s directed another film, this one about a young, modern-ish New York loner (Abbie Cornish) who’s obsessed with the socially misunderstood 1940s American socialite Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough). The film leaps between the 1990s and 1940 to tell the women’s stories. One suspects the director sees a little of herself in both.

Young Adult By now a new movie from Jason Reitman (“Juno,’’ “Up in the Air,’’ “Thank You for Not Smoking’’) is an event, and we’re maybe willing to forgive writer Diablo Cody for “Jennifer’s Body.’’ Charlize Theron plays a divorced writer who heads back to her hometown to woo her ex (Patrick Wilson) away from his wife and kids. Yes, she’s unsympathetic. Let’s hope she’s also interesting.

DECEMBER 16

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked In which the digitally-animated rodents with dentist-drill voices are marooned on a desert island. From that premise to God’s ear.

The Iron Lady Meryl Streep plays 1980s British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain in what promises to be a very tart biopic directed by Phyllida Lloyd, she of posh stage productions and “Mamma Mia!’’ Is this mere stunt-casting or can Streep humanize Thatcher as Helen Mirren did Elizabeth II in “The Queen’’? Early trailers don’t resolve the issue.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Because the first film was such a loud visual mess, it was easy to forget how good Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law were together. Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan, and the director, Guy Ritchie, all return. For round two, Moriarty (Jared Harris) gets in on the action, as does the Swedish star Noomi Rapace, heretofore the original Girl with Dragon Tat- too.

DECEMBER 21

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo You are now invited to forget the three recent Swedish thrillers, all art-house hits, based on Stieg Larsson’s bestsellers and start all over again with this Hollywood revamp. Easy to be cynical, but director David Fincher is coming off the most successful film of his career (“The Social Network’’), and upcoming starlet Rooney Mara already has buzz for her performance as punkette superhacker Lisbeth Salander. Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, in what’s shaping up to be one of the serious season’s big commercial contenders.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Tom Cruise goes rogue! No couches were harmed, though, as his “MI’’ character Ethan Hunt takes the team off the grid after they’re blamed for the bombing of the Kremlin. The most exciting aspect of this desperate/inspired attempt to restart an ailing franchise? Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,’’ “Ratatouille’’) makes his live-action directing debut. Costarring Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner, though it’s still not clear whose side the latter’s on.

DECEMBER 23

The Adventures of Tintin This year a lot of movies wanted to be by Steven Spielberg - “Super 8,’’ “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,’’ “Captain America,’’ “Cowboys and Aliens’’ - so it’s only right that Spielberg return to reassert himself with a vengeance: two movies in five days. This one combines three installments of the French comic book into one 3-D, motion-capture extravaganza. Indeed, motion-capture, in which real actors - like Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, and, Mr. M-C, Andy Serkis - are later digitized. Important directors really like this technology. Do we?

Albert Nobbs That stuffy butler at a posh turn-of-the-century Dublin hotel is actually a woman in drag, desperate to be employed. Glenn Close co-wrote the script and plays “Albert,’’ and Rodrigo Garcia (“Mother and Child’’), one of the more sympathetic directors of actresses working, is behind the camera. Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers costar.

We Bought a Zoo A family spends its life savings to buy an old zoo full of exotic, nearly extinct animals and, in Scarlett Johansson, one really sexy employee. If you’ve asked, “Whatever happened to Cameron Crowe?,’’ this is your answer. He directed and co-wrote. Matt Damon, Elle Fanning, and Thomas Haden Church also star.

DECEMBER 25

The Darkest Hour Invisible aliens invade Moscow, but the movie, which stars Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Joel Kinnaman, and Greg Kinnear, appears to be Muscovite-free. One of the producers is the Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (“Night Watch,’’ “Wanted’’), so there’s no way the Russians are invisible, too. In which case: Accent alert.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close The second novel by the hyper-verbose Jonathan Safran Foer comes to the screen directed by Stephen Daldry (“The Hours,’’ “The Reader’’) and starring 12-year-old “Jeopardy’’ champion Thomas Horn as a young boy traipsing across Manhattan seeking the meaning of his father’s death on 9/11. Tom Hanks plays dad in flashbacks, Sandra Bullock plays mom, and the whole project has Good For You stamped all over it. Let’s hope it’s at least closer to Foer’s original than 2005’s “Everything Is Illuminated.’’

DECEMBER 28

War Horse Steven Spielberg extravaganza number two is the tale of a half-thoroughbred taken from a British boy and sold into service during World War I. Based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s book, which became a hit play in London and on Broadway. The boy (Jeremy Irvine) embarks on a mission to bring the horse home. Spielberg appears to have his work cut out for him. since a great deal of the show’s enchantment is the life-size human puppetry that brings the horse to life and the audience to tears, all in the service of showcasing the horrors of war. Spielberg uses real horses (about 13). If any director can turn “The Black Stallion’’ into “Guernica,’’ it’s probably him.

DECEMBER 30

A Separation You’re an educated, well-off Iranian couple: Do you leave the country to better your daughter’s life or stay to take care of an ailing parent? In other words, do you live for the future or the past? Asghar Farhadi’s emotionally taut human drama has been cleaning up the festival awards - including the Silver Bear at Berlin - and leaving devastated audiences in its wake.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com or followed on Twitter @wesley_morris. Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com or followed on Twitter @tyburr.

Fall Arts Preview

SEARCH CRITICS' PICKS
Online Database by Caspio
Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.
'Footloose' and 'Twilight'
Photos

Fall movie highlights

How '80s is this upcoming movie season? There's a remake of "Footloose" (left). But there's also another "Twilight" film (right). Here's a few select titles.

Movie listings search

Movie times  Globe review archive