Cinema's 'serious season' is packed with awards contenders
Oscar winner Meryl Streep is Margaret Thatcher and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent is her husband in the bio-drama "The Iron Lady." (The Weinstein Co. / August 24, 2011)
THE DEBT (Focus): Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds and Sam Worthington star in this remake of an award-winning Israeli thriller about a retired Mossad assassination team that has to revisit its biggest failure when a man it allegedly killed decades before mysteriously turns up alive.
APOLLO 18 (Weinstein): This modest-budget horror film is about the Apollo mission NASA doesn't want you to know about — the one with dangerous aliens.
SHARK NIGHT 3D (Relativity Media): The title says everything about this 3-D killer-shark movie.
CONTAGION (Warner Bros.): Steven Soderbergh's viral outbreak thriller stars Oscar winners Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard, along with Jude Law and Jennifer Ehle.
BUCKY LARSON: BORN TO BE A STAR (Sony): Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci, Don Johnson and Stephen Dorff star in this comedy about a small-town guy (Swardson) who learns that his conservative parents were once adult-film stars and heads to L.A. to pursue his porno destiny.
HIGHER GROUND (Sony Classics): Vera Farmiga directed and stars in this drama about a woman's struggle to reconcile herself with her faith.
INSIDE OUT (Samuel Goldwyn/WWE Studios) This ex-con tries to go clean thriller stars wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque, Michael Rapaport and Parker Posey.
WARRIOR (Lionsgate): Tom Hardy, playing the son of an alcoholic boxer (Nick Nolte), takes up mixed martial arts.
DRIVE (FilmDistrict): Ryan Gosling plays a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway-car driver until that fateful day when something goes wrong. Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman also star.
DOLPHIN TALE (Warner Bros.): Kids rescue an injured Florida dolphin that is given a new prosthetic tail and a new chance at life in this film based on a true story. Harry Connick Jr. is one of the stars.
I DON'T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (Weinstein): Sarah Jessica Parker plays a finance exec who is the sole breadwinner in her family. Pierce Brosnan, Christina Hendricks and Kelsey Grammer also star.
JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN (Universal): Rowan Atkinson brings back his bumbling would-be James Bond for more espionage hijinks. With Gillian Anderson and Rosamund Pike.
THE LION KING 3D (Walt Disney): Disney reissues its animated musical classic in a new 3-D form.
STRAW DOGS (Screen Gems): A remake of the Sam Peckinpah thriller about a couple who move to a rural community only to become the victims of ruthless locals.
ABDUCTION (Lionsgate): Taylor Lautner stars in this John Singleton thriller about a young man who tries to discover the truth about his life after seeing his baby photo on an abducted-children website.
KILLER ELITE (Open Road): It's Jason Statham vs. Clive Owen as Statham plays a former member of Special Forces who sets out to rescue his kidnapped ex-boss (Robert De Niro).
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (Warner Bros.): Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine and Vanessa Hudgens replace Brendan Fraser in this sequel to the surprise hit "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D." Josh Hutcherson returns, still looking for his dad.
MONEYBALL (Sony): Brad Pitt stars in the story of how baseball general manager Billy Bean used a new way of crunching player statistics to build the Oakland A's, briefly, into a powerhouse.
50/50 (Summit): Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anna Kendrick star in this comedy about a guy (Rogen) coping with his cancer diagnosis. Yes, it's a comedy.
COURAGEOUS (Tristar): A new Christian film from those "Fireproof" filmmaking preachers, the Kendrick brothers, this one centered on people in law enforcement.
DREAM HOUSE (Universal): Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts and Martin Csokas star in this Jim Sheridan thriller about a couple who discover a crime that was committed against the previous owners of the house.
WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER? (Fox): Anna Faris and Chris Evans star in this romantic comedy about a woman who thinks she has slept with and skipped over "Mr. Right" among her exes.
MARGARET (Fox Searchlight) Anna Paquin stars in this Kenneth Longeran film about a guilt-ridden young women who tries to come clean about her role in a fatal accident. Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney and Mark Ruffalo also star.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D (Lionsgate): Further proof that Homelite is where the heart is (along with assorted other body parts).
THE IDES OF MARCH (Columbia): George Clooney co-wrote, directed and co-stars in this dramedy about a young idealist (Ryan Gosling) who learns hard life lessons on the political campaign trail. Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and Philip Seymour Hoffman also star.
MACHINE GUN PREACHER (Relativity): Gerard Butler has the title role in this story of biker-turned-minister Sam Childers, who took up arms to protect orphans in war-torn, famine-plagued Sudan.
REAL STEEL (DreamWorks): Hugh Jackman stars in this film version of a famous Richard Matheson story (and "Twilight Zone" episode) about a down-on-his-luck boxer who has to return to the ring in an age when only machines are allowed to brawl for sport.
WANDERLUST (Universal): Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd play city slickers who decide to dabble in a counterculture lifestyle in this Judd Apatow-produced comedy that also stars Malin Akerman and Alan Alda.
THE BIG YEAR (Fox): Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson star in this comedy about obsessive bird-watchers, inspired by the nonfiction book "The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession."
FOOTLOOSE (Paramount): The film that became a stage musical becomes a film of the stage musical, with Kenny Wormald in the Kevin Bacon role, a boy who's gotta dance, and Dennis Quaid in the John Lithgow role of the small-town preacher out to ban dancing.
THE THING (Universal): Joel Edgerton and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are among the stars of this latest remake of the alien-monster-in-the-arctic tale, "The Thing From Another World."
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (Paramount): The new horror goose that keeps laying golden eggs returns with more ghostly "found video."
THE THREE MUSKETEERS 3D (Summit): Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom, Matthew MacFadyen and Christoph Waltz star in this 3-D version of the "all for one and one for all" tale. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.
MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (Fox Searchlight): Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone") star in this thriller about "a damaged woman" who tries to reconnect with her family after escaping an abusive cult.
MARGIN CALL (Roadside Attractions): Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons head an all-star cast in this drama about 24 hours at an investment banking firm at the start of the worldwide financial meltdown.
ANONYMOUS (Sony): An Elizabethan tale of intrigue regarding who "really" wrote William Shakespeare's plays. Vanessa Redgrave, Rhys Ifans, Derek Jacobi and David Thewlis are among the stars of this unlikely film from the director of "Independence Day."
IN TIME (Fox): Olivia Wilde, Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Alex Pettyfer head the cast in this sci-fi tale of a future era when aging has stopped but time has become a commodity because of fears of overpopulation.
RUM DIARY (FilmDistrict): Johnny Depp stars in this film of a Hunter S. Thompson book about a big-city reporter who takes to the "rum-soaked" life of Puerto Rico with a vengeance. Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart and Richard Jenkins also star.
SAFE (Lionsgate): Jason Statham is out to rescue a kidnapped Chinese child and elude the Triads, the Russian mob and everybody else in this thriller.
LIKE CRAZY (Paramount): Felicity Jones is the British student who falls for an American (Anton Yelchin) only to learn that her visa has expired, threatening their budding romance. (Nov. 18 in Orlando.)
PUSS IN BOOTS (DreamWorks Animation): This "Shrek" prequel is about earlier adventures of the swashbuckling Spanish cat (Antonio Banderas).
TOWER HEIST (Universal): Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Eddie Murphy, Tea Leoni and Matthew Broderick star in this comic thriller about Ponzi scheme victims who set out to rob the businessman who stole their money.
A VERY HAROLD & KUMAR CHRISTMAS (Warner Bros.): John Cho and Kal Penn return as those White-Castle-hunting stoners, blissed out for the holidays.
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (Weinstein): Michelle Williams is Marilyn Monroe, Kenneth Branagh is Laurence Olivier and Eddie Redmayne is the fellow who tells the story of how they didn't get along on the set of Olivier's "The Prince and the Showgirl."
IMMORTALS 3D (Relativity): Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, John Hurt, Stephen Dorff and Freida Pinto star in this Greek-gods fantasy about the warrior Theseus battling the Titans.
JACK AND JILL (Sony): Adam Sandler plays an L.A. ad exec who dreads one event each year: the Thanksgiving visit of his twin sister, Jill (also Adam Sandler). Katie Holmes also stars.
THE BULLY PROJECT (Weinstein): This Lee Hirsch documentary is about America's ongoing "bullying" problem in schools and its impact on kids.
J. EDGAR (Warner Bros.) Clint Eastwood's sure-to-be-controversial bio-pic about the former FBI chief stars Leonardo DiCaprio.
HAPPY FEET 2 IN 3D (Warner Bros.): That gotta-dance penguin (Elijah Wood) is back, in 3-D, in this animated sequel to the kids musical hit with an environmental message.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (Focus): Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy head an all-star cast in this adaptation of the John le Carre spy fiction classic.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN — PART 1 (Summit): The vampires of Forks, the girl who loves them and the werewolves who want to protect her begin to make their exit in the first half of this two-part finale.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Sony-Columbia): The Wallace and Gromit animators at Aardman turn their talents toward showing us how Santa & Co. really gets all those toys made, sorted and delivered in one night.
THE MUPPETS (Walt Disney): Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Emily Blunt are among the stars of this relaunch of the Muppets franchise, in which the adorable puppets must put on a show to save their old theater.
PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension): You knew there was going to be a sequel. But what does "in 3DD" mean?
THE ARTIST (Weinstein): Jean Dujardin is the silent-film star worried about his future and Bérénice Bejo is the singing, dancing starlet on the rise in this comedy set in the 1920s. Malcolm McDowell, Missi Pyle and John Goodman also star.
THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight): George Clooney stars in this film from the director of "Sideways," about a land baron trying to reconnect with his estranged daughters.
PROJECT X (Warner Bros.): A group of kids film a house party that goes off the rails in this mockumentary.
THE LEGEND OF PALE MALE (Balcony Releasing): This documentary is about the famous hawks who took up residence, just off of Central Park, and inspired New Yorkers and bird lovers the world over.
CORIOLANUS (Weinstein): Ralph Fiennes directed and stars in this Shakespeare tragedy about a banished Roman who vows revenge on the Eternal City. With Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler and Jessica Chastain.
HUGO (Sony): Martin Scorsese tackles a 1930s family mystery with this tale of a boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives in a train station and wants to learn about his father (Jude Law) and automatons.
NEW YEAR'S EVE (Warner Bros.): Garry Marshall's all-star sequel to his all-star romance "Valentine's Day" sets up loosely connected couples wending their way toward New Year's Eve. Zac Efron, Hilary Swank, Ashton Kutcher and Sarah Jessica Parker are just a few of the stars.
THE SITTER (Fox): David Gordon Green directed this comedy about a guy (Jonah Hill) suckered into babysitting the kids next door for "one wild night."
YOUNG ADULT (Paramount): Charlize Theron is a lonely fiction writer who returns to her Minnesota hometown to take up with her now-married ex-boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) in this Jason Reitman dramedy. (Opens widely Dec. 16.)
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIP-WRECKED (Fox): A 3-D shipwreck adventure starring Alvin, Simon and Theodore? Go figure.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount): Brad Bird ("The Incredibles") leaves animation to direct this revival of the Tom Cruise action franchise, with Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Warner Bros.): Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry are among those joining Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams in this sequel.
THE IRON LADY (Weinstein): Meryl Streep is Margaret Thatcher in this political biopic, widely regarded as big-time Oscar bait.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Sony): Daniel Craig is the disgraced journalist digging into a mystery and Rooney Mara takes on the title role in this remake of the Swedish hit based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (Paramount): Jamie Bell has the title role in Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the popular European comic-book character, a reporter who finds himself in mysteries or, in this case, on a treasure hunt. With Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and almost no actresses of note.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO (Fox): Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church and Elle Fanning star in this Cameron Crowe comedy about a father who moves his family to the English countryside to run a dilapidated zoo. Based on a true story.
THE DARKEST HOUR (Summit): Olivia Thirlby, Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella are among the stars of this aliens-invade-Russia actioner.
EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (Warner Bros.) Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock star in this drama from the director of "The Hours," a film about a child who searches New York for the lock that matches a key that his late father — killed on 9-11 — left behind. Opens widely Jan. 20.
WAR HORSE (DreamWorks): Steven Spielberg's latest feat is making a major motion picture of Michael Morpurgo's novel about World War I from the point of view of a horse sent to the front lines. Jeremy Irvine plays the lad who enlists to join his horse at the front, with Emily Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Thewlis.
Original source: Cinema's 'serious season' is packed with awards contenders on Orlando Sentinel