Holiday treats: FJI previews end-of-the-year movie fare


The 2012 holiday guest list includes two U.S. presidents, a long-running secret agent, a legendary film director, a classic literary heroine, a famous Paris fugitive and his pursuer, a slave-turned-vigilante, a dangerous paperback hero, a courageous team of Navy SEALs, a dashing young vampire and his wife, a pair of Beat Generation icons, a brigade of childhood folk heroes, a videogame refugee, a boy adrift with a tiger, and the welcome return of the Hobbits. Break out the champagne—it should be quite a party at the multiplex.

November Highlights
Epidemic dramas are the latest genre to be infected with the found-footage style. In The Bay, a mass die-off of fish and birds alarms residents of Claridge, Maryland, over the Fourth of July weekend. The outbreak spreads to the human population, captured via security cameras, webcams and iPhone videos. The found-footage experts behind Paranormal Activity produce. Barry Levinson, who won an Oscar for Rain Man, directs. (Roadside Attractions; Nov. 2)

In The Details, a raccoon infestation threatens to upturn the lives of Jeff and Nealy (Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks), a married suburban couple. What starts as Jeff’s attempt to save his garden from the masked scavengers snowballs into an epic war that exposes infidelity and unleashes mayhem. Laura Linney, Kerry Washington and Ray Liotta co-star in the dark comedy, which was written and directed by Mean Creek’s Jacob Aaron Estes. (Radius TWC; Nov. 2)

When pilot “Sully” Sullenberger crash-landed a jet in the Hudson River, he became a national hero. Pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) accomplishes a similar feat in Flight, successfully landing a crippled aircraft. But investigators discover he was out partying the night before the accident, giving his public image a huge hit and putting his career in jeopardy. John Goodman, Don Cheadle and Oscar-winner Melissa Leo play supporting roles in the drama, directed by Robert Zemeckis in his first live-action movie in over a decade. (Paramount; Nov. 2)

A string quartet drifts out of tune in the New York City-set drama A Late Quartet. When one member (Christopher Walken) announces he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the world-renowned group plans a final concert. The cracks in the group deepen as the married musicians (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener) quarrel, and egos collide. Imogen Poots and Mark Ivanir round out the cast. (Entertainment One; Nov. 2)

If you find yourself complaining that your average Asian martial-arts movie needs more violence, sex and amped-up weapons, then look no further than The Man with the Iron Fists. RZA, leader of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, makes his directing debut with a screenplay he co-wrote with Eli Roth (Cabin Fever). Set in feudal China, the movie stars Lucy Liu as a martial-arts wizard and seductress, Russell Crowe as the good guy, and RZA as a blacksmith. (Universal; Nov. 2)

That’s Sean Penn under that layer of mascara as an aging rock star in This Must Be the Place, the first English-language film from Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo). After missing a chance to reconcile with his father before his death, Penn’s retired rocker goes on a road trip to track down the Nazi who humiliated his father at Auschwitz during World War II. David Byrne, whose Talking Heads song lends the title for the movie, also wrote the score. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 2)

Adults who fondly remember their days feeding quarters to machines at the video arcade will be in for a nostalgic trip with Wreck-It Ralph. The eponymous Ralph (John C. Reilly) decides he’s sick of always playing the bad guy and breaks the rules, fleeing from his arcade game. With parent-geared touches like a meeting of “Bad-Anon,” the animated adventure has potential appeal for the old and young. (Disney; Nov. 2)

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the 16th president in Lincoln, a biography of the President’s final months in office, working with his Cabinet to end the Civil War, abolish slavery and reunite the country. Steven Spielberg directed Tony Kushner’s adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s non-fiction book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. This Lincoln, it’s worth noting, was not a vampire hunter. The cast of heavy-hitters includes Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn and James Spader. (Disney & DreamWorks; Nov. 9)

An English queen, a mad Danish king and the royal physician form a love triangle in A Royal Affair. The Danish-language film is set during the reign of King Christian VII, a mentally unstable monarch. He turns to the royal physician, Struensee, as his confidant, but the man uses the friendship both to become a de facto ruler himself and to seduce the lonely queen. The 18th-century drama is Denmark’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film. (Magnolia; Nov. 9)

A sniper picks off James Bond (Daniel Craig) while he is in the middle of hand-to-hand combat. On top of a moving train. Going over a bridge. With Bond erroneously presumed dead, his boss M (Judi Dench) makes an error in judgment that gives Britain’s enemies (led by Javier Bardem, looking completely different from his No Country for Old Men psycho) too many cards in Skyfall. The return of Agent 007 after a four-year hiatus due to the legal morass of MGM’s bankruptcy is enough to make you celebrate with another martini—shaken, not stirred. Brit Sam Mendes (American Beauty) helms, and Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas) joins the cast as tech-savvy Q, along with Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris. (Columbia & MGM; Nov. 9)

Keira Knightley fastens her corset once again to play the title role in Anna Karenina. Based on the famed Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy, the romantic drama centers on the illicit liaison between married Anna Karenina and the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Their love compels them to ignore rules of propriety, but they can’t escape the judgment society eventually passes down on them. Joe Wright, who directed Knightley in Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, reteams with the British actress. Jude Law and Kelly Macdonald (“Boardwalk Empire”) co-star. (Focus; Nov. 16)

Hard times bring two people together in the French-language romantic drama Rust & Bone. A man (Matthias Schoenaerts) unexpectedly becomes the primary caretaker of his five-year-old son and strikes up a friendship with an animal trainer (Marion Cotillard). She later suffers a terrible injury during a performance at a marine park, and it becomes his turn to help her through a difficult recovery. Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) directed the film, which was well-received in Cannes and Toronto. (Sony Pictures Classics; Nov. 16)

Start making plans for crowd control. Fans of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2 will swarm theatres on opening night to see the conclusion of the supernatural saga of Bella and Edward. The tumultuous real-life romance between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson may stoke fans’ furor even further. In the finale, the couple must protect their offspring, Renesmee, from the powerful Volturi, who believe she is an immortal child and must be destroyed. (Summit; Nov. 16)

A boy. A tiger. A lifeboat. Director Ang Lee, whose work includes both Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, adapts Yann Martel’s international bestseller Life of Pi. Many have called the story unfilmable, and several A-list directors worked on the movie before Lee finally took over. The tale follows a boy, Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma), who survives a shipwreck and ends up on a lifeboat with an assortment of zoo animals. His struggle for survival forces him to confront the meaning of life and nature of God. (20th Century Fox; Nov. 21)

Teens fight for their freedom and that of the nation in the cautionary thriller Red Dawn. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) star as high-school students who are shocked when their town is invaded by a foreign power with an unbeatable new weapon. The young rebels band together to take down the enemy, in a film that trades heavily on themes of patriotism, personal responsibility, and the ability to fire a weapon. The original Red Dawn released in 1984, when the Cold War stoked fears about a Russian invasion. This time around, it’s the North Koreans who are intent on taking down the U.S. (FilmDistrict; Nov. 21)

Teams of superheroes are the latest trend, from The Avengers to the promised adaptation of the Justice League. Rise of the Guardians posits a similar amalgamation of larger-than-life characters: the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost. The quintet of folklore heroes hops into Santa’s sleigh in order to track down an evil spirit and protect the innocence of the world’s children. The voice cast of the CG-animated movie includes Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Jude Law. (Paramount & DreamWorks; Nov. 21)

After losing his job, wife, house and his clean criminal record, Pat (Bradley Cooper) moves back into his parents’ (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) nest to nurse his wounds and figure out his next steps in The Silver Linings Playbook. Enter Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a local girl with problems of her own. The mix of humor and drama had attendees at the Toronto Film Festival placing big bets on the movie’s Oscar chances. David O. Russell, who brought The Fighter to the Academy Awards, directs from his adaptation of the tragicomic novel by Matthew Quick. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 21)

1960’s Psycho is an undisputed classic—the gothic-looking set of the Bates house still elicits “ahhs” from visitors on Universal’s backlot tour. Hitchcock, set during the film’s production, reveals the behind-the-scenes relationships at play during the shoot. The love story follows the relationship between the Master of Suspense (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife and creative ally Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). Scarlett Johansson doubles as star Janet Leigh. Black Swan screenwriter John J. McLaughlin adapted the story from the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, and Sacha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil) directed. (Fox Searchlight; Nov. 23)

The three guys who rob a mob-protected card game may be dumb, but they’re also audacious: Their caper brings down the local criminal economy in Killing Them Softly. Enter Brad Pitt as Jackie Cogan, an enforcer hired to track down the offending trio. Familiar crime-movie players James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”), Ray Liotta (GoodFellas) and Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) round out the cast, along with Richard Jenkins (The Visitor). Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) is the writer-director. (Weinstein Co.; Nov. 30)

Also in November
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography shows how a group of underdogs in the early ’80s popularized skateboarding and turned it into an enduring phenomenon. Footage and interviews with the Bones Brigade, including skating legend Tony Hawk, are provided through the lens of director and board-film expert Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys, Riding Giants). (Vans Presents; Nov. 2)

Café de Flore tells two parallel stories separated by an ocean and half a century. One is the story of a mother and son in 1960s Paris, the other of a divorced woman in present-day Montreal. Vanessa Paradis stars in the French-language film. (Adopt Films; Nov. 2)

In Festival of Lights, a teenager in 1980s New York dreams of reuniting with the father in Guyans she hasn’t seen or heard from in 13 years. Melinda Shankar and Aidan Quinn head the cast. (Truly Indie; Nov. 2)

In High Ground, blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer and 11 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars attempt to climb 20,000-foot-high Mount Lobuche in the Himalayas. (Red Flag Releasing; Nov. 2)

Two teen girls fall for each other in Jack and Diane, but the sweet romance is complicated by a couple of problems—Diane’s only in town for a short holiday, and the intensity of her feelings makes her morph into a werewolf. Riley Keough (The Runaways) and Juno Temple (Little Birds) co-star. Bradley Rust Gray, who directed Zoe Kazan in The Exploding Girl, takes on directing, writing and producing duties. (Magnolia; Nov. 2)

A Liar’s Autobiography reunites most of the members of the beloved British comedy troupe Monty Python, who play themselves and other characters in this unusual 3D animated rendering of the memoir of the troupe’s late Graham Chapman. Chapman himself narrates his life’s misadventures via excerpts from the audio recording of his book. (Brainstorm Media; Nov. 2)

A Man’s Story follows Ozwald Boateng, a successful British fashion designer trying to balance success in the fashion world with his personal life. Filmed over 12 years, the documentary chronicles how the bespoke tailor rose to success and broke racial boundaries. (Trinity Film; Nov. 2)

A teenage boy comes to grips with his sexuality and nurses a crush on his male neighbor in the Dutch film North Sea Texas. The coming-of-age romance was shot near a picturesque seaside. Bavo Defurne, whose short films have been a favorite at gay and lesbian film festivals, directed. (Strand; Nov. 2)

Lending a new meaning to “break a leg,” a Broadway understudy kills her way to the top in The Understudy. After pushing the leading lady off a balcony, she gets the role of her dreams, but the killing spree isn’t over yet in this black comedy about fame. Marin Ireland, Richard Kind and Gloria Reuben head the cast. (Nov. 2)

Alicia Silverstone reunites with her Clueless director Amy Heckerling in Vamps. Goody (Silverstone) and her best friend (Krysten Ritter) party all night as single girls. They might as well be on “Sex and the City,” except they have to be home before daybreak, because, duh, they’re vampires. When each of the women has a shot at true love, they have to decide if it’s worth abandoning their blood-sucking ways for the men of their dreams. (Anchor Bay; Nov. 2)

Winner of the Audience Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, Burn offers an up-close look at the intense daily lives of the members of Detroit’s Engine Company 50, one of the busiest firehouses in America. (Area 23a; Nov. 9)

Combining the appeal of “Frozen Planet” with the search for evidence of global warming, the documentary Chasing Ice follows National Geographic photographer James Balog. We witness both his expedition to photograph the melting ice in the Arctic along with the stunning time-lapse images themselves. (Submarine Deluxe; Nov. 9)

Even at the hipster-friendly Sundance Film Festival, The Comedy got searing reviews, with critics finding the story of a man bumming around in Brooklyn alternately painful, self-absorbed, and like watching 90 minutes of someone else’s inside joke. Fans of Tim Heidecker (“Tim & Eric Awesome Show”) are challenged by the filmmakers to think otherwise. (Tribeca Film; Nov. 9)

Dangerous Liaisons transplants the classic French novel about love, lust and sexual duplicity to 1930s Shanghai. Jang Dong-kun, Zhang Ziyi and Cecilia Chung head the cast. (Well Go USA; Nov. 9)

The up-and-coming Korean writer-director Hong Sang-soo helms his first English-language feature with In Another Country. Isabelle Huppert stars as a woman visiting a beach resort in the structurally innovative story. (Kino Lorber; Nov. 9)

In LUV, an 11-year-old Baltimore boy spends the day with his uncle, a street hustler and former drug dealer, and discovers the truth about his idol’s world of violence. Common, Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover and young Michael Rainey, Jr. head the cast. (Indomina Releasing; Nov. 9)

Would kids rather go on a weekend scouting trip or have a slumber party at a TV-equipped McMansion? For today’s kids, it’s easy to choose the latter. In Nature Calls, a scout leader (Patton Oswalt of Young Adult) convinces his brother’s (Johnny Knoxville) kids and their friends to abandon their slumber party for a trip that would even leave Troop Beverly Hills in the dust, and get into a Jackass-level of trouble along the way. (Magnet; Nov. 9)

Provocateur Caveh Zahedi receives a curious invitation in The Sheik and I: create a “treasonous” work for an art biennial in the United Arab Emirates. He decides to do just that, documenting his attempts to cross boundaries and satirize religion and customs in a country with no guarantee of free speech. (Factory 25; Nov. 9)

The great-granddaughter of the famous author, Dree Hemingway stars as a directionless 21-year-old California’s San Fernando Valley in Starlet. When she finds money inside a relic she buys at her 85-year-old neighbor’s yard sale, she befriends the woman and tries to figure out what to do next. (Music Box; Nov. 9)

The gap between what is legal and what is just is explored in the Israeli documentary The Law in these Parts. Laws regarding Israel’s occupied territory after the 1967 Six Day War are used as a test case. (Cinema Guild; Nov. 14)

Based on the cult novel by Victor Pelevin, Generation P (the “P” stands for “Pepsi”) takes a satiric look at the rise of consumer demand and commercialism in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. (New World Distribution; Nov. 16)

Happy New Year centers on a mentally and physically scarred Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who bonds with other veterans in a hospital’s psychiatric ward. Michael Cuomo stars. (One Light Left Prods.; Nov. 16)

An estranged father (John Slattery of “Mad Men”) and son (Zach Gilford of “Friday Night Lights”) both end up at their family country home on the same weekend in In Our Nature. Their respective girlfriends (Gabrielle Union and Jena Malone) attempt to smooth things over, bringing conflict to their own romantic relationships. (Cinedigm & Flatiron Film Company; Nov. 16)

In 1942, French police rounded up 13,000 Jews and held them in a crowded stadium for days before deporting them to Auschwitz. La Rafle covers this dark corner of France’s history, which the nation has only recently begun to face. Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) and Jean Reno star. (Menemsha Films; Nov. 16)

By now, it’s common knowledge that the Catholic Church systematically covered up cases of pedophilia committed by its priests. In Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Men in the Room) focuses on the efforts of four deaf men who sought justice for the sins committed against them. (HBO Documentary Films; Nov. 16)

A supermarket price-checker (Eric Mabius of “Ugly Betty”) doesn’t have money, but he has a great family life. In Price Check, he finds his fortunes reversed, as he’s selected for the executive track at work, where he puts in long hours and becomes tempted by a cute co-worker (Parker Posey). (IFC Films; Nov. 16)

Turning features the cult band Anthony and the Johnsons collaborating with filmmaker Charles Atlas on a performance event that also features 13 singular women representing transgender, androgynous and other personas. (Independent; Nov. 16)

In Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child, the Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein clashes with the production team of the Israeli opera as he collaborates with them on an adaptation of a play about children and the Holocaust. Behind-the-scenes footage gives viewers a sense of the artistic conflicts and the acclaimed result. (First Run; Nov. 23)

Beware of Mr. Baker
is an intimate portrait of Ginger Baker, drummer for the celebrated ’60s rock band Cream, whose talent was compromised by his battle with heroin addiction. (Snagfilm & Insurgent Media; Nov. 28)

Call it two love triangles, or a “love diamond” if you will. In Ex-Girlfriends, a man tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, only to discover that she and another one of his exes are both dating the same guy. The setup is so crazy, we’re sure this has actually happened. Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”) and Kristen Connolly (The Cabin in the Woods) co-star. (Independent; Nov. 28)

California Solo focuses on a former British pop star (Robert Carlyle of Trainspotting) who is threatened with deportation from the U.S. unless he can find a way to make amends with his estranged ex-wife and daughter. (Strand; Nov. 30)

A girl is kidnapped by a serial killer dubbed “The Collector” in the horror flick The Collection. Her wealthy father hires the only man to escape from his grasp. Accompanied by a group of mercenaries, he enters the booby-trapped, gruesome hiding place to rescue her. (LD Entertainment; Nov. 30)

Combing film noir with martial arts, Dragon was swept up by the Weinstein Co. after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year. With a detective plotline punctuated by fight sequences, Peter Chan’s film seeks to redefine the martial-arts, or wuxia, genre (the Chinese title for the movie is, in fact, Wu Xia). Impressive cinematography will make this a slam-dunk option for people who like their martial-arts movies refined, not exploitative. (Radius/Weinstein Co.; Nov. 30)

Two homeless men, one middle-aged and the other only 21, bond in the Irish import Parked. Colm Meaney (AMC’s “Hell on Wheels”) and Colin Morgan (TV’s “Merlin”) head the cast. (Olive Films; Nov. 30)

The long-running Universal Soldier franchise returns with Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. The sci-fi-action-thriller centers on a man who seeks revenge for the death of his family. His target? Jean-Claude Van Damme. (Magnet; Nov. 30)

December Highlights
Bill Murray stars as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson. It’s 1939 and war is brewing. The King and Queen of England visit FDR at his estate in upstate New York in search of an ally. FDR’s cousin and secret lover (Laura Linney) is also there for the weekend summit, allowing viewers to see the meeting between the two great leaders through her eyes. Roger Michell (Notting Hill) directed. The charming surroundings and lively look at history already have New York’s Hudson Valley prepared for a spike in tourism. (Focus; Dec. 7)

A down-on-his-luck pro soccer player (Gerard Butler) moves back to the suburbs and ends up coaching his son’s team in Playing for Keeps. While sharing custody of the boy with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel), he tries to figure out his career and fix his family life. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a determined (and besotted) soccer mom. Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness) directed. (FilmDistrict; Dec. 7)

Before The Lord of the Rings, there was The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy novel has been shaped into a trilogy that will release in three parts now through 2014. The first of the series, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, begins Bilbo Baggins’ odyssey. Led by Gandalf the Wizard and accompanied by 13 dwarves, Bilbo journeys through Middle Earth on a quest to save his kingdom from a dragon, Smaug. The production of The Hobbit has also been a journey: Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson took over from Guillermo del Toro, pre-production lagged, and shooting took an arduous nine months. After the long wait, fans will be able to experience the movie in a big way. The picture will release in 3D and IMAX, and select theatres will utilize the latest tech upgrade: projection at a higher frame rate of 48 frames-per-second. (Warner Bros.; Dec. 14)

A long-married couple’s relationship is tested when one of them falls ill in Amour. Since Michael Haneke (Caché, The White Ribbon) directed, don’t expect a typically sentimental story of love and loss. Audiences at the Cannes Film Festival (where the drama won the Palme d’Or) found the movie to be true to Haneke’s unsettling style. French film legends Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva co-star, along with Isabelle Huppert. (Sony Pictures Classics; Dec. 19)

Mike and Sulley add three-dimensional scares to their toolbox in the newly converted Monsters Inc. 3D. The re-release comes in advance of next summer’s Monsters University, a prequel that follows the duo during their college days. In the 2001 original, the creatures collect “scares” from children to power the city of Monstropolis. When a child innocently enters their world, they must hide their big mistake in order to save their careers. The great voice performances by John Goodman and Billy Crystal are just one reason why this movie has become a Pixar favorite. (Disney; Dec. 19)

When Osama Bin Laden died last May, college students—in elementary school when the 9/11 attacks occurred—took to the streets to celebrate the demise of an enemy of mythic proportions. Zero Dark Thirty reveals the government’s long operation to find Bin Laden and take him down. The Oscar-winning team behind The Hurt Locker, director/producer Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter/producer Mark Boal, recreate the harrowing search, using expert information gleaned from government agencies. The cast, though talented, includes few big names, but Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life) and Joel Edgerton (Warrior) are among the stars. (20th Century Fox; Dec. 19)

Every seat is the best in the house in the 3D presentation of Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away. The Canadian-based entertainment troupe has played to over 90 million people in 271 cities and has seven productions running year-round in Las Vegas. The shows reinvent the circus, combining incredible stunts with visual artistry and a storyline. The stage adaptation includes footage not only of the live shows, but filmed background stories that complement the incredible stunts. (Paramount; Dec. 21)

A family’s idyllic vacation turns tragic in The Impossible. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as parents of three boys on holiday in Thailand who are caught in the horrific 2004 tsunami. As the waters recede, the family members must find one another amidst the wreckage. J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage) directed the disaster drama, which is based on a true story. (Summit; Dec. 21)

The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child is already a favorite read for the airport—just check the engrossed business traveler next to you. Tom Cruise stars as Reacher, a former military investigator who is implicated in the shooting of six people. He must go on the run and face his enemy in this spirited action outing from director Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for his Usual Suspects screenplay. Early footage of an action sequence shows Reacher isn’t just strong, he’s devastatingly clever. Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, and—surprise—documentarian Werner Herzog play supporting roles. (Paramount; Dec. 21)

David Chase, the creator of “The Sopranos,” makes his feature directing debut with the nostalgic coming-of-age movie Not Fade Away. In New Jersey in 1964, three friends see the Rolling Stones perform on television and decide to form a band. Chase, who grew up in New Jersey and was a teenager in the early ’60s, wrote the screenplay. “Sopranos” lead James Gandolfini plays the disapproving dad of one of the aspiring band members. (Paramount; Dec. 21)

The casting of Twilight star Kristen Stewart will likely steal the spotlight in On the Road. Jack Kerouac’s book is considered the Beat Generation’s most iconic work. Sam Riley stars as Sal Paradise, a writer who goes on a trip with his friend Dean (Garrett Hedlund) and his girl Marylou (Stewart). Driving in pursuit of freedom and to escape the conservative post-war society, they meet a number of people who change their lives. Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst round out the cast. Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) directed. (IFC Films; Dec. 21)

The kinda sequel to Knocked Up, This Is 40 centers on the relationship between Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), the couple who let pregnant Katherine Heigl stay in their guest house. As the pair reaches the big 4-0, they struggle with midlife crises, raising children glued to their smart-phones, and their own relationship. Writer/director/producer Judd Apatow brings his signature humor to the project. (Universal; Dec. 21)

Writer-director Quentin Tarantino turns from the Nazis in Inglourious Basterds to slave traders in Django Unchained. Set on the eve of the Civil War, the story centers on unlikely allies: a brutal bounty hunter of slaves (Christoph Waltz) and the slave (Jamie Foxx) who agrees to lead him to a great prize in exchange for his freedom. Leonardo DiCaprio co-stars as the owner of a notoriously evil plantation, Candyland. Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington (Ray) round out the cast as slaves at Candyland. Will Django overtake this year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as weirdest Civil War-era adaptation? (Weinstein Co.; Dec. 25)

An ailing woman has her neighbor summon the man she had a love affair with 50 years ea
Screen veteran Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen play mother and son in The Guilt Trip. Sensing his mom is a bit lonely, Andy (Rogen) reluctantly asks her to accompany him on a road trip for work. She happily accepts, leading to eight days of awkward meals, fights over the GPS, and proof that even when they’re adults, kids will always be embarrassed by the stuff their parents do. Anne Fletcher (The Proposal) directed the Christmas release, which should provide fun intergenerational viewing. (Paramount; Dec. 25)

Anne Hathaway sings “I Dreamed a Dream” in the feature adaptation of Les Misérables. If it seems like everyone you know has seen the musical, that’s because 60 million people have bought tickets over the stage adaptation’s 27-year run. Fresh off his “Best Director” Oscar win for The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper takes on the famous tome by Victor Hugo, a love story framed by social injustice and civil unrest in 19th-century France. Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as the ruthless policeman Javert, and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the dastardly Thénardiers. Yes, all the actors sing. For added realism, they sang live on set instead of lip-syncing to pre-recorded tracks. (Universal; Dec. 25)

Billy Crystal and Bette Midler play grandparents who are called in as reinforcements in Parental Guidance. With her husband out of town, a mother of three (Marisa Tomei) seeks help from her parents. They raised her “old school,” while she applies more modern parenting techniques. The nosy, opinionated elders interfere with baseball games and violin lessons, and argue over the best way to raise a child in the tri-generation comedy. Andy Fickman (You Again, She’s the Man) directed. (20th Century Fox; Dec. 25)

Three eight-year-old boys were murdered in 1993, and their deaths spurred another tragedy: A trio of teen boys were charged with the crime and imprisoned for 18 years until they were finally released in 2011. The 1996 documentary Paradise Lost and its two sequels first explored the case. West of Memphis picks up the story again, bringing new evidence to light, including DNA samples and recanted testimony. Filmed mainly while the three men were still imprisoned, Amy Berg’s doc also reveals miscarriages of justice, in which politics and personal interest took greater precedence than freeing innocent men. (Sony Pictures Classics; Dec. 25)

Drilling for natural gas has become a hot topic in recent years, from environmentalists warning about effects of fracking to incendiary documentaries like Gasland. Director Gus Van Sant of Good Will Hunting fame directs Matt Damon once again in Promised Land. Damon and his sales partner Sue (Frances McDormand) head to a depressed rural area to get residents to sign away their gas rights. The sales team encounters roadblocks when a schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook) and grassroots activist (John Krasinski of “The Office”) oppose the drilling, and Damon gets emotionally involved with a local woman (Rosemarie DeWitt). Damon and Krasinski wrote the screenplay along with author Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Away We Go). (Focus; Dec. 28)

A retirement home that caters exclusively to musicians throws an annual fundraiser in Quartet. Things get complicated when the fourth, most celebrated member of a former opera-singing quartet (the venerable Maggie Smith) moves into the home, reuniting with her ex-husband, another member of the group. Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with this adaptation of the play by Ronald Harwood. Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins complete the quartet. (Weinstein Co., Dec. 28)

Also in December
Based on a comic-book series, Bad Kids Go to Hell concerns six private-school students locked in Saturday detention with a killer on the loose. Judd Nelson, Ben Browder and Ali Faulkner head the cast. (Bad Kids Prods.; Dec. 7)

An English bride-to-be gets cold feet on her wedding day in 1932, setting her household into a frenzy in Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) and Luke Treadaway (Attack the Block) co-star along with “Downton Abbey” matriarch Elizabeth McGovern. (IFC Films; Dec. 7)

Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde star as a casino-robbing brother and sister in Deadfall. A blizzard in Upper Michigan puts a dent in their getaway plans, but even when the couple split up to save themselves, they end up crossing paths again. Sissy Spacek, Kate Mara, Kris Kristofferson and Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) round out the cast. Stefan Ruzowitzky, whose drama The Counterfeiters won Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, directs. (Magnolia; Dec. 7)

Filmmaker Edward Burns turns in another work sure to please fans of his Irish-American, working-class family stories with The Fitzgerald Family Christmas. During the holiday, a group of adult siblings meet with their estranged father (Ed Lauter) for the first time since he walked out on their family two decades earlier. Burns stars, writes, directs and produces. (Tribeca Film; Dec. 7)

The life of Brazil’s first soccer superstar gets the biopic treatment in Heleno. At the height of his fame in the 1940s, Heleno de Freitas’ passion for the good life, in the form of nightclubs, women, alcohol and the drug ether, would threaten to cut short a stunning career. Rodrigo Santoro (300) stars in the black-and-white, Portuguese-language film. (Screen Media; Dec. 7)

Honor Flight follows a Midwest community’s efforts to send every local World War II veteran to the Washington, DC memorials builit in their honor. (Freethink Media; Dec. 7)

British and Jewish actor and writer Stephen Fry loves the composer Richard Wagner. But so did Hitler, who appropriated the music for the Nazi cause. In Wagner & Me, Fry visits landmark sites from Wagner’s life and tries to separate the man from the music. (First Run; Dec. 7)

There’s a certain kind of person who looks at the Great Wall of China and thinks, “I’d like to jump over that on my skateboard.” That person is Danny Way. The documentary Waiting for Lightning shows how Way went from a California kid in a broken home to one of the skate world’s leaders, X-Games champions and innovators. (Samuel Goldwyn; Dec. 7)

In 1970s Los Angeles, a gay couple take in an abandoned teenager with Down syndrome, and fight a biased legal system in their effort to adopt him. Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt star in Any Day Now, a drama based on a true story. (Music Box Films; Dec. 14)

Lizzy Caplan (Bachelorette) plays an aspiring artist unable to make a romantic commitment in Save the Date, a comedy directed by Michael Mohan. Alison Brie (“Community”) and Martin Starr (Knocked Up) co-star. (IFC Films; Dec. 14)

An East German woman (Nina Hoss) must choose between escaping the communist country with her lover or staying behind to pursue another romance in Barbara. Christian Petzold (Yella, Jerichow) won the Best Director prize for the thriller at the Berlin Film Festival. (Adopt Films; Dec. 21)

An ailing woman has her neighbor summon the man she had a love affair with 50 years earlier in Tabu. So begins a flashback to the young couple’s relationship, narrated by her former lover. Miguel Gomes (Our Beloved Month of August), a director acclaimed by cinephiles, helmed the unique Portuguese-language romance. (Adopt Films; Dec. 26)

All release dates are subject to change.