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WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (DEC. 2)
Tilda Swinton may be a Best Actress contender for this heavyweight drama about the parents of a troubled boy (Ezra Miller) involved with a school massacre. John C. Reilly plays her husband. Lynne Ramsay, director of intense Scottish indies such as Ratcatcher, helms the adaptation of the award-winning novel by American writer Lionel Shriver. We Need to Talk About Kevin addresses a huge, uncomfortable topic underexplored on the big screen — let's hope it lives up to its ambitions.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (DEC. 9)
Gary Oldman returns to his soft-spoken Commissioner Gordon mode as English spymaster George Smiley, who comes out of retirement to expose a high-ranking Soviet mole in the Intelligence community. Tomas Alfredson, director of Let the Right One In (the awesome Swedish one, not the decent American one), helms this adaptation of John LeCarré's classic espionage novel from 1974. The film features the best ensemble of British character actors this side of a Harry Potter movie: Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ciarán Hinds. Fun fact: In 1979 and 1982, Alec Guinness played Smiley so well for the BBC that LeCarré felt he could no longer write for the character and retired him. LeCarré drew inspiration from the case of real-life defector Kim Philby, so it could draw on rich issues of personal and national loyalty. But Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy might turn out to be just a cerebral, slow-burning thriller.
THE IRON LADY (DEC. 16)
The Academy Awards probably have a Best Actress nomination already reserved for Meryl Streep in this dramatization of the rise of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The supporting cast includes Richard E. Grant, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" Anthony Head and Jim Broadbent as her husband Denis. How the film treats Thatcher's conservative politics will probably kick off a political argument, but given that director Phyllida Lloyd's only other major film was the wispy musical Mamma Mia!, we might want to reduce expectations.
YOUNG ADULT (DEC. 16)
Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody reunites with her Juno director Jason Reitman for this sure-to-be quippy comedy. Charlize Theron plays a successful young adult author who returns to her hometown and reconnects with her now-married sweetheart (Patrick Wilson) and a more maladjusted classmate (comedian Patton Oswalt). It probably won't be particularly challenging fare, unless it resembles one of those early Alexander Payne midlife satires, only with a female point of view.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (DEC. 21)
The Social Network director David Fincher returns to more familiar themes like obsession and serial murder in this take on the Swedish best-seller. While Noomi Rapace as superhacker Lisbeth Salander was the best thing about the Swedish version, Rooney Mara plays the title role here. (You may remember her telling off Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network's opening scene.) Daniel Craig plays a disgraced journalist who investigates a decades-old mystery about a missing girl. In Se7en and Zodiac, Fincher revealed a flair for conveying moral turpitude and complex information, but his Tattoo remake runs the risk of being just a slick, zeitgeisty thriller. The bootleg trailer that leaked online (but was probably a viral stunt) delivers such an unnerving rush that one can only hope the film lives up to it.
WAR HORSE (DEC. 28)
During World War I, an English horse gets sold to the British cavalry and has adventures on either side of No Man's Land. Meanwhile his young friend Albert (Jeremy Irvine) tries to find the steed in the war zone and bring him back to Devon. The material has made a circuitous route to the screen, beginning with Michael Morpurgo's 1992 novel and then the popular 2007 theatrical version. (Yes, it was a hit stage play about a horse.) In addition to his four-legged ensemble, Steven Spielberg directs David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Emily Watson. The most fun thing about it should be the potential Spielberg title mashups: E.T.: The Equine Terrestrial? Saddler's List? Saving Pony Ryan?
THE ARTIST (TBD)
French director Michel Hazanavicius helms a tribute to the silent film era in this gorgeous-looking black-and-white, silent period piece. In 1927 Hollywood, the rise of the Talkies threatens the career of a matinee idol (Jean Dujardin) while making a star of a pretty extra (Bérénice Bejo). Hazanavicius and Dujardin worked together on the intoxicating OSS 117 spoofs of 1960s spy films, and The Artist looks too heartfelt to be merely an exercise in style. And since it's a silent French film, it doesn't matter that it has subtitles. Dujardin won Best Actor at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Next: Fall 2011 TV Preview
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