Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (now playing) is the first installment of the eagerly awaited two-part finale of J.K. Rowling's immense saga. By now, intrepid young wizards, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Grint) are practically grown up and the stakes are higher -- like finding the various parts of the soul of the evil Lord Voldemort (played by Tony Award winner Ralph Fiennes). Alas, the real payoff comes next July when Part 2 finally hits the screen.
Made in Dagenham (now playing) is much more than just a British remake of Norma Rae, even if the bare details have a familiar ring. Oscar nominee and current Broadway star Sally Hawkins plays Rita, a working-class mum in the 1960s who leads her women strikers into the very halls of Parliament and actually helps get an Equal Pay act passed. Right on!
The King's Speech (opens November 24) -- widely considered to be the front-runner for this year's Oscar for Best Picture -- chronicles the struggles of King George VI (the marvelous Colin Firth) to overcome a nervous stammer with the help of his unorthodox speech therapist (played by Tony Award winner Geoffrey Rush). Also on hand are Guy Pearce and Eve Best as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, plus such British stage stalwarts as Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon.
Tangled (opens November 24) is Disney's 21st-century, 3D makeover of Rapunzel. This go-round, the long-haired teen (voiced by Mandy Moore) finds her Prince Charming in a prince of thieves named Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi), and must overcome the objection of her wicked, if charming, foster mom (played brilliantly by Broadway's own Donna Murphy) to find true happiness. The original music is by the one-and-only Alan Menken.
The Nutcracker in 3D (opens November 24) is Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky's darker, Tim Burtonesque version of the Christmas classic. Theater lovers will delight in the work of Tony Award winner Nathan Lane -- in Albert Einstein make-up -- and John Turturro's campy blond rat-faced King of the Rats. And, yes, Elle Fanning proves the perfect heroine to save NC (the Nutcracker's new cool moniker) and his world.
Barney's Version (opens December 3), based on Mordecai Richler's final novel, focuses on the wasted life of Barney Panofsky (played in an unforgettable performance by Paul Giamatti). Oscar winner and stage star Dustin Hoffman turns up as his dad, and there are also appearances by Rosamund Pike and Minnie Driver.
The Tempest (opens December 10) finds Shakespeare's classic play re-imagined by visionary director Julie Taymor. The all-star cast is led by flinty Helen Mirren as Prospera and includes Alan Cumming, David Strathairn, Alfred Molina, Ben Whishaw, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Felicity Jones, Tom Conti, and Taymor's very own Spider-Man, Reeve Carney.
Rabbit Hole (opens December 17), adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, stars Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (who could take home a second statuette) and Aaron Eckhart as parents trying to deal with the untimely death of their young child. Director John Cameron Mitchell's eagerly-awaited film also features stage veterans Tammy Blanchard and Dianne Wiest as Kidman's sister and mother.
Casino Jack (opens December 17), the late George Hickenlooper's last film, stars Tony Award winner Kevin Spacey as infamous political lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is currently serving the end of his six-year prison sentence for fraud.
Country Strong (opens December 22) features Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow as Kelley Canter, a down-and-out country singer fresh out of rehab. The star reportedly got some on-set coaching from co-star Tim McGraw (and his wife Faith Hill), and if her recent kick-ass versions of "Forget You" on Glee and this film's title song on the CMA Awards are indication, she's more than up to the film's vocal tasks.
True Grit (opens December 25) is, according to Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, not a remake of the John Wayne 1969 classic of the same name. In this version of Charles Portis' novel, Oscar winner Jeff Bridges is on hand as the grizzled U.S. marshal, "Rooster" Cogburn, who is hired by a young girl (played by newcomer Hallee Stenfeld) to find her father's murderer.
Another Year (opens December 29) is one of those films that only Mike Leigh can make. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen star as a very loving, long-married couple, whose year is filled with the trials and tribulations of various friends, family, and colleagues (one of whom is superbly played by Lesley Manville).