‘Disney’s A Christmas Carol’ Kicks Off The Holiday Season In This Week’s Box Office Poll

Robert Zemeckis, Jim Carrey and Disney join forces this week in what is likely to be the box office-topping release of the performance capture-animated retelling of “A Christmas Carol.” Expect the same, old story beats in a fresh new format. And there are plenty of options available for those who crave different degrees of face-meltingly awesome visuals: in addition to vanilla theatrical showings, there are also 3-D and IMAX options!

Those who crave something with a bit more bite have several options to choose from. First is “The Box,” from “Donnie Darko” director Richard Kelly. Kelly was kind enough to invest his time in a week-long guest editorship on MTV Movies Blog last week, and he got us very hyped for the “Box” release in the process. The story follows a married couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) who receive a mysterious package in the mail, containing a box equipped with a large red button. A stranger (Frank Langella) shows up to inform them that they’ll receive $1 million if they press the button, though a stranger somewhere in the world will be killed as well. Sounds perfectly weird to me and like yet another cult-friendly winner for Kelly.

In direct competition with “The Box” — or perhaps perfect double-feature fodder, if that’s your bag — is “The Fourth Kind.” The based-on-true-events story is set in Nome, Alaska, where a higher-than-average number of missing persons are reported each year. The running theory is that these disappearances are related to alien abductions — so-called “extraterrestrial encounters of the fourth kind” — and the movie explores that with what has been described to me as an atypical presentation. I haven’t had the pleasure of catching this one yet, but I hear it’s excellent.

There are also some first-class options in the realm of limited releases, for those who can catch them locally. “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” based on the non-fiction book by Jon Ronson, explores the existence of a U.S. military program involving psychic spies. It features a dynamite cast, including Ewan McGregor, George Clooney and Jeff Bridges. The other major limited release dropping this week is “Precious,” based on Sapphire’s novel “Push.” This one is a strong Oscar contender, with standout performances from newcomer Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique.

But wait! There’s more! “Endgame,” a political thriller set around the fall of apartheid in South Africa, is another of the week’s limited openings. I caught this one at Sundance 2009 and loved it, though it is very dense, dry material, so be sure you know what you’re getting into before you purchase a ticket. Also opening this weekend in select theaters are “Splinterheads,” which looks to be an offbeat relationship comedy, and “That Evening Sun,” a drama which notably features “Alice in Wonderland” star Mia Wasikowska.