This Friday is Christmas, a day in which millions will go to the movies following their gift-giving and other holiday rituals, and as usual there are plenty of new releases opening wide for them to choose from. There's something for the kiddies, something for the adults and something for both action-fiends and classic literature buffs. And of course there are those who'll be catching up on or returning to the beautiful 3D world of "Avatar."
But for audiences looking for something less mainstream, there are also a few new titles out in limited release. Of these, one will be expanding its scope to play nearer to you in coming weeks, while the other two are available for viewing on demand through most cable services. So keep them each in mind and seek them out when and if you can.
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
What it is: The final film appearance from the late, great Heath Ledger, "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is the latest effects-heavy fantasy from visionary director Terry Gilliam ("12 Monkeys"). Ledger plays a mysterious man who enters parallel worlds through a magical mirror in order to save the daughter (Lily Cole) of Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), the leader of a traveling theater troupe. Tom Waits portrays the Devil, who collects the girl as payment for a deal with Parnassus, while Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law play alternate versions of Ledger's character.
Why you should be interested: Did I mention it's the last movie for Ledger, who won an Oscar posthumously this year for his brilliant portrayal playing The Joker in "The Dark Knight"? You may also be curious to see how Depp, Farrell and Law do filling in for Ledger (the actor died in the middle of filming "Parnassus"). Really though, even without such an impressive cast, this would be appealing simply for being another hugely imaginative work by Gilliam. Especially for those of us who find the filmmaker's "Adventures of Baron Munchausen" to be highly underrated.
How you can see it: Sony Pictures Classics opens "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" in NYC and LA on Friday (Christmas Day), but it's set to play nationwide beginning January 8.
What it is: The latest import from acclaimed filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu ("12:08 East of Bucharest"), and Romania's official entry for consideration for this year's foreign-language Academy Award, "Police, Adjective" is an absurd black comedy about a young undercover cop (Dragos Bucur) faced with the decision of whether or not to arrest -- and thereby ruin the life of -- a drug-dealing teen.
Why you should be interested: It's likely "Police, Adjective" will receive an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign-Language Film, and it has already won two prestigious awards at the Cannes Film Festival and received warm responses from audiences and critics at other major film fests around the world. Those movie fans who have so far been apprehensive about the new wave of Romanian cinema due to its bleak reputation must see this as a very funny entry point.
How you can see it: IFC Films opens "Police, Adjective" in NYC, Chicago and the LA area tomorrow, with other cities scheduled for release through April (see here for a list of booked theaters). If that Oscar nomination comes, it's possible more locations will follow, but for those still outside the distribution scope, the film is also playing on demand on the IFC In Theaters cable channel.
What it is: The latest from acclaimed French filmmaker Francois Ozon ("Swimming Pool"), "Ricky" is a fantastical drama about a family with a new addition: a baby boy born with a little something special. Although it's easy to figure out what that something is from the trailer, I'll refrain from spoiling it here. Let's just say the kid might one day be offered membership onto a superhero team.
Why you should see it: Without saying too much, again, "Ricky" appears to be a magical antithesis to the countless horror films about demon children. Critics have so far either loved or hated the film, but polarizing films are always appealing, in the way that you may be curious to know which camp you fall into.
How you can see it: IFC Films opened "Ricky" last week in NYC, where it continues to play through the holiday weekend. It is also currently available on demand via the IFC In Theaters cable channel.