Though we haven't yet had the chance to screen the December releases, we hope our loosely rated rundown helps you decide where to invest your movie-ticket moolah.
1. Tron: Legacy
It's the grid-imprisoned, light-car-racing, discus-battling sci-fi sequel everyone's been waiting for and talking about, in 3-D, with Jeff Bridges back as Flynn -- what more is there to say?
2. True Grit
The Coen Brothers wager they can do John Wayne's iconic 1969 Western True Grit justice. With a leg up from Josh Brolin, Matt Damon, and Jeff Bridges we think the odds are pretty good.
3. Black Swan
Director Darren Aronofsky makes ballet beauties Natalie Portman (Nina), Mila Kunis (Lily), and Winona Ryder (Beth) dance for him in a dark thriller about Nina's meek battle to land the lead in her NYC dance company's production of Swan Lake. It's a role that encompasses both a virginal white and evil black swan -- a duality that, along with her ambition, drives her mad.
4. Casino Jack
Nobody does larger-than-life like two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey. As Casino Jack's money-mad "super lobbyist" Jack Abramoff, he's in his element -- and probably the Oscar race as well. Aided by business partner Michael Scanlon (Barry Pepper) he ascends to awe-inducing levels of conning and fraud to erect his empire of wealth and influence. Disaster ensues when the pair enlist a mob-connected buddy (Jon Lovitz) to help with one of their illegal schemes.
5. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Forget everything you know about Santa. This Finnish film will reveal the truth (if you can handle it) about the killer. Yes, that's right, Claus has one of the biggest burial grounds you've ever seen. That's all I'm sayin'. If you're ready to put your jolly St. Nick illusions aside, go see it for yourself.
6. The Warrior's Way
The cinematic union you've been longing for (if it lives up to the hype): an East-meets-West kung fu Western with gravity-defying showdowns, stunning cinematography, and an epic arc of revenge and redemption. Writer/director Sngmoo Lee's hero Yang (Korean star Jang Dong Gun) is a martial arts swordsman forced to flee his homeland and seek refuge in the shambles of a former American gold rush town. After he bonds with an alluring knife thrower with a thirst for vengeance, Lynne (Kate Bosworth), it's clear he'll soon stop doing the town's laundry and dust off his sword.
Academy Award-winning writer/director Sophia Coppola returns with another atmospheric emotional drama -- the story of a hard-partying Hollywood actor (Stephen Dorff) who re-examines his life after his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), surprises him with a visit.
8. All Good Things
A shadowy love story/murder mystery set against the backdrop of a 1980s New York real estate dynasty, All Good Things is inspired by a notorious missing person's case: the true tale of wealthy Durst family scion Robert Durst. He was suspected but never tried for killing his wife, Kathie, who disappeared in 1982 and was never found. Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst play husband and wife with Frank Langella as the sinister patriarch. Andrew Jarecki (Catfish) directs.
9. The Tempest
In a sex-changing twist, Julie Taymor's big-screen adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest has Helen Mirren reigning over the magical island as exiled sorcerer Prospera (rather than Prospero). Otherwise the film promises to unleash Shakespeare's same squall of shipwrecks, spells, political intrigue, romance, and revenge. Russell Brand struts his Shakespearean stuff as Trinculo, with help from Alfred Molina (Stephano) and Chris Cooper (Antonio). Ben Whishaw (Bright Star's John Keats) and Felicity Jones play hapless amours Ariel and Miranda.
10. The Fighter
Your favorite wise-ass, rough-and-tumble leading man is back. In The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg's in familiar form with director David O. Russell (Three Kings) to play real-life boxer "Irish" Micky Ward. Based on the years before he went pro in the 1980s, the biopic portrays the underdog's rise from mediocrity and his relationship with the unstable brother who helped train him (Christian Bale). Amy Adams plays his lady.
French flick Biutiful is the latest from Babel director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Javier Bardem is a troubled father in grim circumstances who senses the danger of death. The trailer paints a picture of a passionate, furious, transformative story -- the stuff of Oscars according to some critics, while others call it simply too depressing.
12. Hemingway's Garden of Eden
A screen take on the unfinished Hemingway literary masterpiece Garden of Eden, the John Irvin-directed adaptation, like the novel, hinges on a gender-bending love triangle between ex-pat David (Jack Huston) and wife Catherine (Mena Suvari), who are traveling through Europe, and the woman (Marita, played by Caterina Murino) they both desire.
13. Blue Valentine
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams star as a married couple in a film that charts the course of their relationship. Blue Valentine seems like a quirky, soulful, sweet, contemporary romance.
14. Yogi Bear
In a tantalizingly impressive (at least in the previews) combo of CGI and live-action, Yogi Bear schleps his pic-a-nic basket to theaters. Justin Timberlake adds another notch to his thespian belt as the voice of Yogi's sidekick Boo-Boo. The rest of their Jellystone Park posse include Tom Cavanagh (Ranger Smith) and Anna Faris (Rachel).
15. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The next Narnia installment has been summed up by some as The Odyssey with a talking mouse. The children journey to dragon's caves, an ocean of sweet water, and more magical locales, though this time neither Disney nor director Andrew Adamson will be along for the fantastic ride. Some of us are optimistic that the adaptation will do C.S. Lewis (and his book) proud.
16. The Company Men
Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones give faces to the mass victims of corporate downsizing. That may sound dark, but it's more of a feel-good, be-grateful-for-what-really-matters film that also stars Kevin Costner.
17. Gulliver's Travels, 3-D
Lemuel Gulliver (of Gulliver's Travels) was a mail room clerk? Well, he was, or is, in this modern revamp of the classic story. Clerk Gulliver (Jack Black) poses as a journalist in order to travel to the Bermuda triangle to chase a story, and discovers the lost land of the Liliputians. He uses his super-sized presence (and belly) to impress and protect the teeny natives who include Emily Blunt and Jason Segel.
18. Night Catches Us
Scored by The Roots, Night Catches Us is the result of the director's aim to make a "doggedly afro American film." Amidst the 1970s Black Power movement, former radical Marcus (Anthony Mackie) returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he grew up and is greeted with suspicion due to the death of a former comrade. Reeling in this whirlwind of intense drama, he must confront his love for old friend Patricia (Kerry Washington) and hide a game-changing secret.
19. How Do You Know?
Speaking of love triangles ... in Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon's latest rom-com, the trio thrash about in a Witherspoon-centered love triangle while philosophically pondering romance's deeper questions ("How do you know when you're in love"?). Jack Nicholson stars as George's (Rudd) dad who tries to keep him from running away (literally) from his problems. Hopefully this won't be another rom-com audiences will want to run away from. Rudd and director James L. Brooks (As Good as It Gets) are reason to hope.
20. The Tourist
If the trailer's any prediction, this Depp-Jolie comedic thriller looks to be light on the comedy and heavier on the thrills. As much as I love Johnny Depp, I'm not convinced that the two have much screen chemistry. (Depp plays a regular guy who meets Jolie's character on a train and gets tangled in her cloak-and-dagger web.) Will the romantic Venice scenery stir up some sizzle? Are they supposed to have British accents or not? You'll have to head to the theater to find out.
21. Little Fockers
Yes, they're back again -- Stiller, De Niro, Streisand, and Hoffman, plus Owen Wilson, Jessica Alba, and some pitter-pattering little Focker feet. Why? Not a clue...