Oh holiday movie season, why are you so transcendently cool?
This is the time of year when the studios forget about the explosions-per-minute ratio of their blockbusters and unleash more artistic properties in the hope of snagging an Oscar or two. Don't worry, though -- there will still be plenty of speaker-shattering gunshot action and crotch-kickingly hilarious sight gags to pass the hours away with your loved ones.
Enjoy our selection of the prime cuts -- this season's biggest and best holiday movies.
'Tower Heist' (Nov. 4)
It's been a while since we've seen Eddie Murphy in rare form, but that's what this film is promising us as the one-time king of comedy teams with the architect of Chris Tucker's career, director Brett Ratner. Originally conceived as an all-star African-American "Ocean's 11," it's now a blue-collar heist picture with Ben Stiller leading the pack, accompanied by partner-in-crime Murphy as well as "Ocean's" alum Casey Affleck.
'A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas' (Nov. 4)
Harold Lee and Kumar Patel are decking the halls, but those are NOT boughs of holly they're smoking. After conquering "White Castle" and "Guantanamo Bay," the modern patron saints of doobie have been anointed to save Christmas, and neither the Russian mob nor their newfound adult responsibilities can keep these guys from high times. Neil Patrick Harris is back from the dead to raise hell, and an adorable/creepy Wafflebot just might steal the show.
'J. Edgar' (Nov. 9)
As far as national treasures go, they don't come more vaunted than Clint Eastwood. The seasoned director still has plenty more stories to tell, and at age 81 he's dropping one of his most ambitious epics yet with this biopic of power-drunk FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) spanning his many decades in the public eye. We'll also get a peek into his private life with purported lover Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), as promised by Academy Award-winning "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.
'Immortals' (Nov. 11)
Imagine a movie as lush and gorgeous as director Tarsem Singh's "The Fall" grafted onto the body of a gargantuan action blockbuster, and you're halfway to understanding the glory this movie is. Drenched in more 3-D blood and gore than you can rub off with a rag, this balls-out Greek-god pic makes "300" look like a school play. Future Superman Henry Cavill (and his pecs) stars as Theseus while human hamburger Mickey Rourke plays adversary King Hyperion.
'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1' (Nov. 18)
You know you want it. Bella and her vampire boy toy finally do the horizontal bop, but that baby bump is unexpectedly early ... and vicious. Headboards will break, tempers will flare, werewolves will fight vampires, and there will be much crying from all the ladies (and sensitive dudes) in the audience.
'The Descendants' (Nov. 18)
Can you say Oscar front-runner? We and a lot of other prognosticators certainly have, especially after the glowing reception this George Clooney starrer has received at Toronto and other festivals. Absent for seven years after "Sideways," writer-director Alexander Payne is back, and from all accounts he's giving us a tragically funny adult dramedy the way only he can. Clooney's soon-to-be widower living in Hawaii may also present another opportunity to take home a gold bald guy.
'Hugo' (Nov. 23)
After years as the preeminent maestro of mob movies, Martin Scorsese is finally dipping his (blood-caked) toe into the waters of the family movie. Don't let the PG rating fool you, though, because despite the kid stars and broad comedy, this is not as "Harry Potter"-esque as the marketing department would have you believe. Based on Brian Selznik's beautiful book, it's actually as much a tribute to silent film magician Georges Méliès (played by Ben Kingsley) as it is a rollicking fantasy-adventure.
'The Muppets' (Nov. 23)
Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo and all the rest are back to remind those under 20 just what they missed out on by not being born before 1990. For those who can recall, Jim Henson's puppet creations were endearing and hilarious on a level unmatched, and with star and cowriter Jason Segel on board, it's inevitable that this movie will have an easy time bringin' in the green. We're extra-psyched to hear Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie's toe-tappin' tunes to the sound of Piggy's karate chops.
'The Artist' (Nov. 23)
A black-and-white silent movie with blockbuster potential in the 21st century? Yep. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo star as lovers passing each other on opposite ends of the "being a star" spectrum -- one (Dujardin) a silent-film star seeing his livelihood slip away, the other (Bejo) a rising young ingenue. This tragic romance won Dujardin the Best Actor award at Cannes and is being touted as a front-runner for Best Picture. For serious.
'My Week With Marilyn' (Nov. 23)
Michelle Williams was extraordinary last year in "Blue Valentine," but she may have just been priming the Oscar punch for her portrayal of the greatest screen sex bomb of all time, Marilyn Monroe. She looks the part (boy does she ever) and has some killer support from Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier. After the box office slam-dunk of "Thor" you'd think Branagh would coast for the rest of the year, but he just might add a few supporting actor award nominations to this year's booty.