We Know You’ve Been Waiting!! – The Annual Xavierpop Holiday Season Movie Preview

There is cause for cheer yet in 2011 at the movies because the final weeks of the year are jammed-packed with the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, muppetational mix of huge holiday season releases and promising Oscar contenders. Not least of which The Muppets are set to make a roaring comeback.

There’s enough meat and cheese on the holiday wishlist to please every kind of movie lover. The back end of the year looks ready to erase out of our memories the giant thud that marked the year’s opening with the dreadful Nic Cage mess Season of the Witch, a movie with too many seasons to care about and sadly, no witches. Not even Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy flying in on vacuums could have saved that turkey despite all the welcome ham they would have added to the proceedings.

The mess continued from there with the lackluster Green Hornet, the unfunny comedies No Strings Attached and Your Highness, and the dreadful additions to the Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, and Twilight series of flicks, although Harry Potter 7 Part 1 hit the mark.

In terms of adaptations, Troy was regrettable, The Smurfs only a smidge better, while Captain America got the job done and Winnie the Pooh won our hearts.

Hollywood has seen better years for movies, but here at Xavierpop, we’re flipping cartwheels in anticipation of what the calendar looks like this holiday season; a tsunami of releases that look to change the entire complexion of 2011 as a whole.

Here’s the scoop: Martin Scorsese goes 3D, we get a double-dose of Spielberg in December, the Muppets make a comeback, the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo goes Hollywood, Alexander Payne proves once more that he’s this generation’s James L. Brooks, David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortenson prove that the third time really is the charm, Michelle Williams is Marilyn Monroe, Meryl Streep is Margaret Thatcher, Glenn Close is a man, Twilight is back (did it ever go away?), Angelina Jolie makes her directing debut, Jonah Hill’s a babysitter in a movie that harkens back to Adventures in Babysitting, while Matt Damon moves into a zoo.

Here’s the naughty and the nice of it, an Xavierpop holiday checklist of movies that are must-sees from here on out in 2011;

The Descendants (Nov.16; limited release) marks another mature dramedy for Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt), starring George Clooney as an absentee father of two girls whose world turns upside down after mom dies. Like James L. Brooks in the 80’s with Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News, Payne delivers another solid effort that has the ability to make audiences smile, laugh and cry all in the same movie. Plus, being very well received at TIFF is always a good thing.

George Miller (Mad Max, Babe: Pig In the City, Happy Feet) brings us a second installment in family fave Happy Feet Two (Nov.18), with the voices of Brad Pitt and Matt Damon joining Elijah Wood and Robin Williams. And yes, apparently the sequel does get a little more serious, like the second Babe outing.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Nov.18) brings us the fourth pic in that series, this one tracking Bella’s marriage to Edward and their uber-troubling and complicated pregnancy.

Fans of hard-hitting dramas will love the festival fave Tyrannosaur (Nov.18; limited), starring Peter Mullan (The Magdalene Sisters) and marking the second directing effort of actor Paddy Considine (In America).

The U.S. Thanksgiving long weekend is top-loaded with potential hits that should satiate every appetite. Check out this selection, hitting theaters on Nov. 23:

First, there’s Martin Scorsese, who’s set to enjoy the biggest commercial success of his career as he moves into more populist fare with Hugo, the 3-D adaptation of Brian Selznick‘s best-selling children’s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” about a boy who lives within the walls of a Paris train station. It has a stellar cast that stars Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Then there’s The Muppets, who storm back into theaters with the help of Jason Segal and Amy Adams.

Sony Pictures also gets into the 3-D and animation ring that weekend with Arthur Christmas, a movie that is set to reveal just how Santa gets the job done on Christmas Eve. With the voices of James McAvoy and Jim Broadbent.

And then there are three bonafide Oscar contenders launching that same weekend with festival favorites A Dangerous Method, this time a historical pic that teams David Cronenberg with muse Viggo Mortenson in a drama focusing on Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud; The Artist, that mesmerizing, touching, gorgeously photographed in black & white and almost entirely silent pic that opened with a roaring standing ovation at Toronto’s Elgin Theater at TIFF, about a washed-up silent movie star (played by Cannes Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin) whose career stalls with the advent of the talkies; and My Week With Marilyn, the biopic starring Michelle Williams (Wendy & Lucy) as Marilyn Monroe.

December kicks off with deep, dark, and delicious movies, first with Shame (Dec.2), the most talked-about film at the Toronto Film Festival which re-teams director Steve McQueen (Hunger) with the star of that pic, Michael Fassbender, this time as a man tortured by his sex addiction; and then there’s the brooding Roman epic Coriolanus, with Ralph Fiennes directing and starring, along with Gerard Butler and Vanessa Redgrave.

Luc Besson (The Professional, Arthur & the Invisibles) tries his hand at a straightforward drama with the biopic The Lady (Dec.2; limited), with Michelle Yeoh starring as Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Roman Polanski (Chinatown,The Ghost Writer) returns with the interior drama Carnage (Dec.16; limited), starring Jodie Foster.

The serious tone continues the first half of December with three other dramas opening around North America in major cities beginning Dec. 9 with I Melt With You, the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll soundtrack-infused drama starring Rob Lowe and Jeremy Piven; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Gary Oldman and Colin Firth in the feature adaptation to the John Le Carre best-seller about a cold-war era spy-hunt that climbs to the upper echelons of power at the British Secret Intel Service, directed by Tomas Alfredson who made one of 2008’s best movies with Let the Right One In; and the disturbing TIFF hit We Need To Talk About Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton as a mother haunted by her son, who appears to be a bad seed, directed by Lynne Ramsay, who indie lovers will remember from her uncompromising and challenging dramas Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar.

Lightening up the pre-Christmas rush are The Sitter (Dec.9), with Jonah Hill as a suspended student stuck babysitting young children; New Year’s Eve (Dec.9) from Garry Marshall, that schmaltzy but heartwarming of directors (Beaches, Pretty Woman, Valentine’s Day) who returns with another hyperlink movie with heapings of characters and storylines, this time focusing on year’s end; and Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked (Dec.16), another installment in the hugely popular adaptation of the Saturday morning family fave.

Bringing wall-to-wall action pre-Christmas week is the Steven Spielberg 3D-action-fantasy The Adventures of Tintin (Dec.21), starring Jamie Bell and Daniel Craig; Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, with Robert Downey Jr. back as the famous detective; and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, with Tom Cruise returning, but this time with Brad Bird behind the camera (The Incredibles, Ratatouille), a most interesting choice.

Perhaps the single biggest event among film geeks everywhere is the anticipation of the Hollywood adaptation of the European indie hit Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Dec.21), with David Fincher (Fight Club, Zodiac) helming from a Steve Zaillian-penned script (Searching For Bobby Fischer, Moneyball).

All of this leads to Christmas week, when a flurry of huge titles hit theaters, starting with the 3-D aliens-attacking-earth flick The Darkest Hour (Dec.25), starring Emile Hirsch; War Horse, the WWI English drama marking the second feature in as many weeks from Steven Spielberg; and Extremely Loud & Up Close (Dec.25), the 9/11 drama starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, directed by Stephen Daldry (The Hours, The Reader).

Within days of each other, Glenn Close and Meryl Streep star in their own movies, and you’ve read it here first: the Oscar winner will be one of those two ladies, either Close, who disguises as a male waiter in the wondrous 1898 British hotel drama Albert Nobbs (Dec.25), from director Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives, Mother & Child), or it’ll be Meryl picking up a long-overdue third Oscar with what will surely be her whopping 17th nomination playing Margaret Thatcher this time out in The Iron Lady (Dec.30).

Rounding out the holiday madness is the iron lady of this generation, Angelina Jolie, directing her first feature In the Land of Blood & Honey (Dec.23), set against the backdrop of the war in Bosnia, as well as another first-time directing effort from Madonna called W.E., which goes on a one-week Oscar qualifying run in late December while opening the first week of February. Last year audiences were treated to The King’s Speech, while this time around W.E. focuses on two stories, one of which follows the elder brother who abdicated the thrown to marry the American woman he loved.