A primer to what's coming to the 'plex over the next six weeks: We divvy up the season's offerings into award contenders (AWD), inspirational movies (INS), adventures (ADV), romances (ROM), family films (FAM) and backstage dramas (BSD)
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TANGLED (Nov. 24)
FAM/ADV Main line: In this animated 3-D film, long-haired Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) comes down from her tower and hooks up with a bandit, her pet chameleon and a horse. Crossover: Less tower time, more butt-kicking for the rebellious princess. Noticed: Critics mocked Disney for changing the title from "Rapunzel" to "Tangled" in the hopes of attracting more boys.
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THE NUTCRACKER IN 3D (Nov. 24 in Montreal, Nov. 26 in Toronto and Vancouver)
FAM/ADV/INS Main line: Not Tchaikovsky's ballet, but the story it was based on – with Elle Fanning as the girl, Nathan Lane as her uncle, and John Turturro as the Rat King. Crossover: A plucky heroine; and one for other little girls to emulate. Noticed: Appearances, in the trailer, of Nazi soldiers and a rat man with a jetpack suggests the story has been modernized.
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BURLESQUE (Nov. 24)
BSD/INS Main line: In this summit of the divas, singer Christina Aguilera (in her first major movie role) plays an ingénue who moves to Los Angeles and becomes a burlesque star under the tutelage of Tess (Cher). Crossover: A sort of "Showgirls"-meets-"Cabaret" message about self-belief. Noticed: First-time director Steve Antin has come a long way from being a child star of "The Goonies" and later one of Jodie Foster's assailants in "The Accused."
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LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS (Nov. 24)
ROM/AWD/INS Main line: Based on James Reidy's memoir, Ed Zwick's film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a playboy pharmaceutical salesman who falls for a prickly young woman (Anne Hathaway) with medical issues. Crossover: This classic bitter-coated sugar candy could earn Hathaway another Oscar nod. Noticed: Hathaway and Gyllenhaal are back in bed after their incompatibility problems in "Brokeback Mountain."
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FASTER (Nov. 24)
ADV Main line: Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson is an ex-con seeking payback for his murdered brother, while being chased by a cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and a hit man. Crossover: None. This is, after all, the Rock. Noticed: This is Thornton's first movie since his tantrum on CBC Radio in April of last year.
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WASTE LAND (Nov. 25 in Toronto, Nov. 26 in Vancouver)
INS/AWD Main line: Filmed over three years, this documentary focuses on Vik Muniz, who makes portraits out of Rio de Janeiro garbage. Crossover: The subjects' lives are changed through the power of art, which appeals to creative Oscar voters. Noticed: There's already proof that people love this kind of trash: The film has won audience awards at festivals from Berlin to Maui to Vancouver.
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MADE IN DAGENHAM (Nov. 26)
INS/FAM Main line: Sally Hawkins, star of Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky," plays a plucky union organizer who battles sexual discrimination in a Ford plant in England in the late sixties. Crossover: A strong comic cast, including Bob Hoskins and Miranda Richardson, helps the message go down easy for all ages. Noticed: The theme song is performed by former plant employee Sandie Shaw, who became a pop star.
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THE KING'S SPEECH (Dec. 10)
AWD/ROM/INS/BSD Main line: Colin Firth has a lock on an Oscar nomination with his performance as the stammer-prone Second World War monarch, King George VI, with Geoffrey Rush as his unorthodox speech therapist. Crossover: The king's sweet love story with the future Queen Mum (Helena Bonham Carter); a larger-than-life hero overcoming personal trials; and performance jitters. Noticed: After the movie, you can listen to Edward's real speeches on the BBC Archives site and compare pauses.
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BLACK SWAN (Dec. 3)
BSD/AWD Main line: Director Darren Aronofsky's psychodrama follows a ballerina (Natalie Portman) preparing to star in "Swan Lake," in a film that critics have called either brilliant or outlandish. Crossover: Portman's mad-girl performance has Oscar buzz. Noticed: The Black Swan Theory refers to statistically improbable game-changing events, of which this movie might serve as an example.
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THE TEMPEST (Dec. 10)
AWD/ADV Main line: A pretty fair writer (Shakespeare), an Oscar-winning star (Helen Mirren as Prospera) and an imaginative director (Julie Taymor) give one of the Bard's least feminist-friendly plays a shake-up. Crossover: It's the original desert-island romance. Noticed: After finishing "The Tempest," Taymor co-wrote and directed ye olde Broadway musical "Spider-Man," scheduled to open, after much delay, in January.
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THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (Dec. 10)
FAM/ADV Main line: In the third book of C.S Lewis's Narnia series, the Pevensie children and their cousin travel by sea to the edge of the world. Crossover: A swashbuckling yarn, including a dragon-fighting sequence. Noticed: Though Simon Pegg has replaced Eddie Izzard as the voice of the mouse Reepicheep, Aslan the lion still growls with Liam Neeson's brogue.
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THE TOURIST (Dec. 10)
ADV/ROM Main line: In this Hitchcock-style wrong-man thriller, Johnny Depp is a Midwestern math teacher and Angelina Jolie is the glamorous stranger he meets on a train. Crossover: The two best sets of cheekbones in the business, onscreen together at last. Noticed: Speaking of wrong men, Tom Cruise was attached to the role before Depp came aboard.
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RABBIT HOLE (Dec. 17)
AWD/INS Main line: Two stars (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) pull out all the stops as grieving parents in John Cameron Mitchell's adaptation of David Lindsay-Abair's Pulitzer-winning play. Crossover: A message of getting through, but not over, grief. Noticed: "Sex and the City's" Cynthia Nixon shed her chick-flick image by earning a Tony in the Broadway production of the play.
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TRON: LEGACY (Dec. 17)
ADV/FAM Main line: In this distant sequel to the 1982 film, Sam Flynn (Garret Hedlund) enters the same virtual world where his game-designer father, Kevin (Jeff Bridges), disappeared years before. Crossover: Dad can tell the kids all about computer games in the olden days. Noticed: The original "Tron" was inspired in part by the primitive video game Pong.
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YOGI BEAR (Dec. 17)
FAM/INS Main line: This feature, a mix of live action and computer-generated imagery, follows the adventures of the picnic-basket-thieving “smarter than the average bear” Yogi (the voice of Dan Aykroyd) and his sidekick, Boo-Boo (Justin Timberlake). Crossover: Yogi gets all environmentalist to save his beloved Jellystone park. Noticed: The average bear is estimated to be as smart as a three-year-old human, making that an ideal viewer for the movie.
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HOW DO YOU KNOW (Dec. 17)
ROM/AWD Main line: Reese Witherspoon stars as a former softball player torn between two guys, played by Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd, in the first comedy in six years from writer-director James L. Brooks. Crossover: It could be time for another of Brooks's witty, rambling relationship movies to break the calcified rom-com formula. Noticed: Brooks has directed nine actors in Oscar-nominated performances, but had no luck with Adam Sandler in "Spanglish."
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TRUE GRIT (Dec. 22)
AWD/INS Main line: The Coen brothers' adaptation of Charles Portis's novel "True Grit" stars last year's Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges as a curmudgeonly lawman hired by a teenage girl to track down her father's murderer. Crossover: The classic Western look emphasizes underachievers fighting long odds. Noticed: Bridges wears his eye patch on the right, the opposite of John Wayne, who won an Oscar for the same role in the 1969 version of the movie.
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LITTLE FOCKERS (Dec. 22)
FAM/INS Main line: Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his wife (Teri Polo) have a baby, making them a father and mother Focker. Crossover: Viewers are reminded that every dysfunctional family is improved by having a baby. Noticed: The first film, "Meet the Parents" (2000), was a remake of a little-seen 1992 film, which failed to use the surname Focker.
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GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (Dec. 22)
FAM/ADV Main line: Jack Black plays a mail clerk turned travel writer who gets captured by Lilliputian people and enjoys being looked up to for a change. Crossover: Gulliver does battle with a Transformers-style robot and watches a Kiss tribute band. Noticed: Jonathan Swift coined the word Yahoo to refer to the kind of character Black frequently plays.
Photo credit: hy*draulx
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BARNEY'S VERSION (Dec. 24)
AWD/ROM Main line: Paul Giamatti could well get an Oscar nomination for his boisterous performance as Barney Panofsky, the incorrigible but romantic hero of Mordecai Richler's final novel. Crossover: An appealing performance from Rosamund Pike, as Barney's last wife, Miriam, reveals Barney's tender side. Noticed: Set over decades, the movie follows not only Barney's changing loves but moving hairline.
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ENTER THE VOID (Dec. 30)
ADV/INS Main line: Gaspar Noé's provocation follows a drug dealer (Nathaniel Brown) who is killed in Japan, then appears as a ghost watching over his striptease-dancing sister ("Boardwalk Empire"'s Paz de la Huerta). Crossover: The promise of a posthumous second chance. Noticed: The director says he was inspired to make this film after watching the 1947 point-of-view film "Lady in the Lake" while stoned on magic mushrooms.