Royal Tenenbaums (New York and Los Angles; wide release Dec. 28)
For those hated few Yalies who are out of here before finals week, “Royal Tenenbaums” beckons with its promise of continuous laughs and likeable characters from cult hero Wes Anderson. See Anderson’s fairy-tale, novelized vision of New York in the city itself on opening day.
Hoping that once-bitten film audiences will be twice charmed, Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe are together again, banking on the charisma of the “Jerry Maguire” star and a similar though more dramatic plot: corrupt guy gets comeuppance, falls in love, and starts soul-searching.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
Neck and neck with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” for the title of Movie Event of the Year, the first of the “Lord of the Rings” series promises swordfights, mystical sets, and the magic of Tolkien. Not to mention blinding star power: Ian McKellan, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, Sean Asten, Viggo Mortenson and the long-forgotten Elijah Wood star in three films that shot concurrently but will be released in coming years.
Jim Carrey wants an Academy Award, and hopefully this is the film that will make voters accept him as a serious actor. Director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”) indulges in Capra-corn, telling the uplifting yet socially critical story of a Hollywood screenwriter who is blacklisted in 1951, loses his memory, and rediscovers himself and his passion for film.
After a rough shoot, director Michael Mann (“The Insider,” “Heat”) is ready to unleash Will Smith as Muhammad Ali upon America. Smith already had the requisite machismo but did have to put on an extra 35 pounds — purely muscle, of course — to depict the living legend from his youth to his glory days.
A Beautiful Mind
A sure-fire Oscar contender, Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” chronicles the triumphant rise of mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr. (Russell Crowe) as he battles schizophrenia and goes on to win a Nobel Prize.
The Shipping News
With Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Dame Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett and Pete Postlethwaite, director Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat”) can’t lose, we hope. Spacey plays a father who, after a traumatic family experience, moves to his old home of rural Newfoundland with his daughter. His newspaper column makes him a man about town, and his romance with Julianne Moore makes them the talk of the town.