The Turkey has been served, and the thanks have been given; the stockings have been hung by the chimney with precise care and caution. All across the country fathers are goading their children to help them put up the lights around the house. Trees are being purchased. Red cups are out at your local Starbucks.

I can’t help but think, “Finally some good movies.”

The Holiday season is beautiful and festive for sure, but more than that it is fast becoming one of the most popular times for studios to release their tentpole big budget blockbusters. Along with this, smaller studios are releasing their best Oscar hopefuls, and Miramax is beginning to campaign for statuettes. Studios are better grasping when people want to see movies and when they do not. For the last few months we have been forced to deal with mindless dredge such as Skyline, Devil, and Life as We Know It. There have been a few exceptions such as The Town and The Social Network, but they have not been able to erase the deluge of mediocrity into Cineplexes throughout the country.

However, there is salvation in the winter season, which has been properly beefed up due to the wild success of Avatar (Notice every big release this year is in 3D) and Sherlock Holmes last winter (the two made over 3 billion dollars combined). I have found myself most entertained and intrigued by the previews of films the last few months.

This list is separated into three categories: The James Camerons (Blockbuster Films), The Clint Eastwoods (Oscar Bait), and The Jeffrey Katzenbergs (So Much Hype, So Little Follow Through).

The James Camerons

Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (December 10th): Hollywood doesn’t quite know what to make of this franchise, and the postponement of Dawn Treader’s production is evidence of that. Is it an epic Lord of the Rings type or is it a more kid friendly, candy coated Harry Potter franchise? The films have met some box office plaudits but have yet to really maintain the public’s attention. This film will tell if they continue to get the same big-studio release, or if they get relegated to home-video status. And is it just me, or are these kids aging less conveniently than Daniel Radcliffe and Co.?

The Tourist (December 10th): Johnny Depp! Angelina Jolie! Directed by that guy with the really foreign, long name that did The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)! Recipe for success… add in a purely Hitchcockian plot of mistaken identity and international intrigue and it seems as though we have an old school thriller on our hands. Donnersmarck has proved he can do the tasteful, small dramatic film and this will be his first attempt at pure action fare. It is surprising to see Johnny Depp take such a mainstream role, but I think he is going to add more of an interesting twist to what could be a straightforward leading man part. Let’s see how his chemistry with Angelina shows up on the big screen.

Tron: Legacy (December 17th): The true heir to Sir Cameron’s throne, this massive CGI-enhanced sequel to 1982’s TRON. Disney has invested some serious bucks into what they hope will be a phenomenon blockbuster. Director Joseph Kosinski is being paraded around like a visionary even though this is his first film, and Daft Punk’s score is getting some serious playtime on everyone’s Grooveshark accounts. If trailers grossed a billion at the Box Office than Tron would be set, but we have yet to see reviews and how the public will react to this sci-fi actioner.

The Clint Eastwoods

The Black Swan (December 3rd): I have long felt that Darren Aronofsky is the closest heir to Stanley Kubrick that we have seen. Every film he has made has been a completely unique and subtlety beautiful experience. He delivers rich imagery and layers of symbolism that are amazing to see unfold. Like Kubrick, his films have also gone unseen in theatres, and only gain respect after people have the chance to comprehend their brilliance. Black Swan seems to be no different, as this tale of two ballerinas’ obsession with a role drives them towards insanity. Hopefully the Academy will be paying closer attention this time. As always Clint Mansell will be delivering the mind-bending score, this won’t be one to miss.

The Fighter (December 10th): Mark Wahlberg wants to be taken seriously so incredibly bad. He has been training for this role since 2007 in hopes of gaining more dramatic actor credit/comparisons to Robert DeNiro for this boxing movie about real life boxer “Irish” Micky Ward. His old pal David O. Russell is directing and he is starring alongside Christian Bale. Expect much brooding and stoicism, coupled with moments of people getting really angry and trying to punch each other.

True Grit (December 22nd): The Coen Brothers bring us a tale of retribution and violence in the American West. And it’s not called No Country for Old Men! This remake of the Oscar-winning John Wayne vehicle from 1969 is garnering huge positive buzz and awards talk due to the names involved. The first trailer looks stunning, and Jeff Bridges is always a fascinating watch (especially alongside Josh Brolin and Matt Damon). Expect great dialogue and snappily-constructed action sequences, I smell a Best Picture…

The Jeffrey Katzenbergs

The Green Hornet (January 14th): This film had everyone at pre-production. Seth Rogen was sitting on top of the Comedy World after Pineapple Express and Chinese Comedy God Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) was going to co-star as Kato and direct. Then rumors of production problems and Chow eventually dropping out of the film pushed the release date back from this Summer to December, and eventually to Movie Wasteland January. However, there is still hope that a slimmed-down Rogen can carry this superhero film past mediocrity. And Chrisoph Waltz as a scenery-chewing villain will be hard to resist. But the question is: has the public had enough of Superhero Franchises?

Gulliver’s Travels (December 22nd): It is hard to fully comprehend the maelstrom that is Jack Black. While a very gifted comedian he seems to not fully know what he wants to do, starring in such films as King Kong and The Holiday. While consistently brilliant in supporting roles, he sometimes struggles to carry the burden of a movie squarely on his shoulders (Envy, Be Kind Rewind, Year One).  That means 20th Century Fox is taking quite the risk giving him the keys to a big-budget 3-D film. We will see if Black’s comic genius will shine through or if he will be the diluted version of himself that the kiddies like…

Little Fockers (December 22nd): Meet the Parents, instant comic gold. Ben Stiller meets Bobby DeNiro at his most intimidating and cannot seem to do anything right. Stuff of Genius. Meet the Fockers, still pretty fun. The actors are obviously cashing in on what they first did so well, but there is still a good deal of fun to be had with it. Little Fockers, okay now these guys just want some money.  Come on Stiller/DeNiro, team up on some other darker comedy and work that chemistry some more. This feels like a recycle of material that totally lacks originality.

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