Heath Ledger's final screen performance in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. The splashy extravaganza Nine, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman and way too many other stars to list. Peter Jackson's highly anticipated adaptation of The Lovely Bones. All of these are year-end award contenders, but because of limited-release patterns, none will reach Charlotte until 2010.
But fret not. Over the final three weekends of this calendar year, the theaters will still be humming with several new releases, both prestige pieces and popcorn pictures. Here's a look at what's on tap:
Dec. 11: Clint Eastwood directs Morgan Freeman (who won his Oscar for Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby) in Invictus, the true story of how President Nelson Mandela attempted to bring together post-apartheid South Africa through the nation's shared love of rugby. Matt Damon costars as the captain of the country's rugby team ... Disney's The Princess and the Frog is that modern rarity: a cartoon film that relies on hand-drawn animation rather than CGI trickery. Set in New Orleans, it takes the story of the princess who kisses a frog prince and gives it some updated twists.
Dec. 18: James Cameron takes the director's chair for the first time since Titanic with Avatar, a 3-D sci-fi spectacle about a soldier (Sam Worthington) involved in a battle between humans and aliens that's being waged on a distant planet ... The romantic comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans? casts Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as an unhappy New York couple who witness a murder and are subsequently placed in the witness relocation program. As they hide out in Wyoming, the flames of passion begin to rekindle.
Dec. 25: In Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, the follow-up to the wretched 2007 original, the three singing male chipmunks square off against three singing female chipmunks ... It's Complicated stars Meryl Streep as a woman who embarks on an affair with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin), only to suddenly find herself simultaneously being wooed by another divorcé (Steve Martin) ... Sherlock Holmes casts Robert Downey Jr. as the legendary British sleuth and Jude Law as right-hand man Dr. Watson, protecting England (and Rachel McAdams) from an internal threat ... Up in the Air stars George Clooney as a man who's hired to fire people at various companies; when his own job description changes dramatically, he's forced to reconsider his career strategy... The Young Victoria centers on the tumultuous first years in the reign of the 19th-century Queen of England (Emily Blunt), including her romance with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) and her power struggles with various family members and politicians.
More Film Events
• The Light Before Christmas, a stop-motion animated film about a kindly old man who entertains two children with a reading of The Night Before Christmas, will be shown in Discovery Place's IMAX Theatre through Jan. 3. Tickets cost $7-$8 for adults and $6-$7 for children and seniors. (www.discoveryplace.org)
• While you're at Discovery Place, shake off those winter chills by checking out the warm-weather locales seen in another IMAX presentation: Under the Sea, which looks at marine life located around such destinations as South Australia and Indonesia. The documentary is narrated by Jim Carrey and can be seen in the IMAX Theatre through Jan. 31. Tickets cost $7-$8 for adults and $6-$7 for children and seniors. (www.discoveryplace.org)
• Speaking of Jim Carrey, while everyone else is wasting their time watching his lame new motion-capture version of Disney's A Christmas Carol, come to the Freedom Regional Library and learn about a different form of animation. Join the Anime Club, which is dedicated to increasing the awareness of Japanese animation. The club meets select Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; the next meeting is Dec. 9. (704-416-4200)
• The Scaleybark branch of the Public Library gets into the spirit of the season with a screening of A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa. Showtime is 2 p.m. Dec. 22, and admission is free. (704-416-6400)
• For those Charlotteans interested in heading toward a nearby Borders or Best Buy to pick up some seasonal viewing material on DVD or Blu-ray, here are some suggestions. These are the current five best-selling holiday titles, according to Amazon.com: 1) Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws; 2) Peanuts Holiday Collection (includes A Charlie Brown Christmas); 3) The Original Christmas Classics (contains several Rankin-Bass animated features, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman); 4) The Muppet Christmas Carol: Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition; 5) It's a Wonderful Life (Blu-ray).