It's that time of year again, when commercial crowd pleasers and Oscar hopefuls all jockey for position at your friendly neighborhood multiplex. Which means it's also time for Creative Loafing to trot out its year-end look at what the studios have lined up to carry us through the end of the year (and, in the case of the limited releases, into the new year).
NOVEMBER 17: Casino Royale isn't just the 21st film in the James Bond series; it's also the first, in that it's taking the whole franchise back to the beginning and showing how Agent 007 (Daniel Craig) initially became a British spy with a "licence to kill" ... Fast Food Nation is director Richard Linklater's fictionalized take on the nonfiction bestseller by Eric Schlosser, with Greg Kinnear, Bruce Willis and Maria Full of Grace Oscar nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno as three people all involved in one way or another with a hamburger chain whose product might be contaminated with cow manure ... After providing the voice of a mouse in Flushed Away, Hugh Jackman turns to lending his vocals to the part of a flightless fowl in Happy Feet, an animated yarn about a tap-dancing penguin (Elijah Wood). Other cast luminaries include Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams and the late Steve Irwin (a.k.a. the Crocodile Hunter) ... The trailer for Let's Go to Prison includes a Brokeback Mountain gag, which provides a glimpse at what to expect from this comedy about an innocent guy (Will Arnett) who winds up behind bars.
NOVEMBER 22: In the comedy Deck the Halls, a suburbanite (Danny DeVito) decides to decorate his house with an obscene amount of Christmas lights, much to the dismay of his neighbor (Matthew Broderick) ... Deja Vu stars Denzel Washington as an ATF agent who's forced to rely on the title sensation to help him solve a mystery ... Writer-director Christopher Guest (Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind) and his cast of regulars (including Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey and Fred Willard) return with For Your Consideration, a comedy about a group of actors who learn that their latest film is generating Oscar buzz ... Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) directs Hugh Jackman and recent Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) in The Fountain, an ambitious sci-fi tale that spans centuries as it relates the story of a man's love for his ailing wife and his eventual discovery of the Fountain of Youth ... Nicole Kidman stars as legendary photographer Diane Arbus in Fur, which fictionalizes parts of Arbus' life by providing her with a soulmate (Robert Downey Jr.) whose entire body is covered in hair ... Tenacious D in 'The Pick of Destiny' finds the two members of the rock band (Jack Black and Kyle Gass) on the hunt for a magical guitar pick.
NOVEMBER 23: Bobby Brown? Bobby Seale? Bobby Goldsboro? None of the above. Instead, Bobby centers on Robert Kennedy and that fateful night when he was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The writer-director is Emilio Estevez (you read that right), who managed to assemble an all-star cast whose members include Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone, Elijah Wood, ex-flame Demi Moore and, yes, dad Martin Sheen.
DECEMBER 1: The tale of Mary (Whale Rider Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes) and the birth of Jesus are recounted in The Nativity Story, directed by Thirteen's Catherine Hardwicke ... The first film from Fox Atomic, the new specialty branch with an eye on the youth dollar, will be Turistas, a Hostel-like tale about a group of American campers terrorized in a Brazilian jungle ... Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid have both bailed, so Kal Penn, who played a supporting role in 2002's Van Wilder, rises to leading man status in Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, in which his character heads to Oxford.
DECEMBER 8: On those occasions when he wasn't engaged in drunk driving or anti-Semitic rants, Mel Gibson was busy directing Apocalypto, a subtitled period epic about conflicts among Mayan warriors ... The latest large-scale yarn from director Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Glory) is Blood Diamond, in which three people (Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly) in Sierra Leone find themselves coming to blows with the ruthless companies raping the land for diamonds ... The Holiday, from writer-director Nancy Meyers (Something's Gotta Give), finds two women -- an American (Cameron Diaz) and a Brit (Kate Winslet) -- temporarily swapping houses, which in turn introduces prospective new boyfriends (Jude Law and Jack Black, respectively) into their lives ... Several kids find themselves stranded in an airport during the Christmas season in Unaccompanied Minors.
DECEMBER 15: In the tradition of Dragonslayer and Dragonheart comes Eragon, an adaptation of the best-selling book about a young lad (Edward Speleers) who teams up with a dragon to stop an evil king (John Malkovich) ... Three soldiers (Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, 50 Cent) serving in Iraq deal with issues during and after their tours of duty in Home of the Brave ... A struggling salesman (Will Smith) trying to support his son (played by Will's own kid, Jaden Smith) worries about losing both his job and his home in The Pursuit of Happyness.