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O come let us adore film: Holiday movies

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SAN FRANCISCO Where’s that darn figgy pudding?! It may be the holidays, but Tinseltown isn’t offering much tinsel. For festive season 2010, the studios’ only Christmas-themed title is a surreal-looking 3-D “Nutcracker” in limited release. And you can forget about Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. They aren’t represented at all — unless Harry Potter, whose behemoth “Deathly Hallows: Part I” opens today, plans to rule the multiplex with a drumstick in one hand and a menorah in the other. Not likely. Expect a less holy mix of action, comedy, music and drama making spirits bright instead. (Dates are very subject to change.)

Jingle all the way to the box office

The Tourist (Dec. 10)
Stars: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie
Story: He’s a lovelorn American tourist; she’s a dangerous mystery woman in a thriller set in lovely Venice.
Success? The drooling won’t be for pumpkin pie with this delicious megastar twosome as holiday treats.
Our take: Guns and glamour with gondolas
Rated: PG-13
 
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Dec. 10)
Stars: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, voice of Liam Neeson
Story: In this third fantasy blockbuster based on C.S. Lewis’ iconic children’s books, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie and friends board the good ship Dawn Treader with the fate of Narnia at stake.
Success? There’s pent-up demand since Hollywood is offering too few family films this season.
Our take: Adventure and spectacle for all ages
Rated: PG

Tron: Legacy (Dec. 17)
Stars: Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde
Story: The highly anticipated sequel to 1982’s cult favorite “Tron” picks up decades later with Bridges’ video-game developer trapped inside his own creation, and his grown son going into the cyber-realm after him.
Success? Fanboys are freaking out over early peeks at splashy, computer-generated special effects.
Our take: They’re game, but how about us nongeeks?
Not yet rated

Ho ho ho meets ha ha ha

How Do You Know (Dec. 17)
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson
Story: Set in Washington, D.C., this sophisticated romantic comedy triangle puts Witherspoon between star athlete Wilson and hapless Rudd, who is under indictment for a financial scandal.
Success? If anyone can make a movie for grownups fly, it’s master writer-director James L. Brooks.
Our take: I know I can’t wait
Not yet rated

Yogi Bear (Dec. 17)
Stars: Voices of Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake
Story: This combined live-action and animated feature adaptation about TV’s cartoon creature, turns Jellystone Park into a playground for crowd-pandering hijinks.
Success? Boo Boo … hiss. It will do un-bear-ably well.
Our take: For critics, a picnic basket case
Rated: PG

Little Fockers (Dec. 22)
Stars: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman
Story: In the third “Focker” farce, more family culture clashing erupts, now over the grandchildren.
Success? It’s an amazing ensemble, even if the premise is starting to wear thin.
Our take: De Niro and Keitel together again on screen, but for laughs?!
Not yet rated

Gulliver’s Travels (Dec. 22)
Stars: Jack Black, Amanda Peet, Emily Blunt, Jason Segel
Story: Illustrious 18th-century satirist Jonathan Swift rolls over in his grave as clown-boy Black transforms his magnum opus into a “contemporary” adventure comedy of Lilliput.
Success? There’s teeny-tiny hope that the original’s allegorical wit remains.
Our take: Still, it’s a classic
Not yet rated

No peace on earth

Faster (Nov. 24)
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton
Story: In a straight R-rated actioner, ex-con Johnson seeks vengeance on a murder spree, with lawman Thornton in pursuit.
Success? Male pattern boldness goes great with a side of cranberry sauce.
Our take: The Rock on a roll
Rated: R

The Fighter (Dec. 17)
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams
Story: The fact-based sports drama is about one-time boxing champ “Irish” Micky Ward and the contentious relationship with his older brother-trainer.
Success? Looks like a classy project, helmed by director David O. Russell (“Three Kings”).
Our take: A raging bull or bust?
Rated: R

True Grit (Dec. 22)
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld
Story: It’s a remake of 1969’s famous John Wayne western, but through the lens of the edgy filmmaking Coen brothers.
Success? Could be both retro and cool, with Bridges a great choice for the enduring character Rooster Cogburn.
Our take: Saddle up for this one
Not yet rated

A-caroling they go

Burlesque (Nov. 24)
Stars: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Stanley Tucci
Story: In this dueling-divas musical drama, upcoming talent Aguilera steals the spotlight from “mature” headliner Cher at The Burlesque Lounge.
Success? Catty insiders are already sharpening their claws over what could be a fabulously campy, hot mess.
Our take: Think “Showgirls” with underwear and a melody
Rated: PG-13

Tangled (Nov. 24)
Stars: Voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy
Story: It’s the Rapunzel fable with Walt Disney-style, um, extensions — including CGI animation and 1960-ish folk-flavored songs from composer Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Enchanted”).
Success? There should be few commercial stresses for a tresses musical as kid-friendly cartoon.
Our take: Hair today, not gone tomorrow
Rated: PG

Country Strong (Jan. 7)
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Leighton Meester
Story: As a waning celebrity country singer and cute drunk, Paltrow gets to work her pipes and grub for gold statuettes with a twang.
Success? Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Chris Martin — some would say Paltrow’s love life was already a country song.
Our take: A star is corn
Rated: PG-13

On Dasher, on Dancer, on drama

Love and Other Drugs (Nov. 24)
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway
Story: The dramedy is part seductive romance, part social commentary — set against a shady pharmaceutical industry in the mid-’90s.
Success? Its rating is for nudity and explicit sex scenes — reliable marketing hooks.
Our take: Pill-poppers with a purpose
Rated: R

The King’s Speech (Dec. 10)
Stars: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
Story: The British biopic is about Queen Elizabeth’s father George VI, who overcame a speech impediment and family scandal to become a kingly inspiration.
Success? This was the most universally well-reviewed movie on fall’s film festival circuit.
Our take: A royal flush at the arthouse
Rated: R

Black Swan (Dec. 3)
Stars: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder
Story: In this psychological thriller, Portman and Kunis are professional New York City ballerinas competing for the lead in a twisted swamp of a “Swan Lake.”
Success? Risk-taking director Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler”) appeals to critics.
Our take: But will audiences find it on point?
Rated: R