Escape to a theater near you for these coming holiday attractions releases. Here’s a quick rundown — complete with bonus factoids — of the movies you’ll see in theaters through the end of the year. As always, release dates are subject to
NOV. 18 "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire": In his fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) sniffs out a foul plot hatched by the fiendish Lord Voldemort. So what else is new?
Well, we actually get a glimpse of Voldemort this time (he’s played by Ralph Fiennes) and director Mike Newell ("Pushing Tin") serves up a spot of adolescent love-triangle action. Oh, Harry! Stocking Stuffer: Radcliffe made cast members pose underwater for a personal holiday greeting card. "Walk the Line": Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon play Johnny and June Carter Cash in this Cash family-sanctioned tale of love, addiction and burnin’ rings of fire. Stocking Stuffer: Yes, that IS Phoenix’s throaty tenor singing those songs. Witherspoon’s, too.
NOV. 23 "Rent": Puccini’s "La Boheme" is transported to New York’s modern-day East Village, with strippers instead of seamstresses and AIDS instead of tuberculosis. From director Chris Columbus ("Home Alone"). Stocking Stuffer: Includes most of the original Broadway cast, including Taye Diggs.
"In the Mix": Hip-hop star Usher Raymond plays a club DJ who inadvertently saves the life of a Mafia princess (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and is handed an offer he can’t refuse: Protecting her from danger. It’s "The Bodyguard" meets "Save the Last Dance." Stocking Stuffer: Raymond is known as "Big Ush" to his friends.
"Yours, Mine and Ours": The first of two holiday comedies about obscenely large families. This one stars Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo, and features 18 combined children. Stocking Stuffer: Remade from the 1968 film starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda.
"The Ice Harvest": Bumbling lawyer John Cusack plans a daring Christmas Eve swindle. His target? The Mob. Billy Bob Thornton also stars for director Harold Ramis ("Analyze This"). Stocking Stuffer: Penned by "Nobody’s Fool" novelist Richard Russo (a University of Arizona grad).
"Just Friends": At his high school reunion, a heartless womanizer (Ryan Reynolds) gets a chance to avenge himself on the woman (Amy Smart) who broke his heart. Edgy comedy from director Roger Kumble ("Cruel Intentions"). Stocking Stuffer: If you keep going, Reynolds is just going to make more of them.
DEC. 2 "Aeon Flux": Slinky assassin Charlize Theron goes after a corrupt dystopian bureaucrat in this sci-fi/actioner set 400 years in the future. Adapted from the MTV "Liquid Television" serial. Stocking Stuffer: Could do for this Oscar winner what "Catwoman" did for Halle Barry.
DEC. 9 "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe": Plusses: Beloved source material, proven director (Andrew Adamson of "Shrek"), Disney’s marketing muscle. Minuses: No bankable star (though Tilda Swinton as the White Witch is an inspired bit of casting). Stocking Stuffer: Liam Neeson replaced Brian Cox ("Troy") as the voice of messianic lion Aslan at the 11th hour.
"Syriana": Important Cinema with a capital "IC." George Clooney plays CIA terrorist-chaser Robert Baer in this sinuous, multinarrative tale of petroleum politics from "Traffic" screenwriter Stephen Gaghan. Matt Damon also stars. Stocking Stuffer: Clooney packed on snack-food pounds for the role, and he claims the strain almost killed him.
DEC. 14 "King Kong": One can only imagine how many of Jackson’s "Heavenly Creatures" would fit into this $200 million, three-hour monstrosity. In any case, it should be good for a hoot. Jack Black plays an ego-mad filmmaker who leads his cast and crew (including Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody) on a journey to a mythic island. Stocking Stuffer: Once-jolly Peter Jackson lost 80 pounds during principal photography.
DEC. 16 "The Family Stone": Everett (Dermot Mulroney) wants to propose to girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) over the Christmas holiday, but his conniving, hateful family has other plans. Hey, it beats the same old Tim Allen junk. Stocking Stuffer: Deluxe cast also includes Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Claire Danes.
DEC. 21 "Fun With Dick and Jane": A well-heeled couple (Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni) turn to crime to sustain their plush lifestyle when both lose their jobs. Dean Parisot ("Home Fries") directs. Stocking Stuffer: Leoni stepped in when Cameron Diaz got cold feet.
"Cheaper by the Dozen 2": On vacation, the 12-strong Baker family find themselves in competition with a family of eight children, headed by Eugene Levy. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt return from the original. Stocking Stuffer: Unfortunately, Hilary Duff returns as well.
"Rumor Has It": Nervous bride-to-be Jennifer Aniston is shocked to learn that her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) was the model for the Mrs. Robinson character in "The Graduate." From director Rob Reiner ("The Princess Bride"). Stocking Stuffer: Reiner replaced original director Ted Griffin in midshoot.
DEC. 23 "Munich": A Mossad agent (Eric Bana) tracks the Palestinian terrorists who masterminded the kidnapping plot that left several Israeli wrestlers dead during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it looks like a fairly open-and-shut case of Oscar candidacy. Stocking Stuffer: Also stars Daniel Craig, the new James Bond.
"Hoodwinked": Little Red Riding Hood (Anne Hathaway) is framed for criminal misdeeds in this spoofy animated romp. Sally Struthers and Andy Dick also provide voices. Stocking Stuffer: Former Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein picked up this little gem at Cannes last year.
"Memoirs of a Geisha": Raised in a small fishing village, a young Japanese girl (Ziyi Zhang) endures hardship and super-snug shoes to become the most coveted geisha in the land. Rob Marshall ("Chicago") directs from Arthur Golden’s sweeping best-seller. Stocking Stuffer: Long the pet project of Steven Spielberg.
"The Ringer": A con man (Johnny Knoxville) and his friends rig the Special Olympics by impersonating mentally disabled athletes. Who says highbrow projects have no place in Hollywood? Stocking Stuffer: Officially the first Special Olympics/con-man movie ever released during Christmas, unless you count "Reindeer Games."
DEC. 25 "The Producers": Mel Brooks’ reconstituted Broadway musical comes to the big screen, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in their original roles. Uma Thurman also stars for first-time director Susan Stroman. Stocking Stuffer: Will Ferrell plays Franz, the Nazi songwriter.
"Casanova": Director Lasse Hallstrom ("Chocolat") stakes out his usual Christmas Day release-date territory with this classic tale of an irresistible charmer (Heath Ledger) who meets his match (Sienna Miller). Stocking Stuffer: With this and the gay cowboy saga "Brokeback Mountain" (Dec. 16), there isn’t much romancing for Ledger left to do.