Arts and Entertainment

Holiday Movie Guide: Sorting through what's on the silver screen

It's that time of year again. No, not Christmas. Not Hanukkah. And certainly not Christmakkuh.

It's awards season. Meaning the best and brightest of the motion picture world take over silver screens in hopes of garnering a few golden statues. Here's a guide to help you navigate the do's and don'ts of the holiday movie lineup:

"The Princess and the Frog"

Today marks the debut of Disney's first African American heroine in "The Princess and the Frog" — also the company's first 2-D animation since 2004. It's a tale set in the Jazz Age of New Orleans, following a young girl who's turned into a frog and must implore the good voodoo priestess of the Bayou to change her back. Disney faced its share of scrutiny during production due to the film's racially historic context, and went so far as to rework plot details and change the lead character's name (from Maddy to Tiana). The movie features the voices of Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman and Terrence Howard, as well as a score composed by Randy Newman.

"Invictus"

Just try not being interested in a film boasting what Morgan Freeman called his toughest acting job ever. If that doesn't do it, there's Oscar buzz for Matt Damon in "Invictus," the fifth film from director Clint Eastwood in as many years. It depicts Nelson Mandela in South Africa after the fall of apartheid, during his first term as president as he campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in an effort to unite his countrymen. A "message movie?" Perhaps. But probably a good one. "Invictus" releases today. Also out Dec. 11: "The Lovely Bones," based on the novel by Alice Sebold, marks another turn by director Peter Jackson heavy in special effects. Starring "Atonement" newcomer Saoirse Ronan, it looks to nab some nominations of its own.

"Avatar"

Oh, boy. Has anything — anything?! — been as hyped by FOX's marketeers as "Avatar"? We think not. (See: most recent episode of TV drama "Bones," which centered an entire B plotline on the film. Seriously.) But who can blame them? The studio says "Avatar" is its most expensive movie made yet. A recent Wall Street Journal article speculated the film's final production cost could exceed $300 million. The James Cameron-helmed 3D sci-fi flick follows a paralyzed war veteran, who is taken to a moon called Pandora to join a military effort against the moon's native Na'vi creatures. The buzz is big, but heavily manufactured. It could be a hit, especially with Cameron attached. Or it could be a really, really expensive flop. Opens Dec. 18.

"Nine"

Talk about a cast. Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Stacy Ferguson (Fergie), Kate Hudson and Judi Dench lead the cast of "Nine," a "Chicago"-esque musical about a film director, his wife, his mistress, his muse, his agent and his mother. Rob Marshall directs what looks to be a raunchy success. Opens Dec. 18. Also opening that day: "Did You Hear About the Morgans?", a Hugh Grant-Sarah Jessica Parker rom-com about a bickering married couple on the verge of divorce that is sent into small-town USA under the Witness Protection Program. We say, pass.

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"

What we imagine will be a must-see for some will be a curiosity for many, as the late Heath Ledger's final film performance is released Dec. 25. Directed by Terry Gilliam ("The Brothers Grimm"), "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is a fantastical telling of a doctor who must save his daughter on the eve of her 16th birthday after striking a deal with the devil. Ledger's role, left unfinished at the time of his death, was filled by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law, each of whom donated their earnings to the late actor's daughter.

"Sherlock Holmes"

Everyone's favorite detective is in a battle for all of England this Christmas. "Sherlock Holmes" brings Robert Downey Jr. back to the big screen alongside Jude Law and the ever lovely Rachel McAdams. Guy Ritchie directed the film, which looks to be gritty and entertaining. Also opening Dec. 25: "It's Complicated," a fantastically casted romantic comedy starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. We say, don't miss it.

Bainbridge Cinemas will screen holiday favorite “Home Alone,” in which 8-year-old Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) is left at home by his parents when they leave with the rest of the family for Christmas in Paris. It will play at 11 a.m. Dec. 12. The screening will benefit Toys for Tots. Admission is a monetary or food donation to The Helpline House on Bainbridge Island or the North Kitsap Fishline. Info: (206) 855-8173.

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