Warner Bros. Keith Bernstein, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Only Hollywood could assemble a holiday guest list that ranges from the Muppets, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Puss in Boots and dancing penguins to J. Edgar Hoover, Margaret Thatcher, Marilyn Monroe and a steed in the trenches of World War I.
The latter are among a batch of potential Academy Awards contenders from past winners and nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio as the FBI boss in director Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar"; Meryl Streep as former British Prime Minister Thatcher in "The Iron Lady"; Michelle Williams as Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn"; and Steven Spielberg directing "War Horse," the Tony Award-winning play that arrives in theaters just days after the U.S. debut of Spielberg's action tale "The Adventures of Tintin."
The rush of holiday films starts early with the pre-Halloween release of "Puss in Boots," an animated prequel about an early caper of the daring cat that became one of the ogre's sidekicks in the "Shrek" movies.
Antonio Banderas, who returns to provide the voice of Puss, said much of the character's charm arises as the tiny cat struts and boasts with a bravado that's out of whack with his size.
"We just provided him with a voice that doesn't go, actually, with the body," said Banderas, who is joined by voice co-stars Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris. "He thinks that he's bigger. He thinks that he's more arrogant. It's something that goes against the image, and that produces comedy."
Other top holiday titles include the next-to-last installment of "The Twilight Saga"; Robert Downey Jr.'s "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"; Hollywood's take on Stieg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," with Daniel Craig; Tom Cruise's "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol"; Martin Scorsese's first 3-D film, "Hugo"; Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller's action romp "Tower Heist"; George Clooney's family comic drama "The Descendants"; Adam Sandler's dual-role comedy "Jack and Jill"; and Charlize Theron's romance "Young Adult."
Here are details on some of the highlights:
Joining "Puss in Boots" on the family front are three familiar casts of cuddly creatures and a new animated look at the CEO of the Christmas season.
"Happy Feet Two" brings the return of tap-dancing cartoon penguin Mumble (Elijah Wood), whose son is in a crisis over his own lack of dance moves. The voice cast includes Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and pop star Pink.
During an ocean cruise, the talking, singing rodents find themselves stranded on a deserted island in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked." The live-action and voice cast features Jason Lee, Justin Long, Amy Poehler and Christina Applegate.
James McAvoy provides the voice of the title character in "Arthur Christmas," an animated adventure that explains how Santa Claus manages to deliver gifts all over the world in one night.
"The Muppets" return as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang team with two human pals (Jason Segel and Amy Adams) for a telethon to save their old theater from a greedy oilman (Chris Cooper).
The once omnipresent Muppets have been long absent from movies and TV, and Segel, who co-wrote the screenplay, said that has been incorporated into the story.
"We didn't try to skirt away from the fact that they've been dormant," Segel said. "We made that a major plot point. The Muppets have not been around for a while, and so we decided to create a story as to why and try to fix it, simple as that."
"My Week With Marilyn" chronicles the trials of a young assistant (Eddie Redmayne) as he ushers sex bomb Monroe (Williams) through the production of "The Prince and the Showgirl," co-starring Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh).