Hollywood's holidays range from Muppets to Marilyn

By David Germain

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 24 2011 5:05 a.m. MDT

Roman Polanski's "Carnage" stars Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz in a drama about parents whose civility slips away as they meet to talk over a playground fight between their sons. It is based on Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play, "God of Carnage."

In "We Bought a Zoo," Matt Damon plays a dad trying to hold his family together by doing just what the title says — moving with his kids to a rundown zoo that they begin to rebuild. Sounds sappy, concedes Damon, who interrupts himself when he describes the movie to point out that it's directed by Oscar winner Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire," ''Almost Famous").

"It's one of those movies that sounds like it could be the worst Disney movie ever," Damon said. "My pitch for it normally is, 'So this guy buys a broken-down zoo and in the course of rebuilding the zoo — look, Cameron Crowe directed it.' ... So you go, OK, this could work."

WAR STORIES:

Angelina Jolie makes her directing debut with "In the Land of Blood and Honey," a romance set against the turmoil of the war in Bosnia during the 1990s.

Set amid the Cold War in 1973, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" stars Gary Oldman as author John le Carre's unassuming spymaster George Smiley, brought out of retirement to finger a Russian mole in British intelligence circles.

Ralph Fiennes gives Shakespeare an update, directing and starring in "Coriolanus," with the action moved to modern times as an exiled Roman general enlists a former rival (Gerard Butler) and lays siege to his old city.

Based on the book that inspired the Broadway play, Spielberg's "War Horse" chronicles the horrors of World War I through the eyes of an English farm horse that is sold to the army and later captured and pressed into service by the Germans.

Spielberg saw the play in London, a production using elaborate life-sized puppets as horses. Dazzling as the puppets were, Spielberg said it's the core of the horse's journey that really resonates.

"I walked out of that marvelous experience with a deep desire to make the movie," Spielberg said. "The reason it endures with audiences and it really touches the heart is because of the story, and it was a story I wanted to turn into a motion picture. We have real horses. We don't use puppets. I have to hasten to point that out."

ROMANCE AND LAUGHTER:

Charlize Theron is a wannabe home wrecker in "Young Adult," playing a writer who returns to her hometown and sets about reclaiming her high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson) from his wife.

Jonah Hill proves a nightmare of a baby sitter as he takes his neighbor's kids along for a wild night on the town in "The Sitter."

The holidays are the backdrop for some of the season's comedies: "Jack and Jill" stars Sandler as both a solid family guy and his needy twin sister, who comes to visit for Thanksgiving; "New Year's Eve" features an ensemble including Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert De Niro, Ashton Kutcher and Michelle Pfeiffer as New Yorkers ringing in another year; "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" reunites the party-boy pals (John Cho and Kal Penn) for a stoner journey through New York City.

One of the season's most-unusual releases is a throwback to old, old Hollywood. "The Artist" follows the downfall of a movie star (Jean Dujardin) and the rise of a starlet (Berenice Bejo) as silent film gives way to sound pictures — and it's told as a black-and-white silent film.

The movie has charmed audiences at film festivals, winning Dujardin the best-actor prize at Cannes. But can a quaint throwback to the silent era click with today's paying crowds?

"The most difficult thing to do is to actually manage to drag these people into the room," Dujardin said. "But once they're in the room, there's no problem. I'm kind of convinced that they will stay."

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