In the original version of this article, a quote from Anne Thompson said she called "Avatar" "probably the most excessive movie ever made." She actually said "expensive." The online version of the article reflects the accurate quote.
2009 holiday movie guide
What do you want for Christmas?
Movie-wise, it's gotten to the point where a good story and maybe a star or two would do. With Hollywood feeling the financial pinch along with the rest of the country, the studios are more inclined than ever to go for the sure thing. In audience terms, that means teenage boys who tend to show up on opening weekend and see their favorite movies more than once. And in movie terms, teenage boys mean things that go boom.
Which is why other film fans are eternally grateful for the holiday season, when filmmakers bring out their Oscar hopefuls as well as family movies.
Movie industry analyst Anne Thompson sees a couple of slam-dunks on the horizon, including "Up in the Air," a recession-themed comedy starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga that was a hit with the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival and such franchise installments as the new "Twilight" movie. But Thompson sees more question marks than sure things on the holiday horizon, including "The Lovely Bones," "Nine" and "Invictus," all of which are arriving in theaters as unknown quantities. And even proven festival favorites "The Road" and "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire," Thompson predicts, might have tough sledding at the box office "unless they get a big lift from Oscar." Her biggest want-to-see? "Avatar," James Cameron's gazillion-dollar sci-fi fantasy and "probably the most expensive movie ever made."
Herewith is a partial list of what's opening through Christmas Day -- movies with promising pedigrees, positive reception on the festival circuit or a too-awesome-to-fail cast (Clooney plus Farmiga? We're so there). Because if you're going to take a break from shopping and cooking and entertaining and spending precious time with family and friends to see a movie, it had better do more than blow things up.
-- Ann Hornaday
Opening dates are subject to change. See the Going Out Guide's Coming Soon page for updates.
Pirate Radio (R)
The cast: Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost
The story: This comedy is based on the real-life exploits of a group of DJs that rocked 1960s Britain when they took to the high seas with their bootleg radio broadcasts.
The buzz: From writer-director Richard Curtis ("Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Love, Actually"), this one could go either way, although with Nighy on board, we're optimistic.