Movies: Familiar faces and roles return
Of all the old acquaintances coming to movie screens for the holidays — Rooster Cogburn, Gulliver, Yogi Bear, the Focker family, the Narnia crew — one kid with glasses stands above them all.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" is the beginning of the end for one of Hollywood's most remarkable undertakings, a decade-long dash to adapt J.K. Rowling's seven novels about the young wizard before Daniel Radcliffe and his co-stars outgrew the roles.
Told in two parts, with November's first installment followed by next July's finale, the adaptation of Rowling's final book sends Radcliffe's Harry and pals Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) outside the safety of Hogwarts wizardry school on a quest to bring down their nemesis, evil Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), once and for all.
Unlike the earlier books, which had secondary plot lines that could be omitted, "Deathly Hallows" had few details to drop, Radcliffe said.
"It's just the three of them on the road, and that's what you're focusing on, that's where everything happens. So there's very little you can cut without changing the story," Radcliffe said. "It was essential to make it true to the book, and to do that, you have to make two films."
Here's a look at highlights among other films debuting for the holidays this November and December:
Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell and Tina Fey combine voice talents for the animated comedy "Megamind," about a supervillain with a void in his life after defeating the superhero who thwarted him for years.
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" resumes C.S. Lewis' fantasy adventure, with the Pevensie youths reteaming with King Caspian on a perilous sea journey.
Live action and animation mix for "Yogi Bear," with Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake providing the voices of the cartoon bear and his pal Boo Boo, who face eviction from Jellystone Park.
Father-in-law Robert De Niro and son-in-law Ben Stiller are at odds again in "Little Fockers," the third chapter in the "Meet the Parents" franchise, with fresh mayhem erupting at a family gathering.
Also on the comedy front: Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams star in "Morning Glory," about bickering hosts of a morning TV news show; Jack Black takes the title role in "Gulliver's Travels," a modern update of Jonathan Swift's tale of a man who travels to a land of tiny people; Robert Downey Jr. plays a high-strung man racing home for the birth of his child and reluctantly forced to travel with an aspiring actor (Zach Galifianakis).
Downey said laughs were the main aim of the comedy from director Todd Phillips ("The Hangover"), yet the filmmakers also sought to dig deep into issues troubling the mismatched protagonists.
"We were talking about a Russian family drama, the way we talked about the beats and what was important and what was missing," Downey said. "Without it being too self-serving, some of that really is what the movie is about. These subtleties. How desperate these guys are and how kind of fortunate it is that they come together. There's even a sense of actual recognition of fate. It's not two-dimensional. It's a pretty complex story."
Jake Gyllenhaal's a fast-talking, womanizing Viagra salesman pursuing an elusive new romantic target (Anne Hathaway) in "Love & Other Drugs."
"How Do You Know" stars Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson in a comedy from director James L. Brooks ("Terms of Endearment"), about a woman torn between her ballplayer boyfriend and a new man.
Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie star in "The Tourist," a romantic thriller about a heartbroken man swept up in intrigue in Italy after a mystery woman thrusts her way into his life.
"Blue Valentine" casts Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in a drama that cuts back and forth between a couple's hopeful beginnings and the agonizing disintegration of their marriage.
Helen Mirren does Shakespearean sorcery and hard-boiled espionage with a pair of December releases.
Julie Taymor's gender-bending "The Tempest" casts Mirren in a traditionally male role as a woman who conjures a storm to shipwreck enemies on her island home, where she aims to settle old scores.
"The Debt," from "Shakespeare in Love" director John Madden, features Mirren and "Avatar" star Sam Worthington in a thriller about Mossad agents chasing a Nazi butcher.
Among other holiday dramas: Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") directs "127 Hours," starring James Franco as a mountain climber struggling to survive after he's trapped by a boulder; Colin Firth plays Britain's King George VI, father of the current queen, as a therapist (Geoffrey Rush) tries to help him overcome a speech impediment; Natalie Portman's a ballet dancer whose dark side emerges as she competes with a rival in "Black Swan"; Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale are sibling boxers who team for triumph in the ring in "The Fighter"; Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation") directs "Somewhere," the story of a party-boy actor (Stephen Dorff) reassessing his life during a visit from his daughter (Elle Fanning); Naomi Watts and Sean Penn star in "Fair Game," a drama about CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose cover was blown by a Bush administration leak.
To prepare, Watts went to spy boot camp, where she was handcuffed, hooded, confined in a box, struck with canes and put through other ordeals to familiarize herself with Plame's world.
"The first day, I said, 'Ow,' when somebody kicked me on the shins, and the trainer said — he always would sound so fierce and angry, like these beady eyes and tight lips — great trainer, he just said, 'Don't be making any complaints unless you want to go to hospital. And we can go to hospital, but I don't want to humiliate you,'" Watts said. "So it was like, 'Oh, my God. I better really toughen up here.'"
Christina Aguilera's an aspiring singer hoping for a break at a musical revue in "Burlesque," which co-stars Cher, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell and Julianne Hough.
Other music tales this season: The animated musical "Tangled" features Mandy Moore providing the voice of long-haired Rapunzel, the fairy-tale princess trapped in a tower; "The Nutcracker in 3D" features John Turturro and Elle Fanning in the holiday classic about a girl and a nutcracker that comes to life, with new songs set to music from Tchaikovsky's ballet; Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw star in "Country Strong," the story of a fallen country star hoping to revive her career on a tour with a rising songwriter (Garrett Hedlund).
Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott's latest collaboration is "Unstoppable." Washington's a railroad engineer who teams with a conductor ("Star Trek" star Chris Pine) to put the brakes on a runaway train carrying deadly toxins.
Washington said action ace Scott was like a kid with a giant train set.
"Literally, he's got the biggest one in the world. A mile and a half long worth of cars," Washington said. "It's Tony Scott playing with trains. Chris Pine and I are just pawns. It's him with a bunch of trains. He's blowing them up, knocking them off the tracks."
Also in the action lineup: Russell Crowe stars in "The Next Three Days" as a man plotting a prison break after his wife (Elizabeth Banks) is jailed for murder; An ex-con (Dwayne Johnson) on a vengeance mission is pursued by a cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and a hitman in "Faster"; Jeff Bridges resurrects two Hollywood heroes with "Tron: Legacy," a followup to his 1982 sci-fi adventure "Tron," and Joel and Ethan Coen's "True Grit," a remake of the John Wayne Western.
"Tron: Legacy" casts Bridges' video-game genius back into a dazzling cyber realm, where his son (Garrett Hedlund) follows to find his missing father. In "True Grit," which co-stars Matt Damon, Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn, a boozy, take-no-prisoners lawman hired by a girl to track down her father's murderer.
The two films, which open barely a week apart in December, sent Bridges back and forth between a visual-effects extravaganza and 19th century sets.
"It was really crazy. The big swing was, after 'True Grit,' we shot some work on 'Tron: Legacy,' and it was maybe a one-day difference, just right to it," said Bridges, who had the same makeup man on both shoots. "One minute, he was putting all this dust on me, combing my beard, and the next he's putting dots on my face to do some special effects."