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Holiday movie preview: 30 cool flick picks for the season

Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” (Jaap Buitendijk)

Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” (Jaap Buitendijk) Credit: Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” (Jaap Buitendijk)

It's the time of year when big-name directors tackle kiddie fare — Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Cameron Crowe ("We Bought a Zoo"), Steven Spielberg ("The Adventures of Tintin"). If you're in the mood for something less PG, though, you have your choice of erotic dramas ("Shame," "A Dangerous Method") and edgy blockbusters ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," the next "Sherlock Holmes").

Here are 30 flicks on our radar.

Martin Scorsese takes a break from gangsters and cops to direct this children's flick about an orphan boy who inherits a mysterious automaton. Let's see what Scorsese can do with 3-D. (Nov. 23)

The Muppets
Jason Segel and Amy Adams star in this big-screen musical revival of the Muppets, in which Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and company try to save the Muppet Theater from a greedy oil magnate (Chris Cooper). Segel co-wrote the movie. (Nov. 23)

My Week With Marilyn
A lowly production assistant (Eddie Redmayne) has the time of his life when the star of the film he's working on, Marilyn Monroe, grows fond of him. The shining cast (Michelle Williams as Monroe, Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier) is the reason to watch this buoyant - and true - tale. (Nov. 23)

A Dangerous Method
Dialogue is king in this David Cronenberg-directed account of the friendship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). (Nov. 23)

The last time we saw Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster together was in Oren Moverman's affecting "The Messenger." Moverman pairs them up again in "Rampart," about a cop (Harrelson) whose life unravels after he's taped beating a suspect. Playing for one week, then opening wide in January. (Nov. 23)

The Artist
A black-and-white film with almost no dialogue? Seems like a hard sell for modern audiences, yet "The Artist" is a bona fide crowd-pleaser. Jean Dujardin (an Oscar shoo-in) plays a 1920s silent- film actor whose career suffers when talkies take over. (Nov. 25)

If you've ever wanted a glimpse into the life of a man with a debilitating sex addiction, here's your chance. Michael Fassbender bares all for this intense NC-17 character study. Carey Mulligan co-stars as his younger sister. (Dec. 2)

Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this Shakespeare drama about a Roman general (Fiennes) who aspires to political office in Rome and fails. He then joins forces with his enemy (Gerard Butler) to seek vengeance on the city that spurned him. (Dec. 2)

Sleeping Beauty
A cash-strapped college student (Emily Browning) takes an unusual job. One of her duties: getting drugged into slumber and letting male customers ... well, we won't spoil it. (Dec. 2)

The Sitter
A college dropout (Jonah Hill) agrees to babysit his neighbor's bratty kids, then takes them on an R-rated adventure through New York City. Think "Adventures in Babysitting" with profanity and drugs. Directed by David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express"). (Dec. 9)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
John le Carre's Cold War spy novel finally makes its way to the big screen. MI6 agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) tries to track down a mole within the agency. Colin Firth, Toby Jones and Ciaran Hinds all play suspects. (Dec. 9)

Young Adult
"Juno" director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody reunite in this dark comedy about a young-adult novelist (Charlize Theron) who tries to win back her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) - never mind the fact that he's married and about to become a father. (Dec. 9)

We Need to Talk About Kevin
When a teenager (Ezra Miller) commits a high school massacre, his mother (Tilda Swinton) falls apart from the guilt of having raised a bad seed - was it nature or nurture? Helping her cope is her estranged husband (John C. Reilly). (Dec. 9)

Madonna tries her hand at directing. Her subject: the scandalous romance between Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D'Arcy), who gave up the British throne in 1938 so that he could marry the American divorcee. (Dec. 9)

New Year's Eve
In the same vein as "Valentine's Day," "New Year's Eve" - also directed by Garry Marshall - weaves in and out of New Yorkers' lives on the last day of the year. The ensemble cast includes Ashton Kutcher, Lea Michele, Halle Berry and Jon Bon Jovi. (Dec. 9)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively, and this time they're up against arch- nemesis Professor Moriarty (played by the talented Jared Harris). Guy Ritchie directs again. (Dec. 16)

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Yes, it's another "Mission: Impossible" movie. The twist? It's directed by Brad Bird. If he brings as much emotion to this as he has to his animated movies ("The Iron Giant," "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille"), we're sold. (Dec. 16)

Roman Polanski recruited only the best for this entertaining adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play "God of Carnage." Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz star as Brooklyn parents who clash over a playground incident between their sons. (Dec. 16)

Albert Nobbs
Glenn Close plays the titular character, an odd but endearing employee at an upscale inn in 19th-century Ireland. She's dressed as a man her entire life - and her repressed identity is tragic to behold. Comical moments abound as well. (Dec. 21)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher directs one of the season's biggest and most intense films, adapted from Stieg Larsson's ubiquitous best-selling novel. Rooney Mara ("The Social Network") plays computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, who teams up with a journalist (Daniel Craig) to investigate an unsolved missing-woman case. (Dec. 21)

The Adventures of Tintin
Tintin comes to life in this motion-capture animated flick from Steven Spielberg. The cowlicked boy reporter adventures around the world to solve the mystery of a sunken ship. (Dec. 21)

We Bought a Zoo
A single father (Matt Damon) buys a house in the middle of a zoo, much to the delight of  his two children. "We Bought a Zoo" marks Cameron Crowe's first foray into kid-friendly territory, and also stars Scarlett Johansson and Thomas Haden Church. (Dec. 23)

In the Land of Blood and Honey
Angelina Jolie makes her directorial debut with this tale of star-crossed lovers set during the Bosnian War - he's a Serbian soldier, she's a Bosnian captive. (Dec. 23)

Wim Wenders' 3-D documentary affords a close-up look at the choreography of the late Pina Bausch. The 3-D camera captures the kineticism of Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal ensemble - and the inventive set designs. (Dec. 23)

Extremely  Loud and Incredibly Close
A young boy scours New York City for the lock belonging to a key left by his father, who died on 9/11. Adapted from the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, and starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and James Gandolfini. (Dec. 25)

War Horse
In his second movie of the year (see "Tintin"), Steven Spielberg adapts the play (currently at Lincoln Center) about a horse's journey through World War I. The star is a horse, but the story revolves around the people who cross its path. (Dec. 25)

The Darkest Hour
Nothing like a 3-D alien-invasion movie to celebrate Christmas Day. The extraterrestrials in this case are invisible, and they're sucking up Earth's power supplies. Stars Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby. (Dec. 25)

Breakout actress Adepero Oduye stars in this coming-of-age drama about an African-American lesbian teenager living in Fort Greene. She's determined to find a girlfriend, even as her sexual identity remains a secret on the homefront. (Dec. 28)

A Separation
A woman tries to convince her husband to leave Iran with her. When he refuses, she files for divorce - unsuccessfully. What follows is a tense thriller. (Dec. 30)

The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep portrays Margaret Thatcher in this biopic of the U.K's only female prime minister. Did someone say "Oscar"? (Dec. 30)

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