directed by James Cameron
One of the most highly anticipated movies of the year (and sort of ever), Avatar marks Cameron’s first full-length feature since the mega-successful Titanic came into port 12 years ago. Once again, Avatar finds Cameron working on the cutting edge—utilizing the power of 3-D and motion-capture technology. The ever-ambitious Cameron even created his own cameras for the movie. Avatar is a sci-fi epic chronicling the battle between a band of humans and a distant planet’s humanoid race (called the Na’vi). The eclectic cast includes Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez (“Lost”) and Stephen Lang (Public Enemies). With its extraordinary creatures, locations and special effects, Avatar looks likely to be another unforgettable journey through the mind of James Cameron. Let’s just hope the visionary moviemaker’s directing skills haven’t gotten rusty in the 12 years he’s been away from the big screen.

Did You Hear About the Morgans?
directed by Marc Lawrence
The first time Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker paired up was 1996’s dismal medical thriller, Extreme Measures. Now, they’re back together in a considerably lighter movie, playing an estranged married couple who, after witnessing a murder in New York, relocate to a small Wyoming town as part of a witness-protection program. With a premise that sounds like a rejected sitcom pilot, one can probably expect lots of dimwitted regional caricatures, broad slapstick humor and a sappy ending in which the Morgans reconcile and realize small-town life has more to offer than the hustle and bustle of the city. Writer-director Lawrence has something of a mixed track record as a writer—hopefully, the movie will have more in common with his entertaining romantic-comedy Music and Lyrics (also starring Grant), than it will with the abysmal Miss Congeniality.

directed by Rob Marshall
Who would’ve thought the Fellini classic 8 ½ would be the basis for a Broadway musical? Now, the Tony-winning show is being brought to the big screen courtesy of Marshall (Chicago), a man who knows a few things about making a highly successful musical adaptation. For Nine, he’s collected an Oscar-heavy cast, including Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren. The movie revolves around a famous movie director (Day-Lewis), who struggles with the various women in his life. With its high-powered cast and credentials (the screenplay was co-written by the late Anthony Minghella), Nine has all the makings of an Academy Award contender. That is, if Day-Lewis can prove he can actually, you know, hold a tune.

The Young Victoria
directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Here’s the token costume drama of the Oscar season—a dramatization of Queen Victoria’s (Emily Blunt) first years on the throne, and her romance with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend, Pride & Prejudice). Boasting a strong supporting cast of period piece vets (including Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson and Jim Broadbent), we shall see if director Vallée (whose last film was the acclaimed C.R.A.Z.Y.) and screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Oscar-winner for Gosford Park) can breathe some much-needed life into the usually stuffy costume drama genre.