directed by Jim Sheridan
With his remake of the 2004 Danish film Brødre, Jim Sheridan directs Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman as he examines the effect war can have on a family. The unique, yet universal impact of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars is gaining a steady foothold in art, especially in film with recent releases such as The Hurt Locker and The Messenger. At its heart, however, Brothers is an intense drama centering on an Irish-American family. When Sam Cahill (Maguire) goes off to fight in Afghanistan, he has his brother Tommy (Gyllenhaal) move in with his wife (Portman) and their two daughters to help out during his absence. After they receive word that Sam has gone missing, Portman and Gyllenhaal’s characters give into the feelings they have developed for one another. Their romance is shattered when Sam returns home from Afghanistan, alive and emotionally scarred.

Everybody’s Fine
directed by Kirk Jones
If the holidays are all about giving new presents, this week Hollywood reminds us that a trip to the thrift store may not be such a bad idea with yet another refurbishing of an acclaimed European film. Adapted from the Italian Christmas movie Stanno tutti bene, Everybody’s Fine will rely on Robert De Niro’s reprisal of the role originally helmed by the legendary Marcello Mastroianni, with Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Drew Barrymore rounding out the rest of the ensemble cast. The story follows Frank (De Niro), an aging and estranged father who decides to visit each of his children when their plans to come together for Christmas fall through. What he finds is not the idyllic life he expects each of them to be living, but rather each child burdened with personal struggles. The plot sounds simple enough, but given the amount of Oscar buzz it has generated, don’t be surprised if it’s one of the more heartfelt movies this Christmas.

Up in the Air
directed by Jason Reitman
Based on the Walter Kirn novel of the same name, Jason Reitman’s follow-up to Juno will take a slightly more optimistic approach than its source. George Clooney stars as a career transition counselor who travels the country 300 days out of the year, firing people from their jobs at companies who don’t have the heart (or integrity) to do it themselves. It sounds depressing, but early reports say it’s uplifting in a most unexpected way, and Reitman concurs. The film also stars Vera Farmiga (The Departed) and Anna Kendrick (Twilight) in supporting roles.

Serious Moonlight
directed by Cheryl Hines
Metaphors abound in this farcical comedy about a deteriorating relationship, the bulk of which takes place in a bathroom. Cheryl Hines, best known for her role as Larry David’s wife on the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” makes her directorial debut paying tribute to her friend and indie extraordinaire, the late Adrienne Shelly, who wrote the screenplay. Meg Ryan plays a wife who finds out that her husband (Timothy Hutton) is planning to leave her for a younger woman (Kristen Bell). Desperate to convince him that their marriage has not disintegrated, Ryan duct tapes him to the toilet, ensuring that he is a captive audience for everything she has to say.

directed by Nimród Antal
Though his name may suggest otherwise, Nimród Antal is anything but dim. The former American expatriate at the Hungarian Film Academy, whose first film, Kontroll, won the Award of the Youth at Cannes in 2003, returned to the States in 2005 and has been a busy man ever since. To break his latest movie into its basics, it involves an armored truck driver, $42 million and a plan to steal said dough. The movie boasts such high profiles as Laurence Fishburne, Matt Dillon and relative newcomer Columbus Short (previously in Cadillac Records). The movie won’t be remembered for any philosophical breakthroughs and it won’t receive many accolades for its dialogue, but everyone needs a channel their testosterone somehow and Antal’s car chases, gunfire and explosions are certain to provide just that.