directed by Baz Luhrmann

Following up his 2001 colossal hit, Moulin Rouge!, was not going to be an easy task for director Baz Luhrmann, but by bringing it back to his homeland, teaming up once again with Nicole Kidman and adding fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman into the mix, Australia looks like another big hit for the director. A period piece set around World War II, the story centers upon an English aristocrat (Kidman) who inherits a cattle ranch and partners up with a stockman (Jackman) to protect and drive the cattle from the approaching threat of the Japanese bombing of Darwin. While the love story is territory already covered in all of Luhrmann’s movies, the stark but beautiful landscape captured within Mandy Walker’s cinematography and the chemistry between Kidman and Jackman make it look as though the movie could breathe a breath of fresh air into theaters stale with romantic comedies.

directed by Gus Van Sant

Already being heralded as an instant classic, Van Sant’s new movie tells the story of San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to a major public office in America, and his assassination at the hands of fellow supervisor Dan White. In a role that needed to be played without inhibition and with an amazing sense of courage, Sean Penn transforms into Milk, imitating his movements and voice in a way that can only be described as eerie. Another standout is Josh Brolin who, as White, continues his string of playing ignorant government officials with a sinister quality. But aside from a great cast, which also includes James Franco as Milk’s lover and Emile Hirsch as activist Cleve Jones, the movie looks as though it is most concerned with relaying the message of Harvey Milk’s life; a message of courage and hope. With Van Sant, an openly gay director, at the helm, it looks as though this message will be told the right way and, like Milk, is sure to be heard.

Transporter 3
directed by Olivier Megaton

The roads just got a little more dangerous (again) with Jason Statham reprising his role as Frank Martin, the no-questions-asked human trafficker whose previous adrenaline pumping escapades in the series’ first two installments had audiences at the edge of their seats with enough flashy car chases and action sequences to leave even James Bond blushing. Clearly, however, Martin has not learned his lesson—this time agreeing to take the kidnapped daughter of a Ukrainian government official from Marseilles to Odessa via the Black Sea, battling thugs who wish to intercept the cargo along the way. While director Megaton’s experience as a former graffiti artist may lend itself to the over-the-top visual style of the movie, the trilogy’s writer, Luc Besson, may be following the “Never change the deal” part of Martin’s self-proclaimed rules a little too closely with a script that refuses to stray away from the formula created in the series’ first two movies. Maybe it’s time for Frank Martin to find another job.

Four Christmases
directed by Seth Gordon

Vince Vaughn fans are scratching their heads with the actor’s decision to star in this one, another holiday movie, after already having rung in the season with last year’s critically disappointing Fred Claus. Paired with Reese Witherspoon, the two play an unmarried couple forced into spending Christmas with each of their four divorced parents after their vacation plans are ruined. While the story’s concept is funny enough—with each family meeting having plenty of room for hilarious mishaps as Robert Duvall, Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen and Sissy Spacek play the couple’s deranged parents—the movie may just be a two-trick pony, relying too much on the awkwardness of each situation and the sarcastic patter that’s made Vaughn a beloved star. With the wounds of Fred Claus just beginning to heal, this could mean the difference between pouring on the salt or bandaging up his poor holiday choices.