Awards season has snuck up on me this year, so I suddenly find myself adrift with a deluge of big film releases. This post is really a map through the next two months for myself, but  since it’ll probably be of use to others, I figured I’d share. The release dates are all for UK general releases, so expect to see some earlier preview screenings and for them generally to arrive sooner in the USA.

Avatar 17 December 2009
James Cameron’s return after a decade is a massively hyped sci-fi spectacle that promises a journey to another world. As a result I intentionally quashed my expectations but rave reviews suggest this is easily the event movie of the year, not least for its groundbreaking 3D visual effects. Whether it will have a lasting impact only time will tell, but for this year it’s certainly marked its territory.

Nine18 December 2009
I’m not exactly known as a musical lover, but Nine will be the first to draw me in for a while. Though I tend to dislike the approach of a plot that merely aims to tie loosely together a series of musical numbers, the strength of the cast alone — with Daniel Day Lewis and Marion Cotillard at its core — has won me over (though some fantastic burlesque choreography may have helped).

Sherlock Holmes26 December 2009
While not gunning for Oscar glory like the others here, Guy Ritchie’s brawling take on the world’s greatest detective, starring a strangely cast Robert Downey, Jr., finally started to make sense once the trailers emerged. A fun romp through Victorian Britain, and hopefully a return to form for Ritchie (I know some some fans have enjoyed his work in the interim) it is also perhaps more faithful than some realise.

The Road4 January 2010
A harrowing post-apocalyptic tale that portrays a broken civilisation in which humanity is left fractured and without morality. Against this backdrop a father travels with his son and tries to instill the strength of self-preservation and the value of humanity in him.

Up In The Air15 January 2010
Based upon their follow-up offerings, it seems director Jason Reitman was the more talented one behind Juno as his latest with George Clooney has caused a fair stir, not least for its timely story of a constantly travelling corporate downsizer. Meanwhile writer Diablo Cody penned the universally panned Jennifer’s Body, which failed abysmally despite having Megan Fox’s body in the titular role.

Brothers22 January 2010
Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire may not sound like obvious names for this emotionally raw story of a soldier’s return and inability to reconnect with his family, but the performances look incredibly powerful with Natalie Portman rounding out the cast. With her husband presumed dead, she turns to his brother for help.

The Lovely Bones29 January 2010
Peter Jackson’s latest film will seem more familiar to those who knew him before The Lord of the Rings. The film is based on the novel about a teenage girl who was brutally murdered and now watches her family cope in the aftermath, while also coming to terms with her own death.

Precious29 January 2010
This is an unrelentingly bleak tale of an obese, illiterate and abused teenage black girl in 1980’s Harlem. It is the only film in this list I am not certain I will attempt to see, depending on my mood at the time, since this is clearly not entertaining viewing. Mo’Nique’s highly praised performance certainly has my interest. It’s based on the novel Push, the name allegedly being changed due to concerns over confusion with the action-thriller of the same name last year (which now seems a non-issue since no one remembers it anyway).

Edge of Darkness29 January 2010
For those not yet entirely alienated by Mel Gibson’s public behaviour, he plays a homicide detective seeking answers and revenge after the death of his activist daughter. More importantly, it’s directed by Martin Campbell, the best Bond director of recent years who helmed both Casino Royale and GoldenEye.

Crazy Heart19 February 2010
Those that have seen The Wrestler will feel a certain sense of déjà vu in watching the trailer for this film, which follows a similar story of a washed up professional, in this case a country singer instead of a wrestler, and with Jeff Bridges in the lead instead of Mickey Rourke. Once again, a powerhouse character study from the lead is what carries and dominates the film.