Holiday Movie Preview 2010

TIME critics Richard Corliss and Mary Pols sample the best and most anticipated films of the 2010 holiday season

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A Texas Ranger named La Boeuf (Matt Damon) is already hunting Chaney, but Mattie briskly dismisses him as a spur-jangling poseur and instead hires Rooster, whom she believes to have true grit. The joke is that no one has more grit than Mattie herself, and all these grown men come to see and admire that--even vicious outlaw Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper). The remarkable Steinfeld, about to turn 14, has the adult poise and lingering childlike delicacy to capture the central incongruity of the part: that this remains no country for a young girl, even though Mattie is no ordinary one.

In all ways, the Coens' True Grit is a classier, truer version of the tale. It's beautifully shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins in appropriately scrubby territory. Damon expertly navigates the line between foolish and lovable, and Bridges is sublime. As you'd expect from the Coens, the bloody and weird rise and shine. The small disappointment, based on the sky-high standards the brothers have set, is that True Grit is a classic expertly revisited, not one newly reborn.

The Tempest

Directed by Julie Taymor With Helen Mirren and Russell Brand

Opens 12.10

Julie Taymor (Across the Universe) unleashes her creative urges on the Shakespeare classic, starting with a twist: sex change! Wizard Prospero is now Prospera (Helen Mirren), the displaced Duchess of Milan. Scampering about the stunning Hawaiian locations are Russell Brand as the drunkard Trinculo, Ben Whishaw as the spirit Ariel and Djimon Hounsou as Caliban.

Somewhere

Directed by Sofia Coppola With Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning

Opens 12.22

Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) belongs to a social class that might be called the homeless elite. A Hollywood star of undefined wattage, he stays at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard--that funky-cool faux-French hotel where Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes lived and John Belushi and Helmut Newton died. All amenities available: twin blondes performing a sexy pole dance right in your room, and an old waiter who'll sing Elvis' "Teddy Bear" on request. Johnny is restless; he knows his life needs direction, but which direction? Just ... somewhere. For now, though, he's a permanent transient.

Sofia Coppola, who often accompanied her father Francis as he made movies around the world, has been in more hotels than the Gideons, and her own work as a writer-director often reflects her touring days with Dad. Lost in Translation, which won her a screenplay Oscar in 2004, booked Bill Murray, as a middle-aged movie star, into a Tokyo hotel where he found a temporary cure for the spiritual blahs in Scarlett Johansson's smile. Johnny, who leaves the Marmont only to hole up at other hotels in Las Vegas and Milan, is another such anomic guy. He is thrown an emotional lifeline when his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) is sent to stay with him--and, as Sofia frequently did, becomes her dad's hotel pal.

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