‘Hugo,’ directed by Martin Scorsese, opens Nov. 23 and stars Chloe Moretz and Asa Butterfield, above, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee and Sacha Baron Cohen.

Staff Reporter

It's that time of the year, when all the films that are either designed to draw in big holiday bucks or win big 2012 awards get released. And those in love with cinema have dozens of options at the theater.

It’s not that there are more films than usual. It’s just that there are more good films, more films worthy of distinct attention from movie fans and critics alike.

Here are eight movies you'll want to be sure to catch this holiday season:

“The Rum Diary” (Oct. 28)

Johnny Depp has been trying to get “The Rum Diary” off the ground for more than a decade, and this fall it’s finally coming to theaters. Based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel, Depp stars as a freelance journalist who gets fed up with 1950s America and moves to Puerto Rico to work for a newspaper there. The result is a booze-soaked romp with women, cars and chaos, just like Hunter S. Thompson intended.

“J. Edgar” (Nov. 9)

I make a point of seeing as many Clint Eastwood films as I possibly can, but I’m making a special effort to not miss this one. A biopic of the legendary FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover himself, and features a supporting cast that includes Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Lea Thompson and Armie Hammer. Clint Eastwood making movies about deep mythological corners of American history is always a treat, and this one should be no different.

“Hugo” (Nov. 23)

Martin Scorsese is best known for making films about gangsters, but this fall he turns his lens on a film for children for the first time, adapting Brian Selznick’s acclaimed novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” the story of a young homeless orphan who embarks on an extraordinary adventure. What’s more, Scorsese shot the film in 3D, his first experiment with that format, and if anyone can find a way to do it right, it’s him.

“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (Dec. 9)

Based on a John le Carre novel, this spy thriller about a British agent trying to root out a Soviet spy in the top levels of British intelligence not only looks riveting, but it has a whopper of a cast that includes Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Toby Jones and Benedict Cumberbatch.

“The Iron Lady” (Dec. 16)

Though there’s controversy about a non-British actress starring in this biopic of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the actress we’re talking about is Meryl Streep. As far as I’m concerned she can play anything and anyone, and I can’t wait to watch her inhabit this role.

“The Adventures of Tintin” (Dec. 21)

Steven Spielberg directs this performance capture animated adaptation of the beloved Belgian comic book series, co-written by “Doctor Who” head writer Steven Moffat and featuring a cast that includes Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig, Toby Jones, Nick Frost and Andy Serkis. Spielberg first bought the rights to this film in 1983, and he’s been dreaming about it ever since. Early clips show his dreaming has definitely paid off.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (Dec. 21)

Visionary director David Fincher (who triumphed last year with “The Social Network”) directs this adaptation of the bestselling crime novel by Stieg Larsson starring Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard and Rooney Mara as the iconic Lisbeth Salander, the titular girl with the dragon tattoo. And in case you’re about to argue with me, no, this is not a remake of the Swedish film of the same name. This is a new adaptation by a great creative team, and it will be a new and rewarding experience all its own.

“War Horse” (Dec. 25)

Steven Spielberg has been a filmmaking machine lately. This is his second film to be released in 2011, and only four days after “The Adventures of Tintin.” Adapted from a beloved British children’s novel, it’s the story of a boy who travels across a Europe ravaged by World War I to find his beloved horse, who was sold to the cavalry at the start of the war. Early previews reveal it to be epic and gorgeously filmed, just like Spielberg films should be. 

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