Blockbusters and breakthroughs: this weekend's US film releases -- Clooney and Carrey eye the top spot

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The Independent Culture

In November, releases for the holiday season heat up with schedules filled with big films vying for Oscar consideration and holiday audiences before the end of the year. Big stars with box office appeal and unknowns are set to make an impression in the lineup of films released in the US November 6.

A Christmas Carol
Adapted from the Charles Dickens tale, Disney's A Christmas Carol launches the holiday season with a 3D animated version of this classic about the spirit of Christmas. Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis further develops his technology from The Polar Express, morphing actors into cartoon caricatures. Jim Carrey plays Ebenezer Scrooge as well as all three ghosts. Also featuring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Bob Hoskins in a film meant for family viewing, despite the scary parts.

The Men Who Stare at Goats
George Clooney stars as a Special Forces agent who reveals to a reporter (Ewan McGregor) a secret psychic military plan to eliminate war. The bizarre plan takes a twist when another soldier has a different idea. The strong lineup with Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges could fare well with no other comedies released at the same time. A modern-day version of Catch-22 directed by Clooney's production partner, actor Grant Heslove, co-writer of Good Night, and Good Luck.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Winner of six film festival awards, including the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Toronto, this heart-wrenching story of triumph over adversity could reach an audience with combined producers of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Despite the elongated title, most simply call the film "Precious." Novice actress Gabourey Sidibe, is bound for an Oscar nomination and new roles, re-enforcing the optimistic message of the film. Other actors, including Mariah Cary, Mo'Nique, Sherri Shepherd, and Lenny Kravitz will boost the profile.

The Fourth Kind
On the heels of Halloween, this supernatural horror film stars Milla Jovovich ( Resident Evil and its sequels) as a psychologist in Alaska investigating an ongoing unsolved mystery with inexplicable disappearances. The title refers to alien abductions -- beyond "close encounters of the third kind" with extra-terrestrials, and a supposed fact-based account of an FBI investigation. Writer/director, Olatunde Osunsanmi, a 31-year-old Nigerian filmmaker, could follow in the footsteps of M. Night Shyamalan ( The Sixth Sense) with this genre.