Blockbusters and breakthroughs: This weekend's US movie releases -- disaster and animation set to do battle

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A disaster film and a highly anticipated animated animal feature are expected to reach the top of the US box office this coming weekend, while a period music movie could cross generations and filmgoers might salute an Oscar-worthy performance in a post-war film.

An apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, 2012, about an unlikely hero who tries to save the world from a series of catastrophes, is sure to be a hit this season. This action-adventure stars John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Woody Harrelson, and Danny Glover as the president of the United States. Directed and written by Roland Emmerich ( Independence Day, Stargate, and Godzilla), the doomsday epic follows a mythical Mayan prophecy about the ominous year, showing disasters around the world from volcanoes to earthquakes and tidal waves like a live-action video game.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox
A visually arresting stop-motion animated film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, directed by Wes Anderson ( The Darjeeling Limited, The Royal Tenenbaums), features voices from an all-star cast, including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, and Owen Wilson. The story, adapted from the best-selling children's book by Roald Dahl ( Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach) finds the sly Mr. Fox (Clooney) and his family threatened by the farmers.

The Messenger
This drama stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as US army officers, home from Iraq and assigned to the Casualty Notification Service, in tour-de-force performances. The Messenger, a directorial debut for Oren Moverman, creates a compassionate story about a soldier and a soldier's widow. It also features independent film favorites, Samantha Morton and Steve Buscemi, in this portrait of grief and survival.

Pirate Radio

Set in the 1960s, this film is called The Boat that Rocked outside the US and follows a group of rebel rock DJs in the Atlantic off Britain's coast. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays The Count with a wild ensemble cast, Tte controversial film was released earlier this year in Europe. This version has bee edited for the US. The soundtrack is full of songs evoking the era from artists like The Beatles, The Stones, Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Smokey Robinson, David Bowie, Otis Redding, Cat Stevens, and more. Free midnight screenings similar to those held for Paranormal Activity may create buzz for young viewers, adding to the target of baby boomer fans of 1960s tunes.