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December 19, 2007 > Getting into the spirit with holiday movies

Getting into the spirit with holiday movies

By Mona Shah

What do you typically do to get into the holiday spirit? Isn't it time for a break? Set aside the home decorations and holiday food preparation for a moment and get out and watch a movie with the family!

Are you curious about which films to watch this holiday season? Are you hoping you don't choose a flop? Don't worry, our editors have made a list - and checked it twice - to help you determine which films are naughty and which are nice.

There's a little something for everyone in this bag of December theatrical treats. We all know the studios love to pack the last few weeks of the year with heavy dramatic fare, however there's also a sprinkling of lighter films thrown into the mix this year. That's great news for moviegoers ready to relax and escape into the make-believe world of films.

The Golden Compass
Based on author Philip Pullman's bestselling and award-winning novel, The Golden Compass tells the first story in Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The Golden Compass is an exciting fantasy adventure, set in an alternative world where people's souls manifest themselves as animals, talking bears fight wars, and Gyptians and witches co-exist. At the center of the story is Lyra (played by newcomer Dakota Blue Richards), a 12-year-old girl who, trying to rescue a friend kidnapped by a mysterious organization known as the Gobblers, winds up on an epic quest to save not only her world, but ours as well.
PG-13. Now Playing

With a fine cast and fun "in" jokes, Disney's Enchanted is sure to cast a spell over both children and adults. It begins with a 2-D animation sequence reminiscent of the company's beloved past. Surrounded by dozens of cute animals, Giselle (voiced and later played by Amy Adams) sings about her desire to find her one true love. Meanwhile, a handsome prince (James Marsden) overhears her, and they meet and fall in love. In many Disney movies, this is where the story ends, but Enchanted is just starting its journey. The prince's wicked stepmother (Susan Sarandon) can't stand to lose her throne, so she pushes Giselle down a well, and the beauty ends up in the real world. Gone is the animated fantasy, and a live-action Giselle lands in the middle of Times Square in New York City. Her optimism and perkiness put her at odds with the New Yorkers she encounters, but she gets help from a cynical divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) as she waits for her prince to rescue her.
PG. Now Playing

This Christmas
Like many holiday films, This Christmas mines the ample humor and drama of a family Christmas. Ma'Dere (Loretta Devine) is the matriarch to the large and loving Whitfield family, which consists of her three daughters and two sons. They are an extremely attractive and successful bunch, but no sooner have they shared their first meal together than hidden tensions begin to boil to the surface. Long-kept secrets come tumbling out and the Whitfield's soon engender enough drama to support several spin-off soap operas. There's interracial marriage, infidelity, gambling debts, an AWOL soldier, and repressed dreams of musical stardom, to name just a few of the issues they are forced to tackle in between stuffing the turkey and decorating the tree. Will their many problems and misunderstandings be resolved by Christmas day? Since this is a family holiday flick, the odds are, of course, quite good.
PG-13. Now Playing

Fred Claus
Sibling rivalry takes on a new dimension in director David Dobkin's third collaboration with actor Vince Vaughn. Ever since his younger brother, Nicholas (Paul Giamatti), was born, it seems that nothing Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn) does is good enough. Nicholas literally becomes a saint and is beloved by millions worldwide, but Fred is just a regular Joe. When Fred finds himself in need of big money in a hurry, little brother Santa is the only one he can turn to. Soon, Fred is working at the North Pole to earn some quick cash and shaking things up with the elves to the delight of efficiency expert Clyde Northcutt (Kevin Spacey), who is on a mission to close down Santa's operation. Can the dueling Claus brothers work together to save Christmas?
PG Now Playing

Bee Movie
Touted as Jerry Seinfeld's first major project since Seinfeld, the Bee Movie stars the popular comedian as the voice of Barry B. Benson, a young bee eager to explore the world outside of his hive. As he discovers how people live in New York City, he befriends a human florist, Vanessa Bloome (Renee Zellweger), and becomes outraged at the selling of honey, leading to a lawsuit and, of course, plenty of Seinfeldian misadventures. Bee Movie lightens Seinfeld's notoriously stinging humor for a family audience, while staying true to its inherent New York-bred quirkiness. This leaves room for the film to feature impressive bug-oriented CGI animation and a solid supporting cast that includes Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, and Ray Liotta.
PG Now Playing

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Zach Helm's whimsical film, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, veteran actor Dustin Hoffman plays the title character, a 243-year-old toy-store owner who is ready to pass his enchanted business on to his beloved assistant, Molly Mahoney (Natalie Portman). However, when Molly, a former composer and pianist, has doubts about taking over the (literally) magical store, and an uptight accountant (Jason Bateman) appears to assess the establishment, the many inhabitants of the Wonder Emporium begin to rebel, resulting in a chaotic situation that can be fixed only with the help of a shy, lonely boy (Zach Mills). Hoffman makes Magorium both silly and endearing, while Portman charms as his earnest protˇgˇ, and Bateman provides an enjoyable level of skepticism while enduring the nickname "The Mutant." Although the film's playful quality could veer toward excess, its thoughtful script and able actors allow it to stand out as a highly entertaining production.
G. Now Playing.

I am Legend
Robert Neville (Will Smith) is a brilliant scientist, but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable, incurable...and manmade. Somehow immune, Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City...and maybe the world. But he is not alone. He is surrounded by "the Infected"-victims of the plague who have mutated into carnivorous beings who can only exist in the dark and who will devour or infect anyone or anything in their path. For three years, Neville has spent his days scavenging for food and supplies and faithfully sending out radio messages, desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. All the while, the Infected lurk in the shadows, watching Neville's every move, waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind's last, best hope, Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But his blood is also what The Infected hunt, and Neville knows he is outnumbered and quickly running out of time.
PG-13 Now Playing

Alvin and the Chipmunks
A global phenomenon to generations of fans, becomes an action CGI motion picture event with contemporary comic sensibility. Songwriter Dave Seville transforms singing chipmunks Alvin, Simon, Theodore into pop sensations-while the out of control trio lays waste to Dave's home, wreaks havoc with his career and turns Dave's once orderly life upside-down.
PG Now Playing

The Perfect Holiday
The first African American ensemble comedy for the Christmas season, The Perfect Holiday is an African American take on the classic and beloved Christmas family film. It tells the story of Nancy (Gabrielle Union), a divorced mother of three who is so busy raising her children that she's forgotten to take care of herself. With Christmas fast approaching, she decides to take her kids to the mall to meet Santa Claus, not knowing that her youngest daughter Emily (Khail Bryant) has sensed her mother's sadness and is determined to use her time with Santa to make her mom happy again. Just a few days prior, Emily heard her mom say that all she wanted for Christmas was a compliment from a man, so that's exactly what she tells Santa. Ironically, Santa, as it turns out, is office supply salesman and struggling songwriter Benjamin (Morris Chestnut), who ends up giving Nancy just what she wants for Christmas, and much, much more.
PG Now Playing

The Kite Runner
Though it loses a bit of the novel's magic on the big screen, The Kite Runner is nevertheless a touching tale of honor and redemption. An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from the final days of Afghanistan's monarchy to the atrocities of the Taliban reign. This unforgettable story of redemption is based on the best selling book "The Kite Runner."
PG-13 (strong thematic material, including sexual assault of a child)
Now playing in limited theatres.
Week of December 28th wide release.

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
Academy Award-winning producer and special-effects team behind The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia bring to the screen the magical motion picture The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. The story begins when Angus, a young Scottish boy, finds an enchanted egg. Taking it home, he soon finds himself face-to-face with an amazing creature: the mythical "water horse" of Scottish lore. Angus begins a journey of discovery, facing his greatest fears and risking his life to protect a secret that would give birth to a legend.
Releases week of December 25th

National Treasure: Book of Secrets
In this follow up to the box-office hit "National Treasure," treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) once again sets out on an exhilarating, action-packed new global quest to unearth hidden history and treasures. When a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces, Ben's great-great grandfather is suddenly implicated as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln's death. Determined to prove his ancestor's innocence, Ben follows an international chain of clues that takes him on a chase from Paris to London and ultimately back to America. This journey leads Ben and his crew not only to surprising revelations - but to the trail of the world's most treasured secrets.
Releases week of December 21

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