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Published: Sunday, 10/31/2004

Other films worth a look

November is a big tease, the warm-up for the grand finale that is December. And like a lot of warm-up acts, there may be one or two gems in the offering, but you get restless. For example, you thought Surviving Christmas was way too early? The Seed of Chucky (Nov. 12) arrives weeks too late. A camped-to-the-hilt continuation of the Child s Play series about a killer toy who resembles Don Rickles, it s slightly fresher than a Cabbage Patch You know how heist movies always end on an exotic isle? After the Sunset (Nov. 12) opens on that island, after the heist. Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek try to hold on to their Big Score or something speaking of loot, who knew the founding fathers had tons of it? That they hid its location on treasure maps? In plain sight? On national icons no less? Only a Coppola (in this case, Nicholas Cage) can find it in National Treasure (Nov. 19) The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (Nov. 19), in comparison, is a model of Neo-Realism. You will believe a sponge can cry What I m wishing I believed this time around is Renee Zellweger s British accent in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Nov. 19), a follow-up that does itself no favors by hemming close to Helen Fielding s episodic fluff With a screenplay from Chris Columbus, who was slavishly faithful about his two Harry Potter adaptations, let s assume Christmas With the Kranks (Nov. 24), starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen, sticks close to its source, the John Grisham novelty Skipping Christmas My advice with Being Julia (Nov. 19) would be to skip it if Annette Bening didn t snack on the scenery with such relish. She plays a London stage actress fighting old age. Which is ironic. She s 46 and Allen is 51, but he s not fighting his old age.

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December is the best movie month of the year, 31 days so rich that a mid-size city like Toledo is left grabbing at the overflow far into February. There are simply not enough screens in many cities for this many cool movies. Which also leaves December a great big question mark for the moviegoer who lives outside Los Angeles or New York City When exactly Hotel Rwanda (Dec.) will open here is hard to say. But with Don Cheadle in a certain Oscar nod as a hotel manager fighting for normalcy during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, you bet it will Same for the relentless and emphatic The Assassination of Richard Nixon (Dec.), about the dissolution of an ordinary man, played by Sean Penn A Very Long Engagement (Dec.) is nothing ordinary. It s a return to magic realism for Audrey Tautou and her Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. This time, with a World War I romance The romance in Beyond the Sea (Dec.) is entirely between star and subject in Kevin Spacey s ambitious vanity project, the life story of crooner Bobby Darin And The Woodsman (Dec.) will probably be a bit too real for a few people. Kevin Bacon dares to deliver a complicated portrayal of a child molester trying to go straight.

On a lighter note Wesley Snipes returns to his signature blood-sucking freak in Blade: Trinity (Dec. 8) Andrew Lloyd Webber s The Phantom of the Opera (Dec. 25) is more fizz than freak. Joel Schumacher s lush adaptation of the ubiquitous stage production reminds us the 80s have indeed (as VH-1 insists) struck back As modest as Phantom is bombastic, Proof (Dec. 24) should give David Auburn s 2001 Pulitzer Prize-winning play the wider recognition it deserves. Gwyneth Paltrow plays a girl mourning her mathematician father (Anthony Hopkins) Dennis Quaid proves once again he can hold together the flimsiest contraption when he takes the Jimmy Stewart part in a remake of the 1965 adventure Flight of the Phoenix (Dec. 22), about a plane stranded in the Mongolian desert On the short list of people I don t want to be stranded with in a desert, Barbara Streisand co-stars in Meet the Fockers (Dec. 22), which if nothing else has a dream cast that includes Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, and Babs herself What you most likely won t be discussing amongst yourselves is Fat Albert (Dec. 25), a live-action modernizing starring the most grating Saturday Night Live cast member in years, Kenan Thompson.



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