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Bullz-Eye Holiday Movie Preview

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For once, Hollywood means it

This is the part where Hollywood would like to thank you all for spending good, hard earned money on movies that were generally heaping piles of donkey donkey donkey donkey. For your troubles, they have decided to spend one month pummeling you with so many must-see films that you couldn’t possibly get around to seeing all of them before they’re kicked out of the premiere in order to make room for “Big Momma’s House 2.” (We’re not joking, that movie is just around the corner.) Bullz-Eye takes a look at the schedule, and tries to help you spend your money wisely this holiday season.

Aeon Flux (Paramount, December 2)
Actors: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sophie Okonedo, Jonny Lee Miller
Director: Karyn Kusama
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: Based on the MTV “Liquid Television” staple, Theron is an assassin in a walled police-state city, who’s assigned to murder a top government official.
The Buzz: Quiet, but building. Theron has shown impeccable taste of late, and it’s nice to finally see her show off that perfect frame of hers.
Trailer Highlight: The steel balls rolling to a door, then attaching themselves to it. “Good boys,” Theron purrs, and the door explodes. Bonus points for McDormand’s crazy hair.
Bottom Line: We were concerned at first, but this looks like it could be better than we thought.
Official Web Site:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Disney, December 9)
Actors: Tilda Swinton, Georgie Henley, William Moseley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, voices of Liam Neeson, Rupert Everett
Director: Andrew Adamson
Rating: N/A

The Pitch: One of C.S. Lewis’ most loved stories finally hits the big screen, telling the tale of the four Pevensie children and what they discover about each other when they walk through a wardrobe and into the magical land of Narnia.
The Buzz: If it feels a lot like “Lord of the Rings,” well, there’s a reason for that. Peter Jackson’s WETA shop did the effects and creature design.
Trailer Highlight: Fight scenes are cool and all, but we prefer the shot of the children dressed as kings and queens. That, and the shot of the White Witch (Swinton) when her eyes turn black.
Bottom Line: The director (Adamson) may have made a mint doing “Shrek,” but this is the movie that will determine his worth.
Official Web Site:

Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony/DreamWorks, December 9)
Actors: Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li
Director: Rob Marshall
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: Based on the massive best seller about a young girl who is sold to a Geisha house and endures the odds to become the most popular and desirable Geisha of all. To raise the ante some, this all takes place during World War II.
The Buzz: Spielberg’s name was attached to this for years, but Marshall (“Chicago”) steps in to direct. The cast is a who’s who of Asian talent (though the top four are from different countries), led by the stunning Zhang as the Geisha and the equally stunning Yeoh as her instructor.
Trailer Highlight: Where Zhang, in full Geisha mode on the street, flashes one look at a guy riding a bike and he instantly wrecks.
Bottom Line: This is mega-Oscar bait.
Official Web Site:

Brokeback Mountain (Focus, December 9)
Actors: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid, Anna Faris
Director: Ang Lee
Rating: R

The Pitch: Here it is, at long last, the Gay Cowboy Movie. (No word on whether pudding is involved, though.) But the truth is, there’s much more to the story than that. It’s the ‘60s, and Ledger and Gyllenhaal meet while working on a dude ranch. The movie explores their relationship, and what happens to them after they leave the ranch and start their own lives.
The Buzz: All over the place. The shoot proved to be more difficult than even Ledger and Gyllenhall imagined, and when the film wasn’t finished to be included for Cannes, people started murmuring. Since then, though, the praise has been strong.
Trailer Highlight: That last shot with the fireworks is mighty purty, but we’ll go with the shot of Ledger’s wife (Williams) confronting him about what he and Gyllenhaal really do when they hang out together.
Bottom Line: After a few missteps, looks like Lee gets his swerve on again.
Official Web Site:

King Kong (Universal, December 16)
Actors: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis
Director: Peter Jackson
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: Peter Jackson takes the last creature in Universal’s vault that Stephen Sommers didn’t piss all over and makes a big time update. Black does the shooting (of the camera), Watts does the screaming, and Brody....just kinda stands around and looks dreamily at it all.
The Buzz: Note to James Cameron: this is what you should have done after “Titanic.” Just get the monkey off your back and be done with it already, pardon the lousy pun. It doesn’t appear that anyone has hopes for “King Kong” that come even close to what people expected from his “Lord of the Rings” movies. But it’s still Peter Jackson, so it can’t be all bad....or can it? A budget over $200 million? A three hour running time?
Trailer Highlight: Watts screaming while shooting a scene, and Kong responding, stunning the entire cast and crew.
Bottom Line: We love Peter Jackson, but “Kong” looks like a colossal bomb from here.
Official Web Site:

The Family Stone (Fox 2000, December 16)
Actors: Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Claire Danes, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: Everett Stone (Mulroney) brings his fiancé (Parker) home for the holidays, only his entire family hates her, and aren’t shy about showing it.
The Buzz: Oh, this looks like a fun one. It has a huge cast, with enough siblings to make for some good catty fireworks. McAdams is back in “Mean Girls” mode here, and the siblings actually look like they could be brothers and sisters. Imagine that.
Trailer Highlight: McAdams: “She’s got this tic when she clears her throat. It’s like she’s digging for clams.” Cut to shot of SJP in the car, digging for clams.
Bottom Line: It looks like a milder version of “The Ref,” which is all right with us.
Official Web Site:

Fun with Dick and Jane (Columbia, December 21)
Actors: Jim Carrey, Tea Leoni, Alec Baldwin
Director: Dean Parisot
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: When a well-to-do married couple (Carrey and Leoni) are both out of work, they maintain their lifestyle by going on a crime spree.
The Buzz: Leoni has mad comedy skills that she hasn’t flexed in years (or in a good project), so her presence here has us intrigued. However, we hope there’s more to her performance than wiping out in the coffee shop. But with a script from the almighty Judd Apatow (“40 Year Old Virgin”), she should be safe.
Trailer Highlight: When Carrey holds up a guy at an ATM, and it’s one of his friends.
Bottom Line: It’s the kind of movie Carrey could do in his sleep. But is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Official Web Site:

Munich (DreamWorks, December 23)
Actors: Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Matthieu Kassovitz
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rating: N/A

The Pitch: When 11 Israeli athletes are killed at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, a squad (led by Bana) is assembled to kill the 11 Pakistanis responsible.
The Buzz: Strangely quiet, given that it’s a Spielberg movie and it covers one of the more gruesome events in history.
Trailer Highlight: A bomb is rigged to go off by remote when a man answers his phone, only the killer can’t pull the trigger because the man’s daughter answers.
Bottom Line: This looks like great stuff. Why are we only just now hearing about it?
Official Web Site:

The Ringer (Fox Searchlight, December 23)
Actors: Johnny Knoxville, Katherine Heigl, Brian Cox
Director: Barry W. Blaustein
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: In an attempt to get his uncle out of debt, Steve (Knoxville) enters as a contestant in the Special Olympics, only to discover that in no way does he have this in the bag.
The Buzz: Sweet Jesus, how many P.C. buttons does this push? Well, you can relax, because it’s the Farrelly brothers pushing the buttons, meaning in the end, we’ll all have learned a valuable lesson.
Trailer Highlight: Knoxville: “How come guys like us can’t get a girl like that?" Fellow Olympics contestant: “Don’t lump me in with you.”
Bottom Line: We expect to laugh ourselves silly, then feel awful about it the next morning.
Official Web Site:

The Libertine (Weinstein Co., December 23)
Actors: Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Samantha Morton
Director: Laurence Dunmore
Rating: N/A

The Pitch: A biopic of John Wilmot, a.k.a. the Earl of Rochester, a playwright who partied like a rock star and lived about as long.
The Buzz: At long last, this 2004 movie will see the light of day. One of the few movies that made the jump from Miramax to Weinstein, this must be something that Harvey and Bob are proud of.
Trailer Highlight: “The people who don’t like you fall into two categories: the stupid, and the envious.”
Bottom Line: Depp looks like he’s having a great time, but is there more to the delay of this movie’s release than the sale of Miramax?
Official Web Site:

The Producers (Universal, December 23)
Actors: Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Ferrell, Roger Bart, Gary Leach, Andrea Martin
Director: Susan Stroman
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: A hitless Broadway producer (Lane) discovers, thanks to a nebbish accountant (Broderick), that the best way to make money on a play is to produce a bomb. So he finds the most bomb-worthy story he can, only to watch it become a smash hit.
The Buzz: So the movie becomes a play, then becomes a movie again. Sure, fine, as long as Lane and Broderick are in as the leads, we’re cool with it. Casting Thurman as the Swedish bombshell Ulla and Ferrell as the Nazi-loving Franz Liebkind is simply inspired.
Trailer Highlight: Every shot of Thurman, especially the “Ulla dance!” bit. Yes, we’re pigs.
Bottom Line: If it’s half as good as the play, it’s going to be fantastic.
Official Web Site:

Rumor Has It (Warner Bros. December 25)
Actors: Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, Shirley MacLaine, Kevin Costner, Mena Suvari, Kathy Bates, Christopher McDonald
Director: Rob Reiner
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: Sarah (Aniston) discovers that her family was the inspiration for “The Graduate,” and that her grandmother (MacLaine) was Mrs. Robinson.
The Buzz: All kinds of trouble surrounded this production. Original director Ted Griffin was booted off the set for all but ignoring his actors, and he was replaced by...Rob Reiner? Oy. It’s bad enough that we have a movie that’s about another movie, I mean, get over yourselves, Hollywood. But then to bring in Reiner, the guy who hasn’t made a decent movie in 10 years, to right the ship?
Trailer Highlight: The very notion of Jennifer Aniston playing a character that wants to have sex on an airplane.
Bottom Line: Well, we’ve got trouble, right here in River City...
Official Web Site:

Hoodwinked (Weinstein Co. December 25)
Actors: voices of Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Patrick Warburton, Anthony Anderson, Andy Dick, Chazz Palminteri, Sally Struthers, Xzibit
Director: Cory Edwards & Todd Edwards
Rating: PG

The Pitch: The animal kingdom conducts an investigation of the events that took place at Grandma’s house.
The Buzz: Feels like a “Shrek” knockoff, taking a fairy tale and turning it on its head. But look at that cast. No, not Warburton, Close and Hathaway. Andy Dick? Sally freaking Struthers? Chazz Palminteri, as a sheep, no less? Gold, baby.
Trailer Highlight: No trailer available at press time.
Bottom Line: We’re keeping our eye on this one.
Official Web Site:

The New World (New Line, December 25)
Actors: Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer, Wes Studi, David Thewlis, Q’Orianka Kilcher
Director: Terrence Malick
Rating: N/A

The Pitch: Malick graces us with his presence for the second time in ten years to write a story about explorer John Smith and the clashes between English settlers and native American Indians.
The Buzz: Anytime Malick makes a movie, people are going to be talking. The problem is that people might be more interested in the Farrell factor than the Malick factor. Can he finally carry a movie?
Trailer Highlight: The eerie shot of Pocahontas (newcomer Kilcher) looking out over the bay, and seeing the English ships arriving.
Bottom Line: It’s been years since a movie like this made decent bank. Even if that trend doesn’t end here, it’s sure to have its admirers.
Official Web Site:

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