Holiday Film Guide 2004
A Feast of Festive Filmic Fun
By Devin D. O'Leary
The holidays are upon us like cats on a bed full of winter coats at a neighborhood Christmas party. That means crowded parking lots at the mall, incessant toy commercials and more big film releases than you could possibly keep track of.
So, to help you sort out this holiday's box office tangle, we're giving you a run-down of most of the major releases hitting theaters in the next couple of months. In addition to giving you the stars and the story lines, we're also handing out a handy-dandy metaphor linking each film with its most representative holiday food offering. Will your most anticipated film be a sweet dessert treat or a bitter pile of Brussels sprouts? Dig in and enjoy!
After the Sunset
Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson
Plot: A pair of retired jewel thieves living in a tropical paradise are forced out of retirement by an old associate, an old enemy and a tempting bit of sparkle.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Mashed potatoes. Fluffy, not terribly nutritious. Enjoyable enough, but not the real reason everybody sat down at the table.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Stars: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant
Plot: Slapstick “singleton” Bridget Jones is back, stuck between reliable new boyfriend Colin Firth and super cute old crush Hugh Grant.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Candied yams with those little marshmallows on top. Sweet stuff, but a little bit goes a long way. You liked the first serving well enough, but do you really want seconds?
The Seed of Chucky
Stars: Meg Tilly, Redman, the voice of Brad Dourif.
Plot: Somebody in Hollywood is making a movie about the Chucky murders. Chucky and Tiffany's “son” shows up and brings the remote-controlled dolls to life, leading to lots of campy, self-referential slasher scenes.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Leftover Halloween candy. Is this stuff still floating around after last month? Why? The kids will probably brave the rock-hard nuggets for a hit of fleeting satisfaction, but most adults are smart enough to know the expiration date on this is long past.
Stars: Annette Bening, Jeremy Irons
Plot: Based on W. Somerset Maughm's catty novel, this drama/comedy is set in the world of the London stage circa 1930. Scorned by her young lover, a stage diva plots an elaborate revenge.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Figgy pudding. Granted, most folks have no idea what a figgy pudding is, but there are a few Anglophiles out there who would kill for one of these imported treats around the holidays.
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Sean Bean
Plot: A professional treasure hunter finds a treasure map on the Declaration of Independence (yeah, right) and goes on a quest to find a fortune in gold hidden by our founding fathers. ... Kinda like that episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer goes looking for Lincoln's gold, but with explosions.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Stuffing, really. It tastes good enough, but it's just there to pad out the real food. Nobody actually thinks they can make a meal out of this, except the guys in the stuffing-making industry.
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh.
Plot: A neurotic, recently divorced writer takes his soon-to-be-married pal out to California wine country for one last romp. There, they meet up with a couple interesting gals and examine their failed lives. Directed by Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt).
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: A fine California Sauvignon Blanc. Tasty, sophisticated. Not for the kids and maybe a bit refined for some folks' palates, but such a nice treat around the holidays.
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie
Stars: Voices of Tom Kenny, Alec Baldwin, Jeffrey Tambor
Plot: Nickelodeon's nutty cartoon hit about a dorky sponge and his developmentally disabled starfish neighbor comes to the big screen. Thankfully, it is neither computer animated nor live action.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Spongecake (of course) covered in bananas, whipped cream and nuts. Just try and keep the kids away. Parents may feel guilty, but they'll probably enjoy it too.
Stars: Colin Ferrell, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer
Plot: Alexander the Great rides again thanks to hunky Irish actor Colin Ferrell and cranky American filmmaker Oliver Stone. Big cast, big sets, big budget.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: The giant fruit cornucopia centerpiece. Everybody agrees that it looks great. But are you really supposed to eat it? For all you know, that thing could be made of plastic.
Christmas with the Kranks
Stars: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis
Plot: Much to the chagrin of their neighbors, a suburban couple decides to skip the Christmas cheer after their college-age daughter opts not to return for the holidays. When the daughter has a change of heart, though, mom and dad must race against time to bring the holidays home under the wire. Based on the book by John Grisham.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Green bean casserole. Everybody expects to find one of these among the holiday offerings. It's comfort food. But it really didn't take any effort. And, at the end of the evening, hardly anybody's actually touched it. As always, better in concept than in execution.
Stars: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie
Plot: This imaginative biopic takes us into the mind of author J.M. Barrie, who gave us the kid lit classic Peter Pan.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: A holiday goose. A little more sophisticated than your average holiday meal, but a real flashback to holiday meals of yesteryear.
Stars: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard
Plot: This classy biopic explores the life of pioneering sexual researcher Alfred Kinsey.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: A warm shot of brandy around the fireplace. Not for the kids, but a must for the more refined adults in the room.
Stars: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen
Plot: Two complex romantic relationships go from passionate to heartbreaking when the man from one relationship meets the woman from the other. Mike Nichols (Silkwood, Working Girl, Angels in America) directs.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Herb-roasted baby vegetables. Kids will steer clear of this dish altogether. Adults will undoubtedly pick at it, ignoring the bits that they dislike and savoring the parts that they love. In the end it's good for you.
House of Flying Daggers
Stars: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi
Plot: The director of Chinese hit Hero returns with another sweeping historical romance lined with marital arts action. The action centers around two police deputies sent to arrest a dancer with possible ties to a revolutionary faction. Instead, they fall in love with her and concoct a plan to help her escape.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Roast duck. You probably weren't expecting this; but if your oven broke down or your turkey got eaten by the family dog, a dash down to the local Chinese restaurant could secure one of these exotic yet satisfying feature items.
Stars: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Biel
Plot: Bad-ass vampire hunter Blade is back to fight off a bloodsucker apocalypse with the help of a few other supernaturally endowed folks.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: That bowl of nuts on the coffee table. Sure, they're tasty, but they're not the reason you came to dinner. Fill up on empty calorie appetizers like that and you'll have no room for the main course.
Beyond the Sea
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman
Plot: Spacey's latest attempt to not suck on screen is also his directing debut. Spacey takes on the role of pop culture icon Bobby Darin, who belted out a wide variety of hits, married teen queen Sandra Dee and died very young.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Glazed ham. Solid. Respectable. But a bit ... well, hammy.
Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts
Plot: All the boys are back (plus one more) so that Danny Ocean and his gang can pull off a trifecta of robberies on European soil.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: All-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet at Furr's Cafeteria. This has got every one of your favorites. None of it's done quite as well as it probably could be. But you'll be so stuffed by the end, you won't even care.
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale.
Plot: Martin Scorsese helms this biopic about the early, high-flying days of industrialist Howard Hughes.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Roast Turkey. As good a main dish as you're likely to see this holiday season. Should appeal to the aesthetes as well as the everyday Joes.
Million Dollar Baby
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank
Plot: Eastwood directs and stars in this sporting drama about a grizzled old boxing coach helping a young woman get her shot at pugilistic fame.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Smoked oysters. They are traditional, your grandfather loves 'em, but you won't find many young folks who will appreciate the offering.
The Sea Inside
Stars: Javier Bardem
Plot: Filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar (The Others, Abre los Ojos) goes for straight drama this time, telling the real-life story of a Spaniard who fought a 30-year campaign in favor of euthanasia and his own right to die.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Steamed chard. It's good for you, no doubt about it. But it's an awfully bitter thing to fill your plate with when there are so many other treats laid out on the table this time of year.
Stars: Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni, Paz Vega.
Plot: Writer/director James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets, Broadcast News, Terms of Endearment) spins this romantic comedy about a single mother who immigrates to America and goes to work for a crazy celebrity chef and his insecure wife.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Tamales. Mainstream America may not appreciate it enough; but, in the right part of the country, this is a surefire holiday hit. Some of the ingredients might look a little odd together, but just eat it all, it's probably delicious.
Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events
Stars: Jim Carrey, Jude Law, Meryl Streep
Plot: The ridiculously popular (and blackly comic) series of kid's books comes to life. Carrey plays a wicked count who adopts a trio of rich young orphans and attempts to bump them off in assorted nasty ways.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Hot cocoa. The kids are desperate to get their hands on it. Secretly, most of the adults like it too. A guaranteed hit.
Flight of the Phoenix
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Sticky Fingaz, Giovanni Ribisi, Tyrese, Hugh Laurie
Plot: This action/adventure tale is a remake of the 1965 film (starring James Stewart, Sir Richard Attenborough and Ernest Bognine) about the survivors of a airplane crash who struggle to rebuild their plane and escape their deadly surroundings. I wonder if Sticky Fingaz is playing Sir Richard Attenborough's role.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Leftover turkey sandwiches. Everybody still likes them, they're filling, but the novelty's kind of worn off. Haven't we seen this dish before?
Stars: Don Cheadle, Nick Nolte, Joaquin Phoenix
Plot: In this Schindler's List-like war drama, Don Cheadle stars as true-life hero Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsis refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Who can think of food at a time like this? This is like one of those “empty bowls” TV commercials that reminds you about all the starving people in the world just as you're sitting down to dinner. It may not be what you want to hear over the holidays, but it could be a pretty important message nonetheless.
Meet the Fockers
Stars: Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand.
Plot: Having met his fiancée's stern parents, our hapless hero must now introduce them to his hippie-dippy parents. Wackiness ensues.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Pumpkin pie with whipped cream. It's secretly what everybody's waiting for. It's probably not all that healthy for you, and some people might not like it as much as they were hoping. Still, everybody's got to have a piece.
Phantom of the Opera
Stars: Gerard Butler, Miranda Richardson, Minnie Driver.
Plot: Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical romance about an opera-loving psycho killer finally comes to the big screen.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Coffee with Baily's Irish Cream. A nice treat for the adults. Sure, it's the same old coffee you've had a hundred times before, but toss a little liquor in it, and it's like a whole new ball game. It's probably sweet enough for the kids, but they really won't appreciate it enough to stick it through to the end.
A Very Long Engagement
Stars: Audrey Toutou, Gaspard Ulliel, Dominique Pinon
Plot: Director Jean-Pierre Juenet reunites with his Amelie star Audrey Tautou for this mysterious romantic drama about a woman on a quest to find her lost love, who disappeared in the trenches during World War I.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Fine French chocolates with Gran Marnier centers. You totally weren't expecting to see a treat like this show up on your table, but you could just kiss the person who brought it. Very good stuff, but probably an acquired taste if you grew up on Jell-O pudding pie.
Bride & Prejudice
Stars: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Naveen Andrews
Plot: Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice gets the full singing, dancing Bollywood treatment in this Indian import.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Curried tofu. You're not sure who brought this. Odds are nobody's gonna touch it. If you actually tasted it, you'd probably like it, but it sure does look out of place on the table.
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal.
Plot: Gwyneth Paltrow reprises her stage role in this family drama about a woman who comes to the aid of her dying father, a math professor who has lost his grip on reality.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Paté. Not a lot of people are adventurous enough to try it. But really is very good. For sophisticated tastes only.
An Unfinished Life
Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman
Plot: A down-on-her-luck woman, desperate to provide for her young daughter, moves in with her estranged father-in-law. Lots of weepy reconciliation and old-wound-healing ensues. From director Lasse Hallström (My Life as a Dog, What's Eating Gilbert Grape).
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Cranberry sauce. Most people will look at the main ingredient and reject it outright. But it really is an essential part of the holiday meal. A little sweet, a little bitter, but quite indispensable when mixed in with all the other holiday offerings. You probably have to be an adult to fully appreciate it.
Stars: Kenan Thompson, Omarion, Aaron Carter
Plot: Bill Cosby's classic streetwise cartoon comes to live-action life.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Jello salad. The kids will want some, just because it looks colorful and moves funny. The adults know better than to touch the stuff.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Stars: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe.
Plot: From the team that brought us cult hits Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums comes this off-kilter comedy about a world-famous oceanographer who joins forces with his estranged (not to mention strange) family to get revenge on the mythical shark that killed his best friend.
Holiday Food Item This Film Most Resembles: Fruitcake. It's not for every taste. It looks pretty odd, but if you actually give it a try, it's pretty damn good stuff.
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