The holidays are a prime time for the release of potentially high-quality movies. As studios are aware of the warm-and-fuzzies that are involved in being with various loved ones around this time of year, there are plenty of the usual weepers, family flicks and inspirational Oscar candidates to go see. Thankfully, there are also a few films from outside of the usual suspects, if your idea of a good holiday flick is of the slasher variety, or a political drama with American actors attempting foreign accents. We've whittled down the field and present to you the most appealing of various genres of movies coming out this December:
The reputation re-builder / cultural film: Apocalypto
It's a film that would be little known if it didn't have Mel Gibson's name in bigger font than the title itself on the marquee. As Gibson's follow up to the Passion of the Christ, his DUI charges and anti-Semitic ranting, people will be watching to see if he can make a good film and half-salvage his diminished reputation. So far, the film looks beautifully shot, and the story around the endlessly intriguing lost Mayan civilization will probably do it for old Melly. Commercially though, it's certain that people won't be as compelled to see it as the religious movie-goers of Passion that helped Gibson sell his neo-papal indulgances.
The political film: Blood Diamond Leo DiCaprio follows up his astonishing performance in the Departed with another juicy one. Though his Afrikaaner accent is questionable, the movie does appear to be of supremely high quality, with the highly controversial conflict diamond issue to wrangle with, and a high emotional quotient.
The rom-com: The Holiday
It's obviously fluff, but having Jack Black in the place of the usual square-jawed romantic lead could be more interesting than usual. If you're craving an Adonis though, Jude Law plays the other romantic male lead. The likeable Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz round out the rest of the cast as the two women who swap houses and swear to spurn men forever.
The family flick: Charlotte's Web
The adaptation of this beloved book to screen doesn't come without controversy. Though it looks well done and includes A-listers like Julia Roberts, Robert Redford and Steve Buscemi voicing, one can't help but feel uneasy about a big-box studio cashing in on E.B. White's classic, especially when he refused any film adaptations during his life. The story is so sweet, though, if it receives a loving and careful adaptation to screen, it could reach many more people.
The big name movie: The Good Shepherd
Eye candy actors Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie star. Damon plays one of the founders and first agents of the CIA, and Jolie plays the wife who questions his required double life for the job. Spy movies starring either one of these two in the past have proven to be excellent, and this slick historical film should be no different, considering that Robert De Niro directs and stars as well.
The inspirational weeper: The Pursuit of Happyness
Will Smith puts on the old-man makeup in another bid for an Oscar nomination that looks likely. The movie has Smith as a single father living in homeless shelters and subway bathrooms with his young son while eking it out on a prestigious business internship that promises the Good Life should he succeed. Good movie or not, expect an inspirational message and a good cry.
The unnecessary sequel: Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa does a virtual simulation of a boxing match, and finds that he can beat the crap out of the current boxing champ in his weight category, inspiring him to actually come out of retirement to do one last epic match. Not even kidding, this is the actual premise. Completely unnecessary? Oh yeah. Especially after Rocky V.
The musical: Dreamgirls
Big name cast, big hair, and big expectations Ã la Chicago. The story is just as salacious, telling the Diana Ross and the Temptations story of formation and break-up combined with the Ike and Tina Turner story. Plus a delicious soundtrack.
The slasher: Black Christmas
It's a remake of the 1974 movie that inspired the Friday the 13th and Halloween movies. Is it a comment on how movies like Saw and Hostel have gone too far with the gore... by reverting to where it all started? Could be they're just running out of crappy slasher pics to remake, and only have this one left. On the bright side, it sure stands out at this time of year, and if you're sick of sentiment, this hastily thrown together movie is the ticket.
The sci-fi movie: Children of Men
Another book adapted to film, this one features the gorgeous Clive Owen as a bureaucrat living in a bleak future where humans have lost the ability to reproduce. England becomes a little crazier when its youngest citizen dies at 18, and martial law is put in place. Hope is brought back when a woman discovers she is pregnant, and revolution starts to bubble. It's a compelling concept, and with director Alfonso CuarÃ³n (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) on board, this bleak future should be beautiful to look at as well.
The comedy: Night at the Museum
This looks to be the most original and imaginative film Ben Stiller's done. Stiller is the new night security guard at a natural history museum that comes to life when the clock strikes midnight. Though it's aimed at the whole family, you can't have completely squeaky clean humour with the likes of Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Ed Helms, Ricky Gervais and Robin Williams, all as various museum exhibits that come alive.