SIX FILMS ROLL OUT FOR HOLIDAY

A feast of six new movies will be offered up at the box office over the Thanksgiving holiday, ranging from a live/animated Disney fairy-tale fantasy (Enchanted) to a fantasy about the life of Bob Dylan (I'm Not There). Others include a horror film (The Mist), an adaptation of a video game (Hitman), a family film (August Rush) and a holiday title (This Christmas). All of the critics are betting on Enchanted to win but are divided on how the remainder will line up.

MOVIE REVIEWS: ENCHANTED

Critics are clearly enchanted with Disney's Enchanted, about an animated princess who is banished by an animated wicked queen to live a real-life existence in New York. "What results is a heart-winning musical comedy that skips lightly and sprightly from the lily pads of hope to the manhole covers of actuality, if you see what I mean. I'm not sure I do," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. Clearly critics have had a difficult time describing the film. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times calls it a "revisionist fairy tale," and, later in her review, "Snow White as redone by John Waters." But Peter Howell in the Toronto Star has few reservations about it. It is, he says, "the most thoroughly delightful Disney release in many a moon [and] hearkens back to an almost forgotten era when the late Walt and his crew could do no wrong." Several critics remark that the film is clever enough to delight adults while cleverly appealing to young girls, as well. (Young boys may be a different story.) Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times regards it as "an adroit combination of wised-up and happily-ever-after." To be sure, the film leaves a few critics feeling grumpy. Gene Seymour in Newsday concludes that it's "a shimmering pastiche of missed opportunities."

MOVIE REVIEWS: I'M NOT THERE

Befitting the subject of the movie, Todd Haynes's I'm Not There, in which one actress and five actors play Bob Dylan at different stages of his life (although none of the characters is named Dylan), is created from a mind-bending screenplay and Dylan's mind-bending music. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times predicts that the film is "likely to confuse or baffle" some but that he himself responded "with a wry admiration for the enormous risks Todd Haynes has taken here." More directly, A.O. Scott writes in the New York Times that the film "respects the essential question Mr. Dylan's passionate followers have always found themselves asking -- What does it mean? -- without forgetting that the counter-question Mr. Dylan has posed is more challenging and, for a movie, more important: How does it feel?" Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer is not about to get all metaphysical in coming up with descriptions of the film. He writes plainly: "Haynes juggles the facts, plays fast and loose, but serves up images, and songs that are as much a part of the collective pop consciousness as anything the 20th century produced. On top of all that, the thing's just plain beautiful, and fun." On the other hand, Claudia Puig concludes in USA Today that although Dylan "is an undeniable enigma, this unconventional film does little to illuminate him. And it's not nearly as enjoyable as one of his rambling, meditative songs, though perhaps it is aspiring to be the cinematic equivalent. Give me 'Tangled Up in Blue' any day over this incoherent, tangled trip."

MOVIE REVIEWS: HITMAN

Movies based on video games rarely receive much applause from critics. Hitman is no exception, although it receives less drubbing than most of its genre and a few high scores. Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News makes an argument that a lot of critics have echoed in their reviews of such films: "Like every other attempt at adapting popular games, Hitman is passive entertainment. It's beyond me why filmmakers think gamers will be satisfied sitting on their hands." Manohla Dargis observes that the R-rated movie "exploits every action-flick cliché imaginable and still manages to be dull." As for the performances, Kyle Smith writes in the New York Post: "Bruce Willis and Jason Statham look good bald; [Timothy] Olyphant looks about as comfortable as a freshly shorn cat as he creeps around shooting and fighting and generally trying to be Jason Bourne." But Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle provides some faint praise for the movie. "Hitman," he writes, "is one of the best movies ever made from a video game, which doesn't provide you with very much information. That's like declaring the best meal you've eaten at a strip club, the best love ballad by Kenny Loggins or the best hangover you've had after drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon."

MOVIE REVIEWS: AUGUST RUSH

August Rush, critics generally agree, is the kind of sentimental family film that may have particular appeal to the majority of moviegoers -- that is, teens and young adults. The problem is that most critics don't fit into that category themselves. "To describe August Rush as a piece of shameless hokum doesn't quite do justice to the potentially shock-inducing sugar content of this contemporary fairy tale," comments Stephen Holden in the New York Times. Jan Stuart in Newsday comments: "If there is anything more deflating than a captivating child actor as he transitions into gawky adolescence, it is watching it happen in a lousy movie." Elizabeth Weitzman remarks in the New York Daily News: "You could make gallons of maple syrup from all the sap that drips off August Rush." And it doesn't pass the taste test of Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times, either. "August Rush feels like the cinematic equivalent of being stuffed with fruitcake and doused with a gallon of egg nog," she writes. But Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times appears to have enjoyed it all, writing, "Here is a movie drenched in sentimentality, but it's supposed to be. I dislike sentimentality where it doesn't belong, but there's something brave about the way August Rush declares itself and goes all the way with coincidence, melodrama and skillful tear-jerking."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE MIST

The reviews for Frank Darabont's The Mist aren't half bad. In fact, that's what Manohla Dargis calls the movie itself in the New York Times -- not "half bad." She does indicate that the film is loaded with a lot of clichés and "that's too bad, because Mr. Darabont does some estimable work in The Mist." Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune concludes that the movie is "good and creepy." Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News regards it as a "fine, fatalistic freak show." But Claudia Puig in USA Today suggests that the movie "is more thought-provoking than frightening" (not that that's necessarily bad). Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post also indicates that the film is "more political allegory than horror movie." Leaving Kyle Smith the conservative among the nation's major critics, to conclude that it's "a pretentious left-wing monster movie."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.