A FEAST OF FILMS FOR THANKSGIVING

The major studios are unveiling a wide array of new films over the five-day Thanksgiving Day holiday to compete with last weekend's champs, Happy Feet and Casino Royale and the still-running-strong Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The competition will be formidable including the Jerry Bruckheimer's sci-fi thriller Déjà Vu, directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington; the holiday comedy Deck the Halls; the sci-fi drama The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman; and the hip-hop comedy Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny. The holiday weekend will also see the wide release of Bobby, centered on the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy, and the limited release of The History Boys, a film version of this year's Tony-award winning play.

MOVIE REVIEWS: DÉJÀ VUE

Casino Royale audiences who may have missed a lot of the spectacular explosions that previous James Bond movies exhibited are likely to find them in abundance in Jerry Bruckheimer's Déjà Vu. In the words of Colin Covert in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: "The man has never seen a vehicle he thought wouldn't look better in high, tight spiral." The film opens with an explosion aboard a New Orleans ferry that sends flames 350 feet in the air, killing 543 people. "Really, hasn't New Orleans been through enough in the past year?" asks Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Daily News. Most of the critics agree that the film, which involves time travel and other sci-fi goodies, makes hardly a lick of sense. But most also agree that it doesn't matter. Writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times: "If you want your films to add up logically, you're welcome to take your calculator somewhere else. But if you do, you will be missing out on some first-class genre fun." Or as Michael Wilmington puts it in the Chicago Tribune: "If you can swallow one of the most elaborate and absurd time-machine gimmicks imaginable, you can have a good time." Virtually all of the critics remark that Déjà Vu amounts to remixing the formula of Jerry Bruckheimer's most successful thrillers. As Stephen Witty remarks in the Newark Star-Ledger, "If you feel you've seen some of it before, that's not ESP. That's Hollywood."

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE FOUNTAIN

Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain is another sci-fi film opening this weekend that has left critics scratching their heads. "The Fountain is either innovative science fiction or overwrought melodrama; I can't quite pinpoint which," writes Michael Booth in the Denver Post. "I realize I'm charged with reaching an opinion here, but it's not easy." A.O. Scott in the New York Times suggests the confusion is not necessarily a bad thing. "The Fountain leaves a tantalizing sense of puzzlement in its wake," he observes, while adding, ""Its techniques run too far beyond its ideas, which are blurry and banal, rather than mysterious and resonant." Most critics reach a similar conclusion. "Bloated and logy, and art-directed within an inch of its life, the movie shovels heaps of phony portent and all-purpose mystical imagery onto a thin and maudlin plot," writes Carina Chocano in the Los Angeles Times, who goes on to describe it as "just the type of impenetrable indulgence that gives the concept of personal artistic visions a bad name." Peter Howell in the Toronto Star sums up: "Guys like Darren Aronofsky give auteurs a bad name." On the other hand, Amy Biancolli in the Houston Chronicle writes that she was "transfixed" by the movie, calling it "a transcendent work of art, a vision of undying love that finds hope in grief, epiphany in death and life in the loss of Eden." Gene Seymour in Newsday predicts it will wind up as a cult classic. "Just because The Fountain made my head ache doesn't mean I think it's going to go gentle into obscurity," he remarks, adding, "One could easily imagine lines around an aerial block in 2066 waiting to see the director's cut of The Fountain."

MOVIE REVIEWS: DECK THE HALLS

There are few Christmas cheers from the critics for Deck the Halls. "A leaden slice of fruitcake, with about as much nutritional value, it's not worth working up a good hate over," grumbles Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinel. Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post suggests that the movie ought to have been called Dreck the Halls, remarking, "I literally didn't count a single laugh in the whole aimless schlep." Michael Sragow in the Baltimore Sun refers to it as "this pitiful farce." Richard Roeper was enlisted by the Chicago Sun-Times to review the movie in place of the recuperating Roger Ebert. He writes: "Compared to the honest hard labor performed by tens of millions of Americans every day, a film critic's job is like a winning lottery ticket. But there IS work involved, and it can be painful -- and the next time someone tells me I have the best job in the world, I'm going to grab them by the ear, fourth-grade-teacher-in-1966-style, and drag them to see Deck the Halls." In the first paragraph of his review, he writes: "You cannot believe how excruciatingly awful this movie is. It is bad in a way that will cause unfortunate viewers to huddle in the lobby afterward, hugging in small groups, consoling one another with the knowledge that it's over, it's over -- thank God, it's over."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.