Friday movie roundup – Dec. 21

Not that it’s a busy time of year or anything, but if you can spare a few hours, Hollywood has 829 movies it would like you to watch.

Opening today are:

• “Sweeney Todd,” a fantastic adaptation of the Sondheim musical starring Johnny Depp as the vengeful barber who slits his customers’ throats, and Helena Bonham Carter as the insane woman who bakes them into pies. The list of R-rated musicals is surely very short, but this is one of ’em.

• “Charlie Wilson’s War,” based on the outrageous true story of a Texas congressman (Tom Hanks) who organized the CIA’s funding of the Afghans during their war with the Soviets in the 1980s. Humor and satire abound. Read the review at

• “P.S. I Love You,” a romantic dramedy in which a young widow (Hilary Swank) is comforted by letters written by her dead husband pre-mortem. As I approached the theater for the screening I thought, “I cannot imagine anyone wanting to watch Hilary Swank read love letters from her dead husband for two hours.” Inside I ran into a friend who works for one of the ad agencies that arranges these screenings. She wasn’t working at this one; she had come because she just wanted to see the movie. And yet again I demonstrate that I know nothing about women.

• “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” co-written and produced by Judd Apatow, and while it isn’t up to the level of his “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” it’s certainly a worthy companion. It’s a parody of musical biopics (especially “Walk the Line”), and it’s got some great scenes. “I’m cut in half pretty bad!” is a line that makes me chuckle every time I think of it.

• “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” which didn’t screen until Wednesday night, at which point I was already out of town for Christmas. One assumes it is more of the same monkey business that made the first “National Treasure” such an unexpected, “Da Vinci Code”-ripping-off hit. I’ll have a review posted over the weekend. Why, here’s that review now!

But that’s not all! On Christmas Day three more films open in wide release:

• “The Great Debaters,” an Oprah-produced true story about a debate team from a black college in the 1930s, made from the template of Inspiring Sports Dramas. Do you think they ever considered calling it “The Master Debaters”? Well, they should have.

• “The Water Horse,” based on a novel about a little boy who finds an egg that hatches and becomes the Loch Ness Monster. Presumably not based on a true story.

• “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem,” in which more aliens battle more predators. Not screened for critics, who historically have had very strong anti-alien and anti-predator leanings.

There you go! That should keep you busy for a while, or not quite as long if you only see the good ones.

And that’s it for me and the blog until at least the 26th. I’m in Southern California with my family for Christmas, the way nature intended. (White Christmas? Bah!) I hope yours is as merry as I know mine will be!

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