Welcome to Day Two of RT’s Five Days of Christmas Countdown, where we serve up a different list each day of the best holiday flicks around. Today, we’ve got some heavier seasonal fare — wartime dramas, family heartache, and a touch of yuletide murder.

**The holidays are here, and it’s time to break out the sleds, roast the chestnuts, and watch a movie or five about yuletide magic (or a decided lack thereof). And when in doubt regarding your best viewing for any occasion, as always, we’re here to help; the merry elves at Rotten Tomatoes have listed the Tomatometers, checked them twice, and will be presenting, during the Five Days of Christmas, the best-reviewed holiday films in the following categories: Classics, Comedies, Animated/Children’s, Dramas, and Thrillers. Pour yourself a cup of eggnog and get ready for some fine seasonal viewing!**

Top Five Holiday Dramas

It might be the season to be jolly, but even Santa himself would go a little nuts if he couldn’t mellow out and give all that eye-twinkling a rest once in awhile. Whether the holidays put you in a reflective mood, or you just can’t stomach another 90 minutes of old-fashioned Christmas cheer, here are the five freshest dramas of the season!

5) 8 Women (2002) 77%

If you aren’t well-versed in French comedy murder mysteries, you may be unfamiliar with director Francois Ozon‘s "8 Women" — think of it as sort of like "Clue," only with less Martin Mull and more females. (And musical numbers.) The plot is too intricate to get into here; suffice it to say a house full of women find their holiday preparations interrupted by an unexpected murder mystery, and much singing and dancing ensue. What would the holidays be without a little good-natured Sapphic love and tragicomic family intrigue?

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert
Directed by: Francois Ozon

4) Joyeux Noël (2006) 78%

Based on the true stories of Christmas ceasefires on the front lines of World War I in 1914, "Joyeux Noël" isn’t what you’re looking for if you’re in the mood for a madcap holiday comedy, but for an extraordinary example of what the season can mean to people from all walks of life — even those on opposite sides of a battlefield — you could hardly make a better choice. With a pan-European cast led by Daniel Bruhl and Diane Kruger, "Joyeux Noel" was also last year’s French-language nominee for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

Starring: Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl
Directed by: Christian Carion

3) A Midnight Clear (1992) 83%



It’s easily one of the lesser-known films on our list, but no less worth seeking out — just take a look at the cast, which includes Ethan Hawke, John C. McGinley, Peter Berg, and Gary "Lieutenant Dan" Sinise. The plot, which centers around an American platoon in the waning days of World War II, has no shortage of cockles-warming holiday spirit, and Keith Gordon‘s Independent Spirit Awards-nominated screenplay may actually be one of the better ones on this list. Want to add something new to your holiday viewing rotation? Start with "A Midnight Clear."

Starring: Gary Sinise, Ethan Hawke
Directed by: Keith Gordon

2) Little Women (1994) 89%



By our count, director Gillian Armstrong‘s 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott‘s novel marked the story’s 18th trip to the screen, which makes its critical success an incredible exception to the cinematic law of diminishing returns. Of course, having a cast which includes Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, and Eric Stoltz doesn’t hurt. It goes without saying that the estrogen-impaired among us may be tempted to sneak off and watch a game while it’s on — if only to keep from sniffling at the injustice of scarlet fever.

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder
Directed by: Gillian Armstrong

1) Heidi (1937) 100%

Like many 19th-century stories about children, "Heidi" has its share of mysterious illnesses and ridiculous plot twists, but for cute-as-a-button holiday cheer, you simply cannot beat Shirley Temple as the Alps’ most famous cinematic resident. Brew up some Swiss Miss, pop a few Ricola, and relax in front of the definitive film version of a timeless tale. (For bonus nostalgic kicks, start the movie in the final moments of a tight football game.)

Starring: Shirley Temple, Jean Hersholt
Directed by: Allan Dwan

Check back tomorrow for the Top 5 Christmas Thrillers!

Click here for Day One: Top 5 Yuletide Comedies

Ashton Kutcher fans get two chances to see (or hear) their favorite star this weekend as the Hollywood prankster takes on reigning box office champ "Jackass: Number Two" by voicing a mule deer in the animated comedy "Open Season" and going up against Kevin Costner in the action drama "The Guardian."

Also opening nationally is the Billy Bob ThorntonJon Heder comedy "School For Scoundrels" while some potential Oscar contenders debut in the arthouses.

Hollywood’s umpteenth computer-animated feature film of the year hits multiplexes on Friday in the form of "Open Season." The PG-rated pic features the voices of Martin Lawrence and Kutcher and finds a domesticated grizzly bear being dropped into the wilderness right before the start of hunting season. Young kids usually eat up these fish-out-of-water comedy toons and this Sony release should play to the same family audience. The target demographic has had an endless line of movies this year featuring talking animals getting into wacky situations, but since the current marketplace is lacking any major offering for children, "Open Season" should score as the first animated hit of the new school year. The studio is saturating the market with screens giving the film the fourth widest bow ever for a non-DreamWorks toon, and the second widest in Sony history for any film after 2004’s webslinger sequel. With no competition and solid funnyman starpower behind the mics, a strong number one bow could result. "Open Season" makes its way into 3,833 theaters and may debut with around $24M this weekend.


Ashton Kutcher, in his other film, "Open Season."

For those who would rather see the "Punk’d" star’s face, Buena Vista sets sail with its Coast Guard thriller "The Guardian" which finds Kutcher playing a young and cocky swimming champ who butts heads with his unorthodox teacher played by Kevin Costner. Directed by Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive," "Collateral Damage"), the PG-13 film has broad appeal with each star pulling in his respective generation. Cross-gender appeal is also present with the military-like storyline doing the job for males and the hunky actors attracting the ladies. Disney offered successful sneak previews two weeks ago to get some word-of-mouth spreading before the official debut. The studio will try to lure in the same audience that spent a solid $22.1M on the John TravoltaJoaquin Phoenix firefighter drama "Ladder 49" two autumns ago. Launching in over 3,000 theaters, "The Guardian" might debut with about $18M.


Kevin Costner to the rescue in "The Guardian."

Following his commercial success with the male-driven comedy hits "Road Trip," "Old School," and "Starsky & Hutch," Todd Phillips returns to theaters with "School for Scoundrels" which finds Billy Bob Thornton squaring off against "Napoleon Dynamite"’s Jon Heder for the affection of a young gal. MGM’s PG-13 film about an awkward young misfit who enlists the help of an expert on getting the ladies should aim for an audience of teens and young adults, plus fans of the "Bad Santa" star’s rogue ways. Starpower is not very high here. Films anchored by the former Mr. Jolie usually don’t explode on opening weekend as evidenced by the recent debuts of "The Bad News Bears" ($11.4M), "The Ice Harvest" ($3.7M), and "The Alamo" ($9.1M). Competition for young males will be tough, but if "School" can connect with teen girls as a funny romantic comedy, then it has a chance of doing some respectable numbers. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, "School for Scoundrels" might debut with about $12M.


Thornton, Heder, and that Real World chick again in "School For Scoundrels."

Some high profile indies pop into limited release this weekend. Fox Searchlight launched its Idi Amin pic "The Last King of Scotland" in four theaters on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles and has already been receiving early Oscar buzz for Forest Whitaker‘s portrayal of the Ugandan dictator. Coincidentally, a year ago this same weekend, "Capote" debuted and fueled its own Best Actor buzz which sustained itself throughout awards season leading to a trophy for Philip Seymour Hoffman. Reviews for "Scotland" have been good and for Whitaker, have been electric.


Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."

Miramax gets its Oscar campaign going, but for the Best Actress prize, with its Helen Mirren film "The Queen" which opens in New York City on Saturday after it officially opens the New York Film Festival on Friday evening. Mirren has already taken home the top actress prize at the Venice Film Festival for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in the dark days after the death of Princess Diana. The PG-13 film is directed by Stephen Frears ("Mrs. Henderson Presents," "Dangerous Liaisons") and has ranked number two at the U.K. box office for the last two weeks.

First Look Studios takes audiences back to Queens in 1986 with its coming-of-age drama "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" which stars Robert Downey Jr., Chazz Palminteri, Shia LaBeouf, Dianne Wiest, Channing Tatum, and Rosario Dawson. The R-rated film won awards for Best Director and Best Ensemble at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and bows in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Last weekend, "Jackass: Number Two" flexed its muscles at the box office with a better-than-expected $29M launch. The Paramount film’s predecessor dropped 44% in its second weekend in the fall of 2002, but the sequel may drop harder. A 50% decline would still give the Johnny Knoxville flick about $15M for the weekend and a strong ten-day cume of $51M.

Jet Li‘s "Fearless" also drew upon a built-in audience of young men last weekend setting itself up for a sizable sophomore drop. The Focus title might also lose half of its business and take in roughly $5M. That would give the martial arts saga $18M after ten days. Sony’s "Gridiron Gang" held up well last weekend despite tough competition. Another 35% fall could be in order giving The Rock a $6M frame and a $34M total after 17 days.

LAST YEAR: For the second straight weekend, Jodie Foster‘s airline thriller "Flightplan" topped the box office with $14.8M dropping only 40% from its bow. Opening in second place was the sci-fi actioner "Serenity" which grossed $10.1M on its way to $25.4M for Universal. Warner Bros. followed close behind with $10M for its animated comedy "Corpse Bride." The revenge thriller "A History of Violence" expanded nationally and placed fourth with $8.1M and a solid $6,047 average which was the best in the whole Top 20. Opening in fifth was the Jessica-Alba-in-a-bikini pic "Into the Blue" with only $7.1M leading to a weak $18.5M final for Sony. Disney debuted its historical golf drama "The Greatest Game Ever Played" to the tune of $3.7M. A $15.3M final gross resulted.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Writer/director Todd Phillips ("Old School," "Road Trip") has a new movie coming out this weekend called "School for Scoundrels," and he took a few minutes to chit-chat with Gareth over at SKNR.net. Aside from talking about his newest comedy, Phillips also answered a few questions about "Old School 2," which looks to become a reality sooner than later.

From SKNR.net:

GVK: What is the latest on the next "Old School"?

TP: We are writing a sequel which is called "Old School Dos." No actors have been signed yet, and nobody has agreed to be in the film. The plan is that once the script is finished, we will approach the cast and go from there.

GVK: You had mentioned that you would have liked to have added more to "Old School" the main thing I wondered was why Frank’s wife was so afraid of seeing Frank the Tank again, shortly before his infamous streaking event. I had wondered what he had done in the past that had caused her so much concern.

TP: It is funny that you mention that as it is something that will be addressed in "Old School Dos," so stay tuned.

Click here for the full article, although considering how much cash Vaughn and Ferrell are currently getting per flick, I’m betting "Old School Dos" might be one of those "next generation" comedies.

From the director of "Old School" and "Road Trip" comes another crotch-centric comedy, this one starring Jon Heder, Billy Bob Thornton, and a whole bunch of (generally) funny goofballs.

Click here for the trailer.

Synopsis: "A down-on-his-luck meter reader enrolls in a confidence-building class so he can win the love of his dream girl. The class turns out to be something quite different once it becomes clear to the young man that his professor has set his sights on the same woman."

Also on board are Jacinda Barrett, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Cross, Ben Stiller, Horatio Sanz, Todd Louiso, and Sarah Silverman.

"School for Scoundrels" opens on September 29th.

Seann William Scott, best known for playing horny goofball Steve Stifler in the American Pie series, will soon play a janitor who becomes an inspiriational tennis coach in … Gary the Tennis Coach.

Says The Hollywood Reporter: "Seann William Scott has signed on to topline and produce the indie comedy Gary the Tennis Coach for Michael Nathanson‘s O.N.C. Entertainment and John Penotti and Fisher Stevens‘ GreeneStreet Films. Penned by Andy Stock and Rick Stempson, "Tennis Coach" centers on an overzealous high school janitor (Scott) who takes on the task of coaching a group of lovable misfits to the Nebraska state championship, overcoming their motley backgrounds in the process."

Mr. Scott’s non-Pie pics include Final Destination, Road Trip, Stark Raving Mad, Bulletproof Monk, The Rundown, and The Dukes of Hazzard.

Variety reports that Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder will co-star in a remake of the 1960 comedy "School for Scoundrels," with Todd ("Road Trip") Phillips in the director’s chair.

The "School" will soon be set up at Weinstein’s Dimension label. Screenwriter Scot Armstrong, who has already collaborated with Mr. Phillips on "Road Trip," "Staraky & Hutch," and "Old School," will be assuming his co-scribe position.

"Heder plays a down-on-his-luck meter reader who enrolls in a confidence-building class so he can win the love of his dream girl. The class turns out to be something quite different once it becomes clear to the young man that his professor (Thornton) has set his sights on the same woman."

Dimension plans to start shooting in October in preparation for a late-spring / early-summer release.

Screenwriter Scot Armstrong, who co-wrote "Old School," "Road Trip," and "Starsky & Hutch" (as well as an uncredited re-write on "Elf") has been tapped by New Line to pen a sequel to the Will Ferrell Christmas comedy. And while Mr. Ferrell is not signed up for the follow-up just yet, New Line honcho Toby Emmerich is clearly not going to move forward without his curly-haired leading man.

According to Variety, "after the failure of "Son of the Mask," (Emmerich) has said he would go forward with pricey sequels only if original stars are involved." It’s also understood that Will is set to make about $20 million for his involvement in "Elf 2," so let’s hope that Mr. Armstrong puts together an impressive screenplay.

Former "Kids in the Hall" comedian Bruce McCulloch will write and direct the comedy "Comeback Season," and it looks like leading man Ray Liotta ("Goodfellas," "No Escape") has also climbed aboard. Liotta will star alongside Shaun Sipos ("Final Destination 2," "Baby Geniuses 2"), Glenne Headly ("Eulogy," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels") and Rachel Blanchard ("Road Trip," "Without a Paddle").Regarding the plot, Variety says "Liotta plays a man who cheats on his wife and moves in next door with the local high school football star, as they both try to win back the hearts of the women they love." McCulloch’s other directorial efforts include "Dog Park," "Superstar," and "Stealing Harvard." The production will get underway this May.