(Photo by © 20th Century Fox, © Buena Vista, @ Universal)

Just because a film is Rotten doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with plenty of Christmas cheer — or at least enough one-liners, touching scenes, or outright weirdness — for it to win our affections at this time of year. This Christmas, for the first time, we at Rotten Tomatoes are spreading the love, giving you an expanded list of the Best Christmas Movies ever – all Fresh and sparkly and ranked by Tomatometer – but also the below list of movies that fall on the Rotten end of the Tomatometer, but which are still on our own nice lists come December. They’re movies the critics mostly dismissed, but that are still worth your yuletide time.


This 2017 sequel celebrates Father Christmas by doubling the number of moms in the first film. Titular bad moms Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn butt heads with their own mothers, played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon, in a comedy that doesn’t aspire to much more than a chance for these talented actresses to pass on a little Christmas cheer and chaos. And that they do.


Almost Christmas (2016)

49%

The worst thing Almost Christmas has going for it is also the best thing: it’s so familiar. It’s a big family coming together for the holidays and they all have their own personal drama and relationships but also there’s love there, and more than a few laughs. We’ve seen this movie before, but we keep seeing it (and studios keep making it) because it works. Like milk and cookies for Santa, comedy-dramas like Almost Christmas and the yuletide are a natural, comforting fit.


No, not the classic animated special featuring Frankenstein’s Monster himself, Boris Karloff, as the narrator; that holiday gem sits at 100% on the Tomatometer. This Jim Carrey vehicle, directed by Ron Howard, translates Dr. Seuss’ whimsical illustrations into live-action, and the results aren’t particularly good, for goodness sake. But, while the Dr. Seuss-meets-Tim Burton’s nightmares aesthetic is a bit unsettling, the comedy holds up — especially in a scene where the Grinch’s own echo shouts “you’re an idiot” at him.


You’ve got to appreciate a movie that gives the whole plot away in the title. One of the earliest Ernest films, Ernest Saves Christmas sees Ernest (who began life as a character in local TV commercials) helping Santa Claus as he seeks his replacement. It’s kind of a proto-Santa Clause, in a weird way.


The Family Stone (2005)

53%

Imagine if the worst blowout your family had over a holiday meal was a movie, and also kinda charming and cathartic rather than stressful. That’s The Family Stone, which stars the great Diane Keaton as a forceful matriarch and Sarah Jessica Parker as a potential (emphasis on the “potential”) future daughter-in-law. Rachel McAdams as a kind of Regina George in sweatpants almost steals the show. Bring tissues.


Four Christmases (2008)

25%

Four Christmases understands that the holidays can be rough, especially if you’re dealing with multiple families who may or may not all like each other and/or you and your partner. This 2008 film – which has developed a following over the past decade – adds some hilarious big-name actors (Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon) to that reality in order to create a movie experience that’s a relatable escape. Look out for a very funny turn by Katy Mixon, who would go on to star in American Housewife.


Last Christmas (2019)

46%

Take the Mother of Dragons and the hot guy from Crazy Rich Asians, mix them with the music of George Michael, bring in Emma Thompson to co-write the script and Paul Feig to direct, and sprinkle a bit of holiday magic over the whole thing, and you’re looking at Last Christmas. Look, we get that the story is somewhat predictable – pretty much everyone figured out where it was going just from watching the trailer – and it’s all a tad overly sentimental, but with this kind of pedigree, it’s hard not to be charmed by its immensely likable stars and its feel-good fuzziness.


The Holiday (2006)

49%

It’s fair (if a little reductive) to say that The Holiday is what would be if it only focused on two couples instead of, like, 25. Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet star as two women who swap homes for the holidays and fall in love with Jude Law and Jack Black, respectively. A little predictable, sure, but in that special way that’s warm and reassuring — the Christmas rom-com equivalent of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.


There’s something charmingly old-school about Kevin McCallister’s second adventure. He travels to New York by mistake thanks to lax airport security regulations, enjoys a New York City that feels bygone for some vague nostalgic reason, and Donald Trump makes a cameo (that was cute, rather than controversial, at the time). But, if remembering Christmases of yesteryear isn’t enough for you, Home Alone 2 is worth it if only because it’s a hoot to see young Kevin inflict a possibly fatal amount of damage to the hapless Wet Bandits, once again.


The Ice Harvest (2005)

47%

The Ice Harvest is a Christmas movie in the way Die Hard is a Christmas movie: Arguably. Harold Ramis’ thriller comedy is set on Christmas Eve, and there’s a cool wintry vibe throughout the whole thing. It’s enough to make The Ice Harvest a good Christmas watch when you want to come up for some less holly jolly air while still feeling like you’re honoring the Christmas spirit.


Jingle All the Way (1996)

20%

Jingle All the Way is not just an unfairly maligned Christmas movie — it’s also a pretty good Power Rangers movie in disguise. Turbo-Man is a hero for our time, as are dads like Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Myron Larabee (Sinbad) who, in the true spirit of Christmas (read: capitalism), will brave crowded malls to make sure their kids get the perfect present under the tree on Christmas morn.


A typical workplace Christmas party is either underwhelming (oh, there’s fake holly in the break room) or a terrible mistake (how many co-workers did I kiss?). This 2016 comedy is about the latter sort. Starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and T.J. Miller, Office Christmas Party doesn’t quite go so far as to put the “X” in “X-mas,” but it certainly earns its R rating, making it a rowdy change of pace for this time of year.


The Polar Express (2004)

56%

Robert Zemeckis’ take on the classic Christmas children’s book was extremely ambitious — only problem was that motion-capture technology wasn’t quite there yet in 2004, so CGI Tom Hanks and Co. ride the titular train straight through the uncanny valley. You can’t help but appreciate what Zemeckis was trying to do, and there’s a very sweet Christmas story underneath the eerily smooth textures. In fact, there’s a case to be made that the uncanny look of the movie only adds to the surreal holiday magic that propels this mighty train’s engines. A case – but not an open-and-shut one.


Reindeer Games (2000)

26%

Another action flick set at Christmastime, Reindeer Games sets itself apart from Die Hard and The Ice Harvest,/i> by making the holiday a little more than just scenery. When Ben Affleck and Co. rob a casino, they’re all dressed as Santa Clauses (Santas plural, not the Tim Allen kind). Reindeer Games is a pretty thorough fusion of Christmas and kick-ass, which is no small feat.


Kris Kringle doesn’t actually do much conquering in this extremely cheap-looking 1964 sci-fi comedy. Instead, Martians kidnap him in order to bring some Christmas cheer to their very boring martian children. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is the subject of one of the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes, but even without the bots’ commentary, it’s a hall-of-fame “so bad it’s good” flick – every character acts like they’re high on a mixture of sugarplums and quaaludes. Also, fun fact: This was the first time Mrs. Claus ever appeared on screen.


The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

56%

The Santa Clause 2 is a charming second reminder to always read the fine print – and one that’s just 5% shy of Freshness on the Tomatometer. It’s fun to see Tim Allen as a more confident Santa Claus in his second go-around, and the film operates in a neat space thematically. Everything is fantastical and Christmasy, while also being grounded with talk of contracts, parenting, and finding love after divorce. Let’s call it “Christmas magical realism.”


It doesn’t take a lot of work to make the Santa Claus fable horrifying (“he knows when you are sleeping / he knows when you’re awake”). So, Silent Night, Deadly Night takes the next logical step and makes an axe-murderer out of him. There are some depictions of mental health in this movie that deserve big lumps of coal, but if you’re willing to just accept Silent Night, Deadly Night as a seasonally appropriate ’80s slasher, you won’t be disappointed.


George Lucas made a habit of going back to update or change parts of the Star Wars films he didn’t like for new “special editions,” but the one thing he can’t do is erase this 1978 TV special from history. Sure, there was a cool cartoon that introduced Boba Fett to the far, far, away galaxy, but the actors all look miserable and/or stoned, large swaths of the dialogue are incomprehensible Wookie-speak, and at one point Chewbacca’s grandpa gets noticeably horny. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth tracking down this holiday season, if only to see why George hates it so much.


Imagine if Psycho was set at Christmastime and centered on a demented British lady and her mummified daughter instead of a demented American man and his mummified mother. Who Slew Auntie Roo — originally titled Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, because, British — is excellent counter-programming for all that colorful feel-good Christmas fare.

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Paddington 2 is clearly aimed at younger audiences, and it also appears to be one of the year’s earliest successes, currently sporting an impressive Certified Fresh 100% on the Tomatometer with over 130 reviews. In other words, if you’re taking the whole family to the movies this weekend, it’s probably a pretty safe choice. But there’s another movie opening this week that’s rated PG-13 and stars Liam Neeson, and some of your older kids might be more in the mood for the kind of explosive action it promises. Read on for Christy’s take on both of them, as well as three age-appropriate alternatives to The Commuter you might want to consider if you’re planning on staying home.


THE MOVIES

Paddington 2 (2017) 99%

Rating: PG, for some action and mild rude humor.

This delightful sequel proves that the 2015 live-action family film Paddington was no fluke. Director Paul King once again finds a charming combination of sweetness and smarts, elaborate physical comedy and feel-good sentiment. And the visual effects are just dazzling. The twee bear Paddington (once again voiced by Ben Whishaw) uses his guiding mantra – be kind to others and everything will be OK – to help him navigate a series of misadventures, including being framed for a burglary and going to prison. It may sound dark, but the tone is playful and light. Even Paddington’s hardened fellow prisoners quickly come around to the simple joys of marmalade and bedtime stories. Hugh Grant, as the preening former actor who’s the real criminal, is villainous in a flamboyantly theatrical way. It’s a performance that’s always played for laughs (and always funny). And the fundamental message of both movies – the importance of being decent to people who may seem scary or different – is more important than ever for kids to hear. An excellent choice for the whole family.


The Commuter (2018) 55%

Rating: PG-13, for some intense action/violence and language.

Liam Neeson once again gets to show off his very particular set of skills as an ex-cop who gets dragged into a dangerous scheme while commuting home from New York City. As in the Taken series and other later-career films like Non-Stop and Unknown, Neeson gets to kick all kinds of butt, but he bears the brunt of a lot of hits and kicks here, too, both inside and outside the train. We see a dead body at one point, and several other passengers suffer painful fates including beatings, stabbings, and shootings. There’s quite a bit of language scattered throughout and a doozy of a train wreck at the film’s climax. For older viewers, though, action director Jaume Collet-Serra’s film is a lot of fun and it moves really well. And even though the story eventually goes off the rails – literally and figuratively – it’s certainly never dull. Fine for viewers around ages 12 or 13 and older.


THE RECOMMENDATIONS

If The Commuter is too intense and violent for your kids – and it probably will be — here are some other movies that take place on trains that might be a good fit. All aboard:

The Polar Express (2004) 56%

Rating: G.

The motion-capture performances and visual effects may look creepy and outdated now, given how far we’ve come in terms of technology. But in its day, Robert Zemeckis’ animated adventure was pretty groundbreaking. You’ve probably seen it many times with your family – you may even have watched it over the holidays – but beyond being a Christmas movie, this is also fundamentally a train movie. Based on the book of the same name, The Polar Express follows the adventures of a young boy named Billy (Hayden McFarland) whose belief in Santa Claus is wavering. On Christmas Eve, a train magically pulls up and the conductor (Tom Hanks) invites him aboard for a trip to the North Pole. Along the way, Billy learns lessons about bravery, faith and friendship. The train zooms along, sometimes out of control, but it also runs into several obstacles. And children are sometimes in danger, as is so often the case in animated movies. For this most part, though, this is all wholesome stuff. Fine for the whole family.


Unstoppable (2010) 87%

Rating: PG-13, for sequences of action and peril, and some violence.

A train carrying hazardous material is barreling out of control across Pennsylvania, and only Denzel Washington can stop it (with some help from Chris Pine). This is a really intense viewing experience but it’s also a lot of fun, and the material is the perfect fit for the late director Tony Scott’s hyperkinetic style. Based on a true story, Unstoppable stars Washington as a veteran engineer who’s being forced into retirement. Pine plays the younger, cheaper rookie conductor he resents. The two must team up to prevent a massive catastrophe as another train threatens small towns and even a school but full of children at speeds up to 80 mph. Unstoppable isn’t so much violent as it is suspenseful, and the threat of death and destruction looms large. There’s a bit of language here and there. But the movie is also about teamwork and bravery, which is worthwhile. Fine for viewers around 10 and older.


Strangers on a Train (1951) 98%

Rating: PG.

My favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, and one that tends to get overlooked in favor of his more famous films like Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and North by Northwest. But in retrospect, its premise has inspired or been referenced in countless other movies, most notably Danny DeVito’s Throw Momma From the Train, which was a darkly comic remake. Based on a novel by the great Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train introduces us to two men who meet in transit and realize after chatting for a bit that they share a similar problem: Each has a person he’d like to rid from his life. So they swap murders – “criss-cross,” as Robert Walker’s character says to Farley Granger’s – making neither of them a suspect in either crime. It’s a rather grown-up concept, executed with masterful camerawork and exquisite tension. For older kids around ages 13 and up – especially those with an interest in classic film – it’s an absolute must-see.

Some Santas want to spread joy to the world…and others just want to watch the world burn. As Christmas approaches, take some time to this week’s special extra 24 Frames gallery, looking at the variations of jolly St. Nick across movie history.

Big, fat flakes of white snow suddenly began tumbling down in the roasting afternoon heat of the Cannes Film Festival yesterday. It wasn’t global warming. It was just Cannes. Because here, you can do that. The festival is its own Field Of Dreams: if you pay for it, it will come. You want Christmas in May? You got it. You want Jim Carrey throwing snowballs after being brought in on a horse-drawn carriage? You got that too.

Striding up a frosty red carpet between a set of pumping snow-machines, Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, Colin Firth and Robin Wright Penn arrived in style for this scene of meteorological madness to introduce the world’s first look at Robert Zemeckis‘ upcoming 3D ‘toon A Christmas Carol.

With all the hype and hush around James Cameron‘s upcoming stereoscopic sci-fi epic Avatar, it’s easy to forget that Zemeckis is the true godfather of the 3D revolution. After the groundbreaking The Polar Express and Beowulf, his adaptation of the Dickens’ classic looks set to raise the bar even further.

Cannes 200 - Jeff Vespa/Wireimage.com
Carrey and McCarthy turn Cannes into a snowfield.

“This is the first time we’ve shown this footage to anyone,” explained Zemeckis, as a room of critics and journalists expectantly donned 3D glasses below a giant screen inside the Carlton Hotel. “Disney has given us the resources to take the performance-capture art form to the next level. Jim used every muscle in his body to drives the look of these character and we’re going to re-envision this classic novel in a way that I like to think Mr. Dickens envisioned it in his own mind.”

He wasn’t kidding. The two short scenes of footage that unspooled were, frankly, stunning. Motion-captured with an incredible level of depth and detail, Carrey transforms not only into the wizened, bitter Scrooge but each one of the three ghosts that haunts him. What really stunned were the astonishing facial nuances of the characters — you can see Scrooge’s lower lip curl with subtle malice or a malicious twitch of his eye as he talks to Colin Firth’s Fred, also rendered with startling realism. Richer, warmer and more convincing than the milky-blind waxworks that have walked around in previous mo-capped ‘toons, A Christmas Carol looks to have broken new ground in breathing human life into animated characters.

“It’s not just voiceover work, these are complete performance by all of the actors,” explained Carrey. “This technology takes it to another place.” Firth even called it a purer form of acting. “Once you put on the manhood-cancelling spandex suit and the thing that looks like a bicycle helmet with cameras on it all pointing at your face, you’re never off camera,” he explained. Sat next to him, Carrey nodded seriously. “When you start out talking out of your butt, it’s a long road to get to this place.”

Cannes 200 - Jeff Vespa/Wireimage.com
Snow falls on the Croisette on one of the hottest days of the fest.

From Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to Forrest Gump, Zemeckis has always been a master at shackling new technology to great storytelling. The second thrilling sequence showed how he’s used digital 3D to unlock a gorgeously immersive new depth to the screen. In fact, it’s not a screen anymore. It’s a window. Warping through a wooden door into Scrooges’ room, the infamous Marley’s Ghost hurls giant chain-wrapped books crashing through the 3D space and on to the floor around a terrified Scrooge. Then his jaw falls off.

Frightening, funny and spectacular, it looks like just a taste of Zemeckis’ visual-effects showstopper: an eye-roasting final teaser then showed Scrooge being rocketed into the night sky by the blazing Ghost Of The Christmas Past before plummeting back down through the clouds toward the cobblestones of 19th-century London. A tiny snowflake drifts through the air in front of the audience and rests on Scrooge’s looming, beaky nose. Filling the screen in close up, he squints at it distastefully, then irritably blows it off. “Baa… humbug.”

Check out our gallery from the Cannes photocall right here!

One animated film will bump another from the number one spot at the North American box office. But the new warrior Beowulf is no B movie but an A-list production from an Oscar-winning director offering action audiences something new. Also opening this weekend but likely to see more modest grosses are the family pic Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the romantic drama Love in the Time of Cholera. Without a compelling selection of great films, the marketplace should once again fall well below year-ago levels.

Paramount looks to capture the box office crown without the help of DreamWorks this time with Beowulf, a computer-animated action adventure based on the ancient epic poem. The PG-13 film comes from Robert Zemeckis who expands upon the motion capture technology he used in 2004’s The Polar Express. This time around his film is aimed at somewhat older moviegoers as young children will be too frightened by the violence, gore, and yes, nudity. Beowulf aims to pry 14-year-old boys away from their videogame systems and into the multiplexes with a new type of action film that is presented in 3D in selected theaters. Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, and Angelina Jolie lend their voices and digital likenesses.

The marketing has been terrific on the part of the studio. The core audience of young males is excited and ready to buy tickets and the film might even pull in part of the literary crowd curious to see how this classic tale is adapted to the big screen. The marketplace needs something like this now with hits like American Gangster skewing more adult and kidpics like Bee Movie not offering enough violence. If last December’s Eragon could open to $23.2M, then surely Beowulf can target the same crowd and go higher. Launching in over 2,800 theaters, Beowulf could conquer the box office this weekend with about $32M.


The digitally-altered likeness of Ray Winstone in Beowulf

Dustin Hoffman stars as the eccentric owner of a magical toy store in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, a new entry for family audiences from Fox. The G-rated film co-stars Natalie Portman and Jason Bateman. With Bee Movie and Fred Claus already out there doing solid business, and likely to collect a combined $30M this weekend, competition for Emporium will be intense. Bad reviews will make parents hesitate, but if kids respond to the TV commercials, then they will find a way to force their parents to take them. Opening wide in around 3,200 locations, Mr. Magorium could bow to about $11M this weekend and try to remain a relevant choice over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday session.


Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

To counter his current role as a brutal killer in No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem stars in the romantic drama Love in the Time of Cholera. The R-rated tale from New Line is getting a moderately wide release and will play to an older adult audience with a female skew. The Oscar buzz Bardem has been receiving for Country could rub off on Cholera helping its case. And Latino audiences are being counted on to show up as are fans of Oprah who has endorsed the book that the film is based on. But overall, the Columbia-set film has not generated enough excitement to deliver a solid debut. Plus poor reviews will turn away much of the target audience. A slot on the lower end of the top ten could await. Opening in about 800 theaters, Love in the Time of Cholera might gross around $3M over the weekend.


Love in the Time of Cholera

Bee Movie should fall from its spot at the top of the box office and slide by about 30% since there is not too much new competition for young kids. A weekend tally of $18M could result giving Paramount $97M to date. Universal’s American Gangster should drop by 40% to about $14.5M giving the crime saga a total of $102M. The holiday comedy Fred Claus could dip by 35% in its second weekend. That would leave the Warner Bros. release with a weekend take of $12M and a ten-day cume of $35.5M.

LAST YEAR: In a major pre-holiday showdown, the penguin toon Happy Feet edged out the new James Bond film Casino Royale for the number one spot with a strong opening of $41.5M. The Warner Bros. family hit went on to collect $198M domestically and a stellar $384M worldwide. Sony’s relaunched spy series still posted a muscular debut grossing $40.8M over the weekend on its way to $167M domestically and a sensational $595M globally making the Daniel Craig-starrer the top-grossing 007 flick ever. After two weeks on top, Fox’s Borat slipped to third with $14.6M. Rounding out the top five were Disney’s The Santa Clause 3 with $8.3M and the Sony release Stranger Than Fiction with $6.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Forget The Dark Knight and Iron Man — the big comic-book adaptation everyone’s talking about this week is Justice League of America, the superhero extravaganza that’s supposedly starting production in a matter of weeks. Questions and speculation surround the project, specifically the rumored involvement (or non-involvement) of Christian Bale and Brandon Routh, who already play JLA anchors Batman and Superman in their own film franchises. Yesterday, Moviehole and IESB claimed to clear up some of the Justice League mysteries.

First, from Moviehole, comes word that Bale and Routh will not be on board for Justice League of America. No sources are named, but in Bale’s case, naming a source really isn’t necessary; earlier this week, he flat-out told IESB that he wouldn’t be participating and hadn’t been asked. Direct from the hilariously terse IESB report:

Q: Are you doing Justice League after TDK?

Bale: No.

IESB: Have you been approached for Justice League?

Bale: No.

According to Moviehole, Justice League director George Miller “has some ideas who he’d like to cast as Batman and Superman but naturally, they mightn’t be the same faces the WB want…within the next month we should start seeing a few announcements about the movie.”

So what gives? Sure, it’s better for Warner Bros.’ existing franchises if they don’t go inserting their stars willy-nilly in other projects, but what’s the point of doing a Justice League with a different Batman and/or Superman than moviegoers are accustomed to seeing? Heading back to IESB, we learn that this decision might make perfect sense. According to one of those ever-popular sources with the funny names, JLA will be a motion-capture film, along the lines of The Polar Express and Beowulf.

As the IESB article points out, this would explain the production rush, as so-called “mo-cap” films tend to sit in the pipeline longer than traditional movies, and even if the studio gets started as early as we’ve been hearing, it probably wouldn’t be ready for release until the summer of 2010. It would also free up Warners to cast a new Superman and Batman without stepping on the capes of Routh and Bale.

Just to recap, all we’ve really learned from this is that Christian Bale says he won’t be playing Batman in the Justice League movie, and everything else is just more rumor and speculation. But we can’t have a day without at least one news item about a superhero movie here, can we?

Source: Moviehole
Source: IESB
Source: IESB

You know that fancy "motion capture animation" technique that’s been employed in The Polar Express, Monster House, and the upcoming Beowulf? Looks like Sony Imageworks is planning no less than three more projects using the technology. Some of ’em without Robert Zemeckis!

The first one out of the gate will probably be an adaptation of James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series. It runs about a dozen books long and it’s about a bunch of kids who can fly. Former Marvel man Avi Arad wants to turn the books into a big pricey series: "We want to bring this world to life in a way you’ve never seen before … With performance capture you are absolutely free to watch the heroes go anywhere and everywhere and manifest their powers onscreen." And yes, that’s the same James Patterson whose books became movies called Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.

According to Variety, Imageworks also has another pair of projects brewing: A Jon Favreau-directed comedy called Neanderthals and FX genius James Chen is planning a 300-like historical action epic that’s inspired by Japanese mythology. Sounds nifty.

The pretty darn slick-looking Beowulf opens on November 16th.

Source: Variety

Either you were forced to read the epic poem in high school or maybe you just rented the really awful Christopher Lambert movie, but a new version of "Beowulf" is coming from Robert Zemeckis — and so far it looks pretty cool.

Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary worked on the adaptation together, and the flick is now scheduled to open on November 16th — in traditional theaters as well as about 1,000 digital theaters. And since Zemeckis is using the same motion-capture animation technology that he used on "The Polar Express," odds are the movie will look pretty damn amazing on the IMAX screens.

The adaptation will star Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson, John Malkovich, and Crispin Glover as the titular beastie. (Yes, I said Crispin Glover.) Plus FilmFocus has snagged a few brand-new shots of the movie’s early promotional materials, so have a look at those right here.

Hm. I wasn’t a big fan of "The Polar Express" (I’d call it pretty but kinda soulless), but this new experiment looks pretty cool so far!

Source: Variety, FilmFocus

OK, a whole bunch of bloggers are falling all over each other to report this "speculation," but if they’re on to something, it’s a pretty big story. Well, a big story for movie geeks, anyway. Not an important news story like a fire or a basketball game, obviously.

Film ick is reporting that Robert Zemeckis and Disney’s John Lasseter will collaborate to present Edgar Rice Burroughs’ "John Carter of Mars" as a full-bore motion-capture CGI project — not unlike the movie magic you enjoyed in "The Polar Express" and "Monster House."

You’ll recall that "Carter" has long been discussed and attached to a variety of studios and filmmakers. (I believe Jon Favreau only came pretty close to getting it off the ground.) But obviously the CG arena is one where a movie like this could really flourish. So take it all as speculation at this point, but if it turns out to be true, score another one for the movie geek bloggers of the world.

ComingSoon.net shares with us a press release from the workaholics over at Walden Media, and the newest news is this: Production has already begun on Walden & Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia," a sprawling fantasy adventure inspired by the works of author Katherine Paterson. Flick’s got a pretty solid cast & crew lined up, too.

Bridge to Terabithia, the motion picture adaptation of Katherine Paterson’s Newbery Honor award winning best-selling novel, began principal photography on location in Auckland, New Zealand. The project is a co-production between Walden Media (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Because of Winn-Dixie) and The Walt Disney Studios. International sales and distribution will be handled by Summit Entertainment.

Josh Hutcherson (Zathura, The Polar Express) stars as Jess Aarons, an 11 year old boy whose efforts to be the fastest runner in his grade are thwarted by a new girl who outruns all the boys. AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) stars as Leslie Burke, the new girl who becomes friends with Jess despite their awkward introduction.

She ultimately opens up a world of imagination for Jess in the land of Terabithia that changes his life forever. "Bridge to Terabithia" also stars Zooey Deschanel (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Elf) as Miss Edmunds, the music teacher at Jess and Leslie’s school, and Robert Patrick (Walk the Line, Ladder 49, Terminator 2: Judgement Day) joins the cast as Jess Aarons’ father.

Together Jess and Leslie create the world of Terabithia, an imaginary kingdom filled with all manner of magical beings. While the real world of family and school may be filled with challenges, in Terabithia, Jess and Leslie rule as King and Queen.

Brimming with fantastical creatures, palaces and beautiful forests – the kingdom of Terabithia will be brought to life by the creative wizards at the Academy Award winning visual effects facility Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand. Weta Digital is responsible for effects in the Academy Award winning "Lord of the Rings" films and King Kong and is co-owned by a team of Academy Award winners including director Peter Jackson, effects specialist Richard Taylor and editor Jamie Selkirk.

The film marks the big screen directorial debut of famed Academy Award nominee and Emmy-Award winning animator Gabor Csupo (Rugrats in Paris, The Wild Thornberrys Movie). Former Production President of Universal Pictures Hal Lieberman (Around the World in 80 Days, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) produces with Lauren Levine (I am David), and the author’s son David Paterson (Love Ludlow), who wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Katherine Paterson, with revisions by Jeff Stockwell and Kevin Wade.

The talented team of filmmakers includes two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Fugitive), Production Designer Robert Gillies (The World’s Fastest Indian, Boogeyman), Costume Designer Barbara Darragh (River Queen, The Frighteners) and film editor John Gilbert ("The Fellowship of the Ring").
Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia is a timeless classic from one of the world’s most renowned children’s book authors.

Ms Paterson is the author of 14 novels, numerous non-fiction and essays for children and young people including Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, both winners of the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1978 and 1981. Her novels have sold over 5 million copies since 1978 and are published in over two dozen languages worldwide.

Bridge to Terabithia will film on location in West Auckland, New Zealand including the rural forest areas of Riverhead and Puhoi. The company will film for 10 weeks and production will conclude in early April 2006, with Walt Disney Pictures planning an early 2007 release.

The film critics of Central Ohio have chimed in with their own year-end picks, and they came up with quite a few solid surprises, actually. How about "A History of Violence" as best film of the year?

Best Picture

A History of Violence
Runner up: Brokeback Mountain

Best Direction

David Cronenberg, A History of Violence
Runner up: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

Best Lead Performance

Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Runner up: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Best Supporting Performance

Maria Bello, A History of Violence
Runner up: Amy Adams, Junebug

Actor of the Year

Heath Ledger — Brokeback Mountain, Casanova, Lords of Dogtown, The Brothers Grimm
Runner up: Terrence HowardCrash, Four Brothers, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Hustle & Flow

Best Ensemble

Munich
Runner up: Brokeback Mountain

Best Screenplay

Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain
Runner up: George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck

Best Formal Design

Sin City
Runner up: Brokeback Mountain

Best Sound Design

War of the Worlds
Runner up: Walk the Line

Breakthrough Film Artist

Amy Adams — Junebug
Runner up: Joe WrightPride & Prejudice

Top Ten Films

A History of Violence
Brokeback Mountain
Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Good Night, and Good Luck
Munich
Murderball
Crash
Sin City
Pride & Prejudice
Batman Begins

As always, we thank Movie City News for sharing all the lists.

This week’s sole wide release is the highly anticipated "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." Will the film garner the lion’s share of accolades?

Once "The Lord of the Rings" became a hot cinematic property, it was inevitable that Hollywood would turn to Tolkien’s friend and fellow fantasist C.S. Lewis and give his "The Chronicles of Narnia" for epic big screen treatment. It’s got a built-in fan base, fantastical lands and creatures, and a grand quest. Critics say that although this is no "Lord of the Rings" (what is?), Andrew Adamson‘s film is largely a winner, filled with wondrous, phantasmagoric images, and deft acting. Though there are some complaints about the film’s length (140 minutes) and some quibbles about the CGI effects, the scribes say fans will be pleased with "Narnia"’s adherence to, and in some cases improvement upon, the source material. At 78 percent on the Tomatometer, it’s looking like the season of the "Witch." The "Narnia" series is off to a good start, as the first film is Certified Fresh.

In a completely unrelated note, I want to congratulate both almeisan and Galaxyfilms22 for their correct "Aeon Flux" Tomatometer predictions of 10 percent. As promised, you do indeed win props from Critical Consensus. However, a word of warning: Don’t let the studios know about your Tomatometer crystal balls, because they might go to sinister lengths to get their hands on them. Additional props to rockstarfrank (who I assume is male) for his astute, insightful assessment of "Flux": ‘This will clearly be one of the greatest movies in the history of mankind. I mean the grass attacks, people. The grass attacks!’ Well put, Frank. The grass attacks, indeed.

Recent Children’s Book Adaptations:
——————————————–
88% — Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
75% — Zathura (2005)
83% — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
57% — The Polar Express (2004)
71% — Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

It’s no big shock that the fourth entry in the "Harry Potter" series was, far and away, the number one draw at the weekend box office. But the flick turned out to have the fourth biggest box office weekend in the history of moviedom: Harry snagged over $101 million from nearly 3,900 North American screens … in only three days!

Harry’s big weekend falls right behind "Spider-Man," "Revenge of the Sith," and "Shrek 2" for biggest openings ever.

Checking in at second place with a distant (yet fairly impressive) $22.4 million was James Mangold‘s Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line," which did fine business from just under 3,000 screens.

The rest of the top five consisted of hangers-on, including Disney’s "Chicken Little" ($14.7 million weekend; $99.1 million overall), the Weinsteins’ "Derailed" ($6.5m, $21.8m), and Sony’s "Zathura" ($5.1m, $20.2m).

But back to Mr. Potter for a second. Here’s how Variety breaks down some of the magically delicious numbers:

""Potter’s" perf shaved a point off the year’s overall B.O. deficit compared with 2004; it now stands at 6%.

Despite the first PG-13 rating for a "Potter" pic, demos for "Goblet of Fire" were similar to 2004’s "Azkaban." Kids made up 42% of the aud, with parents another 20% and non-family adults 38%.

"This is the biggest weekend in Warner Bros. history," noted WB distrib prexy Dan Fellman. "With three more (Potter pics) to go, we’re looking forward to leaving more marks in the record books."

"Potter" reached the stratosphere without setting any one-day records. First-day take of $39.4 million does tie it with "Spider-Man" for the biggest Friday ever, but that’s the seventh highest opening day in history.

In a promising sign for playability, "Goblet of Fire" declined only 10% to $35.5 million on Saturday.

The first three "Potter" pics bowed with, in order, $90.3 million, $88.4 million and $93.7 million, with the first two opening in November 2001 and 2002 and the third in June 2004.

"Goblet of Fire" made $2.8 million on 66 Imax screens over the weekend, giving it a per-play average of $42,951. That’s the highest ever in the giant-screen format, just beating the $2.7 million record set by "The Polar Express.""

As is usually the case, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving offers a whole bunch of new cinematic choices. The day after tomorrow sees the release of New Line’s rom-com "Just Friends," Sony’s long-awaited cinematic version of "Rent," Focus’ dark ensemble comedy "The Ice Harvest," the family farce "Yours, Mine and Ours," and a teen-centric crime comedy called "In the Mix."

For a closer look at Harry’s magical box office spell, take a visit to the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page. (And have a great holiday weekend!)

This week’s wide releases raise a number of questions. Is “Zathura” a game worth playing? Is 50 Cent‘s movie debut, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” the cinematic equivalent of a trip to the candy shop? Is “Derailed” a speedy locomotive, or is it true to its name? What do the critics have to say?

Zathura” is the third story by Rhode Island-based children’s book author Chris Van Allsburg to make the leap from the page to the big screen (the other two were “Jumanji” and last year’s “The Polar Express“). And critics say it’s the best of the bunch. “Zathura” tells the tale of a pair of squabbling brothers who must learn to work together after they are transported into space while playing the titular board game. According to the critics, the movie is solid family entertainment, with a real sense of adventure and wonder, emphasizing characters over the (not at all shabby) special effects. At 71 percent on the Tomatometer, “Zathura”‘s got game. And it beats “The Polar Bear Express,” which scored 56 percent on the Tomatometer, and “Jumanji,” at 48 percent.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson has a life story that seems ready-made for cinematic treatment: he was a drug dealer, he survived a shooting, and he eventually became one of America’s biggest musical stars. But the critics say the semi-autobiographical “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” which features 50 in his acting debut, still feels like the stuff of many other rags-to-riches dramas. The scribes say even veteran director Jim Sheridan can’t make it fresh, despite an excellent supporting cast that includes the always-dependable Terrence Howard. At 16 percent on the Tomatometer, “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” can’t make a dollar out of 50 Cent. And it’s the worst-reviewed film of Sheridan’s career (beating out “The Field,” at 46 percent).

As the old saying goes, what a tangled web we weave, when we make a thriller about adultery and betrayal with lots of plot twists. “Derailed” tells the story of an extramarital affair gone terribly awry, after a very bad guy threatens the two trapped philanderers. The critics say the title is all too apt; the plot twists become more tangled as the film goes along, and Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston, in spite of their considerable skills, are miscast as, respectively, a schlubby family man and a fundamentally decent femme fatale. At 19 percent on the Tomatometer, the critics say “Derailed” has jumped the tracks.

Movies Starring Musicians Playing Musicians:
——————————————————–
5% — Undiscovered (2005) – Starring Ashlee Simpson
81% — Hustle & Flow (2005) – Starring Ludacris
15% — Raise Your Voice (2004) – Starring Hilary Duff
76% — 8 Mile (2002) – Starring Eminem
7% — Glitter (2001) – Starring Mariah Carey
14% — Crossroads (2002) – Starring Britney Spears
24% — Duets (2000) – Starring Huey Lewis
32% — Black and White (1999) – Starring Raekwon
81% — Selena (1997) – Starring Jennifer Lopez
11% — Cool as Ice (1991) – Starring Vanilla Ice
70% — Purple Rain (1984) – Starring Prince

Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins have signed on to star in Robert Zemeckis‘ adaptation of the classic poem "Beowulf," says Variety.

The motion-capture project (which will be made with the same technology used on the director’s "Polar Express") is being scripted by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, two names that have the well-traveled genre geeks salivating even more than they would for Angelina.

"Jolie will play the queen of darkness, who tempts the Viking as he makes his way in the quest to become king."

Looks like Paramount and WB will be splitting the costs on this expensive-sounding production, but already it sounds like a fairly surefire hit. Or something truly unique, at the very least.

Brendan Gleeson, Crispin Glover, and Robin Wright Penn have also been cast in the epic adventure.

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