Holiday helper 

So, you're off

So, you’re off for the holidays and planning to attend a movie or two, but you haven’t kept up on all the releases? Hope this brief guide helps. TAKING CHILDREN TO A MOVIE? The Steve Martin/Bonnie Hunt comedy Cheaper by the Dozen is funny on a sit-com level, except for the parts that try to teach a lesson. The PG film has some mildly presented gross-out humor, but should be acceptable to all but the most conservative. The new live-action Peter Pan is great looking and very lively, although those used to the Disney cartoon may be briefly startled by the PG violence. The film also contains a brief comic glimpse at the bottoms of a couple of boys. At 45 minutes, The Young Black Stallion is mercifully short and the giant-screen IMAX photography is quite handsome. The kids won’t mind the bland story and there is nothing even faintly offensive in this G-rated production. WARNING: Do not take children to Bad Santa, an R-rated adults-only comedy. Also, don’t take them to PG-rated The Cat in the Hat, because it is horrible and will forever taint their memories of the story. Best Bet: Go see Elf again. GOING OUT WITH A GROUP OF ADULT RELATIVES? Check out In America, a stirring tale of an Irish family that moves to New York City. Those in search of more traditional fare might opt for Cold Mountain, a tale of separated lovers set during the Civil War, starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Beware though: It’s two hours and 34 minutes long and I do mean looooooong. If your group doesn’t mind lengthy flicks, consider tackling the three and a half hour The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which is much, much better. A shorter option would be the Diane Keaton/Jack Nicholson romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give, which is sexy, sweet and funny. ON A DATE? House of Sand and Fog is a terrific dark thriller that will give you something to talk about during the drive home. Paycheck features Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman in a futuristic thriller. The action is fun and you can discuss all the plot holes while you drive. Cold Mountain is too long, but it contains a brief, but intense sex scene between Jude Law and Nicole Kidman that might give your date some ideas. GOING OUT WITH YOUR BUDDIES? Check out the cult flick Bubba Ho-tep, dude, which pits an aging Elvis (Bruce Campbell) against a mummy! And don’t forget the very rude, very funny Billy Bob Thornton comedy Bad Santa. Or Paycheck, which is packed with action. Oh, who am I kidding. You’ll be seeing Return of the King again. JUST LOOKING FOR A GOOD MOVIE FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR EQUALLY THOUGHTFUL FRIENDS? Read the capsule reviews for yourself, my friend, and enjoy.

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