Tom Hanks, marooned. Arnold Schwarzenegger, cloned. Jim Carrey, green and mean. Mel Gibson, keen of ear. Bruce Willis and Nicolas Cage? Both in their own strange twilight zones.
That sums up a few of the highlights of the holiday season, which is under way by virtue of the $40 million opening weekend of "Charlie's Angels." The end-of-the-year orgy of big pictures and ambitious Oscar contenders will deliver a wide variety of movies, including two kiddie films set in France: "102 Dalmatians" and "Rugrats in Paris -- The Movie."
Carrey stars in the live-action "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Besides "Dalmatians," in which Glenn Close reprises her bizarre and gloriously overdressed turn as Cruella De Vil, the Disney people are pushing their latest animated effort, "The Emperor's New Groove," with music by Sting in a South American setting. Plenty of magical tricks can be expected in the live-action "Dungeons and Dragons."
Futuristic scientific skulduggery dogs Schwarzenegger in "The Sixth Day," opened last Friday against "Grinch," "Rugrats" and "Bounce," with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck. Supernatural twists of fate befall Willis in "Unbreakable" and Cage in "The Family Man." "What Women Want" gives paranormal powers to Gibson. And the world's favorite fount of evil returns in "Dracula 2000."
Will people want to join Tom Hanks alone on a desert island in "Cast Away," said to be a drama that wrestles with real questions about man's nature and has a soccer ball as a co-star as well as busy Helen Hunt?
Perhaps the season's most serious film is "Thirteen Days," a drama about the Cuban missile crisis with Kevin Costner but without Oliver Stone. Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe pair in a different sort of Latin American political thriller, "Proof of Life," centering on a terrorist kidnapping. And, on a much sillier note, Sandra Bullock plays an FBI agent battling a terrorist by posing as a beauty queen in "Miss Congeniality."
Among other significant films are Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" with Chow Yun Fat; Philip Kaufman's "Quills," with Kate Winslet, and Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade; "Pollock," starring and directed by Ed Harris; "The House of Mirth," with Gillian Anderson as Edith Wharton's Lily Bart; "Vatel," starring Girard Depardieu in Roland's Joffe's lavish period piece; "Traffic," with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a drug-war thriller; and "Shadow of the Vampire," with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe.
Following are brief synopses of the major holiday films.
"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Jim Carrey slathers on green makeup and sports an absurd Santa outfit in Ron Howard's live-action version of the holiday perennial written in 1957 by Theodor Seuss Geisel. The cast includes Molly Shannon, Bill Irwin, Christine Baranski, Jeffrey Tambor, Taylor Momsen and the director's brother, Clint.
"The 6th Day." Arnold Schwarzenegger's family man returns home for his birthday only to find an identical twin in his place, blowing out the candles. The cast includes Robert Duvall, Michael Rapaport, Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter and Wendy Crewson.
"Bounce." Stranded at O'Hare Airport during a killer Chicago snowstorm, Ben Affleck's Los Angeles ad man gives his seat to a man who wants to get home to his wife for Christmas. When the plane crashes, the advertising man seeks out the widow, played by Gwyneth Paltrow.
"Rugrats in Paris -- The Movie." The Pickles family and their friends return, in a sequel to the highly successful "The Rugrats Movie." When Stu Pickles must travel to the City of Light to work on his mechanical Reptar invention in EuroReptarland, the kids come along. With the voices of Debbie Reynolds, Susan Sarandon and John Lithgow.
"Unbreakable." After their supernatural success in "The Sixth Sense," Bruce Willis and M. Night Shyamalan team again in a tale of a man who survives a train wreck that kills every other passenger. Samuel L. Jackson plays the strange interloper with a mysterious bone disease who thinks he understands why one man lived. Robin Wright Penn is the wife, and Spencer Treat Clark is the son.
"102 Dalmatians." Glenn Close dons her Cruella De Vil wardrobe again in a renewed quest for a coat of spotted fur. With Girard Depardieu.
"Proof of Life." Meg Ryan plays the wife of an American engineer taken hostage by Colombian guerrillas. Russell Crowe is the ransom specialist who comes to rescue David Morse's American hostage, only to be involved with the wife. "The Vertical Limit." Chris O'Donnell pitons and crampons his way through a rescue mission on K2. The young climber's sister, played by Robin Tunney, is lost on the world's second-highest peak with her team. The cast includes Bill Paxton, Scott Glenn, Izabella Scorupco and Temuera Morrison.
"Dungeons and Dragons." Based on the cult game, this fantasy film by first-time director Courtney Solomon stars Jeremy Irons, Thora Birch, Marlon Wayans, Justin Whalin and Zoe McLellan in a tale of rag-tag adventurers determined to foil an evil wizard.
"What Women Want." Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt combine as a Chicago advertising executive and his boss in this supernatural comedy.
In this tale of a male chauvinist whose electrocution produces the ability to hear women's thoughts, Marisa Tomei plays his lover, Lauren Holly is the ex-wife and Bette Midler is his shrink. Delta Burke, Valerie Perrine and Alan Alda are featured.
"The Family Man." In the latest venture into the "what if?" genre, Nicolas Cage plays a high-living Wall Street trader who wakes up one morning in a New Jersey suburb next to the woman he never married, acted by Tea Leoni, to find himself the father of two kids. Don Cheadle is the fairy godfather type in a cast that also includes Jeremy Piven and Harve Presnell.
"The Emperor's New Groove." Originally titled "Kingdom in the Sun," the folks behind Disney's newest animated extravaganza opted for something a bit livelier. David Spade, John Goodman and Eartha Kitt lend their voices to this buddy tale about an arrogant young emperor turned into a llama by an unhappy ex-employee.
"Dude, Where's My Car?" After a night of partying, two potheads wake up to discover that they have misplaced their car.
"Thirteen Days." Kevin Costner stars in another tale of 1960s politics in Roger Donaldson's reconstruction of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. Costner attempts a Massachusetts accent as Kenny O'Donnell, a presidential aide and friend, in this drama involving the Oval Office, Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency. Bruce Greenwood is President Kennedy, Steven Culp is Robert F. Kennedy and Lucinda Jenney plays O'Donnell's wife. Dylan Baker is featured.
"Cast Away." Robert Zemeckis directs Tom Hanks in a latter-day Robinson Crusoe tale. The marooned adventurer is a Federal Express trouble-shooter whose plane goes down near a desert island. Helen Hunt plays the lost man's fiancee.
"Miss Congeniality." Sandra Bullock plays FBI agent Gracie Hart, who poses as beauty pageant contestant when the Miss United States contest is threatened by a terrorist bomber. Benjamin Bratt plays her partner, with Michael Caine as a consultant hired to turn Gracie in a glamour girl. Candice Bergen and William Shatner are featured.
"Dracula 2000." An updating of the legend of Bram Stoker's unkillable Count, with a cast headed by Gerard Butler, Jonny Lee Miller and Christopher Plummer, who plays Van Helsing.
"Finding Forrester." Sean Connery has the title role as a Salingerish reclusive novelist and newcomer Robert Brown is a poor black basketball ace from the Bronx who wins a scholarship to an Upper East Side prep school. Anna Paquin plays the wealthy girl who befriends him, F. Murray Abraham is a teacher adversary.
"All the Pretty Horses." Billy Bob Thornton's version of the acclaimed Cormac McCarthy novel.
Matt Damon plays the young Texan who rides with his friend in quest of adventure after his mother sells the family ranch. Hired to break horses at a Mexican hacienda, the cowboy becomes involved with a ranch owner's daughter, played by Penilope Cruz, leading to an arrest, Mexican jail and murder in self-defense. With Henry Thomas, Lucas Black, Rubin Blades, Bruce Dern and Robert Patrick.
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Those zany Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, are at it again, this time with a Mississippi chain-gang comedy starring George Clooney in a ridiculous mode. Clooney's Everett Ulysses McGill escapes with Tim Blake Nelson's sweet, simple Delmar and John Turturro's angry Pete. Featuring those "Raising Arizona" alumna John Goodman and Holly Hunter, as well as Charles Durning.
"An Everlasting Piece." Barry Levinson moves from Baltimore to Belfast in this tale of hairpieces and two barbers, a Catholic named Colm and the Protestant George, who join in partnership to cover balding domes in Northern Ireland.
"The Claim." Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "The Mayor of Casterbridge" transplants the story of a man who sells his wife and infant, only to have them turn up years later to change his new life of prosperity in the New World. Heading the cast are Peter Mullan, Nastassja Kinski, Milla Jovovich, Sarah Polley and Wes Bentley.
"The Gift." Cate Blanchett plays a widow with psychic powers who lives in a small Southern town with dark secrets. The cast of this Southern Gothic thriller includes Keanu Reeves, Greg Kinnear and Hilary Swank.
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