Holiday Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>Milk, Four Christmases</em>

<p>It's a holiday weekend, so Hollywood studios are releasing everything today in hopes you'll give them your business when you've had enough of your family 48 hours from now. After reading our <a href="">interview with Alison Pill</a> and our report from <a href="">Sean Penn's press conference</a>, you're now pretty well-informed about <em>Milk</em>, Gus Van Sant's stirring biopic about assassinated gay rights advocate Harvey Milk. Today A.O. Scott's review <a href="">drops in the Times</a>; he says "it manages to evade many of the traps and compromises of the period biopic with a grace and tenacity worthy of its title character... That power lies in its uncanny balancing of nuance and scale, its ability to be about nearly everything — love, death, politics, sex, modernity — without losing sight of the intimate particulars of its story.<strong> Harvey Milk was an intriguing, inspiring figure.<em> Milk</em> is a marvel."</strong> And Sean Penn is, of course, stunning. Go see it.</p>

<p>Vince Vaughn. Reese Witherspoon. <em>Four Christmases</em>. Zero reasons to see it. In this one the two hacktors play a couple committed to seeing all four divorced parents on December 25th. Joe Leydon <a href="">at the Houston Chronicle</a> quips: <strong>"Ho, ho, ho? No, no, no."</strong> And <a href="">Robert Wilonsky at the Voice</a> writes, <strong>"The pace here is lethargic; the movie desperately needs a laugh track. Only, the joke's terrible to begin with.</strong> There is, of course, the slightest chance that Four Christmases wasn't intended as a comedy; it's so irritating at times—the people, the screeching, the way everything looks washed out in a made-in-the-early-'80s way—that maybe Gordon was going for ironic, grim, and sad."</p>

<p>Set in northern Australia before World War II, <em>Australia</em> stars Nicole Kidman as an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch and joins forces with a cattle driver (Hugh Jackman) to protect her new property from a takeover plot. As you might imagine, by the end Jackman isn't just driving cattle, heh heh. <a href="">Andrew Sarris at The Observer</a> is generous: <em>Australia</em> is clearly a labor of love, and a matter of national pride. It is also a bit of a mess, and the product of many last-minute decisions on the plot, as described in P<a href="">eter Sanders’s fascinating article</a> on the making and marketing of the film in The Wall Street Journal. Finally, I must confess that <strong>I might have been harder on Mr. Luhrmann’s film if I had not remained entranced by Ms. Kidman ever since I first saw her in Phillip Noyce’s <em>Dead Calm</em> in 1989; in my opinion, she has lost none of her luster in the 20 years since." </strong></p>

<a href="">Jim Ridley the Village Voice</a> sounds a bit bored with <em>Transporter 3</em>, the latest installment in the middling action/martial arts franchise: "Once again, good taste and common sense cower in the backseat as Jason Statham—super-ripped, bullet-headed, and expression-adjusted to Perma-Scowl—reprises his role as the world's studliest deliveryman."

<a href="">The Times's Stephen Holden</a> calls <em>The Secrets</em> "a religious soap opera and feminist cri de coeur." But despite all that he kinda likes it: "At first, the movie, directed by the Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher from a screenplay he wrote with Hadar Galron, a London-born feminist playwright, actress and Orthodox Jew, is a sober exploration of limited female opportunities in a rigidly patriarchal environment. But after two French characters, one played by the great French actress Fanny Ardant, are introduced, <strong>the movie becomes an intriguing, occasionally discordant hybrid of austere Israeli and voluptuous French filmmaking traditions.</strong> Although the story remains in Israel, in spirit the movie migrates from the Middle East to France before returning to Israel for a pat, feel-good ending."

<p>Starting Thursday through Saturday, <a href="">the Sunshine is screening</a> Jim Henson's 1986 movie <em>Labyrinth</em> at midnight. </p>

<p>And starting tonight through Saturday, <a href="">the IFC Center</a> is screening the first <em>Friday the 13th</em> flick, which was first released in 1980 and ultimately inspired the wallpaper seen here.</p>