The holidays are upon us. Tomorrow sees the release of two of the more eagerly awaited films of the season, and we haven't even hit Thanksgiving yet! We've been hearing fantastic things about the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line. It wowed audiences at the Toronto Film Festival in September, and now critics are talking about Joaquin Phoenix's performance as they did last year about Jamie Foxx. One huge difference: Foxx lip-synced everything in Ray; Phoenix sings all the songs himself. We're not really sure whether that's a plus or not, though, no matter how well he sings.

We must admit to being a bit surprised that 20th Century Fox decided to put Walk the Line head-to-head with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We expect audiences to flock to the fourth entry in the Hogwarts saga. We managed to attend a screening on Monday and find ourselves terribly conflicted. On its own, Goblet of Fire is a decent enough entry in the series of films: not nearly as good as last summer's Prisoner of Azkaban, but significantly better than the first two mediocrities. As huge fans of J.K. Rowling's novels, though, it's hard not to be disappointed in how streamlined the plot has become, in this adaptation in particular. Granted, cramming 730 pages into two-and-a-half hours is no small feat, yet we still believe that much of the humanity and focus on friendship, adolescence, loyalty and family that is so central to this entry, while touched upon, is missing from the final product. If you've never read the books yet have enjoyed the previous movies, this darker PG-13 film will probably satisfy you just fine. But if you're someone of any age who eagerly waits outside Barnes & Noble or the Scholastic Store upon the release of each new book, you're likely to be at least somewhat disappointed in the multitude of diminished (or altogether missing) characters and subplots.

2005_11_mg17_9.jpgA Gothamist Pick: For over a quarter century, the Asbury Shorts of New York have showcased some of the best award-winning short films from festivals around the world. This year's event is tomorrow night at The Florence Gould Hall at the French Institute at 8 PM. The show will be MC'd by Jason Reitman (yeah, Ivan's son) whose first feature film Thank You for Smoking was the middle of a bidding war at the Toronto Film Festival, and will be released by Fox Searchlight next year. Three of Reitman's short films will screen along with nine other selections including the 3D stop-motion animated 9 by Shane Acker (which the director is now developing with Tim Burton into a feature for Focus Features). Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at the Florence Gould box office (no fee) or online via Ticketmaster.

Midnight Movie Smackdown: This week's entries from both the IFC Center and the Landmark Sunshine are two of the weirdest films you'll ever see. The Apple is a 1980 "futuristic" disco glam rock musical from the mind of schlock producer-director Menahem Golan. We can't really describe it better than IFC Center does on its own web site, so we'll just copy this one line: "The Apple paints a portrait of American (sub)culture post-Vietnam, seen through the eyes of a Polish, Israeli-born and raised madman." Meanwhile, over at the Sunshine, you can catch the work of two other madmen, but better filmmakers, with the trippy Performance, notable for being the directorial debuts of both Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell as well as the first on-screen acting appearance of Mick Jagger.