New films this week (all Christmas Day openings):
— “Bedtime Stories” (rated PG), a comic fantasy starring Adam Sandler as a hotel handyman.
— “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (rated PG-13), a fantasy starring Brad Pitt as a man who ages backward.
— “Doubt” (rated PG-13), the big-screen adaptation of the stage play, starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
— “Frost/Nixon” (rated R), a drama based on the stage play. Frank Langella stars.
— “Marley & Me” (rated PG-13), a comedy-drama starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as dog owners.
— “The Reader” (rated R), a post-World War II thriller starring Kate Winslet.
— “The Spirit” (rated PG-13), “Sin City” creator Frank Miller’s cinematic take on the popular comics character.
— “Valkyrie” (rated PG-13), a suspense-thriller starring Tom Cruise as a Nazi conspirator.
Miller’s version of “The Spirit” is grotesquely cartoonish, and is one of the year’s worst films. And Winslet, a last-minute replacement for Nicole Kidman, is miscast in the surprisingly tasteless “Reader.”
Speaking of tasteless, Sandler brings his usual silly voices and flatulence humor to “Bedtime Stories,” which had some potential — especially before his character shows up in the film.
Also, there are several mixed-bag films opening for the holidays. “Benjamin Button” is too full of digital-effects trickery and is too long — by nearly as hour. Cruise is a sore-thumb element in the suspenseful “Valkyrie.” Streep and Hoffman’s performances verge on overacting in “Doubt.” And the canine performers out-act the humans in “Marley & Me.”
That latter film might be the best of that bunch. But arguably, the week’s best film is “Frost/Nixon,” which is pretty talky. However, Langella is excellent as Richard M. Nixon, as is Michael Sheen, who plays television interviewer David Frost. Their verbal exchanges dominate the movie’s terrific second half.
Which, if any, of these movies fit into your weekend and holiday viewing?