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Before the movie industry horned in on the act, Thanksgiving used to be a time for family. Why, some of our fondest memories of growing up involve bolting the door to our uncle's den so we could watch a televised King Kong marathon unmolested by our weird-ass cousins, who were intent on switching to the big game. Sadly, such scenes of wholesome sharing have gone the way of the dodo; it's now possible to scarf a quick bird and split for the multiplex, where you can be insulated from the competing tastes of your loved ones by several layers of protective concrete. Seven new releases in six days prove the point in 2008, offering everything from vampiric first love to the catharsis of watching Vince Vaughn duck relatives no more grotesque than your own.


Opening Friday, Nov. 21

Bolt Supervision by John Lasseter brings this animated tale of a heroic dog close enough to the Pixar orbit to entice adults who ordinarily sit out every other studio's cartoon fare. That scrappy hamster sidekick looks as funny as (plastic exercise) balls. But does anybody else fret that the street-talking pigeons appear to owe an uncomfortable debt to the Goodfeathers, erstwhile co-stars of TV's Animaniacs? Or maybe we just need a hobby. (PG)

Twilight Odds are, your daughter or kid sister is going to pass up Thanksgiving dinner for this one — especially if she's a cutter. Because girls of a certain bent know that the only thing more fun than self-mutilation is lining up for the 17th time to see author Stephenie Meyer's cast of supernatural paramours brought to big-screen life. Almost as golden: pissing and moaning later about everything "they" got "wrong." (PG-13)

Synecdoche, New York At last, Orlando's film-watching elite get to wade through screenwriter-gone-director Charlie Kaufman's complicated and controversial portrait of a haggard theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who takes over a Manhattan warehouse to stage a full-on representation of his own life. Attention, cinema-studies undergrads: Here's your best chance all year to use the term "meditation" in polite conversation! (R)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Thanks to the closing minutes of Tropic Thunder, we'll never again be able to look at the sanctimonious "message pictures" Hollywood throws at us at awards time and keep a straight face. And if we didn't know better, we'd think there was a certain, oh, point of view to this dramatization of a Nazi kid's play dates with a young concentration-camp prisoner. One for the ages … or at least until Ben Stiller gets around to making that flick with Tom Hanks as the disabled Olympic runner. (PG-13)

Opening Wednesday, Nov. 26

Australia Mr. Restraint, Baz Luhrmann, pays tribute to the country he loves best — largely because it's the only place on Earth where his incurable kitsch addiction can pass for standard operating procedure. (Remember: They gave us Kath & Kim.) The Baz-meister's latest picturesque paean to excess has Brit heiress Nicole Kidman falling for Down Under stud Hugh Jackman, just as the Japanese prepare to bomb the bloomin' onions out of the latter's homeland. It's a period piece! It's a war picture! It's a romance! It's a Western! And we're pretty sure it's also a pen! (not yet rated)

Transporter 3 Baldo hottie Jason Statham gets a third set of reasons to put the pedal to the metal and keep losing his shirt, as he attempts to deliver a human package while preventing his rigged vehicle from going kablooey. Transporter 2 director Louis Leterrier has since become all Mr. Oscar-Pants with The Incredible Hulk, so he's ceded the directorial reins to one Olivier Megaton — which would be the name of the Hulk's next adversary were those movies genuinely cool. (PG-13)

Four Christmases Vince Vaughn has been less than "money" since he decided to not let a year go by without shooting another mercenary holiday comedy. This one's being positioned as if it's two Meet the Parents outings at once, with Vaughn and wifey Reese Witherspoon forced to endure their quartet of immediate families (thanks, divorce generation!) in the course of a single day. Director Seth Gordon, fresh off the highly regarded doc King of Kong, may have sold out to the mainstream even faster than previous record holder Todd Phillips — and at least we knew from the get-go that that guy was a king douche. (PG-13)


Available Tuesday, Nov. 25

The Spirit: The Movie Visual Companion Cartoonist-cum-director Frank Miller shows how he repaid his enduring debt to late pal and mentor Will Eisner: by making a movie that bears no resemblance whatsoever to Eisner's work! Audiences who know Sin City far more intimately than any of Eisner's Spirit-ed newspaper strips should lap up this collection of rain-soaked production photos and wholly Millerian sketches. (Titan)

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