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Opening Films 

by INLANDER STAFF & r & & r & FRED CLAUS & r & This dark Christmas comedy has Vince Vaughn playing Santa's disgruntled older brother Fred, who moves up to the North Pole after getting bailed out of jail. He arrives just in time to nearly ruin Christmas. In addition, an efficiency expert played by Kevin Spacey decides to outsource Christmas to the South Pole. (TLM) Rated PG


A conservative senator (Tom Cruise) tries to convince a skeptical, liberal reporter (Meryl Streep) about his plan to salvage Iraq by winning in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, an Army helicopter crashes and the Taliban closes in. And a professor (Robert Redford) wonders why his students have tuned out. Biased and preachy -- but still involving -- director Redford's film nevertheless fails to make the geopolitics seem local. (ES) Rated R


Like the film's name, taken from the parking garage level that heroine Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) gets trapped on, the whole of P2's plot seems stolen from other sources. Crazy, lusty psycho (in this case a parking lot security guard) stages a trap on Christmas Eve for the workaholic Bridges so that he might knock her unconscious, strip her down to her underwear, and cook her a Christmas feast (in the parking garage, of course) with the hope of, you know, wooing her. She fights back. (LB) Rated R


"Wait ... something's not right. That drooling, creepy thing with fangs appears to be snuffling the smooth back of that naked hot-bod chick. Oh, crap -- it saw me! I know -- I'll run into the dark woods/basement/abandoned slaughterhouse to get away. Whew! I think we ditched the monster. OK, you get some gas for the car and I'll wait here. Yeah, that's the trick -- we should split up in the dark. Wait ... something's not right." (KT) Rated R


Brothers Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke rob a mom-and-pop jewelry store run by their own mom and pop (Rosemary Harris and Albert Finney). Then things really go awry. Director Sidney Lumet may be 83 now, but he's down with postmodernism enough to tell the brothers' story in jumbled chronology -- perhaps reflecting the film's jumbled relationships. (While Marisa Tomei, for example, plays Hoffman's wife, she's sleeping with both brothers.) We get multiple perspectives on the same screw-ups. The title derives from an Irish toast: "May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead." Well, the devil knows that Lumet's characters are dying. And he's moving in. (MB) Rated R


When his sister is kidnapped. Jorge (Cesar Ramos) decides to strike out from Mexico City to find her. Eventually bumping into a Texas cop played by Kevin Kline, the pair eventually locate the girl, online, about to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. If they can't get to her, her next stop will be the sex trade. Like many such films, the narrative acts primarily as a vehicle to raise awareness for a global epidemic, like Traffic with people. (LB) Rated R

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