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Season's Screenings 

Flick Chick

Published November 26, 2003 at 5:00 p.m.

Television sitcoms come and go, so we can hope that Luis Guzman doesn't feel too badly about his rather brief stint on the Fox network this fall. The actor, who lives with his wife and five kids on a Cabot dairy farm, starred as the owner of a Spanish Harlem donut shop in the short-lived "Luis" -- cancelled after only four episodes.

Perhaps Guzman can take comfort in his return to the big screen. Despite a full head of hair, he is now slated to appear as "The Bald Man" in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, an adaptation of the popular children's book. The cast includes Meryl Streep and Jude Law, and Jim Carrey as Count Olaf, an up-to-no-good distant relative of the three wealthy Baudelaire orphans. The director is Brad Silberling, perhaps best known for Casper.

Vermont was once considered as a primary location for the Paramount-DreamWorks film. Instead, it began shooting in Los Angeles earlier this month. Unfortunate Events is scheduled to open in December 2004.

Among the prolific Guzman's previous projects are two movies directed by Paul Thomas Anderson that boast another Green Mountain State connection. In Boogie Nights, a 1997 tale about people who once populated porn flicks, the Puerto Rican-born thespian shared credits with Woodbury resident William H. Macy. In 1999 they joined forces again for Magnolia, the saga of several confused San Fernando Valley citizens.

Anderson, a Los Angeles native, wrote the bulk of his Magnolia script at Macy's getaway cabin in the Vermont woods. During that two-week period, the filmmaker reportedly spotted a snake and never ventured outside again.

The Lemony Snicket production seems destined to become a Christmas blockbuster next year. Blockbusters and less high-profile pictures for the 2003 holidays are beginning to show up in local theaters this week.

The Haunted Mansion, opens Friday with Eddie Murphy immersed in a world of ghosts. During the next month or so, the Burlington area will also welcome Bad Santa, a black comedy with Billy Bob Thornton as a perverse Saint Nick; Timeline, from a Michael Crichton novel about contemporary archaeology students traveling back to the 14th century; The Last Samurai, with Tom Cruise as a Civil War veteran teaching modern combat in Japan; and Cold Mountain, also set in the mid-1800s, about a wounded Confederate soldier (Jude Law again) trying to get back home to his wife (Nicole Kidman) in North Carolina.

The final chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy will unspool in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Mona Lisa Smile offers Julia Roberts as a liberated, pretty woman teaching art history at Wellesley College in 1953. Ben Affleck plays the lead role in the sci-fi thriller Paycheck, yet another amnesia yarn;. House of Sand and Fog concerns an Iranian immigrant (Ben Kingsley) who discovers that buying real estate is riskier than he'd ever imagined.

On a lighter note, Something's Gotta Give pairs Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton as wrinkled folks struggling with the issue of age-appropriate romance. Stuck On You, from the Farrelly brothers, allows Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear to go for big guffaws as conjoined twins. A live-action Peter Pan brings back the little lost boys of Never Never Land -- not to be confused with Michael Jackson's California ranch.

Given the Yuletide rush of studio releases, some low-budget indie fare is less likely to debut locally before the new year: Girl With a Pearl Earring, about the not-altogether-platonic relationship between Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) and his young housemaid (Scarlett Johannsson); The Cooler, with the aforementioned Bill Macy as a luckless Las Vegas gambler; and The Triplets of Belleville, a French animation that chronicles the transatlantic voyage of an elderly woman attempting to rescue her kidnapped grandson.

Norman Jewison's The Statement has been generating a lot of buzz for its depiction of a former Nazi (Michael Caine) whose post-war anonymity in France is threatened. In America, Jim Sheridan's semi-autobiographical drama about an Irish family that immigrates to New York City, has the distinct advantage of Samantha Morton portraying the mother. It might be on the bill at Montpelier's Savoy Theater in late December.

While 'tis certainly the Christian majority's season to be jolly, how about a cinematic look at other religious and ethnic traditions? The Hebrew Hammer is a satire that centers on a Jewish superhero from Brooklyn (Adam Goldberg) battling the rogue son of Santa Claus (Andy Dick), who intends to eradicate Hanukkah. Mario Van Peebles plays a leader of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front. Ho, ho, ho.

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Susan Green


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