The Ghosts of Christmases Past

Holiday Movie Season '06 brings a slew of retreads and one futuristic triumph.

Thirty years ago, at holiday time, there was a different kind of nativity—Rocky was born. And now, as the fifth sequel drags its tired ass into theaters this week, it's not the only thing looking familiar at the holiday multiplex. Robert De Niro, who became a star in the '70s around the same time as Stallone, takes us back to World War II and the Cold War in The Good Shepherd. Steven Soderbergh tries to mine the style and romance of Casablanca in The Good German, filmed in actual black-and-white. Then you've got your underdog football saga based on a real 1970 plane crash (We Are Marshall), more mythic Chinese fantasy (Curse of the Golden Flower), the courtship of Scandinavian immigrants in Minnesota following World War I (Sweet Land), and the all-star revival of an '80s musical (Dreamgirls) that itself looked back to the glorious '60s. As for Ben Stiller's comedy, Night at the Museum—it's set in a museum, what more do we need to say?

Perhaps the sole exception this week—and, not coincidentally, the best reviewed film of the batch—is set in the postapocalyptic future, circa 2027. Children of Men imagines a world where new life cannot be conceived, which sounds a lot like Hollywood present. So maybe there's a little hope for new movies in the New Year, notwithstanding Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Die Hard 4, and Ocean's Thirteen.

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