Skip the Yule Log: See/Hear/Read This

It's easy to get sucked into TV rerun purgatory when the most entertaining thing on the tube this week is the yule log.

But before you zone out with the flame-consumed wood -- or rent yet another Tim Allen Christmas flick -- check out's new entertainment rundown. It's our weekly account of all the good, the bad and the ugly of the next seven days of culture. Read our guide to everything worth consuming, and put away that VHS copy of "9 to 5." There's a reason it was in the gas station bargain bin.


Denzel Washington stands and delivers another strong performance as a teacher in this season's most inspirational drama, "The Great Debaters." Produced by Oprah Winfrey and co-starring Forest Whitaker, "Debaters" is based on the true story of a black liberal arts school in the 1930s Jim Crow South, whose debating team won most of its competitions against white schools. It'll leave you feeling almost as warm and fuzzy as that last glass of egg nog.

As if the legacy wasn't tarnished enough, "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" is the third dent in the "Predator" franchise and the sixth dip into the bone-dry well of the "Alien" series. And since the film's leads are yesteryear's special effects, for a uniquely bad-ass performance, opt instead to see Daniel Day-Lewis' Golden Globe-nominated turn as a grizzle-voiced villain in "There Will Be Blood." The thespian plays an original Wild West oilman with an iron fist and an unquenchable thirst for black gold in Paul Thomas Anderson's epic Western. The movie's ominous-sounding, classical soundtrack was composed by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, and the film has been nominated for the best motion picture Golden Globe. It has little dialogue, but it's still better than watching a movie that stars two guys in 1980's Halloween costumes.

Returning to the otherworldly realm of "Pan's Labyrinth" is "The Orphanage," a Guillermo del Toro-produced film that rattles the foundations of the haunted-house genre. In this Spanish film, a woman and her family visit the orphanage where she grew up. Instead of using the usual horror-film parlor tricks, director Juan Antonio Bayona builds tension within fright-flick style by injecting Peter Pan-inspired fairy tales and Belen Rueda's mesmerizing turn as a mother gone mad. Because there's nothing scarier than a mother on a rampage.

Ben Stiller's "The Heartbreak Kid" hits DVD and HD-DVD this week. Unfortunately, the Farrelly brothers directors' commentary, deleted scenes and four featurettes won't make it any more watchable. Check out Jamie Foxx's muscle-flexing performance in "The Kingdom," a smart political thriller delivered with popcorn-movie swagger. Available on DVD and HD-DVD, the release has deleted scenes, director's commentary and a documentary about the construction of the action-packed freeway sequence. Another Oscar favorite, Canadian filmmaker David Croneberg's "Eastern Promises," is available on DVD and HD-DVD this week. It includes the requisite behind-the-scenes documentary and a short that reveals the history of Russian criminals' tattoos. This time, try to keep your eyes open during the steam-room fight.


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