Not everyone gets to open presents on Christmas morning and there are many people who do not get gifts during the eight days of Hanukkah. Regardless of whether or not we celebrate these holidays, we can still treat ourselves at this time of the year. All people can take advantage of the special offerings and make it a truly jolly ole time. Film lovers and movie-goers have a reason to look forward to this holiday season as Hollywood brings forth a load of blockbusters and some delightful sleepers to the cinemas.

The formula for blockbusters is simple ? a large budget plus well-known celebrities plus a fairly apt director equals box-office success.

First up is the Brad Pitt, Robert Redford starring “Spy Game.” Besides the great acting talents, “Spy Game” has director Tony Scott of “Top Gun” fame behind the camera to guarantee a good time. Scott chose to shoot most of the thriller in exotic locales of Morroco and Budapest. The timing of this movie cannot be better with patriotism at its highest in America. The story begins with Redford on his last day as a spy before retirement when he decides to take on one last mission to rescue protg Brad Pitt, who was captured by the Chinese. The rest of the drama unfolds from there.

Next, Pitt is back again, this time joined by George Clooney, Matt Damon and my girl Julia Roberts to name a few in “Ocean’s Eleven.” Set to release in the first week of December, Clooney plays Danny Ocean in Eleven, an ex-con who gathers eleven of his former associates for a heist of three Las Vegas casinos in one night during a pay-per-view boxing match. The inside word is that this movie is slick, funnier than expected and has great shots of Vegas with all its lights and other appeal. This along with the great cast as eye candy makes this movie a must-see.

Too much drama

Next up, Tom Cruise is all set to hit the big screen with “Vanilla Sky.” The film is directed by Cameron Crowe who also directed Cruise in the holiday hit “Jerry Maguire.” There are several interesting side stories that go along with “Vanilla Sky.” The movie is a remake of Alejandro Amenbar’s Spanish film “Open Your Eyes.” Cruise got the rights of the film from Amenbar who also happened to direct Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman in this summer’s scary flick “The Others.” Cruise plays David Ames in the psychological thriller, who begins as a womanizer, then ends up completely disfigured as a result of an accident, and then falls in love with his best friend’s girlfriend on his way to recovery and plastic surgery.

If that does not sound complicated enough, here’s more. Penelop Cruz ? Cruise’s current real life flame ? plays the girlfriend, and she played the same part in the original Spanish version. If this film is sure to promise one thing, its drama, since there is already so much drama before its release. On a more serious note, it will be interesting to see how Crowe handled this film with a psychological aspect, which is outside is general cut and dry, feel-good genre.

Also releasing around the same time is “The Majestic.” Jim Carrey will be back again afterlast year’s hit “Dr. Seuss: How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” However, this year we’ll see a more serious Carrey, in a period piece, which takes place in the 1950s during the McCarthy blacklist era.

Carrey plays a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter. He loses his job and then loses his memory in an accident. Mistaken for a soldier lost, Carrey ends up settling in a small town in California in a movie house where he redevelops his love for movies.

The plot is that throughout this time, there are people looking for him as he is suspected of being a Communist. If caught, Carrey would face a Senate hearing and thus his life is in jeopardy. The movie is directed by Frank Darabont, who also brought us “The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

To top it all off

The last of the Hollywood extravaganzas is probably the most-awaited film of the season ? “Ali.” The word is that Mohammed Ali himself asked superstar Will Smith to play him in this $100 million bio-epic. Smith agreed and then underwent months of grueling physical training to get ready to portray the heavyweight boxing champion.

A Michael Cann film, “Ali” also stars Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jamie Foxx and Jon Voight. It includes many of the controversies that came about in Ali’s prime including his decision to drop the name Cassius Clay, his resistance of the Vietnam War, his reputation as a womanizer, his role as a civil rights hero and of course his biggest boxing matches.

Fans of Ali, Smith and good cinema are all in for a treat with this one.

The rest of the bunch

There is a whole other slew of movies that fit into the fantasy category of cinema. This includes literary fads, the first of the “Harry Potter” sequence called “The Sorcerer’s Stone” and also the first of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy “Lord of the Rings” with Elijah Wood.

It’s worth watching these flicks, because they are the safest bet to entertain. Also, you know that everyone around you will have seen them, so if you want to be able to join in the discussion you might as well watch them. If the movie isn’t worth it, at least watching those beautiful faces in it will be worth it.

Desai can be reached at

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