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Weekend Movie Guide: Savage beauty!

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With the big Christmas season movies still a week away (The Golden Compass, Atonement), it's a rather soft schedule of new releases. That's not to say there aren't any quality films coming out, though. At the top of the list is The Savages. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney and Philip Bosco star in Tamara Jenkin's acerbic drama about two siblings forced to care for their not altogether pleasant father as he slips further into dementia. These three actors are so good I would pay to watch them improvise a sketch about throwing poo at each other.

The weekend's other must-see is Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The film tells a true story that is both devastating and inspiring: Jean-Dominique Bauby suffers a stroke at 43 that leaves him almost completely paralyzed. He can only communicate by blinking his left eye which he does to write the memoir Le Scaphandre et le Papillon. Amazingly, he was able to write and edit the entire book in his head and relate the prose to an amanuensis one letter at a time by blinking. Mathieu Amalric is remarkable as Bauby.

The weekend's last and largest release is Awake from The Weinstein Company. Considering it stars lightweights Jessica Alba and Hayden Christensen, I'm not expecting much from this "thriller". The central conceit--what if you woke up during your own surgery--sounds more cool than scary to me. In an age of outpatient-surgery, I think the producers may have overestimated the horror of such a premise. Though it opens on over 2,000 screens, Awake will almost certainly do middling business. The Era of Alba is joyfully nearing an end.

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Tickets, Showtimes, Reviews & Previews after the jump!