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Also playing in December

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Proving that even the lamest superhero movies can now spawn sequels (hey, a Spawn sequel, there’s an idea!), Punisher: War Zone (12/5) serves up sloppy seconds of the Marvel avenger, with Rome‘s Ray Stevenson filling in for Thomas Jane…. Things take a decidedly more sober turn in Nerakhoon (The Betrayal) (moved to 11/21), Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath’s Sundance doc about a family of Laotian refugees trying to rebuild their lives in New York City. Kleenex might not be a bad idea…. Laurent Cantet’s Palme d’Or winner The Class (12/12) puts a Gallic twist on the old high school teacher/inner-city students formula — think of it as Dangerous Minds, but more French and sans Pfeiffer…. The jug-eared mouse from award-winning kiddie book The Tale of Despereaux (12/19) gets the big-screen treatment — and the voice of Matthew Broderick…. And since it wouldn’t be the holiday season without at least one inspirational sports movie, we give you Hurricane Season (12/25), starring Forest Whitaker as a high school hoops coach in the Big Easy, post-Katrina…. The Secret of the Grain (12/26) sounds like a hoot, doesn’t it? Most of us like grain precisely because it doesn’t have secrets — it’s up-front about its wheaty agenda. But Tunisian auteur Abdellatif Kechiche apparently disagrees in this French-language drama about a hardscrabble old man who dreams of opening a restaurant…. Are you getting the feeling December’s gonna be a heavy month? No? Then check out Waltz With Bashir (12/26), the animated testament of an Israeli soldier who witnessed a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees. It might just be this year’s Persepolis, but, you know, minus the humor.

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