A guide to the holiday season's onslaught of films

By Dave Karger
Updated November 22, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Forty movies in 47 days? Gosh, Hollywood, how on earth are we supposed to get any shopping done? Not only do the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas bring the most films, they also bring some of the most anticipated. So what’s an already bogged-down moviephile to do? We’ve got two words: time management. Here, then, is a week-by-week rundown of this season’s offerings, carved like a succulent holiday bird into four convenient categories: (1) light, blow-off-some-steam Friday-night films; (2) star-powered Saturday-night specials; (3) art-house or family fare perfect for a Sunday matinee; and, for those especially packed weeks, (4) movies you’ll have to take a day off to catch.

November 15

FRIDAY As straightforward as a slam dunk. Sporting the power combo of Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, SPACE JAM promises fluffy, intentionally two-dimensional mindlessness.

SATURDAY Streisand fans have reason to live again, as THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES features the divine Ms. S in all her self-deprecating-yet-self-aggrandizing glory. See Babs turn from frumpy lit professor to full-fledged glamour-puss overnight as she tries to impress her math geek of a husband (Jeff Bridges)!

SUNDAY The glamour continues with easy-on-the-eyes stars Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, and Kristin Scott Thomas in the World War II drama THE ENGLISH PATIENT, already an Oscar favorite. But if you’re craving a grittier look at love, newcomer Emily Watson’s portrayal of a tormented oil rigger’s wife in Lars von Trier’s Cannes prizewinner BREAKING THE WAVES will provide all the derangement and heartbreak (and, thanks to the handheld-camera work, seasickness) you’ll ever need.

November 22

FRIDAY Arnold Schwarzenegger, Family-Friendly Comedian, is back. In JINGLE ALL THE WAY, which teams the Austrian yukster with Houseguest‘s duo Sinbad and Phil Hartman, he’s an eager-to-please dad in search of an elusive Turbo Man doll.

SATURDAY Now that you’re finished mourning Captain Kirk’s death, cheer up and move on to the next generation with STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, the eighth Trek movie and the first without any ’60s cast members.

SUNDAY If you’re nostalgic for ’70s TV, catch John Ritter as a gay general-store manager in SLING BLADE, a moving Southern drama from writer-director-actor Billy Bob Thornton (One False Move) about a killer who returns to his rural hometown after spending 25 years in an asylum. And Australian stage veteran Geoffrey Rush plays the brilliant but disturbed piano prodigy David Helfgott in the 1996 Sundance phenomenon SHINE, costarring Lynn Redgrave and Armin Mueller-Stahl.

DAY OFF Mighty Ducks mainstay Emilio Estevez escapes the hockey rink to direct and star in THE WAR AT HOME, which traces the domestic battles waged by a Virginia family (Martin Sheen, Kathy Bates, and Relativity‘s Kimberly Williams) whose son has returned from Vietnam.

November 29

FRIDAY Need a break from turkey fricassee? OD on puppies instead with Disney’s maximum-camp live-action version of 101 DALMATIANS, starring Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson as dog owners who sniff out some romance, and Glenn Close as the dastardly Cruella De Vil.