by: Courtesy of warner bros.,

'Blood Diamond' (R)

Take a look at that diamond wedding ring on your finger, then hop on down to the multiplex to see this old-school adventure film about diamond smugglers, enslaved African miners, civil war and star-crossed romance.

Not that it's a great film, mind you. It's a patently predictable melodrama with Leonardo DiCaprio as your basic mercenary with a heart of gold.

He's torn between his desire to get his hands on a rare pink diamond and his newly awakened conscience, embodied by a lovely, exposition-spouting reporter (Jennifer Connelly).

Director Edward Zwick ('The Last Samurai') walks a fine line between education and condescension as he makes the point that the diamond industry is - gasp! - corrupt on every level. And he spends far too long on the characters' lengthy hike through the jungle. But if you've never thought about where that ring of yours came from, this will definitely open your eyes.

- Dawn Taylor

Cinetopia, Cinemark Eastport, Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Evergreen Parkway, Movies on TV, Division Street, Stark Street

'The Holiday' (PG-13)

Even at something like 90 minutes, this wallow in congealed cuteness would be a slog. But at 136 minutes it's pure torture, a suffocating quicksand pit of lumpy, saccharine gruel after which you may need a trip to the cockfights to freshen up.

Los Angeleno Cameron Diaz and Londoner Kate Winslet swap houses for Christmas getaways, while writer/director Nancy Meyers snuffs the fire of the classic screwball comedies she references by dousing it with clichés by the bucketful.

Endlessly indulging the staggeringly self-enamored Diaz and crippling the talented Winslet with inanity, Meyers wouldn't know a genuine sentiment if it had the suicidal nerve to stand waving in front of her bulldozing mawkishness.

Through the character of a veteran Hollywood screenwriter (played by Eli Wallach, whose role amounts to self-inflicted senility), Meyers pays tribute to the greatness of classic moviedom, only to create exactly the sort of crass multiplex fodder she has him condemn.

At least in a typically thin-walled multiplex, there may be a loud-enough movie next door to drown out this merciless tripe.

- Pat Holmes

Cinetopia, Cinemark Eastport, Pioneer Place, Lloyd Center, Hilltop, Evergreen Parkway, Movies on TV, Division Street, Stark Street

'Viva Pedro!'

Do your homework for the Dec. 22 opening of Pedro Almodovar's new 'Volver' with this eight-film series of highlights from the Spanish bad boy's career.

These new 35 mm prints are presented as double features. The series begins with his madcap breakthrough 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown' but favors examples of his maturing works ('All About My Mother' is paired with 'Breakdown,' screening Dec. 8-11).

Next, the sublime 'Talk to Her,' one of this decade's best so far, plays with 'The Flower of My Secret' (Dec. 12-14), followed by 'Matador' and 'Law of Desire' (Dec. 15-18) and finally 'Live Flesh' and 'Bad Education' (Dec. 19-21).

As ripe, vibrant and juicy as a holiday produce market, these films offer a range of emotions that shame a hammer-shattering, preservative-embalmed fruitcake like 'The Holiday.' It's cold out; come in and warm up.

Details at

- PH

Cinema 21

Also new this week

Ralphie yearns for a BB gun in the much-loved comedy 'A Christmas Story' (Laurelhurst). Zen surfer Woody Brown expounds on life, water and air in 'Of Wind and Waves' (Clinton Street Theater). Playwright Tony Kushner is the subject of 'Wrestling With Angels' (Hollywood). Janet Gaynor continues to smile down from the silver screen in 'Delicious' and 'Tess of the Storm Country' (Whitsell Auditorium). And feral children terrorize an airport in 'Unaccompanied Minors.'

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