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Better than digital cable

Film
Anything is better than the conversation

Though the movie industry may have other goals in mind, the holiday movie season really begins in order to drag you away from the theatrics of the dinner table and provide the time-tested sanctuary of escapism. These blockbuster and not-so-blockbuster offerings have all opened just in time to give you an alternative to an otherwise tryptophan-induced night with your loved ones.

CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS: There will always be a market for Christmas movies during Thanksgiving weekend. Tim Allen (The Santa Clause) makes his third foray into the grand tradition of seasonal slapstick-with-family-values, this time dragging Jamie Lee Curtis and Dan Aykroyd with him. No doubt someone's going to fall off a roof.

ALEXANDER: Revisionist history through film, courtesy of director Oliver Stone. This week's lecture is about Macedonian warrior Alexander's (Colin Farrell) methodical conquest of lots of stuff. Includes an all-star cast and a big budget -- count on some bloody, graphically tricked-out battle scenes, and, since it's Oliver Stone, mix that with some energetic editing. Will it be this winter's Troy? Only time will tell. (See review, p. 78.)

FINDING NEVERLAND: Director Marc Forster follows up his Oscar-winning Monster's Ball with this gentle, easygoing film re-enacting the circumstances surrounding J.M. Barrie's (Johnny Depp) creation of Peter Pan at the turn of the century. The approaching holiday season may turn you into a big ol' stress ball at points -- you owe it to yourself to get a little reminder of how permeable the boundary between childhood and adulthood really is, not to mention how a healthy sense of wonder can work miracles.

KINSEY (shown): Finally, a sex romp that the whole family can enjoy. This film recounts the life story of Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson), an Indiana University professor who irrevocably changed American culture when he penned Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. His information was culled through a refined research technique called the sex interview. Naturally, shock, drama and even a bit of hilarity ensue. (See review, p. 77.)

-- Cary Jones

Dance
Nut-crackin' time

It's a classic only made better by the fact that its quickly recognized score provided tunes for Macaulay Culkin's infamous holiday home alone. But rather than revel in holiday movies from seasons past, this year watch the live-action holiday drama of the Atlanta Ballet's annual presentation of THE NUTCRACKER. Opening NOV. 27, the graceful stage rendering is not only a 40-year tradition, but also a Christmastime chance to watch men in tights. $24-$68. Tues.-Thurs. and Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 1 and 7:30 p.m.; Sun. 2 and 7 p.m. Through Dec. 24. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. 404-873-5811. www.atlantaballet.com.-- Michelle Yoon

Art
Do it all night

It might be a family weekend, but the High Museum wants you to GOGH ALL NIGHT. Though we aren't sure who will be interested in peeking at its Van Gogh to Mondrian exhibit at 4 a.m. on a Saturday, the museum won't be turning anyone away for its 31-hour marathon viewing party NOV. 26-27, during which the museum will not only continue operations, but also offer art workshops, music and snacks. Wear your jammies to receive a 10 percent discount at the museum shop. $7-$15. Nov. 26 at 10 a.m. through Nov. 27 at 5 p.m. 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-4444. www.high.org.-- MY

Short List
November 25 - Thursday
Work off a little of that Thanksgiving overindulgence at the club -- your ass will thank you. So will your ears, because Atlanta resident DJ LORD takes a breather from his day job as DJ for Public Enemy to spin at Django's Belly. Call for price. 10 p.m. Django, 495 Peachtree St. 404-347-8648. www.djangoatlanta.com. (CJ)

November 26 - Friday
You know your girlfriend's been angling for a romantic evening, anyway, so take this final chance to give a twist to the conventional dinner-and-movie date with MARTINIS & IMAX. The date-ready night of specialty martinis, live jazz music and IMAX films closes its 2004 season today. $5-$10. 5:30-10 p.m. Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6400. www.fernbank.edu. (MY)

November 27 - Saturday
Promoting its latest release, The Dirty South, the DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS come home to Atlanta for a no-holds-barred, foot-stomping good time at the Tabernacle, giving true fans the opportunity to reminisce about the days when they played the pint-sized Star Bar. 8 p.m. $20. 152 Luckie St. 404-659-9022.

November 28 - Sunday
The NAMES Project Foundation loans a portion of the AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT to Plaza Fiesta to display today only. Should you miss its appearance at the shopping center, larger portions of the 54-ton, 45,000-panel piece are on permanent display at its Krog Street home in Atlanta, available for free viewings by appointment. Plaza Fiesta, 4166 Buford Highway. Permanent display: The NAMES Project Foundation, 101 Krog St. 404-688-5500. www.aidsquilt.org.

November 29 - Monday
Best known for hijacking Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," the SCISSOR SISTERS bring a campy deconstructionist approach to both genre and gender boundaries in music with their burlesque glam-glowing dance rock.$15. 8 p.m. Roxy Theatre, 3110 Roswell Road. 404-249-6400. (Matthew Proctor)

November 30 - Tuesday
Student artists of VOX Teen Newspaper join professional artists in an exhibit that looks at the variety of ways in which cartoons and comics can be forums for political expression. TO THE LEFT, TO THE RIGHT AND FROM OUTER SPACE -- POLITICAL CARTOONS AND COMIX FROM ATLANTA AND BEYOND! closes today. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Temple Gallery, 108 E. Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-371-8826. (CJ)

December 1 - Wednesday
Put on a clean pair of Wranglers because it's WILD BILL'S LADIES NIGHT. Free admission and $2 drinks for women help downtrodden urban cowboys find that special little missus. And if not, there's always the Wild Bill's Wild Girls keeping the beer flowing till the rooster crows. $10 for men. 7 p.m. 2075 Market St., Duluth. 678-473-1000. www.wildbillsatlanta.com. (CK)

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