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Best bets: 'True Grit' rides into theaters

by By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper / / Source:

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Joel and Ethan Coen say their "True Grit" has more in common with Charles Portis' 1968 novel than the 1969 John Wayne film, but even if you haven't read the book or seen the original movie, it doesn't matter. The 2010 film is rich in humor, smart dialogue and stellar performances, and it includes the most famous line from the Wayne version. If you're trying to decide between the two Jeff Bridges films out this month, skip "Tron: Legacy" and ride out into the Old West. Bridges is wonderful as the drunken bounty hunter-U.S. Marshal Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn, and 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld is a find as the determined young girl who's hired him to track down her father's killer. (Opens Dec. 22.)

In the Sofia Coppola-directed "Somewhere," Stephen Dorff plays a Hollywood bad boy living at the famed Chateau Marmont (where John Belushi died). As only happens in the movies, his young daughter (Elle Fanning) finds him, and he must re-examine his life. The plot sounds like we've been-there, done-that, but Coppola has proven herself, so it's worth a look. Early reviews are comparing it to Coppola's 2003 Oscar-winning "Lost in Translation." (Opens Dec. 22.)

The holiday week is a little slow on TV, but PBS's "The Calling" sounds fascinating. The two-part, four-hour series follows the stories of seven young people — Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim — who are training for religious careers. Those aren't exactly hip and cool fields to enter these days, but even in our modern world, there are those who listen to a voice many of us cannot hear. The woman who coaches a basketball team while wearing Muslim headcovering is especially fascinating. (Dec. 20 and 21, 9 p.m., PBS.)

Winner for the weirdest use of a sponsor's name in a TV program? "Musselman's Applesauce Presents Brian Boitano's Skating Spectacular," hands down. But that doesn't mean we aren't going to tune in — who couldn't settle in on the couch to catch some cool flips and spins while recovering from too much holiday cheer? Oh, and the musical group Heart is somehow involved. Double win! (Dec. 26, 4 p.m., NBC.)

Gordon Gekko is back, and this time he's ... a good guy? Michael Douglas stars in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," and he's resurrecting the 1980s tycoon for a new era. The film received mixed reviews (the Daily Mirror sneered "money never sleeps, but you might") but most critics praised Douglas' performance. Sadly, it may be one of his last — the actor is fighting advanced throat cancer. (Out on DVD Dec. 21.)

Angelina Jolie proves that women, too, can be action heroes with "Salt." She plays a CIA agent who goes on the run after a defector accuses her of being a spy. Of course nothing is simple, and no one can be trusted. Jolie can run with the big action studs, no question — Roger Ebert wrote that the film suspends the laws of physics in the same way as a Road Runner cartoon — but if an action flick is what you want, "Salt" doesn't disappoint. (Out on DVD Dec. 21.)

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is TODAYshow's movies editor.

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