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Christmas in the Canyon » 6:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, through Dec. 23, Tuacahn Center for the Arts, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins. A live Nativity is presented each night in the amphitheater at 7 and 8 p.m. Nativity admission $2 per person or $10 per family. For more information, www.tuacahn.org or 435-652-3300.
In the Oscar-bait month of December, the best things hitting theaters today are action blockbusters.
Topping the week is "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," the fourth in the rousing Tom Cruise-starring actioners based on Bruce Geller’s iconic TV series. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt gets framed for blowing up the Kremlin, so he must re-assemble his now-fugitive IMF team (Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and returning Simon Pegg) to find the real culprit, a madman (Michael Nykqist) bent on starting a nuclear war. Director Brad Bird, making his live-action debut after his great Pixar work ("The Incredibles," "Ratatouille"), keeps the action moving fast and furious, and the script stays true to the series’ all-for-one ethic. (The movie opens today on IMAX and select XD screens, and opens everywhere next Wednesday.)
Nearly as good is "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," director Guy Ritchie’s second attempt to turn Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s renowned detective into an action hero. This one works better, largely because Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) has a deliciously devious opponent, Prof. James Moriarty (Jared Harris). Holmes has his trusty friend Watson (Jude Law) on his side, as well as a gypsy fortuneteller (Noomi Rapace). The action is kinetic, and the script stays surprisingly faithful to Conan Doyle’s "The Final Problem."
(Both "Sherlock Holmes" and "Mission: Impossible" feature actors from the Swedish version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Rapace played Goth hacker Lisbeth Salander, and Nykqist played journalist Mikael Blomkvist.)
Also good this week is "Young Adult," which reteams "Juno" director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody in a scathingly funny character study of a pretty girl gone bad. Charlize Theron is terrific as Mavis, a semi-alcoholic writer who decides to go back to her small Minnesota hometown to reclaim her high-school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) — who’s married with a new baby. Also good is Patton Oswalt as a nerdy former classmate who sees through Mavis’ self-delusion.
The other big studio movie this weekend is "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked," in which the singing computer-animated furballs are stranded on a deserted island. It’s the best of the series, though that’s not saying much and there are far better children’s movies out there ("The Muppets," "Arthur Christmas" and "Hugo" among them).
On the art-house side, there’s Werner Herzog’s "Into the Abyss," a documentary about the death penalty that examines a Texas triple-murder case. Herzog’s interviews, especially with the about-to-die killer Michael James Perry, are incisive, but there’s not much added to the discussion that you wouldn’t find on a cable-TV documentary.
Lastly, there’s German writer-director Tom Tykwer’s "3," an artily pretentious romantic comedy-drama about a woman and her boyfriend who both fall for the same guy.
Sean P. Means
Utah Grizzlies vs. Colorado » 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Maverik Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City. Tickets, utahgrizzlies.com.
Utah men’s basketball vs. Idaho State » 7 p.m. Friday, Huntsman Center, 1825 E. South Campus Drive. Tickets, utahtickets.com.
BYU men’s basketball vs. Baylor » Noon Saturday, Marriott Center, 500 E. University Parkway, Provo. Tickets, www.byucougars.com.
Utah women’s basketball vs. Texas Southern » 3 p.m. Saturday, Huntsman Center, 1825 E. South Campus Drive. Tickets, utahtickets.com.
Utah State men’s basketball vs. Seattle University » 7:05 p.m. Saturday, Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, 900 N. 800 East, Logan. Tickets, www.utahstateaggies.com.
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