If you want to see Meryl Streep giving one of her signature dramatic performances this holiday season, rent "The Manchurian Candidate" -- the DVD comes out Dec. 21. The two-time Oscar-winning actress sends chills up the spine as an ambitious senator in cahoots with a ruthless corporation.
But if you'd rather see the 55-year-old actress (who has never met an accent she couldn't conquer) as a zany character, you need look no further than "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events." Based on the children's book by Daniel Handler, the Paramount release opens Friday,
Streep resembles a demented Alice Roosevelt -- complete with vintage glasses propped askew on her distinct nose and her hair piled on top of her head in a lopsided bun -- as the paranoid, high-strung Aunt Josephine, who becomes the guardian of three orphaned children after their first caretaker, a vile ham actor who calls himself Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), tries to kill the kids for their inheritance.
Aunt Josephine, a widow who once was a great adventuress, is afraid of her own shadow. Her house perched perilously on a cliff is always cold because she's worried the radiator might explode; she doesn't want the children to get near the refrigerator because she frets it could topple and crush them; and she refuses to use the telephone for fear of being electrocuted.
And don't even mention the giant, hungry leeches that live in the sea below her house. In fact, the only thing she doesn't fear is grammar.