What Movies to See Over the Christmas Holiday?

In recent years, it’s become almost a cliché that people who don’t celebrate Christmas head out to the multiplex on December 25. I’m here to dispel the stereotype: I do celebrate Christmas, and I’m off at the movies with everyone else as soon as I’m done opening presents. And I return a couple more times over the week that follows—it’s a long break with a lot of time to fill. The only questions: What to see, and with whom?

I have to say, this year’s choices look pretty good. There’s a large variety, from big-action flicks to crime thrillers to Oscar bait to two Spielberg movies. Here, my suggestions for what to see and whom to take with you over the holidays.

Take Your Grandparents, or Anyone Who Loves Silent Film

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The Artist photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Hugo or The Artist
Hugo may ostensibly be a movie for kids, being based on the bestselling illustrated book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, but, in the hands of Martin Scorsese, of course it isn’t just for kids. Selznick and Scorsese lovingly thread the history of cinema throughout the story, and there are so many homages to silent films that will probably go right over the heads of kids. The Artist goes one better—it pretty much is a silent film. Director Michel Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo affectionately recreate some of the genre’s tropes and make a movie that’s 100 percent charming out of them.

Take Your Younger Kids, or Any Fan of Steven Spielberg
The Adventures of Tintin or War Horse
Nostalgia is running high, and people have a hankering for the type of blockbuster-with-heart movies Steven Spielberg makes—remember Super 8 from this summer?—and he’s heeded the call with not one but two big holiday spectacles. The Adventures of Tintin brings the Hergé comic book series to the big screen through the power of motion-capture animation (and a little help from friend Peter Jackson). The movie, based on Tintin comic The Secret of the Unicorn (among others), is a big adventure with thrilling action sequences around every turn. War Horse is also an adaptation—it was first a children’s novel, then a Broadway play—but this one stars flesh-and-blood actors (on two legs and four). The story follows parallel stories in World War I, as a boy and his horse are both separated and go off to battle. Expect Spielberg’s trademark cinematography, which is bafflingly gorgeous, along with demonstrations of his ability to tug at the heartstrings.

Your Teens
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible photo courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic © 2011 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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It’s Tom Cruise doing what Tom Cruise does—scaling the outsides of buildings, breaking through windows, and performing all other manner of extreme espionage. This entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise is the first live-action movie directed by Brad Bird, who previously helmed amazing animated features like The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. The previous Mission: Impossible installment was also done by a first-time feature director, J.J. Abrams, who went on to do Star Trek and Super 8, so let’s hope some of that M:I magic rubs off on Bird as well.

Your Kids Just Home from College
The Sitter
R-rated comedies, like Bridesmaids or The Hangover Part II, were a big trend in the summer, when they came out practically on top of each other. It was smart for The Sitter, then, to wait it out until the end of the year, when there are so many “worthy” movies coming out that fans of cursing, casual drug use and all-around mayhem are dying for a movie of their own. But, while The Sitter—described by the L Magazine as Adventures in Babysitting meets After Hours—is certainly filthy, it also comes from art-house director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Snow Angels), so there is surprisingly good filmmaking behind all the f-bombs.

Your Uncle Who’s Addicted to the History Channel

Sherlock Holmes photo by Daniel Smith

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
I saw an early screening of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy at the Museum of the Moving Image with director Tomas Alfredson, and he said that, when the BBC broadcast its miniseries adaptation of the John le Carré novel, it was something that all of the neighborhood dads were into. I can see why it’s good material for a dad. There’s lots of slow-burning intrigue in the movie, which is about a mole-hunt in the British intelligence in the 1960s. In addition to all of the intrigue, there are lots of cool, period details to take in. (At the director Q&A, there were at least two questions about Gary Oldman’s glasses.) Guy Ritchie may not have Alfredson’s knack for period authenticity, but there are certainly Victorian touches, and there’s a lot of masculine, amped-up energy to his take on Sherlock Holmes.

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That Literary Couple Who Lets You Take Their Issues of the New Yorker
Carnage or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Talk about high-brow: Carnage is an adaptation of the Tony-winning play, God of Carnage, is directed by Roman Polanski, and stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly, who’ve amassed a group with 12 Oscar nominations between them. The plot seems like it’d resonate with those in our area: It’s about two sets of parents meeting to discuss an incident that happened between their children. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close may have less-arty intentions, but the movie—about a nine-year-old who finds a key that belonged to his father, who died on 9/11, and sets out to find the lock—is based on a novel by literary superstar Jonathan Safran Foer.

Your Frenemy
Young Adult or We Bought a Zoo
The mentality behind bringing your frenemy to Young Adult is very different from the metnailtiy behind bringing your frenemy to We Bought a Zoo. Young Adult, which re-teams the writer and director behind Juno, is about a scheming, unpleasant writer who, after finding success as a young adult author, returns to her hometown to try and lure her high-school sweetheart away from his new wife and baby. Maybe your frenemy will use the story as a cautionary tale and seek to find a new path. We Bought a Zoo, on the other hand—which is about a guy who decides to buy a run-down zoo and fix it up with his kids after his wife dies—is not very good. (I had a chance to see a sneak preview at, of all places, the Colonie Center in Albany.) If you want to subject your frenemy to some punishment, suggest this mix of haphazard heart-tugging and unlikable underdogs, both human and animal.  

Your Book Group, the People in Your Oscar Pool, or Basically Anyone Else Who Can See an R-Rated Movie
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Billions of people read the Stieg Larsson novel, many stayed on to watch the Swedish-language movie starring Noomi Rapace, but, if there’s room in your heart for one more run at The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you may be rewarded. The movie comes to us via Oscar-nominated The Social Network director David Fincher, and stars Rooney Mara, who I just found out is a native of Bedford. (You know her—she’s the one who has the amazing breakup, kiss-off scene in the beginning of The Social Network.) Trailers call it “The Feel-Bad Movie of Christmas,” but I’m sure they mean that in the best way possible.


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