Movie Reviews: What Movies to See Over the Christmas Holiday

Poptional Reading’s annual review of the newest 13 movies in theaters at Christmas (and who to watch them with)



hugo movieHugo photograph by Jaap Buitendijk © 2011 GK Films, LLC. All Rights Reserved

In recent years, it’s become almost a cliché that those 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 who?

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 are my suggestions for what to see and who to bring over the holidays:

the artist movie

The Artist photograph courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Your Grandparents or Anyone Who Loves Silent Film: Hugo or The Artist
Hugo, based on Brian O. Selznick’s illustrated bestseller The Invention of Hugo Cabret, may ostensibly be a movie for kids. But in the hands of Martin Scorsese... it isn’t. Selznick and Scorsese lovingly thread the history of cinema throughout the story, and there are so many homages to silent films that’ll probably go right over the heads of young ones. The Artist goes one step further — 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 out of them that’s 100 percent charming.

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the adventures of tintin movie

The Adventures of Tintin photograph © 2011 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved

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 this summer’s Super 8?), 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 movie

War Horse photograph by Andrew Cooper, SMPSP © DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. All rights reserved

War Horse is also an adaptation — it was first a young-adult 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.

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mission impossible ghost protocol movie

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol photograph courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic © 2011 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved

Your Teens: Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
It’s Tom Cruise doing what Tom Cruise does — scaling the outside 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, JJ Abrams, who worked on Star Trek and Super 8, so let’s hope some of that M:I magic rubs off on Bird as well.

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the sitter movie

The Sitter photograph by Jessica Miglio TM © 2011 and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved

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, having been released practically on top of each other. So it was smart for The Sitter to wait it out until the end of the year, where there are so many “worthy” flicks coming out that fans of cursing, casual drug use, and all-around mayhem are dying for a movie of their own. But while The Sitterdescribed by the L Magazine as Adventures in Babysitting meets After Hours — is certainly filthy, it also comes from arthouse director David Gordon Green (George Washington, Snow Angels), so there is surprisingly good filmmaking behind all the f-bombs.

» Check out our review of The Sitter here

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tinker tailor soldier spy movieTinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy photograph by Jack English

Your Uncle Who’s Addicted to the History Channel: 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; he said that, when the BBC broadcasted 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. Expect lots of slow-burning intrigue in the movie, which is about a mole-hunt in the British intelligence in the 1960s. And history buffs will dig the cool, period details. (At the director Q&A, at least two questions were dedicated to Gary Oldman’s glasses.)

sherlock holmes a game of shadows movie

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows photograph by Daniel Smith

Guy Ritchie may not have Alfredson’s knack for period authenticity, but there are certainly Victorian touches and a lot of masculine, amped-up energy in his take on Sherlock Holmes.

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carnage movie

Carnage photograph by Guy Ferrandis, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

That Literary Couple Who Lets You Take Their Issues of the New Yorker: Carnage or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Talk about high-brow: Carnage, 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 — a group with 12 Oscar nominations between them. The plot, which seems like it’d resonate with those in our area, centers around two sets of parents meeting to discuss an incident that happened between their children.

extremely loud and incredibly close movie

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close photograph by François Duhamel

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close may have less-arty intentions. The movie — about a nine-year-old who, after finding a key that belonged to his father who died on 9/11, sets out to find the lock — is based on a novel by literary superstar Jonathan Safran Foer.

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young adult movie

Young Adult photograph © 2011 Paramount Pictures and Mercury Productions, LLC. All rights reserved

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 reunites 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.

» Check out our review of Young Adult here

we bought a zoo movie
We Bought a Zoo photograph by Neal Preston TM and © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved

We Bought a Zoo, on the other hand — about a guy who buys a run-down zoo and fixes it up with his kids after his wife dies — is not very good. (I had a chance to see a sneak preview at 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.

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the girl with the dragon tattoo movie

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo photograph by Merrick Morton © 2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved

Your Book Group, the People in Your Oscar Pool, or Basically Anyone Else That can See an R-Rated Movie: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Billions of people read the Stieg Larsson novel, and many stayed on to watch the Swedish movie starring Noomi Rapace. But if there’s room in your heart for one more run with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you may be rewarded. Delivered via Oscar-nominated The Social Network director David Fincher, the film stars Bedford native Rooney Mara (she’s the one who has the amazing break-up, 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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About This Blog

Marisa LaScala

Marisa LaScala
Elmsford, NY


Associate Editor Marisa LaScala joined Westchester magazine in 2003, and ever since she's blown every paycheck at the Greenburgh Multiplex. She also staunchly defends Richard Kelly, doesn't mind spoiling the endings of trashy movies you're curious about but don't want to pay to see, wishes the Hold Steady would come back and rock out Westchester, misses Arrested Development more than anyone can imagine, and still watches cartoons and Saturday Night Live. You can find more of her cultural criticism at www.popmatters.com, where she is a staff writer.

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