3pm on Christmas Day. Presents are open. Lunch served and consumed. No one cares about the NBA and you’ve already watched A Christmas Story eight times on TNT. Time to get out of the house and see a movie! Fortunately, Hollywood did a much better job this year than last year and there are plenty of excellent choices that should satisfy most everyone you want to get out of the house.
Django Unchained probably isn’t for everyone, but this one’s a winner if you enjoy Quentin Tarantino’s talky characters, slo-mo showers of blood and spaghetti westerns. The reviews are mixed, the racially-charged language is pretty harsh and this one might not be as spectacular as Inglourious Basterds, but you’ll enjoy it if you think you’re interested.
If you’ve got to take grandma and the kids, consider Lincoln. Written by the guy who scripted Munich for Spielberg, the movie plays more like a political thriller than a boring historical movie. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the president as guy who wears everyone out with his interminable stories, so your irritating uncle should find something to identify with here. This is an outstanding movie and it might be your Best Picture come Oscar time.
Fans of the Lee Child novels are really pissed off that weird short guy Tom Cruise is playing Jack Reacher, a character described as a 6′ 5″ behemoth in the books. If you’re not already invested in the character, this movie might surprise you. Cruise is so good you forget all the nonsense from the last decade or so and director Christopher McQuarrie makes Pittsburgh look like one of the most exciting places in the universe. This one’s a real surprise.
Silver Linings Playbook has a great subplot about Philadelphia Eagles fans and fantastic performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro. If you think this one’s a sappy dysfunctional family feel-good picture, think again. The characters are unapologetically screwed up and director David O. Russell presents mental illness as more of a chronic condition to be managed than as something that either gets cured or leads to a giant tragedy. This movie’s not a bummer but it’s not easy either. Don’t take the kids.
No one here’s seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey but you’ve probably already seen it if the movie’s high on your wish list. Director Peter Jackson filmed the movie in the new 48 frames per second format, which is double the 24 fps rate you’re used to. The enhanced images are freaking some viewers out and you have to decide which format you want to see if you’re committing to the almost three-hour experience. You can see the movie five different ways, least controversially in standard 2D, regular 3D or regular 3D IMAX. There are a lot of places showing the film in 48fps 3D (locations listed here) and a very few places showing The Hobbit in super-elaborate 48fps 3D IMAX (list here). If you’re interested in the latest tech, you probably have to check this out.
Life of Pi almost makes up for its fuzzy spiritualism with some of the most spectacular effects ever generated by a computer.
Still hanging around.
If you haven’t seen the James Bond in Skyfall or Ben Affleck’s Iranian hostage crisis thriller Argo, you not going to go wrong with either one. Hyde Park on Hudson tells the story of FDR’s party for the King of England and Hitchock riffs on the director’s experiences making Psycho.
For the Kids
If you’ve got a houseful of kids, you can’t go wrong with Monsters, Inc. in 3D. Santa superhero movie The Rise of the Guardians is still in theaters and Parental Guidance is out there if your kids think grandpa getting punched in the nuts is funny.
Also on the list
If your mom loves Barbra Streisand, you might have to see The Guilt Trip. Too bad for you. Don’t believe the posters: This is 40 is not actually a sequel to Knocked Up. It’s a tortured reminder of how miserable the 1% choose to be in spite of their good fortune. You know if you want to see Les Miserables. Good luck to you if that’s what you want.
Finally, you wish you could see Zero Dark Thirty. If you’re in NYC or LA, get to the theaters. If not, you have to wait until January 11th.