With Christmas around the corner, we’re going to see a huge influx of excellent, award-calibre movies opening at the box office over the next few weeks as studios try to get you into the theatre and away from your families. Here’s a look at some of the better choices to spend your money on, courtesy Brian McKechnie and Andrew Parker from Criticize This!
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Christmas Day in limited release across Canada) – Director Stephen Daldry (The Hours) has crafted the tearjerker of the season with this haunting, moving, and hopeful tale of a neurotic young boy (an amazing Thomas Horn) as he sets about on a quest around New York City to find a lock for a mysterious key left behind by his father (Tom Hanks) who died in 9/11. One of the best films of the year, this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s popular novel, is expertly directed and acted while also being one of the best looking films of the year. It’s hard not to get misty eyed while watching it, but Daldry comes by the emotion naturally and not through hokey manipulation. ****1/2 (out of 5 stars) – AP
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (December 21) – David Fincher’s English adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is just as dark and intense as the Swedish version that haunted filmgoers two years ago. Starring Daniel Craig as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, the troubled computer-hacking punk chick he befriends to help with a case he’s working on, the film is a solid thriller that will have you glued to your seat and will leave you unsettled and yearning for more. It might not make you feel all cheery over the holidays, but like Fincher’s Se7en, you will never forget it. **** (out of 5 stars). – BM
The Adventures of Tintin (currently playing in Quebec, expanding December 21) – Leave it up to director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson to not only make 3-D and motion-capture technology work well together AND actually look stunning, but to also make the best animated film of the year. Based on the classic series by Hergé, The Adventures of Tintin is a fun and exciting tale that follows young reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) on an awesome treasure hunt with the tipsy Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis). This is one film you can enjoy with the whole family over the holidays. **** (out of 5 stars). – BM
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (currently playing in select IMAX theatres, expanding December 21) – Animated film director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Iron Giant) jumps into the live-action world and brings along the most accessible film in the Mission: Impossible franchise yet. This time around super spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his new team of agents (played by Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner) must stop a mad man with the codes to launch a nuclear missile pointed at the United States. It’s an adrenaline rush from beginning to end and will not disappoint (especially if you catch it on a real IMAX screen). **** (out of 5 stars). – BM
War Horse (Christmas Day) – With War Horse, the sprawling tale of a young man (Jeremy Irvine) who’s forced to part with his horse to better the World War I efforts in Britain, director Steven Spielberg is actively trying to win every Oscar he possibly can. But while the film is easily 30 minutes too long and John Williams’ score is as overbearing as ever, Spielberg still knows how to create a heartwarming spectacle that will appeal to history buffs and tearjerker aficionados. It probably would have been excellent if not for the numerous side stories that bog down the middle third of the film, but it’s still quite the accomplishment just the same. ***1/2 (out of 5 stars). – AP
Carnage (December 23 in Toronto) – Controversial director Roman Polanski returns with a great antidote for holiday sentiment. This comedy of manners (adapted from a play by Yasmina Resa) finds two pairs of parents (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) locked in a circular argument of their children’s behaviour following a schoolyard tussle. While it still feels very much like a stage play, the actors couldn’t be better for the parts, especially Foster and Waltz who attack each other with equal parts venom and glee. It’s a pretty slight work in the career of an already well established director, but that doesn’t make it any less of a joy to watch. ***1/2 (out of 5 stars). – AP
Young Adult (currently playing) - Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody re-team for this dreary look at the miserable, hard-drinking young adult author Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) who believes her high school romance (Patrick Wilson) is still in love with her and must be saved from his marriage and baby. She heads back to her hometown to find him and we get to watch her despicable display of arrogance as she attempts to destroy his life. You will probably walk out of the film hating it, but once it sinks in you may find you enjoyed the experience of watching it a lot more than you thought. Look out for an Oscar-worthy performance from comedian Patton Oswalt. *** ½ (out of 5 stars). – BM
What do you plan to catch at the theatre over the holidays? Let us know in the comments below.
Top image: Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Courtesy Sony Pictures.