The Movie Mash 2011 Holiday Movie GuideBy
Hollywood is known for bunching releases in certain time frames that fit their strategy. January and February are the dumping grounds for forgetful flops. June through August are the glory days for blockbusters full of explosions and scantily clad ladies. September through December are the months where drama reigns king. But at the end of December, as Christmas rolls around, we get an onslaught of choices that are both entertaining and award-worthy. So, how do you pick the right one for you? Our 2011 Holiday Movie Guide, of course!
There are nine high-profile movies hitting theaters between December 16th and December 30th, along with four highly-touted limited release art films. We are aware some movies will still be in theaters from late November, but this guide is focused on those releasing in the last two weeks of December. In order to make this a little more focused, we’ll give you some sub-categories for exactly what we think each type of movie lover might want.
The Action Junkie with a Summer Hangover
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol - December 16th
Director: Brad Bird
Stars: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Tom Wilkinson, Josh Holloway
The fourth installment of Tom Cruise’s spy action franchise skips out on 3D in favor of 25 minutes of “shot in IMAX” footage. According to the early buzz, this is one of the best in the series and we can likely thank director Brad Bird for that. In front of this 134-minute action movie, you’ll get a special 6-minute prologue to The Dark Knight Rises, which many would consider worth the price of admission by itself. You’ll have find a select theater to see that, though, as it’s not playing in every IMAX theater.
Ultimately, this movie is your best choice for an exciting action movie this holiday season. It will have plenty of comedic relief with Simon Pegg returning as Benji and Tom Cruise, well, being Tom Cruise – which I find funny. Take some friends, but if your family wants action, this is up to you. It’s got some lighter moments, but overall it’s a heavy spy movie. If you can’t see it in IMAX, it’s still going to give you some extravagant set pieces and please any fans of the franchise.
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows - December 16th
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams
Robert Downey, Jr. gave us a great Sherlock Holmes in his debut, but this sequel has flown relatively under the radar for what should be a tentpole release. Critics have been generally positive, but can’t seem to decide whether this is better than the first. The consensus seems to be that the first act runs a little slow, but once it picks up it never lets down. That’s a good sign for an action junkie.
It’s a little dark for a family outing, but the witty humor and cross-dressing gags might serve well for viewers of all ages. The action in Guy Ritchie’s movies tend to get a little graphic for the little ones though. This might be the best action movie in theaters for a while with the slop coming our way in January and February.
The Adventures of Tintin - December 21st
Director: Steven Spielberg
Voice Talent: Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Cary Elwes, Toby Jones, Nick Frost
Steven Spielberg is double-dipping this holiday with War Horse and this one, but when it comes to action adventure, this is his offer. We’ve seen critics compare it to Indiana Jones and that would be fitting considering the director’s action roots. His collaboration with composer John Williams has us excited, but so does the intriguing decision to use motion capture. It’s obvious that he would have never been able to make this movie as big as it seems without that technology. In addition, fans of the original comics will be pleased that he kept part of that look intact.
This is our highest recommendation if you need an action movie for the whole family. It’s got the animated look that kids will love, as well as some universal physical humor. There’s definitely a wow factor in the adventure aspect of this movie that will entertain anybody. Spielberg is the master of action for the whole family.
The Darkest Hour - December 25th
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Invisible Energy Aliens
This holiday season’s 3D action choice is yet another alien invasion movie in a year that gave us at least eight alien-related movies (not counting A Better Life). This one tries to tell the story in Russia, as opposed to the typical New York City or Los Angeles invasion experience. This is due to the director, Timur Bekmambetov, who has roots in Russia. With Emile Hirsch starring, this has a chance to be decent, but the trailer and its promotional tactics have made it seem forgettable. And there are not many discussions about it, either, which doesn’t bode well for its chances at a stuffed box office.
The effects do look very cool and it has a unique quality about it that might drive the action fan to theaters amidst the hard drama in theaters right now. Unless you have the bring the family with you, this might be a good escapist movie to catch.
The Family Prankster
Young Adult - December 16th
Director: Jason Reitman
Stars: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt
Jason Reitman (Up In The Air) and Diablo Cody (Juno) collaborate on this Charlize Theron vehicle that shows her funny side. Of course, with any Reitman movie it will have equal shares of funny and dramatic moments, but compared the rest of the crop this holiday season, this is a comedy. Critics seem to be split on this one as well, but we have faith in Charlize Theron’s ability to expose herself both emotionally and physically on screen in a genuine and touching way.
This is definitely a movie to catch with other young adults. It’s not a family movie. It’s harsh and dirty, but that’s where its charm kicks in. If you like crass humor and bitchy women, this will definitely be a good pick for you.
The Awards Seeker
War Horse - December 25th
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Jeremy Irvine, Tom Hiddleston, Horse
It’s been a while since Steven Spielberg gave us Academy bait. He returns with a fury in one of the most inspirational and the most epic movie of the year. Forget Transformers, this is 2011′s epic. John Williams and Spielberg really take it home and return to form in this one.
We’ll get more detailed in our thoughts when the review embargo lifts, but trust us, this is one of the best choices for you and your family this holiday season.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - December 20th
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Dr. Kovac from ER
David Fincher gives us his take on the beloved novels that already sparked a Swedish trilogy. Many are concerned about a re-telling so soon, but Fincher’s track record proves he deserves a chance with anything. He’s one of the top filmmakers today and his newfound style with digital cinematography and Trent Reznor music has given him a fresh way to impress us – even if Reznor’s score here gives me a headache.
There is some seriously graphic material in this one (although not nearly as graphic as the NC-17 Shame), so don’t even bother discussing it around the family But if you want to see one of the most talked about releases this year, don’t miss it. Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth Salander is bound to turn some heads.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - limited release December 25th
Director: Stephen Daldry
Stars: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, John Goodman, Max von Sydow
I have voiced my reservations about this film from the start. The trailer doesn’t help at all, with an overly sappy and melodramatic voiceover from a child actor who doesn’t seem to be that great. But it’s hard to deny the potential power of a Stephen Daldry film co-starring Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks. He’s done well with youngsters before, so hopefully it was a poorly conceived trailer. This is a 9/11-centric drama about death, so it brings with it a heavy heart and an emotional story.
While the star of this film is a young boy, it has some very mature issues about death and 9/11. Think twice about bringing the whole family to this one, but if your children are ready for that kind of emotion, it’s probably a fine choice. Still, I’m skeptical about this one, but that’s based solely on the trailer. Hopefully I’m wrong.
The Indie Lover
Albert Nobbs - limited release December 21st
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Stars: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Brendan Gleeson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Oh look, here’s a famous actress pretending to be a man. GIVE IT AN AWARD! HURRY! Ugh, how many times does this type of story have to be told? Yet, everything we hear about this one suggests its just damn good, and Glenn Close is racking up awards nominations for her performance as the titular character. Seriously though, when you look at her as Albert Nobbs, it’s really an astonishing turn. This isn’t just some actress cutting her hair short and talking with a deep voice. By all appearances, Glenn Close transformed herself completely.
In the Land of Blood and Honey - limited release December 23rd
Director: Angelina Jolie
Stars: Rade Serbedzija (“nice coat” guy from Batman Begins), Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic
Angelina Jolie’s directing debut has actually earned her some intriguing accolades that make this a movie worth checking out. Even though it focuses on the Bosnian War with an entirely foreign cast, the trailer really grabs you and showcases its grand scope of romance and war. While we still prefer War Horse for our war movie this holiday, this sounds like an alternative worth seeing, if only for Jolie’s debut.
Pariah - limited release December 28th
Director: Dee Rees
Stars: Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans, Aasha Davis
This indie earned huge buzz when it stunned audiences at this year’s Sundance festival. It focuses on the plight of a young African-American lesbian who struggles to find love in a community that couldn’t possibly respect her lifestyle. Obviously, with a plot like that this will be a heavy-handed story with a lot of emotion. It doesn’t sound like our kind of holiday experience, but it might be a nice one to kick off 2011. Maybe.
The Iron Lady - limited release December 30th
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Stars: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent
Meryl Streep plays Margaret Thatcher. Meh. Poster’s cool, though.
Our Top Pick
We Bought A Zoo – December 23rd
Director: Cameron Crowe
Stars: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones
I can’t wait to share my review on this one. It might end up being my favorite movie of the year. All you need to know at this point is that it’s Cameron Crowe at his finest. He has this uncanny power to inspire the viewer. And even if he gets cheesy at times, he has such a commercial eye that he knows how to prevent the whole movie from falling victim to that description. In addition, Crowe’s music choices are outstanding. We’ll get into more detail later, but long story short, this is the family movie of this holiday season, and maybe the whole year. We’ll put Hugo in a close second place for that title.
What Movies Do You Plan To See This Holiday Season?