What Movies To See (And Skip) This Christmas Weekend

There are a lot of options if you’re going to the movies on Dec. 25 (with Chinese food in tow) or if you plan on heading to the theater later on this weekend. So, consider this guide our gift to you. posted on

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1. American Hustle

When did it come out? Limited release on Dec. 20; wide release on Dec. 25

What’s it about? Loosely based on the Abscam scandal that put several congressmen and a U.S. senator in jail in the early ’80s, Hustle sees director David O. Russell pull out on-point and often hilarious performances from his stars — Christian Bale as a con man, Amy Adams as his mistress, Bradley Cooper as a striving federal agent, and Jennifer Lawrence as his wife — in this loose morality tale.

Who’s in it? Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K.

Who should see it? This one’s rated R and deservedly so. Still, anyone in high school could handle the film’s loose-cannon action.

Verdict: This is an Oscar favorite; go see it.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

When does it come out? Dec. 25

What’s it about? An absolutely insane film adaptation of the memoir of Jordan Belfort, who built up a fortune peddling bullshit and penny stocks in the late ’80s and early ’90s before his scam fell apart and he ended up in the slammer. With Leonardo DiCaprio playing the brash and ballsy Belfort, Martin Scorsese’s film plays like a smarter, more relevant Great Gatsby.

Who’s in it? Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Cristin Milioti

Who should see it? If you like cocaine and breasts, this is the film for you! It’s a great movie, but it was nearly NC-17, so maybe don’t see it with your parents (or with your kids).

Verdict: Definitely see it, just perhaps not with the family.

3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

When does it come out? Dec. 25

What’s it about? This adaptation of James Thurber’s classic short story is placed in modern times with Ben Stiller playing the titular character who works at Life magazine. He imagines himself on the sort of adventures that the fabled periodical depicts in photos, while an amazingly bearded Adam Scott plays his work adversary and Kristen Wiig co-stars as his love interest.

Who’s in it? Ben Stiller, Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Kathryn Hahn

Who should see it? It hasn’t gotten very good reviews, but anyone who likes Arcade Fire and is looking for some adventurous family fare might enjoy it.

Verdict: Sure, see it — it’s Christmas!

4. Grudge Match

When does it come out? Dec. 25

What’s it about? Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone are old boxers who return to the ring for one last fight. Raging Bull vs. Rocky!

Who’s in it? Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart, Kim Basinger, Aan Arkin

Who should see it? Well, it’s sort of a novelty, and if you’re afraid of mortality, this may not be the best use of your Christmas movie time. But if you like old stars doing their thing, why not?

Verdict: Only if you get sold out of every other movie in the theater. Or just love Rocky.

5. 47 Ronin

When does it come out? Dec. 25

What’s it about? Keanu Reeves and samurai.

Who’s in it? Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada

Who should see it? Anyone who wants a mindless, overly expensive action flick and doesn’t care much about a script.

Verdict: You should probably wait for this to come out on demand, unless you really want to see it in 3D, in which case, re-evaluate your moviegoing priorities.

6. August: Osage County

When does it come out? Limited release on Dec. 27; wide release on Jan. 10

What’s it about? An adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the big screen version of this tragicomedy centers on an Oklahoma family that reunites upon the death of its patriarch. Rivalries, bitterness, secrets, and new developments all pour out, resulting in fireworks.

Who’s in it? Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margot Martindale, Abigail Breslin

Who should see it? Looking for some highbrow film without having to sacrifice enjoyment? This one should do it for you. No kids, probably.

Verdict: Though it’s gotten mediocre reviews, you’ll have a good time if you go see it.

7. Saving Mr. Banks

When did it come out? Dec. 20

What’s it about?: We may know how this behind-the-scenes look at Walt Disney’s legendarily contentious struggle to adapt PL Travers’ novel Mary Poppins for the big screen ends, of course, but the battles within the movie between icy and principled Travers (Emma Thompson) and showman Disney (Tom Hanks) are the real story here. The movie obviously skews toward Disney, given that Walt Disney Pictures produced it, but it’s still quite compelling.

Who’s in it? Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novack, Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell

Who should see it? This one is definitely good for the whole family. Disney fans will love it.

Verdict: If you haven’t seen it already, and your family includes young kids, this is probably a good bet.

8. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

When did it come out? Dec. 18

What’s it about? This under-the-radar film is a follow-up to the 2004 cult hit and frat-boy-catchphrase-generator Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. In the sequel, Will Ferrell returns as the titular doofus newscaster, whose travels take him to New York City at the dawn of the ’80s.

Who’s in it? Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Dave Koechner, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, Greg Kinnear, Meagan Good, James Marsden

Who should see it? At PG-13, with only cartoonish violence and little skin, it’s probably fine for the whole family.

Verdict: If you want to laugh, this is your best bet.

9. Her

When did it come out? Limited release on Dec. 18

What’s it about? A soulful film set in a near future where cell phones can become sentient beings using advanced artificial intelligence. Joaquin Phoenix plays a depressed guy who falls in love with the “woman” in his phone, who’s voiced by Scarlett Johansson. A look at the coming reality of our always-connected lives, Spike Jonze’s film will make you put away your iPhone… for at least a few minutes this weekend.

Who’s in it? Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt

Who should see it? It’s rated R, so adults have to accompany kids, which doesn’t seem necessary for this film. Then again, maybe this should be your time away from the kids.

Verdict: It’s a great movie that will make you think, and if you’re okay with that during Christmastime, go see it ASAP.

10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

When did it come out? Dec. 13

What’s it about? The middle chapter of Peter Jackson’s second middle-earth franchise (adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings prequel series) is still fun (maybe too much fun!), with lots of set pieces and a long game of footsie with a dragon.

Who’s in it? Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch

Who should see it?: Kids, geeks, and maybe you, if you saw the first one and desperately need semi-closure.

Verdict: Sure, why not?

11. Inside Llewyn Davis

When did it come out? Limited release on Dec. 6; slowly expanding nationally

What’s it about? This is the Coen Brothers’ glimpse into the folk scene of early ’60s Greenwich Village, in the days right before the emergence of Bob Dylan as the neighborhood’s leading man. Oscar Isaac plays a sad sack, irascible singer-songwriter reeling from the deaths of both his music partner and his own sense of joy. He gives a performance that puts you on his side, even as he disappoints everyone around him; his soulful singing makes it impossible not to sympathize — and for many, empathize.

Who’s in it? Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver

Who should see it? Everyone who loves music, has ever felt depressed, wants to see a breakout star, or has a passion for old New York.

Verdict: Basically, everyone should see it.

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