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Movies to See Over Winter Break

Scene Staff | Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Four weeks of no class, no homework, no papers and no tests is a daunting idea. After sleeping off your finals stress for a week and preparing for a marathon of Christmas events, you might find yourself stuck at home with nothing to do. The holiday season is always full of new releases of the biggest movies of the year, and this year is no exception. From family-friendly films meant to capture the Christmas spirit to serious Oscar-contenders, December and January are chock-full of the movies that you just have to see. And with all that time on your hands, what’s stopping you?


“Arthur Christmas”

In theaters now

This is the tale of Arthur Claus, Santa’s son. His older brother, Steve, is the head of the house, and next in line for Santa. Arthur, awkward and easily excited, sits on the sidelines and tries not to cause trouble — until one little girl’s present gets left behind. As the only one who cares, Arthur takes charge and becomes the unlikely hero of the story, saving Christmas, at least for that little girl. This story reminds that we should always try to make Christmas special for everyone. This movie is a perfect choice for the holiday season, and they also giftwrap a polar bear to boot.


“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

Dec. 9

With an all-star cast featuring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and every other famous British actor you know (outside of “Harry Potter,” at least) this adaptation of John le Carre’s espionage thriller finally opens in America. Deep in the midst of the Cold War, Gary Oldman’s MI6 agent is forced out of retirement to uncover a Soviet agent amongst the ranks of Britain’s intelligence elite. The film has received mostly positive reviews abroad and Oldman is garnering some serious buzz for awards season.


“New Year’s Eve”

Dec. 9

Another movie is trying to adopt the “Love Actually” model, blending together the storylines of a number of different people into one movie. From a pregnant couple to friends on the verge of falling in love to a man trying to find an amazing woman he randomly met the year before, this movie seems to have almost every cliché known to man — and every attractive celebrity. But many of the vignettes are heartwarming and if you like romantic comedies, this seems like a safe bet. Hopefully this movie will be better than “Valentine’s Day,” which seemed to have a similar plot idea.


“Young Adult”

Dec. 9

Feeling a void of snarky, quirky dialogue in your movies lately? “Juno” director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody team up again for “Young Adult,” a dramedy that has Charlize Theron playing delightfully bad-behaving teen lit author Mavis. When Mavis returns to her hometown, she tries to win back her married high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson) and relive her glory days of high school. She’s not really a character we’re supposed to root for, so it should be interesting to see how or if Reitman, Cody and Theron make this questionable character likeable.


“The Sitter”

Dec. 9

Jonah Hill stars as the world’s most irresponsible babysitter in what looks like another slacker movie. Hill appears to have no regard for the safety of the children as he drags them along to booze fueled romps and seedy neighborhoods. Though Hill may not have the ability to carry a film, it looks like he is backed by a crew of genuinely funny kids, played by Max Records, Landry Bender and Kevin Hernandez.


“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”

Dec. 16

After being pleasantly surprised by the first “Sherlock Holmes,” the sequel “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” appears to be equally as thrilling. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Holmes with Jude Law as the begrudgingly straight-laced sidekick Watson. It’s the perfect action flick with an alluring period piece aesthetic.



Dec. 16

Famed director Roman Polanski brings the acclaimed play “God of Carnage” to the big screen with help from playwright Yasmina Reza. The story, about two couples that meet to discuss a fight between their young sons, devolves into chaos as the parents lose all traces of civility and resort to childish arguing in an attempt to resolve differences. The couples are played by Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz.


“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked”

Dec. 16

I thought it would be impossible to name another “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie after the Squeakquel, but they’ve done it. As one might glean from the subtitle, this third installment in the chipmunk franchise features the guys on a cruise and somehow they get shipwrecked. Full of pop cultural references and animated animals doing silly things, this movie should be fun for the whole family. And with Jason Lee and David Cross as the real people in the film, it hopefully won’t be too silly. 


“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”

Dec. 16 in IMAX, Dec. 21 everywhere else

Though it would have been cooler if the whole title were rendered with two colons, Ghost Protocol offers everything that fans of the series and of action movies have come to expect. There are terrorist bombings, international relations disasters and Tom Cruise as an off-the-grid agent who, with his team, has to save the world or something. Also starring are talented actors Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg, not to mention writing and producing by J.J. Abrams. But the real draw to see the film in select IMAX theatres is for the prologue of “The Dark Knight Rises.”


“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

Dec. 21

The new David Fincher film — based on the hit Swedish novel of the same name by Steig Larrsson — has billed itself as the “feel bad movie of Christmas.” Following the investigation into a 40-year-old murder joined with plots of sadism, sexual violence and general mistreatment of women, that label is probably correct. However, “Dragon Tattoo,” which stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara as anti-heroes Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, respectively, isn’t about exploiting these issues for sensation and box office dollars. Rather, the film tells an incredibly dense story about the travesties people will commit against other human beings and the ways that one chooses to deal with that. Even if the material sounds dark, don’t deny yourself a wonderfully complex mystery story that is equally chilling and fascinating. Check out the superb Swedish film as well.


“The Adventures of Tintin”

Dec. 21

Tintin, a beloved hero of European culture, hasn’t found the same rabid fan base on this side of the Atlantic. However, the story of an intrepid and stalwart young journalist, who will willingly jump into danger to solve a crime or mystery, has become one of the greatest animated movies this Christmas. Steven Spielberg, who has often compared “Indiana Jones” to “Tintin,” tackles motion capture for the first time to bring the animated world of “Tintin” cartoons to life. “Tintin” has already become a global blockbuster and promises fun for all ages in the holiday season.


“We Bought a Zoo”

Dec. 23

In this film, Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a recently widowed father of two who moves to the countryside to try and start a new life for his family. The catch — the house he bought contains a zoo in the backyard. He hopes to renovate the struggling zoo, and in doing so, finds new meaning in his life and reconnects with his son. And he finds love with one of the zoo workers, played by Scarlett Johansson. The plot seems fairly predictable, but Damon’s character is engaging and Elle Fanning is adorable as his young daughter, making for a fun movie to see with the whole family.


“The Darkest Hour”

Dec. 25

The perfect Christmas movie, “The Darkest Hour” finds a group of young Americans, including Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby and Max Minghella, stuck in Moscow during an alien attack. These elusive aliens wreak havoc on the Russian capital. The aliens go for Earth’s power supply and this rag-tag band of heroes exploits electricity to find the aliens’ weakness. Full of all the action sequences and special effects you’ve come to love about science fiction movies, “The Darkest Hour” looks like it could be a genuinely scary take on the genre.


“War Horse”

Dec. 25

Steven Spielberg directs this moving war drama about the bonds of friendship between a boy and his horse that survive separation during World War I. Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine), a teenage boy living in southwestern England in 1914, must part with his beloved horse, Joey, when he is sold to the British cavalry. Joey serves on the front lines at times for the British then for the Germans. And despite being too young to enlist, Albert heads to France to save his friend. The film is a touching testament to friendship, hope and survival during a terrible time of war and promises not to leave a dry eye in the theater.


“The Iron Lady”

Dec. 31 in New York and Los Angeles, Jan. 13 everywhere else

Meryl Streep is eerily identical to Margaret Thatcher in this biopic about the former British prime minister. A non-British actress playing one of the most iconic British figures of the last few decades, Streep has been garnering early rave reviews for her portrayal. But would you expect anything less from her? The film pays particular attention to the weeks before the Falklands War in 1982 and the sacrifices Thatcher had to make to become a woman in power in a typically male-dominated profession. Even if British politics aren’t really your thing, Streep’s performance is something you should be sure to see.