The only thing I love more than Christmas is replacing the dead time after the little ones open presents with a trip to the movie theatre. Whether you’re ducking out on carving the roast beast, sidestepping children on Christmas PCP, or happen to be a devout practitioner of Festivus, an under-attended movie theatre is the perfect place to blow off a little holiday steam.
These last weeks of the year are a time for families and giving, so give yourself a break from the family and buy some $10 Mike and Ikes. Even if the clan tags along, the following movies will give you the best bang for your yuletide buck.
The Darkest Hour (PG-13)
I don’t expect great things from this sci-fi thriller, but The Darkest Hour opens on Christmas Day and has geared their advertising towards Christmas crowds with the infinitely reusable slogan, “Survive the Holidays.” So I thought I’d reward their shameless pandering. Using a teenage Leonardo DiCaprio look-alike and the hottie from transformers as the main draw, Darkest Hour has opted for style over substance, making it the perfect metaphor for the commercialization of Christmas. Even if you don’t buy into the allegory, watching attractive twenty-something-year-old “teenagers” save the planet from glowing alien strings that eviscerate everyone on contact but the main characters, will either be unintentionally hilarious, or better than expected—either way you can’t go wrong.
War Horse (PG-13)
Based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel of the same name, War Horse is a touching adventure drama about a boy and his horse, set during WWI. Why should you see it? For starters, audiences identify with horses on screen more than any other animal, and as an audience member, you’ll probably get all weepy like the rest of us. Couple that logic with the fact that any movie centered on horses historically does well—Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, Horse Whisperer, Seabiscuit, Secretariat, etc.—and that Steven Spielberg doesn’t know how to make uninspiring war epics, and you have the recipe for a Christmas well-spent. Let me put it this way: if you can only see one movie on Christmas, and your choices are War Horse and any other flick, bet on War Horse.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (PG)
Spielberg’s other holiday offering is a lighthearted adventure that follows Tintin and his dog Snowy around the globe as he uncovers…well, The Secret of the Unicorn. It’s been described as a blend of Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean, which is high praise if you’re going off the first installments of each series, and a dubious recommendation if you’re referencing the last in either. Since Tintin is a collaboration between two of the most accomplished directors alive—Spielberg and Peter Jackson—I’ll take the comparison to mean the former and will probably skip over to Tintin right after War Horse to make it a Spielberg double-feature.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (PG-13)
This will be on limited release come December 25, but it’s worth looking into if catharsis and inspiration sound at all appealing. Since the bulk of the movie is set in the aftermath of September 11, “Loud and Close” is certainly heavier than the other films profiled here, but based on how often I teared up during the preview, I assume that it’s full of melancholic joy as well. The film follows a genius 11-year-old as he searches for the lock that matches a key left behind by his deceased father. The resulting journey is an inspiring story that, while heartbreaking, is sure to foster the kind of spirit that makes Christmas a special time of year.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (PG-13)
The filmographic saga of Mission Impossible is perplexing. The first film was quite good; the second, unbearable; the third, an impressive rebound; and the fourth…? The fourth MI installment, Ghost Protocol, is being touted as the franchise’s best product. In an era where sequels get progressively worse as the story drags on, Mission Impossible represents the rare series that learns from its mistakes and innovates on the fly. The plot of Ghost Protocol is implausible—IMF gets shut down after being implicated in a terrorist bombing—but the acting and intensity in this film is the best anyone can expect of the Action genre.
Think you might need a break from all the Christmas cheer, head to the theater on Christmas day and check out one of these flicks.
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