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'Tis the season for Oscar contenders and blockbusters with heart. Luckily for everyone, this year has been one of the best years for movies in recent memory, hopefully cleansing your palette from last year's sub par efforts. Here are the current movies that are out now or will be released by Christmas Day that you must see.
10) Rise of the Guardians – In Theaters Now
As will be a theme for this article some movies get a bit of a bump for being family friendly. This is also the only movie that specifically centers around the holiday season and since Zero Dark Thirty isn't being widely released until January 11th, Rise of the Guardians ekes its way on to this list. It features some very good voice talent and has a likable premise. It's not going to be Pixar good, but if you have a family you can't go wrong with this one.
9) Anna Karenina – In Theaters Now
It is a visually stunning rendition of the Leo Tolstoy classic novel of the same name. Keira Knightley always does a wonderful job in these late 19th century adaptations. It is said to be an interesting and very well done adaptation. It is definitely worth a look if you like the book, enjoy romantic 19th century period pieces, or if you need some brownie points with the misses.
8) Django Unchained – December 25th
Now, if you aren't a Quentin Tarantino fan then you can skip right past this one. His first effort since Inglorious Basterds looks like it could be a more focused and balanced movie. Leonardo DiCaprio's performance looks like it could be great and Tarantino is known to get some pretty good performances out of his main actors. Tarantino wanted Will Smith for the part of Django, but Smith turned it down. Jamie Foxx is an Oscar caliber talent that could turn out to be just as good as Tarantino's first choice.
7) Life of Pi – In Theaters Now
First and foremost, it's always nice to have a movie the whole family can see and Life of Pi can fit that bill. Ang Lee swears he learned a lot since his very disappointing Hulk and by all accounts he isn't lying. Ang Lee's style is always beautiful as he imbues every shot with emotion. The movie is based on the best selling book. While the story might be a little weird for some (a shipwrecked boy must float in an escape boat with a tiger), the pure spectacle of the special effects and directorial style makes it definitely worth seeing.
6) Silver Linings Playbook – In Theaters Now
For those seeking something with a little more indie flair Silver Linings Playbook might be your best bet for something receiving Oscar buzz out the wazoo. The aforementioned Jennifer Lawrence steals the show (according to every critic ever, although I might be the only person on Earth to think she is vastly overrated) and Bradley Cooper more than holds his own as these two emotionally and mentally unstable people fall in love. Sprinkle a little Robert De Niro and you have the indie darling of the season.
5) Argo – In Theaters Now
It has been out since mid-October, so it may not still be around you by the time Christmas comes around. Argo is the much ballyhooed (and in my opinion slightly overrated) film based on the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. It is directed by Ben Affleck and stars Ben Affleck (who apparently has gone the route of Jennifer Lawrence and refuses to change his facial expression throughout the entire movie). It is a well done thriller that offers some tense moments, accurate representations of the real life characters, and some memorable images from that time period. It isn't deserving of an Oscar nomination in a year filled with so many deserving movies, but Hollywood does love when its actors become competent directors, so it wouldn't be a shock if it was nominated.
4) Les Miserables – December 25th
Yes, it is a musical. Yes, it stars a very closely shorn Anne Hathway and Hugh Jackman. And yes, shoehorning most actors into roles requiring them to sing is always hit or miss (Russell Crowe). More importantly, this is another movie that you could take the entire family to and is the most accessible musical ever made. Also, during an academy critics screening a couple weeks back, the movie received a standing ovation. So, anyone wanting to see the current clear cut favorite for this year's Best Picture Oscar might want to see this.
3) The Hobbit – December 14th
If you don't like fantasy or the original Lord of the Rings trilogy then this movie probably isn't for you. For everyone else, welcome back to Peter Jackson's glorious imagining of Tolkein's Middle Earth. The Hobbit is probably the most family accessible of all the books taking place in Middle Earth so you shouldn't have too many qualms about taking your kids to this either. Martin Freeman is a great casting choice for Bilbo Baggins, and while this movie probably won't garner serious Best Picture buzz, I'm sure it will end up being one of the most enjoyable movies you've seen all year.
2) Skyfall – In Theaters Now
Anyone who hasn't seen the latest James Bond film needs to go immediately. Despite the current trend of real world grittification of movies, which this movie implements, Skyfall is probably the most action packed thrilling James Bond in the past 20 years. This movie continues the rebooting of the franchise as many character staples of past Bonds are reintroduced. The show stopper though is Javier Bardem who plays the villain with just the right amount of creepy menace that you need for a villain in a movie where everyone already knows the good guys will win.
1) Lincoln – In Theaters Now
This year's other Best Picture contending favorite is Steven Spielberg's portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. It's chock full of actors that can actually act. The production values are incredibly high and it's about the United States' greatest president. The academy might as well just mail Daniel Day-Lewis's Oscar for Best Leading Actor right now.