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Ten Big Holiday Films and the Family Member to See Them With

Before this column takes a break for a few weeks, we bring you a quick peek at ten of the big movies around the Bay this holiday season and share an inkling of who you might want to bring along (if you really, really have to). See you in the New Year!

The Impossible

Arguably the first wave in the soon-to-be sub-genre of tsunami drama, Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts turn in excellent, if expected, performances as the heads of a vacationing family separated in Thailand after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The breathtaking scenes of the oncoming wave were filmed in a huge water tank and are truly harrowing and accurate–as is the film–if also as manipulative.

Who likes it?

Almost everyone. Grandma will be attracted to the drama. Older brothers may geek out to the water FX. Single parents will inexplicably want to vacation in Thailand next summer.

 

Jack Reacher

Tom Cruise finally gets his chance to portray a pithy, humorless badass in the Jason Statham/Michael Caine tradition in this JAG riff. Wait… Tom Cruise ALWAYS plays a pithy, humorless badass. 

Who likes it?

Mom. Anyone who has understandably low expectations for a film with Tom Cruise.

 

Rust and Bone

Marion Cotillard is a killer whale trainer and Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead) is a down-and-out bouncer and single father. She's way out of his league until she has a terrible accident. That's when the M83 and Bon Iver starts playing.  You'll probably cry.

Who likes it?

Everybody. Maybe not Mom. Impervious to the many charms of Ms. Cotillard, she may claim she didn't quite "get it." 

 

Deadfall

This snowbound noir is ultimately a trifle, but a mixture of dead-on (Sissy Spacek, Eric Bana) and appealingly of-the-moment casting (Olivia Wilde, Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam), with a tie-it-with-a-bow script and dead-bang action setpieces that elevate it above the other exhausting genre offerings careening about.

Who likes it?

Grandpa. Dad. If you'd rather not listen to the aforementioned talk about how twisted Addison (Bana) is, you risk banishment to the other room where Mom will invariably either be cleaning something or having a drink, perhaps both. This will be either good or bad, depending on how much you like Mom.

 

The Guilt Trip/Parental Guidance

Seth Rogen stars as a cranky, but loving granddad in Parenthood: Final Sequence, and Billy Crystal takes a guilt-wracked road-trip with his meshugene mom (Bette Midler) in Throw Mama From the Train 3: The Legend of Curly's Gold. Or is it the other way around?

Who likes it?

Nobody. Maybe Grandma. Papa never liked Billy Crystal anyway. Your uncle hates both of these movies.

 

Django Unchained

Freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx) and his bounty hunter friend Schultz (Christoph Waltz from Inglorious Basterds) head to the plantation of Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) to rescue Django's wife in this giddy, bloody blend of spaghetti western, blaxploitation and tested Tarantino slang.

Who likes it?

Dad. Dad loves it. Dad cannot get enough of this one. Dad thinks Quentin Tarantino and Jamie Foxx are both bad-ass motherf***ers. Everyone else does too, but the persistence of the N word makes them mildly uncomfortable.

 

This is 40

Judd Apatow makes a rare directorial outing to flesh out some characters from Knocked Up that no one remembers. Unfortunately, rough-around-the-edges observational comedies about everyday love and life only work if they contain a kernel of the real. Want to watch some "old" people pretend to get stoned? 

Who likes it?

Your smug relatives who just got married and think it's "just like them" (tip: They don't like each other). Anyone who hasn't hung up their crush on Paul Rudd as the brother from As If. Whatever.

 

Les Miserables

Famous faces (Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crow, Anne Hathaway) perform the songs from Les Mis atop the big, bad, blockbuster backdrop of the French revolution. The gimmick? They're singing for real, mics were edited out in post production.

Who likes it?

Your sister. Your out-and-ecstatic younger brother. Anyone in the family who secretly loves Moulin Rouge (they're everywhere!). 

 

My Worst Nightmare

Hardly-foreign French fav Isabelle Huppert plays a wilting ice queen in this oddball romance between two people who have little in common but their casual self-infatuation and a couple of rugrats in the same class. Movies like this (and last year's straight but solid The Intouchables) give the odd impression that the old Hollywood isn't dead–it's just moved abroad.

Who likes it?

Strangely, everyone. Despite the somewhat trite premise and wonky pacing, this is probably the best all-ages crowd-pleaser the season has to offer.