Sights of the Season

Ten movies to ease your (family-induced) holiday stress

Nov 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm

After hours of sitting with people who are supposedly related to you, sometimes you just need a break. The holidays are supposed to be a time of peace, which for most of us involves a lot of running around and a lot of "catching up" with folks you only see once a year. Instead of being rude and admitting that you hate all of them, take them to a movie. There's no better way to get a break from all the talking that happens when you're trapped in car with the same people you were previously trapped in a house with for 18 years.


Natalie Portman gives a riveting, full-blooded performance as a young woman dealing with the pressures of being the newly appointed prima ballerina at a New York City company run by a demanding rake (Vincent Cassel). Think of it as Darren Aronofsky’s delirious version of a Roman Polanski psychological thriller. (Dec. 17)


Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, two of the more daring and talented performers on the current movie landscape, team up in director Derek Cianfrance’s Sundance-approved, fractured-narrative tale of a couple who have one night to save their marriage. (Dec. 31)


Notorious wild-man David O. Russell ( Flirting with Disaster , Three Kings ) returns with this look at the rise of boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg). Long a Wahlberg passion project, it will be interesting to see how Russell puts his unique stamp on what will likely be no ordinary biopic. (Dec. 17)


Oscar talk is in the air for Colin Firth’s performance as King George VI, an unsteady, recently ascendent monarch who hires a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to help him deal with an embarrassing stutter. Tom Hooper, who most recently directed the fascinating HBO miniseries John Adams , guides an impressive British cast that should add flavor to its World War II setting. (December)


This romantic comedy starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway is a departure for typically serious director Edward Zwick. In fact, it looks like Love and Other Drugs might channel some of the loopy charm that made his About Last Night... (1986) such an entertaining investigation of modern relationships. Or maybe not. We’ll see. (Nov. 24)


Danny Boyle follows up the surprising mega-success of Slumdog Millionaire with the true-life story of Aron Ralston (played by an inspired James Franco), a mountain climber whose arm gets pinned between a boulder and a canyon wall for five days. Sound like a slog? Not in the hands of Boyle, who uses every bit of his technical savvy to put viewers in Ralston’s headspace. (Nov. 24)


Sofia Coppola’s first film since the underrated Marie Antoinette (2006) was the surprise Golden Lion winner at the 2010 Venice Film Festival. Somewhere ’s simple setup centers on a drug-ingesting, self-involved movie star (Stephen Dorff, ironically) whose 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) is unexpectedly left in his care. (Dec. 22)


The German director behind the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others returns with this Venice-set thriller about an American (Johnny Depp) who is smitten by a mysterious woman (Angelina Jolie) who might have nefarious motives. Perfect casting, right? (Dec. 10)


Twenty-eight years after the original Tron pimped deliciously antiquated special effects, director Jeff Kosinski’s follow-up finds the son (Garrett Hedlund) of Jeff Bridges’ orignial character searching for his long-lost father. Somehow, against all better judgement, this looks like it might be an effective effects- and action-laden reprieve in a season of seriousness. (Dec. 17)


The Coen brothers return to the darker terrain of No Country for Old Men in this remake with Jeff Bridges in the John Wayne role as a crusty U.S. Marshal who helps a stubborn young woman (Hailee Steinfeld) track down her father’s murderer. (Dec. 25)

(Release dates are subject to change.)