Your Must-See Movie Guide: 13 Films to Go See Over the Holidays
Tis the season for cinematic adventures (after all, you've finally got some much-needed time to relax), so we here at Instyle have created the ultimate guide to 13 new movies to go see during the holidays. To help you channel the features' vibes, we paired each film with a drink suggestion, along with all the nitty gritty details you need to know to make your decision. Bottoms up!
1. WildOpened Dec. 5
Basics: The true story of Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, who loaded up a backpack and hiked solo along the 1,100-mile Pacific Rim Trail to mend a broken heart and “find” herself. Along the way, she discovers frost-bite, snakes, blisters, the trials and tribulations of tent building and fire-starting, and a cast of eclectic characters ranging from creepy to charming.
Buzz: Witherspoon nabbed both Golden Globe and SAG nominations for her gritty (read: no makeup) portrayal of the determined hiker, a reformed heroin addict.
Bonus: Michiel Huisman as a sexy tryst–mate, Thomas Sadoksi (of Newsroom fame) as her supportive ex-husband, and Laura Dern as her quirky, loving mom. Also—breathtaking vistas of the Oregon-Washington wilderness and a cool, eclectic soundtrack ranging from Bruce Springsteen and Simon & Garfunkel, to First Aid Kit and Portishead.
Bring: Your best friend or your mom.
Beverage: Snapple (Strayed craved them all along the hike).
2. Inherent ViceOpened Dec. 12 (wide release: Jan. 9, 2015)
Basics: This '70s-era nod to L.A. noir directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and based on Thomas Pynchon’s novel about a private detective named Doc (Joaquin Phoenix) is a roller coaster of confusion. Still, it’s an offbeat, fun alternative to some of the season’s more serious fare as Doc, who has a penchant for pot, stumbles upon an array of colorful characters while investigating the disappearance of his ex girlfriend’s billionaire boyfriend. It has been referred to as “unapologetically weird” and a “psychedelic romp.”
Buzz: Joaquin Phoenix got a Globe nom for best supporting actor.
Bonus: Katherine Waterston, daughter of actor, Sam—who plays Doc’s ex-lover, is a new talent to watch. Quirky appearances abound from Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone, and Martin Short.
Bring: Your Grateful Dead–loving brother.
3. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesOpened Dec. 17
Basics: In the conclusion of the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, director Peter Jackson takes us back down to middle earth to conclude the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield, and the Company of Dwarves. Reunite with Gandalf the Grey (played by the awesome Ian McKellan), the Elves, Dwarves, and the Hobbits as they try to battle the evil dragon, Smaug.
Buzz: Happy holidays to The Hobbit, which opened on Wednesday to a whopping $24.5 million, making it the third-highest opening Wednesday in box office history!
Bonus: See it in a theatre with Dolby Atmos for the full visual and sound experience.
Bring: Your sci-fi fantasy fanatic college pal, your childhood dungeons and dragons playmate, your cool high school English teacher.
4. AnnieOpened Dec. 19
Basics: Remake of the classic story of Little Orphan Annie, updated with Annie as a foster child in New York, 2014. Taken in by mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) who is at first using her to get votes, she soon (surprise!) melts his heart. The soundtrack also gets a rework.
Buzz: Quvenzhané Wallis got a Globes nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy for her portrayal of the sassy, singing, and ever-optimistic foster child.
Bonus: Sandy the dog made the cut as did the song “Tomorrow” and the soundtrack fertures the likes of Sia and Beck. Supporting performances by Rose Byrne and Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan.
Bring: Your kids, your neighbors kids, your BFF's kids.
Beverage: Ovaltine, obviously.
5. The GamblerOpened Dec. 19
Basics: Mark Wahlberg stars in this remake of the 1974 film of the same name about a college literature professor with a gambling addiction who has seven days to come up with $240,000 in debt money. As our profanity–spouting protagonist borrows more money, then gambles that away in a desperate attempt to come out on top, he only digs himself in deeper and deeper and into a downward spiral.
Buzz: Wahlberg has said he took the role based on the script and because he was a huge fan of the original, including its star James Caan, whom he counts as a friend.
Bonus: A strong supporting cast: Brie Larson as the brilliant student whom Wahlberg beds, Jessica Lange as his bitter mother, and John Goodman as a loan shark. Plus, cool L.A. location shots and amoody soundtrack that includes everything from Bob Dylan to Cole Porter and Chopin.
Bring: Your black jack–loving uncle.
Beverage: A whiskey sour.
6. Night at the Museum: Secret of the TombOpened Dec. 19
Basics: Museum guard Ben Stiller is at it again but this time he travels to London to figure out why the magic tablet that makes the museum exhibits come to life by night, seems to be disintegrating. Mayhem of course, ensues.
Buzz: The third and last in the series, Secret of the Tomb still offers up lots of characters from the other films, including Owen Wilson as a tiny cowboy and Steve Coogan as a tiny Roman as well as jokes and special effects galore, but this installment is imbued with an emotional father-son subplot as well.
Bonus: In a bittersweet twist, Robin Williams (as Teddy Roosevelt) and Mickey Rooney (as a former museum guard), who both died earlier this year, appear in this: their last film. On a lighter note, cute Dan Stevens aka Matthew from Downton Abbey does a turn as a self absorbed Sir Lancelot and Rebel Wilson romps as randy Tilly, the security guard.
Bring: Your little brother and his bestfriend.
Beverage: Pimms or a nice cup of Earl Grey tea.
7. American Sniper Opens Dec. 25 (wide release: Jan. 16, 2015)
Basics: Directed by Clint Eastwood this true story stars Bradley Cooper, as Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle nicknamed “Legend.” Kyle is credited with being "the most lethal sniper in U.S. history" and saving thousands of fellow soldiers' lives. The film explores both his heroism and the toll it took on his personal life and family. Sienna Miller plays his wife.
Buzz: Some were surprised at the film’s lack of Globes nominations; others say it could get some Oscar attention.
Bonus: Bradley Cooper! Need we say more?
Bring: Your uncle, the war veteran.
Beverage: The bullseye (a vodka, lemon juice, beef bullion cocktail that is a close relative of the Bloody Mary).
8. Into the WoodsOpens Dec. 25
Basics: This film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed Broadway musical, is a whimsical “be careful what you wish for“ cautionary tale. It follows the lives of a humble baker and his wife (Emily Blunt) who are cursed with childlessness by a wicked witch and embark on a quest for magical objects to reverse the spell. How they obtain objects from an array of fairy tale characters—Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), and Jack and the Beanstalk is the crux of the story. No fairy tale is complete of course, without some villains and here Meryl Streep shines as the wicked witch while Johnny Depp entertains as the Bad Wolf. Directed by Rob Marshall, (Chicago, Nine.)
Buzz: Blunt got a Globes nomination for best actress in a comedy or musical and Meryl wracked up her 29th Globe nom for best supporting actress in the same category.
Bonus: Colleen Atwood’s fanciful costumes; the songs!
Bring: The whole family, from Grandma to Jr.
Beverage: Apple cider.
9. UnbrokenOpens Dec. 25
Basics: Angelina Jolie directed this inspirational tearjerker based on the true story of Olympic track star Louis Zamperini (played by newcomer Jack O’Connell.) He survived for 47 days at sea after a plane crash during WWII, only to be captured by the Japanese navy and held in prisoner of war camps for more than two years. He became an inspirational speaker and lived to be 97.
Buzz: Although it failed to garner SAG or Globes nominations, Jolie was nominated for a Critic’s Choice Award as were the Cohen Brothers.
Bonus: The Cohen Brothers adapted the screenplay from Lauren Hillenbrand’s best selling novel. Jolie got to meet the real Zamperini before he died last summer. Jack O’Connell is one to watch (He won the National Board of Review’s “Breakthrough performance “ award,) and the film features Coldplay’s new song “Miracles”
BRING: Your boyfriend, your husband, your dad, or all three.
10. Big EyesOpens Dec. 25
Director Tim Burton gives us another turn through his creative lens, but this time he tones down his signature macabre style and offers a look into the real life story of San Francisco artist Margaret Keane, famous for her paintings of urchin-like children with huge eyes in the early '60s. Colorful yet heartbreaking, Big Eyes tells the true story of how Keane’s husband, fellow artist Walter convinced his wife to pretend her paintings were his, motivated by jealously, greed and a desire to control her. Amy Adams plays the fragile, talented Margaret and Christoph Waltz, the overbearing Walter.
Buzz: Golden Globe nominations were granted to both Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz.
Bonus: The music by Danny Elfman’s is incredible and Lana Del Rey got a Globe nom for her song “Big Eyes.”
Bring: Your mom, your BFF, your artistic daughter.
Beverage: A chocolate malt with sprinkles.
11. SelmaOpens Dec. 25
Basics: Directed by Ava DuVernay, this biopic based on Dr. Martin Luther King has been getting rave reviews. A dramatic look at the civil rights movement, the film’s name stems from King’s historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., and along the way offers us glimpses into the sometimes conflicted private life and mind of Dr. King.
Buzz: David Oyelowo, who nabbed a Golden Globe nom for his portrayal of Dr. King, is having quite a moment: he also appeares in Interstellar and A Most Violent Year. DuVernay and the film itself also got Globes noms as did John Legend for his original song "Glory.”
Bonus: Oprah Winfrey as a hospice nurse, Carmen Ejogo as King’s wife, Coretta King, Cuba Gooding Jr. as a civil rights attorney, Martin Sheen as a judge.
Bring: Your history-buff college pal.
Beverage: Sweet ice tea with a splash of bourbon.
12. A Most Violent YearOpens Dec. 31
Basics: A gritty 1980s drama about one businessman’s struggle (Oscar Isaacs) to stay honest and afloat amidst rampant crime and corruption in New York City and remain calm in the eye of his wife’s (Jessica Chastain’s) ever threatening storm of fear and ambition. Though there are a few violent scenes as the title would imply, most the tension simmers beneath the surface, often shrouded by layers of cigarette smoke and winter’s bleak light.
Buzz: The National Board of Review named it Best Picture while our January cover girl Chastain garnered a Golden Globe nomination.
Bonus: Oscar Isaacs is the new Al Pacino, all brooding and handsome, with thick tumbles of hair and soulful dark eyes---his pent up frustrations masked by his quiet resolve to do the right thing. Chastain’s cool period outfits include a sexy crimson Armani dress and plenty of chic coats and Jackie O. sunglasses. David Oyelowo, who seems to everywhere this fall (Interstellar, Selma), as a muckraking D.A.
Bring: Your dad, or anyone from New York who remembers the '80s.
Beverage: A dry martini.
13. CakeOpens Dec. 31 (wide release: Jan 23.)
Basics: Just as Reese Witherspoon did in Wild, Jennifer Aniston threw our her make-up (and let her hair go mousy brown) to portray a depressed woman who uses sarcasm to deal with chronic pain and loss. The story gets interesting when she befriends the widower of a member of her support group.
Buzz: Aniston’s heartfelt performance has garnered the actress Globe and SAG nominations as well as a standing ovation when it screened at the Toronto Film Festival.
Bonus: Sam Worthington as the widower and Anna Kendrick as the support group pal.
Bring: Your best friend.
Beverage: Bitters on the rocks.