The November to December cinematic season isn’t as long or spectacular as the Transformer-filled dog days of summer, but it is packed with plenty of great films trying to grab some tasty Thanksgiving and Christmas cash. Instead of an endless Las Vegas buffet, it's more like an overflowing dinner table to gorge yourself on before collapsing in the den and watching a “Hoarders” marathon. In other words: If you wanna consume all the Oscar contenders, all the star vehicles and all the family movies this holiday season, you're going to have to get busy.
Here, then, is a guide to what will be hitting theaters before the end of the year. We’ve divided it up for you for easier digestion. Let’s start with the appetizers—smaller, lesser-known films designed to whet your hunger for the bigger stuff. Next, we’ve got the main courses—substantial, big-budget films that will satiate the most demanding movie devourer. Desserts are next to hit the table—candy-coated confections intended to satisfy your sweet tooth. (But don’t consume too many. They could rot your teeth.) Finally, we take a look at the kids’ table—serving up junior-sized portions of family favorites. Dig in.
Somebody’s college girlfriend brought an Asian delicacy to the party. It looks out-of-place, but it’s mighty tasty. In this old-school Hong Kong action flick (formerly known as Wu Xia), Donnie Yen (Hero) plays a retired marital artist whose past comes back to haunt him.
Hyde Park on Hudson
Bill Murray as FDR in a semi-serious biopic about the late president’s love for his distant cousin (played by Laura Linney)? That's like stuffing with oysters: It shouldn’t work, but it does.
Killing Them Softly
In this indie crime thriller, Brad Pitt plays a mob enforcer trying to puzzle out what went down during a heist at a high-stakes poker game. With Pitt front and center, this may look pretty, but it promises to be a bitter and uncompromising punch in the gut.
On the Road
Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy) and Sam Riley (Control) do the heavy lifting as the main characters of Jack Kerouac’s groundbreaking beatnik novel. But Twilight's Kristen Stewart gets all the attention as their road-tripping companion. Looks like somebody slipped a doobie into the dinner party.
Rust and Bone
A Belgian man suddenly put in charge of his young son moves to a seaside resort in Southern France and falls for a killer whale trainer (Inception’s Marion Cotillard) in this very European drama. Pâté is tasty, but it’s not for every palate.
Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings) directs this gourmet soufflé about a former teacher (The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper) who moves back in with his parents after a stint in a mental institution. He tries to reconcile with his ex-wife and gets distracted by a young woman with problems of her own (The Hunger Games’ Jennifer Lawrence).
What’s an appetizer round without a few cocktails? This comedy drama starring Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) follows a married couple whose love for booze (and each other) is tested when she decides to sober up.
Kiera Knightley and Jude Law do the costume drama thing with Leo Tolstoy’s novel about a late 19th century aristocrat who has a life-changing affair with an affluent count. Rich, sumptuous and filling.
What isn’t in this overstuffed casserole from filmmaker Quentin Tarantino? Jamie Foxx is a freed slave who joins up with a bounty hunter to locate his missing wife. Horses, guns, revenge, Don Johnson? This pop culture-filled Western’s got a bit of everything.
Oscar grabbers Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren star in this biopic about fright filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock during the filming of Psycho. Sounds like gravy. Alfred liked gravy.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Director Peter Jackson proved himself a master chef with his last three-course meal, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now he’s turning Tolkien’s The Hobbit into a three-picture deal. This one's the spiral-cut, maple-
Life of Pi
Yann Martel’s wonderful and eccentric novel gets treated like a table centerpiece by director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). It’s about a zookeeper’s son stuck in a rowboat in the middle of the Indian Ocean with a Bengal tiger. This one’s a turducken all the way: wonders stuffed inside of wonders.
Steven Spielberg tackles the life of Abraham Lincoln with Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. That’s an all-American turkey if we ever saw one—and for once, that’s a compliment.
Bond is Back in what’s being billed as his biggest blast ever. If Americans love to fill up on turkey, the Brits love a good holiday goose. And we wouldn’t mind a taste of that either—particularly when it’s washed down with a dry Martini.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2
This sack of take-out hamburgers is aimed squarely at the sullen teenagers at the table who refuse to eat anything remotely healthy. At least it’s the last of the sparkly vampire extended trilogy. Plus, it will keep teen lit fans sated until the next Hunger Games is released.
Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away
This elaborately decorated, curlicue-covered cupcake is a 3D version of the European-tinged circus’ latest, aerialist-heavy production.
Oops. Somebody dumped some leftover Halloween candy onto the dessert table with this Saw-inspired slasher flick (from the makers of Saw IV, V and VI).
The Guilt Trip
Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogen play a meddlesome Jewish mother and her brainy son on a cross-country road trip. Rugelach, anyone?
Tom Cruise is the nutty filling in this pecan pie based on Lee Child’s novel series about a badass, former military police officer turned crime-solving drifter.
The musical version of Victor Hugo’s classic novel goes Hollywood with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway singing their way through the French Revolution. Let them eat cake!
A harried mom (Marisa Tomei) dumps three kids off with her parents (Billy Crystal and Bette Midler) when she’s forced to leave town for work. Sounds like some lovely cheesecake.
Playing for Keeps
Gerard Butler continues to indulge in sickly sweet romantic comedies with this cream puff about a fallen sports star who ends up coaching his kid’s soccer team and being chased by suburban MILFs Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
This stale fruitcake has been on the shelf for a couple of years waiting for lead actor Chris Hemsworth (Thor) to become famous. Now that he is, we get to watch some small-town American teenagers fend off an invasion of dirty Commie soldiers. Again.
This is 40
Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up gets a semi-sequel by checking out the lives of feuding parents Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as they turn 40. Expect this raunchy comedy to be both sweet and sour.
The Kids Table
Monsters, Inc. 3D
The colorful, family favorite toon from Pixar gets a spiffy, 3D upgrade. Now that’s comfort food.
Rise of the Guardians
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and several other mythical figures join forces to save Earth from an evil spirit in this computer-animated cartoon. Kids should gobble it up.