At the Movies

‘Lincoln,’ ‘Skyfall,’ ‘Twilight’ & Other Thanksgiving Movies to See or Skip (PHOTOS)

A guide to the movies to see (‘Silver Linings Playbook’) or skip (‘Anna Karenina’) over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Clockwise from top left: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment; Francois Duhamel / Columbia Pictures ; Laurie Sparham / Focus Features ; Ron Phillips / Film District /AP Photo

Clockwise from top left: Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment; Francois Duhamel / Columbia Pictures ; Laurie Sparham / Focus Features ; Ron Phillips / Film District /AP Photo

Once you’ve digested your Thanksgiving feast and emerged from your tryptophan-induced food coma, what better way to kill time with your relatives or in-laws than a trip to the local cinema? From Steven Spielberg’s historical epic Lincoln to the final Twilight to David O. Russell’s outstanding dark comedy, Silver Linings Playbook, to Anna Karenina, here are the movies to see or skip at the multiplex.

The Weinstein Company

SEE: ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper, in a career-best performance) has been placed into the care of his parents (Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver) after an eight-month stint in a mental institution for nearly beating his cheating wife’s lover to death. When he’s not in therapy Pat is keeping his body in shape, since he still harbors illusions that he’ll win his ex-wife back. When he crosses paths with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a widower who can help him in his quest, Pat is forced to come to grips with the fact that the life he once had may not be what he wants anymore. Director David O. Russell’s previous film, The Fighter, also provided a poignant portrait of working-class malaise and familial dysfunction, and he hits all the right notes again here. Cooper’s typically glassy-eyed look complements his bipolar character perfectly, while De Niro delivers an award-worthy turn as his caring, Philadelphia Eagles–obsessed father. But it’s Jennifer Lawrence who steals the show here. Her Tiffany is more strong-willed and nimble than Katniss and displays the actress’s great comedic timing. Silver Linings Playbook is, without question, one of the year’s best—and most crowd-pleasing—films.

John P. Johnson / Twentieth Century Fox

SKIP: ‘Chasing Mavericks’

This is a surfing movie based on the “true story” of surfer Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston), who receives some Obi Wan–like guidance from a local surf hero, played by Gerard Butler, in order to realize his dreams and tackle California’s big Mavericks wave. Moriarty’s story is a moving one, and the surfing scenes are awe-inspiring, but Chasing Mavericks is far too uneven of a film to be of any sustained interest. You’re better off renting Stacy Peralta’s stellar 2004 surfing documentary, Riding Giants. Chasing Mavericks also represents another low point for director Curtis Hanson, a filmmaker who had a stellar three-film run (L.A. ConfidentialWonder Boys8 Mile) in the late 1990s and early ’00s, but has since produced pretty mediocre fare.

Francois Duhamel / Columbia Pictures

SEE: ‘Skyfall’

Whereas 2008’s Quantum of Solace was a marked disappointment, filmmaker Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) has crafted a more layered 007. In Skyfall, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is a bit grayer in the beard and has lost a step. After a former agent-cum-cyberterrorist, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), attacks MI6’s headquarters, Bond is forced back into action by his boss/surrogate mum, M (Judi Dench). This latest Bond incarnation hits all the right notes. The theme song by Adele soars, the action scenes pop, and Judi Dench is as snappy as ever. Javier Bardem’s anarchic villain, however, is the main event here. The creepy, deformed, gay Silva is like a cross between Red Dragon’s Dolarhyde and Inglorious Basterd’s giddily demented Col. Hans Landa, and is one of the best Bond villains ever.

Ron Phillips / Film District / AP Photo

SKIP: ‘Red Dawn’

The story behind the making of this remake of the 1984 Patrick Swayze/Charlie Sheen–starring cult favorite is even more bonkers than the film. It was supposed to come out in 2010, but was delayed due to studio MGM’s financial troubles, and, later, producers decided to change the villains from the Chinese to the North Koreans in order to be able to make money in China. Well, it’s finally seeing the light of day. Despite boasting a talented young cast, including Thor’s Chris Hemsworth, The Hunger Games’s Josh Hutcherson, and Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights, this film about a group of teenagers banding together and forming a freedom-fighting militia after their home of Spokane, Wash., gets invaded by foreign enemies is schlocky, repetitive, and entirely apolitical. For a fun watch, rent the 1984 original that pitted a bunch of 1980s teen heartthrobs (Swayze, Sheen) against the commies.

Photo : Rhythm & Hues

SEE: ‘Life of Pi’

Acclaimed Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain), has transformed author Yann Martel’s acclaimed novel into a visually sumptuous slice of cinema. The film opens with a grown-up Pi (Irrfan Khan) telling his unbelievable life story to a reporter. Young Pi is a native of picturesque Pondicherry, India, a former French colony, where his father, Santosh Patel (Adil Hussain), and his beautiful mother (Tabu), run a zoo. Despite being raised Hindu, Pi is a curious young boy, drawn to a host of different religions (he even wants to be baptized, much to his father’s chagrin). Due to political pressures, the family is forced to sell the zoo, pack up the animals on a Japanese freighter, and head off to Canada. However, the ship capsizes in a terrible storm, leaving Pi stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a tiger, zebra, orangutan, and hyena. Lee makes a stunning case for 3-D with his captivating visuals, and relative newcomer Suruj Sharma is a talent to be watched as the teenage Pi. And there’s a reason this is one of Barack Obama’s favorite books: it’s one hell of a story.

DreamWorks Animation

SKIP: ‘Rise of the Guardians’

Rise of the Guardians is a puzzling animated epic. Directed by Peter Ramsey, it centers on the titular Guardians—Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost—who must join forces to stop an evil spirit from taking over the world. It’s an attractive-looking family-adventure film that offers some fun voice work from distinctive-sounding stars like Alec Baldwin and Jude Law, but it ultimately amounts to far less than the sum of its pretty-looking parts. For a better combination of kinetic fun and an emotionally resonant story, take your kids to see Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph while it’s still in theaters; it’s one of the best animated films of the year.

Andrew Cooper / Summit Entertainment

SEE: ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2’

Bear with me now. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2 marks the final installment in the emo-vampire movie franchise based on Stephenie Meyer’s YA novels, and centered on angsty teen Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) falling head-over-Converses for immortal teen vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). In Part 2, the couple is now married and has given birth to a gifted half-vampire/half-human child, Renesmee, who Bella’s former love, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), has a thing for since he “imprinted” on her. When the vampire high council, the Volturi—led by a deliciously over-the-top Michael Sheen—believe the newborn to be “immortal,” they descend on Bella and the Cullen clan, leading to an epic showdown. While the worst films—and they are pretty dreadful—in this series have taken themselves too seriously (see: TwilightNew MoonBreaking Dawn—Part 1), this one, like the best installment to date, Eclipse, embraces its own campiness and plays it up for laughs.

Laurie Sparham / Focus Features

SKIP: ‘Anna Karenina’

Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, the sixth—or is it seventh?—movie adaptation of Tolstoy’s satirical masterpiece, is a colossal misfire in just about every respect. The saga of Karenina (Keira Knightley), an aristocrat in tsarist-Russian high society who puts her romanceless marriage (to Jude Law) on the back burner in favor of young lady-killer Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), has been framed by Wright as a play-within-a-movie, so there are stage changes between each scene and few exterior shots granting the film any sort of epic scope. The device is pointless and even hinders the film’s message contrasting the frivolous aristocrats with noble agrarians. Furthermore, the acting is so lifeless and the design so visually rich but narratively empty, it’s like a bunch of perfume commercials strung together … starring Keira Knightley.

Sony Pictures Classics

SEE: ‘Rust and Bone’

Directed by acclaimed French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, who was cruelly robbed of a Best Foreign Film Oscar for 2009’s A Prophet, this film centers on a killer-whale trainer, Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard), who loses her legs during a freak accident on the job and, in her darkest hour, falls for an emotionally crippled pugilist, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), who makes his living rumbling in back-alley street fights. The two provide an exercise in contrasts; this much is obvious, and yes, the entire ordeal sounds rather ludicrous on paper, but Cotillard’s ethereal performance, combined with Schoenaerts’s raw sexuality, wears you down until you submit to Audiard’s audacious, visually sumptuous tale. Cotillard, who became the first actor to win an Oscar for a French-language film—2007’s La Vie en Rose—is well on her way to another nod here (again, in the French tongue). She is mesmerizing.

David James / DreamWorks

SEE: ‘Lincoln’

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg has been very hit or miss in the last decade. Truth be told, the last remotely interesting film he made was 2006’s Munich, penned by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Tony Kushner. He’s teamed with Kushner again in the historical epic, Lincoln, very loosely adapted from historian extraordinaire Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals. The film chronicles Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) tireless efforts—including shady, back-alley deals that stretched the limits of his executive power—to push the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery through a heavily divided House of Representatives. While the film draws parallels to the present political stand-off between Obama and the GOP House, and provides a valuable history lesson, it’s a laborious sit-through. Nonetheless, Day-Lewis’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary—and the hands-down frontrunner to earn the Best Actor Oscar—and worth the price of admission.