ByJack Giroux, writer at
Jack Giroux

This has been a great year for movies. 2014 was packed with all kinds of quality films, from blockbusters to small-scale dramas. Last month especially was a highlight for the year. In fact, Interstellar alone made it a terrific month. Say what you will about the quality of Christopher Nolan's epic, but it's a movie people actually talked about and debated, whether they loved it or hated it.

It's doubtful any movie coming out this month or in the near-future will spark that much conversation... with the exception of The Interview, of course. There's plenty of movies to see and talk about this month, ranging from a musical to a druggie mystery.

Here's the movies you need to see this Christmas:

Still Alice

Now in theaters.

Still Alice is a tough movie. People who have been affected by alzheimer's may find Still Alice too hard to watch. It doesn't sugarcoat the disease, or Alice's struggle, played remarkably by Julianne Moore. It's an often touching and grueling film. It also has one of the finest endings of the year. When you watch Still Alice, have a box of tissues by your side.

Inherent Vice

Now in limited release.

Another tremendous picture from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson. Adapted from Thomas Pynchon's novel, Inherent Vice tells the rambling, melancholic, and laugh and pot-filled tale of Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a private investigator thrown into a mystery, thanks to his ex-girlfriend. Inherent Vice blends Anderson's sensibility behind The Master and Boogie Nights; it's got laughs and unforgettable characters, but also a few haunting and unexpected sadness. If you're a fan of Anderson's, this a wild ride that you'll want to see again and again.

The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies

Now in theaters.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is exactly what you expect it is. If you're a fan of the direction Peter Jackson has taken the series in, then you'll find this final chapter to be a rousing ending. If you think Jackson shot himself in the foot by turning The Hobbit into three movies, then this final chapter probably isn't going to change your mind about Jackson's decision. However, it's certainly the most briskly paced film of the trilogy. The battle of the five armies, which is often spectacular, makes up for a good deal of the running time. There's plenty of action beats and moments of spectacle that remind us why Jackson was once such a beloved filmmaker.

The Gambler

Now in theaters.

Here's a remake that stands on its own. The 1974 film starring James Caan is a great movie. It's never fully gotten its due, so a remake isn't exactly sacrilegious. To make it worthwhile, director Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) have made a remake that in no way follows the original's lead. This is a different character, Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), in a different environment, facing a different internal struggle, while still owing a bunch of money because of his gambling problems. Wahlberg does some of his best work in The Gambler. He never tries to make you like this guy -- only empathize. It's an very entertaining character study told on a scale we rarely see these days.

The Interview

Opens in theaters December 25th

Hopefully The Interview is as funny as the fact North Korea is pissed about this movie -- to the point they may have leaked Sony's films online as revenge. That kind of outlandishness is why Kim Jong Un is a goldmine of comedic material. Seth Rogen and James Franco are buddies who run a talk show that have been enlisted by the government to assassinate to Kim Jong Un. Directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, The Interview should make for a fine followup to This is the End.

Into the Woods

Opens in theaters December 25th

A surprisingly delightful film. Stephen Sondheim's musical is a classic, but director Rob Marshall isn't exactly a director responsible for classics. Nine and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides are exhaustingly lifeless movies. The last movie he made with a pulse was Chicago, and he's managed to bring some of that liveliness to Into the Woods. The songs and production is often beautifully done. Best of all, there's a ton of laughs in this movie, more than any musical in recent memory. Chris Pine and Emily Blunt, in particular, are hysterical. It may not be the most cinematic musical, but it's a pretty damn good one.

Big Eyes

Opens in theaters December 25th

Tim Burton's latest is a biopic of the artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) who let her husband (Christoph Waltz) to take credit for her paintings of wide-eyed, sad children. That doesn't sound like any recent Tim Burton film, does it? This is a return to Ed Wood territory, reuniting Burton with the writers of that classic, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. The trio have done an excellent job telling the bizarre, funny, and sad story of Margaret Keane. This is Burton's most human and emotional film since Big Fish. Fans of Burton will be pleased with this one.


Which movie are you most excited to see this Christmas?


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