My Holiday Movie Guide—(With Best Bets for Grownups and Families)

Holiday time is great time to go to a movie or two (or three). There is truly something for everyone this season, so enjoy!

“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”—The acting, the story and the story telling are good, but it is the title character that dominates this film. She demands your attention when she is on screen. Sure, most of the credit for the character goes to the novelist, but let’s stand up and applaud actress Rooney Mara for bringing life to Lisbeth Salander. Be warned: some of the sexual violence is intense. Overall, TGWTDT is an excellent film and an indelible character. (Scroll down for longer review.)

“The Adventures of Tintin”—Steven Spielberg’s animated adventure is shot in the “performance capture” technique seen in “Polar Express” and “Avatar.” The visuals here are stunning, the 3-D is great, but the plot is one that young kids may have a hard time following. Tintin has been popular in Europe for decades. Will American audiences embrace him and this film? I’d guess yes.

“We Bought a Zoo”—Yep, the title is a spoiler. Matt Damon is a widower who buys a rundown private zoo. With his two kids and the dedicated staff he inherits, he works to get the zoo back up to speed. One kid is a pouty teen boy. The other is a seven-year-old girl who is the cutest kid in a movie since Drew Barrymore in “E.T.” Among the zoo staff is eye candy Scarlett Johansson. Perfect family film.

“The Artist”—This silent movie, filmed in black and white, is a huge hit with critics. The concept and the storytelling are clever. The performances and the music are outstanding. Though set in Hollywood, the two leads are French actors who are unknown in the US. A familiar face is John Goodman, who makes the most of his screen time as an exec guiding his studio through the transition to talkies. It’s different, but a great movie.

“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy”—Based on the British spy novel, TTSS has a story that is just okay—not that special. The acting is good, especially by lead Gary Oldman. It’s set in the early 70’s, so we see artifacts of the era including reel-to-reel tape recorders, teletype machines and even a pair of hotpants. You might want to opt for something else in the multiplex.

“War Horse”—This is a classic—a story of a boy and his horse. They both go to World War I for Britain, separately. The movie follows the horse through all his war adventures. If you are the emotional type, bring some tissues. If someone you know loves horses, you must take her/him to see this. The cinematography is outstanding. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

“Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol”—Action galore. Tom Cruise and his M:I team are out to save the earth from nuclear annihilation. Sounds simple, right? But it turns out to be complicated. The film’s highlight is the sequence with Tom climbing on the outside of that extremely tall building in Dubai. In a genius casting move, Simon Pegg of “Shaun of the Dead” fame, appears as the team’s timid electronics guy. See it on the IMAX if you can—a big screen for a big movie.

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”— Robert Downey Jr. brings massive on-screen charm. The film crew brings the gimmickry, which provides much of the film’s fun. The plot, however, is a bit of a mess. Jude Law returns as Watson, Holmes’ assistant, consultant, rescuer, foil and chronicler. Good, not great.

“Young Adult”—The lead character in “Young Adult” is not especially likable. The movie, though, has a lot to like. Charlize Theron plays a woman with baggage who returns from the big city to her small hometown in Minnesota. There are some big laughs in “Young Adult, “ but it also serves up some thoughtful takes on modern American life. Directed by Jason Reitman who did “Up in the Air” and “Juno.”

Also still around:

“The Descendants”—My pick for best movie of the year. Family drama with comedic elements, set in Hawaii. George Clooney is a likely Oscar winner in the lead role.

“The Muppets”—The “feel good movie of the year.” This musical comedy has a funny script, great songs and an old-timey look.

“Hugo”—This movie about a boy living in a Paris train station takes a left turn midway and flashes back to the early days of filmmaking. Nice visual effects and excellent 3-D.

“My Week with Marilyn”—Michelle Williams will get an Oscar nomination for her performance as Marilyn Monroe in this story, set in the 1950’s.

“New Year’s Eve”—Standard romantic comedy with scads of stars. Some end up happy; others, not so happy. In the formula of last year’s “Valentine’s Day.”

Best bets for grownups:  “The Descendants,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Artist,” “Mission Impossible—Ghost Protocol,” “Young Adult,” “My Week with Marilyn.”

Best bets for families: “We Bought a Zoo,” “War Horse,” “The Muppets,” “The Adventures of Tintin.”

Only go if everything else is sold out: “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” “Hugo,” “New Year’s Eve.”

St. Louis Film Critics 2011 Award Winners

Here are the winners and runners-up of the 2011 St. Louis Film Critics’ Awards.

Best Film
The Artist
runner-up: The Descendants

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
runner-up: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)

Best Actor
George Clooney (The Descendants)
runner-up: Ryan Gosling (Drive)

Best Actress
Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
runners-up – tied: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)

Best Supporting Actor
Albert Brooks (Drive)
runner-up: Alan Rickman (Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2)

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
runners-up – tied: Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

Best Original Screenplay
Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
runner-up: Will Reiser (50/50)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash and Kaui Hart Hemmings (novel) for The Descendants
runner-up: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin and Michael Lewis (book) for Moneyball

Best Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree Of Life)
runners-up – tied: Jeff Cronenweth (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
and Janusz Kaminski (War Horse)

Best Visual Effects
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 2
runner-up: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Best Music
The Artist
runner-up: Drive

Best Foreign-Language Film
13 Assassins (Japan)
runner-up: Winter in Wartime (Netherlands)

Best Documentary
Being Elmo
runner-up: Tabloid

Best Comedy
Bridesmaids
runner-up: Midnight In Paris

Best Animated Film
The Adventures of Tintin
runner-up: Rango

Best Art-House or Festival Film
(for artistic excellence in quality art-house cinema, limited to films that played at film festivals or film series here or those that had a limited-release here, playing one or two cinemas.)
We Need To Talk About Kevin
runner-up: Win Win

Best Scene
(favorite movie scene or sequence)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: the opening titles sequence
runner-up: The Artist: the dance scene finale