As we embark on our quest for great pumpkin pie, canned cranberries and just enough small talk when visiting our relatives, there's no better place to bond than at the local Cineplex. Did dad already see Skyfall? Did your little sister (and your mom) see Breaking Dawn Part 2 thrice already?
We recommend the following flicks for the holiday weekend. An indie, a fancy drama and quite possibly the best 3-D film ever made: There's something for everyone!
Laurie Sparham / Focus Features
1. Anna Karenina: Director Joe Wright reteams with for the third time with Keira Knightley for a uniquely staged version of Leo Tolstoy's Imperial Russian-era novel. Filled with gorgeous costumes and beautiful art direction, the world here is literally a stage. Nearly every scene appears in the confines of a grand old royal theater. Even a horse race! We wish the chemistry was a tad hotter between Anna (Knightley) and Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), but everything else impresses. Jude Law makes Lord Karenin, for once, sympathetic.
2. Hitchcock: Anthony Hopkins bids us all a "good evening" as The Master of Suspense in a story that wisely focuses on the shooting of Alfred's biggest hit: Psycho. At the time, no studio wanted to take a chance on what would become the most influential slasher flick ever. The whole cast is terrific. Helen Mirren spars best with Hopkins as the pair play husband and wife. Their cutting together of the infamous shower scene is great example of how important editing can be. Another highlight: Scarlett Johansson nails Janet Leigh's speech, mannerisms and that way Leigh wore the heck out of a buttoned blouse.
Twentieth Century Fox Film
3. Life of Pi: Ang Lee pulls off the impossible: making a live-action 3-D version of Yann Martel's 2001 novel. Why so impossible? The bulk of the story takes place on a lifeboat with two castaways: Pi (newcomer Suraj Sharma) and a Bengal Tiger (part CG, part real tiger). Pi's family was in the midst of moving their zoo across the ocean when a storm leaves Pi to survive with his new pal: a tiger affectionately named Richard Parker. This is no cute tale of a young man and his big furry cat. Parker is dangerous for over 200 days. The way director Lee uses depth to emphasize the proximity between man and cat feels like a game changer. Every computer effect convinces. A lemur-infested island is just one of the many great scenes. A rare film that mashes together nature with a genuine sense of spirituality. Do not miss this on the big screen.
Roger Arpajou/Why Not Productions
4. Rust and Bone: A struggling ex-boxer (Matthias Schoenaerts) hits on a gorgeous whale trainer (Marion Cotillard), and gets no action. But then tragedy strikes—with the best use of "Firework" by Katy Perry ever—in this down-to-earth and eventually uplifting story set in Antibes, France. Cotillard gained attention as a stunner in Inception, Midnight in Paris and more and in those flicks, she was great. But in her native French-speaking parts, she's amazing. Like Juliette Binoche, Cotillard says plenty with mere glances, small gestures. The script has a lot to say about the working class as well as unconventional relationships. Worth seeking out.
JOJO WHILDEN/The Weinstein Company
5. Silver Linings Playbook: Bradley Cooper trades his hangover for Prozac. Jennifer Lawrence turns in her bow for much sharper wisecracks. In director David O. Russell's so-truthful-it-would-hurt-if-it weren't-so-darn-funny tale about a guy (Cooper) recently out of a mental ward who moves in his parents—including his OCD football pop (Robert De Niro)—Cooper meets Lawrence, a woman with her own history of meds and drama. He agrees to dance (great moment!) with her in exchange for a big illegal favor. Cooper has never been more like a real guy, even if that guy is extremely messed up. Lawrence breaks hearts most when hers is the one that's shattered. And yet, she's so funny doing it. With an A-list cast and an independent director, this is made for awards season. But when the performances are this good, no one should be missing out.
Heading to the movies this weekend? Hit the comments to let us know which flicks you're seeing!