Break out the popcorn garland and get cozy. It’s holiday movie season.
Like no other time of year, the weeks between Thanksgiving and the new year bulge with cinematic gifts for just about every taste.
This year is no different, as new titles opening in the next five weeks run the gamut of genres: animated fun, action-adventure, tragedy, a musical, historical dramas, romance, natural disaster and comedy.
We asked four World-Herald staffers with markedly different tastes to name five holiday-season movies they think are must-sees. Their picks:
World-Herald movie writer, who prefers smaller-scale human stories and generally enjoys Oscar-nominated films.
“Life of Pi,” Nov. 21. Director Ang Lee has again produced a best-picture Oscar contender, a visual wonder based on Yann Martel’s novel about a boy lost at sea on a lifeboat with a ferocious tiger.
“Hitchcock,” Dec. 14. The cast draws me to this one. Anthony Hopkins is director Alfred Hitchcock as he films “Psycho” in 1959. Helen Mirren is his wife, and Scarlett Johansson plays “Psycho” star Janet Leigh.
“The Impossible,” Dec. 21 (perhaps later for Omaha). Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Tom Holland are a family vacationing at a Thai resort when a tsunami separates them. Oscar buzz for Watts and Holland, who’s only 16.
“Les Misťrables,” Dec. 25. Director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) has a best-picture cast for this musical based on Victor Hugo’s French revolution novel. Hugh Jackman as Valjean, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Russell Crowe as Javert and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette are all Oscar possibilities.
“Silver Linings Playbook,” TBA. It won the people’s choice award at Toronto this fall, and it’s my choice as well. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are great in this romantic dramedy about a bipolar patient and a grieving widow. David O. Russell (“The Fighter”) wrote and directed.
Omaha.com editor, who loves big strange movies that don’t care what awards season thinks of them.
“Django Unchained,” Dec. 25. Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a blood-soaked western set in the pre-Emancipation South. A slave-turned-bounty-hunter (Jamie Foxx) tries to save his wife from a deranged plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). Every human has a few perfect moments in life, and this will likely be one of mine.
“Rust and Bone,” late 2012/early 2013. The great Marion Cotillard plays a killer-whale trainer who suffers a terrible accident and befriends a battered lug (Matthias Schoenaerts). Looks both bruising and powerfully romantic.
“Silver Linings Playbook,” TBA. The year’s most intriguing (and only) romantic comedy about mental illness.
“Miami Connection,” on DVD Dec. 11. Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, revived this campy gem from obscurity for a limited theater run, and if you don’t think this plot sounds amazing, you and I have nothing to talk about: A martial arts rock band called Dragon Sound takes on Florida’s narcotics trade, fighting their way through an army of motorcycle ninjas and club gigs. Best part: The film was shot and takes place in Orlando.
“Promised Land,” Jan. 4. Matt Damon plays a rep for a natural gas company aiming to buy drilling rights in a struggling farm community. But a grassroots campaign led by a local (John Krasinski, who co-wrote the script with Damon) complicates his plans.
Deputy features editor who loves period movies (especially during Prohibition), leave-your-brain-at-the-door comedies and any movie with Christian Bale where he isn’t playing Batman.
“Lincoln,” in theaters now. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the president during his final weeks in office. When a trailer gives me chills, the movie automatically makes my list. And Day-Lewis is an amazing actor.
“Killing Them Softly,” Nov. 30 (perhaps later for Omaha). Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini (I miss you, Tony Soprano) in a gangster movie? Where do I buy the popcorn? Pitt plays a professional enforcer who’s investigating a heist during a mob-protected poker game.
“Hyde Park on Hudson,” Dec. 7. Bill Murray plays Franklin Delano Roosevelt in this story of the president’s love affair with his distant cousin. I am absolutely in awe of the transformation of Bill Murray from goofball comedian to gifted dramatic actor, and I’m curious to see him play a real person on screen.
“This Is 40,” Dec. 21. Judd Apatow’s spin-off of “Knocked Up” has Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) dealing with growing older. This makes my list because I’m almost 40, married, with two kids. What can I say ... the trailers hit home.
“Zero Dark Thirty,” Jan. 11. Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow helms this telling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his eventual death at the hands of Navy SEALs. I admire her choice as a female director to tackle topics that aren’t romantic comedies.
World-Herald music writer whose cubicle is plastered with “Star Wars,” “Muppets,” “X-Men” and other toys from the movies he likes. It makes sense that Netflix lists action, sci-fi, comedy and thrillers as his favorite genres.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” Dec. 14. All of my wildest dreams for a real-life version of “Lord of the Rings” came true when Peter Jackson brought that trilogy to the screen years ago. I’m a little unsure how he’ll successfully turn Tolkien’s much shorter novel, “The Hobbit,” into a trilogy, but if anyone can do it, Jackson can. I couldn’t be more excited to see lots of dwarves, hobbits, goblins, wargs and one particularly feisty dragon. I only wish they could release them all at the same time.
“Django Unchained,” Dec. 25. Tarantino’s take on a western will be anything but uninteresting.
“This is 40,” Dec. 21. The funniest thing about the only occasionally funny “Knocked Up” was Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as the couple with two kids whose marriage isn’t as perfect as you might think. Rudd makes me giggle and Mann (director Judd Apatow’s wife) is always great when she’s giving Rudd a hard time.
“Jack Reacher,” Dec. 21. People may be more interested in Tom Cruise’s personal life than his onscreen portrayals, but I’ll pay good money to see him in action. He especially thrives with characters like military policeman/completely hard-core Reacher.
“Gangster Squad,” Jan. 11. The mob’s influence is growing in 1940s L.A., and Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Giovanni Ribisi and pals will stop it. Violently. It’s packed with excellent actors, including Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen. I’m expecting this to be a roller coaster.