10 Must-See Movies of December 2011

5. Young Adult (December 9th)

I’m not one of those people who hates on Juno; I love it. Everyone complains about the “hipster” dialogue – which actually goes away as the film progresses, you know – but overall that film is sweet, honest, and funny. With Up in the Air, the director succeeded at the challenge of making his most cold and isolated lead someone to care about, and, more importantly, highly watchable. With Young Adult, he has taken on his most unpleasant character yet. In turn, his latest film is meaner, funnier, and darker than any of his previous works. It’s, unquestionably, his best film.

4. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (December 9th)

Tomas Alfredson managed to top his much beloved Let the Right One In. The two films – one about a vampire next door, the other a world of paranoia and betrayal – are more similar than one would think. Underneath their genre tropes, they’re both tragic love stories. The John le Carré adaptation is about the most hopeless romantics you’ll see all year, and it plays tremendously as a meticulous, subdued, darkly funny thriller. It’s a rich film that calls for repeat viewings.

3. The Adventures of TinTin/War Horse (December 21st/December 25th)

Yes, I am cheating and counting this as a Spielberg package. This season, the legend will be facing off against his only worth box-office opponent…himself! This is the real gift of Christmas: A double-bill of Spielberg magic displaying his two distinct talents – sprawling drama and first-rate blockbuster filmmaker. I’ve seen TinTin, and, as everyone says, it’s what we all wanted from the fourth Indiana Jones and more. The things Spielberg does with the camera are astonishing, especially a jaw-droppingly cool 5-minute chase scene shown in one take. As for War Horse, it’s a sweeping family-friendly epic, one that successfully tugs at the heart-strings.

2. Shame (now!)

Steve McQueen‘s follow up to Hunger made my stomach churn. Very few films have made me feel this uncomfortable, a testament to the power of his work and its performers. Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, and McQueen find extremely human and vulnerable life traits that’ll make you cringe and want to be left alone for a while. Shame creates a beautiful and haunting minimalistic atmosphere which is highly watchable, even as you’re drowning in your tears.

Note: If you haven’t read Kate Erbland‘s 100% astute review, go do so.

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (December 21st)

Could there be a bigger no-brainer this year? If there’s any such thing as shoe-in film, this is it. I’ve heard great, great things about Fincher‘s re-adaptation, and there’s really not much to discuss about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, since it’s not really a film one needs to convince readers to see. It’s Fincher working with a cast of that pedigree and once again collaborating with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – what’s not to be excited about?

All you really need to know about Jack is his favorite movies are: The Last Detail, Rumble Fish, Sunset Boulevard, The Truman Show, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, The Verdict, Closer, Shadow of a Doubt, Spider-Man 2, Jaws, Adaptation, Get Carter, The Last Days of Disco, Carnal Knowledge, Almost Famous, Ed Wood, Barton Fink, and L.A. Confidential.

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