20 Movies to Watch During Christmas Week 2014

Wild

The new releases aren’t the only thing going this week — there are quite a few options still in theaters.

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Still in Theaters

Annie

If you want an even more family-friendly musical than Into the Woods: Annie

This remake of the well-known story (once put on the big screen by director John Huston, and also once directed for television by Into the Woods filmmaker Rob Marshall) updates the story of a young orphan girl with some new music, and a title performance from Beasts of the Southern Wild discovery Quvenzhané Wallis.

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Night at the Museum Secret of the Tomb

If you can’t end 2014 without one last new performance from Robin Williams: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

There’s no need to have any illusions about what this series is: it’s a big, cartoonish bit of fluff. But it is also decent family fare, and it has one of the final performances from Robin Williams. It’s the sort of thing you’ll probably end up watching on cable during holidays to come, but for now we can take pleasure in Williams.

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Hobbit Battle of the Five Armies review

If you can’t bear to leave Middle-Earth behind: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson’s final film in the Hobbit trilogy features an over-abundance of digital work and rather little of the title character. But it does have some good moments in between all the fighting — notably a scene featuring Sauron, and a confrontation between Bard the Bowman and newly-crowned Dwarves king Thorin Oakenshield.

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wild-reese

If you want to see Reese Witherspoon take total ownership of the screen: Wild

Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee and screenwriter Nick Hornby are the support structure backing Reese Witherspoon, who plays a woman who takes to the wilderness after a series of significant setbacks in her personal life push her to a point of bottoming out. It’s the sort of role that comes along rarely for any actor, and Witherspoon makes the most of it.

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Imitation Game trailer

If you want more of Benedict Cumberbatch than The Hobbit can provide: The Imitation Game

It’s the Oscar-bait season, and The Imitation Game is happy to play along, with a relatively unchallenging take on the story of computer science pioneer Alan Turing. But it gives Cumberbatch a chance to do some good work, and that’s likely enough.

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The Theory of Everything (1)

If you want a biopic with a true star turn: The Theory of Everything

Also squarely in the Oscar-bait race is this biography of Stephen Hawking, and like The Imitation Game the film gives its star — in this case Eddie Redmayne — a chance to shine. In fact, Redmayne is tremendously good as Hawking, never choosing the big obvious method to portray the physically stricken scientist when a smaller, more subtle option will do.

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Exodus whitewashing

If you want to wonder why you didn’t stay home: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Someone will probably be satisfied with Ridley Scott‘s long and very by the numbers take on the story of Moses and the passage out of Egypt, but chances are it won’t be you. Seemingly cut down from a much longer cut (like some other Scott films, ahem Kingdom of Heaven) this is a film in which the hilariously whitewashed casting is only one of many problems. That said, keep an eye out for Ewan Bremner in an amusing turn as the guy who tries to explain away the plagues, which doesn’t work out so well for anyone.

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