Holiday Film Guide 2011: The Multiplex Menagerie

Which are you more excited to see this Christmas weekend: the horse, the dragon, the zoo, or Snowy (Tintin’s faithful terrier)? The answer, as you flip through the reviews ahead, may depend on your family dynamics.

For parents with kids, Steven Spielberg has directed not one but two family-friendly holiday movies: War Horse, his adaptation of the English stage play about World War I; and The Adventures of Tintin, his computer-augmented 3-D adaptation of the famous comic books by Hergé. Also appealing to the same animal-centric demo is We Bought a Zoo (based on the popular memoir), with Matt Damon suddenly the owner of a whole menagerie of cute critters. Then there’s The Artist, a black-and-white silent movie about Hollywood before the talkies, which happens to feature another loyal canine companion, an incredibly well-trained Jack Russell terrier who sticks by his master, a fallen movie idol. (The movie’s rated PG-13, but older kids may appreciate this critics’ favorite, too.)

But what about those of us who are older, bitter, single, divorced, or childless? We’ll be the ones going to movies alone on Christmas Day, sitting in the front row with our popcorn and pocket flasks, since we have no families or party invitations. David Cronenberg knows that variety of filmgoer, and his A Dangerous Method features all manner of repression, sexual hysteria, adultery, and rivalry between dueling psychoanalysts Freud and Jung. Then there are the damp, miserable Brits of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a bunch of Cold War spies consumed by jealousy, suspicion, and paranoia. There’s not a happy man among them (and precious few women, equally morose).

And lastly, the most anticipated Yuletide bummer of the season is from that master of sweetness and light, David Fincher, with the English-language remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, about serial murder, sexual violence, Nazis, and gilded family dysfunction. (No, there are no puppies; but there is one unfortunate cat.) Then we take a look back at the 10 best movies of 2011, viewed from New York and here, and celebrate 10 things from the local film community. And if none of this weekend’s holiday titles sounds promising, you can always go down to the animal shelter and adopt a dog.