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Hollywood for the holidays: Your guide to Christmas Day movie releases

12/25/2014 05:00 EST | Updated 02/23/2015 05:59 EST
Like Santa stuffing a stocking, Hollywood likes to pack theatres with fresh releases on Dec. 25 in a bid to lure holiday crowds to the cinemas.

This year is no different, with a number of new movies opening in Canadian theatres on Christmas Day.

From Angelina Jolie's Second World War drama Unbroken to a remake of the 1982 classic Annie, there are releases for almost every pallet. 

For your planning pleasure, CBC's film critic, Eli Glasner, took a peak under the wrapping to reveal which ones may be worth your time.

The Gambler 

- On mobile? Watch trailer here

Every couple of years, Mark Wahlberg turns in a performance to remind us that he’s more than a Transformers plaything. The Gambler is one of those films. Wahlberg stars as Jim, a novelist-turned-teacher with hollow eyes and shiny suits, and tasked with playing a game against himself. Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt updates this remake of the 1974 film by setting the action in a multicultural slice of L.A. and rounding out the cast with snappy supporting work from Brie Lawson, Michael Kenneth Williams and especially John Goodman, who gives us words to live by for 2015. 4 stars out of 5.

Into the Woods

- On mobile? Watch the trailer here

With a cast of characters plucked from Mother Goose and other fairy tales, this adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway smash suffers in the leap to the big screen. The songs are wonderful, and boy, can Meryl Streep belt them out, but the tone — which starts playful and takes a dark detour —​ may give some little ones whiplash. Still, this tale of coming face to face with your heart’s desire features a few memorable performances, from Chris Pine as a puffed-up Prince Charming to Emily Blunt as the Baker’s pining wife. 3½ stars out of 5.

Inherent Vice

- On mobile? Watch the trailer here

Working from the novel by Thomas Pynchon, director Paul Thomas Anderson serves up another slice of American pie with this film noir mystery set in California’s fading hippie counter culture, where the Mason family murders are in the air and corporate America is on the march. Imagine Scooby-Doo’s Shaggy as a private eye and you’ve got the gist of Joaquin Phoenix's perpetually stoned detective "Doc." With a cast of characters that rivals a Russian novel, Inherent Vice may confuse you, but just settle into the haze and enjoy the trip, man. 4 stars out of 5.

Mr. Turner

- On mobile? Watch the trailer here

Timothy Spall grunts and huffs his way through the life of the singular British landscape painter, Mr. Turner. With director Mike Leigh setting the frame, what we get is a sometime bewildering portrait with little insight into the artist's revolutionary technique or obsession with marine scenes. Rather, it's a picture of a stubborn visionary who lived life on his own terms, complemented by Leigh's almost documentary-like approach. 3 stars out of 5

Unbroken

- On mobile? Watch the trailer here

With bristling energy and a magnetic presence, British actor Jack O’Connell has the potential to become the next Michael Fassbender. (Just watch the father-son prison drama Starred Up for an excellent example.) In Unbroken, O’Connell takes on the true life story of Louis Zamperini, a U.S. airman whose B-24 bomber crashed in the Pacific during the Second World War. As a director, Angelina Jolie seems drawn to stories of suffering, and what she presents here is a tale of endurance. As former Olympic distance runner, Zamperini engages in a battle of wills with a sadistic Japanese prison guard nicknamed The Bird. With a script by some of Hollywood's best screenwriters (including a Coen brother) and cinematography by Roger Deakins, Unbroken is a portrait of agony (the ragged, filth-covered PoWs even look like they were painted by Rembrandt). But for all of Zamperini’s suffering, there’s a lack of complexity to this good-versus-evil grudge match.  2½ stars out of 5. 

Also opening on Dec. 25:

- Big Eyes

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