7 movies to see over Christmas

11:20 AM, Dec 24, 2013   |    comments
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USA TODAY - Ho ho Hollywood! The movie biz is feeling extra-generous -- and competitive - this holiday by delivering a whopping seven titles to theaters on Dec. 25 and one on Dec. 27.

And no wonder: Over the past decade, Christmas week has been the year's highest-grossing stretch.

So if you need a break from eggnog and carols or want to treat yourself and loved ones to a last-minute gift or two, consider these viewing options from USA TODAY's Claudia Puig.

'THE WOLF OF WALL STREET'

Stocking stuffed with: Director Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner and Joanna Lumley.

Inside the wrapping: DiCaprio is Oscar-worthy as a crooked, decadent stockbroker in this riotously entertaining and irreverent three-hour adaptation of Jordan Belfort's memoir. The farcical tale has a topnotch ensemble cast, a witty screenplay and dazzling cinematography.

Perfect gift for: Adult fans of Scorsese's Goodfellas and those drawn to dark comedy. Don't bring the kiddies!

'THE INVISIBLE WOMAN'

Stocking stuffed with: Director Ralph Fiennes and stars Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas and Tom Hollander.

Inside the wrapping: This, beautifully shot, well-acted period film chronicles a secret affair between writer Charles Dickens (Fiennes) in middle age and a young actress (Jones). The romance lasted for the last 13 years of Dickens's life.

Perfect gift for: Adult admirers of Victorian-era costume dramas, biographical art films and high-brow romances.

'47 RONIN'

Stocking stuffed with: Director Carl Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves, Rinko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada and Kou Shibasaki.

Inside the wrapping: One of the most performed Japanese plays of all time follows a band of 47 samurai who set out to avenge the death of their master at the hands of a treacherous warlord and restore honor to their people. Reeves is not "the one" here -there are 46 others.

Perfect gift for: Devotees of martial arts action-adventure movies and stylized, stunt-filled fantasy films.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY

Stocking stuffed with: Director/star Ben Stiller and co-stars Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott.

Inside the wrapping: A nebbish guy (Stiller) with a vivid imagination escapes into his daydreams until he embarks on a real-life exotic adventure. Loosely based on a short story by James Thurber, it's marked by an earnest message, extensive special effects and vivid scenes shot in Iceland. But this sentimental romantic-comedy lacks Thurber's satirical tone.

Perfect gift for: Family audiences that enjoyed Stiller in the Night at the Museum movies, but not aimed at fans of Stiller's edgier comic fare like Tropic Thunder.

'GRUDGE MATCH'

Stocking stuffed with: Director Peter Segal and stars Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin.

Inside the wrapping: Stallone and De Niro play a pair of retired boxers who settle a long-standing feud by going back into the ring.

Perfect gift for: Enthusiasts of inspirational sports movies and nostalgic fans of the Rocky movies. Do bring Grandpa.

'LONE SURVIVOR'

Stocking stuffed with: Director Peter Berg and stars Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Eric Bana and Taylor Kitsch.

Inside the wrapping: Four Navy SEALs on a secret mission in 2005 to take down a senior Taliban commander are ambushed by enemy rebels in the mountains of Afghanistan. This grueling, brutal combat movie is stolidly pro-military and patriotic, but apolitical.

Perfect gift for: Fans of Black Hawk Down, The Kingdom and Zero Dark Thirty.

'AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY'

Stocking stuffed with: Director John Wells and stars Meryl Streep,Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis and Ewan McGregor.

Inside the wrapping: It's anti-holiday fare at its most star-studded. This over-the-top, occasionally uproarious tale of an Oklahoma family - based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Tracy Letts - could take the prize for most dysfunctional collection of relatives. Roberts gives her best performance ever as the estranged daughter of the family's uber-nasty matriarch (Streep).

Perfect gift for: Theater aficionados and those drawn to talky dramas with snidely clever dialogue.

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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