Holiday Preview: 25 Must-See Movies - December

'Shame' (Dec. 2)

[caption id="attachment_89699" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Fox Searchlight"]Shame[/caption]

Michael Fassbender as a sex addict? When you look as good as this guy, we imagine it must be hard NOT to be a sex addict, what with all the babes and, yes, dudes likely throwing themselves at your doorstep. The film itself concerns a man whose perverted little world is disrupted when his sister Cissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay with him. Given the film's NC-17 rating, prepare yourselves to see Fassbender go Full Magneto.

'New Year’s Eve' (Dec. 9)

[caption id="attachment_89702" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Warner Bros."]New Year's Eve[/caption]

How many huge stars does it take to screw in a lightbulb? We're not sure, but this movie has at least half the amount needed, including (but not limited to) Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank and Jon Bon Jovi. Director Garry Marshall is trying to get you laid again with the season's ultimate date movie, a spiritual successor to his previous hit, "Valentine's Day."

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'The Sitter' (Dec. 9)

[caption id="attachment_89705" align="alignright" width="150" caption="20th Century Fox"]The Sitter[/caption]

David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express") already gave us his irreverent take on sword and sorcery with "Your Highness," but decided to double-dip this year by casting Jonah Hill in an F-bomb-laden riff on "Adventures in Babysitting." With Hill still in his pre-"21 Jump Street" chunk-style glory, he's given free rein to watch over three kids with the kindness and sensitivity you'd expect from the screen's most slovenly man-child. Car chases, explosions, and drug deals gone wrong ensue.

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'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' (Dec. 9)

[caption id="attachment_89714" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Focus Features"]Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy[/caption]

Remember when spy movies didn't have to have shaky cams, car chases, or Matt Damon beating up dudes with books? We needed a flick like this to remind us of the pleasures a ripping slow-burn thriller can bring. Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, a former British intelligence spook brought out of fruitless retirement to smoke out a mole during the height of the Cold War. Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson, whose "Let the Right One In" was one of the best movies of the last decade, makes his English-language debut.

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'Young Adult' (Dec. 9)

[caption id="attachment_89716" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Paramount"]Young Adult[/caption]

If you prefer your humor less juvenile and more caustic, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, the team that made "Juno," might have just the thing for you. A pitch-black comedy if there ever was one, this stars Charlize Theron as an insanely self-centered woman who returns to her hometown hellbent on getting her happily married high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson) back. Patton Oswalt costars as Theron's crony, and if the trailer is any indication, this will be one twisted ride through Delusionville.

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'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' (Dec. 16)

[caption id="attachment_89720" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Warner Bros."]Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows[/caption]

The game is afoot once again as Holmes and ever-faithful Dr. Watson are pulled into another web of intrigue, woven by the sleuth's archnemesis Professor Moriarty. Jared Harris, the token Brit from TV's "Mad Men," beat out a slew of potential Moriartys (including Daniel Day-Lewis) for the part; and it's a testament to director Guy Ritchie that he cast a great actor, as opposed to a star, in the plum villain role. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law's quippy chemistry will make this a must-see.

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'The Iron Lady' (Dec. 16)

[caption id="attachment_89719" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Weinstein Company"]The Iron Lady[/caption]

Meryl Streep's inner demons clearly won't be satisfied until she becomes the first woman to receive a thousand Oscar nominations, and is also crowned first Emperor of Mars. Okay, so maybe Streep doesn't want to run a planet, but she is playing one of the most powerful political figures of the 20th century, UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The great Jim Broadbent costars as Thatcher's stalwart husband/First Gentleman Denis.

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'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' (Dec. 16 IMAX only, Dec. 21 wide)

[caption id="attachment_89721" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Paramount"]Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol[/caption]

Tom Cruise wants to be young again real bad, and he's gonna rappel down the world's tallest building -- the Burj Khalifa -- to prove it. We get it, Tom, you're super intense! Chill! Brad Bird, genius animator behind "The Incredibles," makes his live-action debut with a fourquel that brings back series regulars (Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) and positions Jeremy Renner as successor to Cruise's Ethan Hunt. If they do Part 5, Renner will have to jump a motorcycle over all four Mt. Rushmore heads to top this.

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'The Adventures of Tintin' (Dec. 21)

[caption id="attachment_89722" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Paramount"]The Adventures of Tintin[/caption]

Early word from the UK, where this computer-animated blockbuster has already been released, is that the supergroup combo of director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson has nailed the spirit of one of the globe's most enduring pop culture icons. The intrepid reporter Tintin (as motion-captured by Jamie Bell) along with pet dog Snowy are practically bigger in Europe than Jesus, but will his adventurous antics translate to Americans who, by and large, don't know a Hergé from a hole in the ground?

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'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' (Dec 21)

[caption id="attachment_89723" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Columbia Pictures"]The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo[/caption]

The early trailer promised "The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas," but it feels so good. Who better than David Fincher to translate the worldwide literary phenomenon into a franchise for adults who like their mysteries dark and their heroines bisexual and/or on a motorcycle? An unrecognizable Rooney Mara toplines as the eyebrow-less Lisbeth Salander, hacker extraordinaire and Generation Y's answer to Sherlock Holmes. She teams with Daniel Craig to uncover some nasty family business, and maybe knock some boots as well.

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'In the Land of Blood and Honey' (Dec. 23)

[caption id="attachment_89725" align="alignright" width="150" caption="FilmDistrict"]In the Land of Blood and Honey[/caption]

Angelina Jolie's directorial debut had been hovering somewhere between "vainglorious vanity project" and "huh?" on the buzz-o-meter until the recently dropped trailer came out and actually made the film look ... good. Set during the Bosnian war, it's about the relationship between Serbian soldier Danijel (Goran Kostic) and Bosnian captive Ajla (Zana Marjanović), and the repercussions of such a coupling.

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'We Bought a Zoo' (Dec. 23)

[caption id="attachment_89727" align="alignright" width="150" caption="20th Century Fox"]We Bought a Zoo[/caption]

Ahh, the "feel-good dramedy," also known as a "Cameron Crowe special." The man behind "Almost Famous" and "Jerry Maguire" has hit a few snags in recent years, but when he's on his game you can bet hearts will be melted faster than butter on toast. Matt Damon plays a recently widowed dad who dedicates his family to renovating a struggling zoo, and falls in love with Scarlett Johansson. Perhaps they'll even make a sequel, "We Bought an Aquarium," without jumping the shark.

'The Darkest Hour' (Dec. 25)

[caption id="attachment_89728" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Summit"]The Darkest Hour[/caption]

Emile Hirsch is out of the wild and ready to help us forget "Speed Racer" ever happened. In this Russian-made sci-fi pic from producer Timur Bekmambetov of "Wanted" fame, a group of young folk battles some sinister aliens with lasers or lightning bolts or something. The always cute Olivia Thirlby will bring the heat.

'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' (Dec. 25)

[caption id="attachment_89735" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Warner Bros."]Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close[/caption]

Too soon? Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock are betting you a box of Kleenex that you're gonna bawl your little eyes out at this drama built around the events of 9/11, and based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer. Former "Teen Jeopardy" champion Thomas Horn is the actual star, playing a kid looking for a lock to match a key his father left behind when he was killed during the terrorist attacks on our country.

'War Horse' (Dec. 25)

[caption id="attachment_89739" align="alignright" width="150" caption="DreamWorks"]War Horse[/caption]

With Steven Spielberg behind the wheel of this touching story, we know that nothing will come between Albert (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) and his beloved horse Joey, not even a frickin' World War. Already speculated to be a front-runner for Best Picture, this stunning-looking epic from a master filmmaker harkens back to uplifting films from the golden age of Hollywood. If this movie is corny, then corn us up, 'cause it looks tremendous.

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