Weekend Movie Preview: December 21, 2012

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The Christmas holiday season is always the busiest and seems to be the most stressful time of the year. It is certainly a busy one at the cinemas this weekend with five new films opening! Tom Cruise hopes to launch a new franchise with Jack Reacher, Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts achieve The Impossible and tell a true Thailand tsunami tale, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann revisit their Knocked Up characters for a "sort-of" sequel in This Is 40, David Chase leaves The Sopranos behind with his ode to rock music, Not Fade Away, and Kristen Stewart finds herself On the Road.

Jack Reacher: Cruise hopes he's got another series under his belt with the page-to-screen effort that is Jack Reacher. His former military investigator has his hands full when a sniper kills five people in Pittsburgh. The superstar is terrific and we would welcome more stories featuring Reacher, but in the light of recent current events, some of the film's scenes are too difficult to watch... as we state further in our Jack Reacher review. The supporting cast is stellar, including Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall and Richard Jenkins.

This Is 40: Rudd and Mann struck a chord with their portrayal of a married couple with two little girls in Knocked Up. Five years later, the family is back in the latest comedy from writer-director Judd Apatow. We praise the originality of the film that focuses its comedy muscles on turning that evil age that defines mid-life. Our This Is 40 review warns that it is a little long for a comedy at over two hours, but that is par for the course for Apatow. Fans of the filmmaker's work will adore his latest.

The Impossible: Watts has been getting a lot of Oscar buzz for her portrayal of Maria, the real-life mother of three who survives the 2004 Thailand tsunami. We think she may win, and one who also deserves notice is her onscreen husband, Ewan McGregor. The film handles tragedy with such grace and never seeks to exploit it in any way. The Movie Fanatic The Impossible review delves deeper into why this film is important and also timely for the holiday season where we get together and reinforce the bonds of family.

On the Road: Jack Kerouac finally has a movie version of his iconic book that chronicled a coming-of-age experience that has resonated for generations. Filmmakers and their cast clearly have a passion for the subject as all involved do their part to make the film a testament to the late author. Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund lead a cast that also includes Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen. Check out our On the Road review for more.

Not Fade Away: Chase graduates from small to big screen with his love letter to 1960s rock 'n' roll. The creator of The Sopranos, as we reported in our Not Fade Away review, loves his New Jersey stories. This Garden State-set film follows a group of guys who form a band in hopes of following in the footsteps of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. For the most part, the film works. But as we said in our Not Fade Away review, it falters in its final act.

Already in theaters after opening earlier this week:

The Guilt Trip: Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen create great comic chemistry in this mother-son road trip movie. Streisand and Rogen each hit the right notes as each could have been over the top and instead pop with heart. For more, check out our The Guilt Trip review.

Zero Dark Thirty: Kathryn Bigelow's latest film chronicles the ten-year long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. It is only opening in a few markets to qualify for the Oscars before opening nationally January 17. If it's in your area, run, don't walk to see it. The Zero Dark Thirty review should only reinforce that call to action!

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