Friday Flicks: Oscar Contenders, Blockbusters and Comedies Are Released for the Holidays

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this holiday season.

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Columbia Pictures

Stationed in a covert base overseas, Jessica Chastain (center) plays a member of the elite team of spies and military operatives who secretly devoted themselves to finding Osama Bin Laden

Jack Reacher

Friday Flicks isn’t usually the place to get into the wider issues affecting society but one is forced to wonder, in light of the tragic events in Newtown, Conn., whether films such as Jack Reacher — which seem to revel in the unbridled brandishing of firearms — won’t be made in quite the same way any more. (Paramount postponed the film’s Saturday evening Pittsburgh premiere).

The action film is adapted from the popular series of thrillers by Lee Child about a strapping, 6′ 5″ former military police officer. But the height issue wasn’t a stretch for the Cruise. “With another actor you might get 100% of the height but only 90% of Reacher,” Child reportedly said. “With Tom, you’ll get 100% of Reacher with 90% of the height.” More promising is that the writer/director of Jack Reacher is Christopher McQuarrie, who did a fine job with The Usual Suspects, though the rest of his resume isn’t in the same league (he and Cruise worked together on the middling Valkyrie).

As Reacher teams up with lawyer Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike) in order to catch a sniper, reviewers seem to be going along for the ride. “It is, in its way, a curious sort of auteurist cinema, in which a lone wolf (Cruise produces as well as stars) has taken an impeccably mainstream product and made it strange around him,” notes The Guardian. And The Hollywood Reporter is not only on board but even offers some unsolicited career advice: “At least in terms of his action-film portfolio, Cruise is in top form here; if he feels like working really hard as a star and producer, he could alternate big-budget Mission: Impossible outings with less expensive Jack Reacher installments for a number of years, with other projects slipped in between them.” Variety, however, isn’t convinced — noting that “Reacher is a brawny action figure whose exploits would have been a good fit for the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone back in the day, but feel less fun when delegated to a leading man like Tom Cruise. The star is too charismatic to play someone so cold-blooded, and his fans likely won’t appreciate the stretch.” And EW, in a stinging C+ review, concludes that “Jack Reacher doesn’t play well with others; Jack Reacher is an argument to leave the guy alone.”

TIME REVIEW: Tom Cruise Picks the Wrong Week for a Thriller About a Mass Killing

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