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

On the Road

Tagline: Based on the Generation-Defining Novel by Jack Kerouac.

A recent appearance on The Daily Show confirmed how keen Kristen Stewart was to star in Jack Kerouac’s classic American novel, On The Road. Stewart told another Stewart, Daily Show host Jon, that Kerouac’s beat masterpiece “was my first favorite book. It was the first time, for a lot of people … I really came alive. It definitely kick started something in me. I did not think I could play that part at all.”

The part she’s referring to is Marylou, who is married to Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a charming ex-con who himself is rather taken by the aspiring New York writer, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley). The threesome decide to make a break for it and head out, in search of whatever experiences come their way. And the project seems to be in safe hands, helmed by Walter Salles, whose best known film to date, The Motorcycle Diaries, went down pretty well with the target audience this movie is hoping to attract.

But the reaction to Salles’s latest has been rather more muted. The New York Times feels let down, calling the filmmaker “an intelligent director … [who] doesn’t invest On the Road with the wildness it needs for its visual style, narrative approach and leads.” Variety takes a similar view: “A handsome visual companion to Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation touchstone that seems unlikely to occupy a place of similar resonance in the hearts and minds of those who see it.” But the Daily Telegraph doesn’t just label it “an alluring and honest treatment.” In the words of Telegraph reviewer Tim Robey, “some films only coalesce right at the end, and the closing moments here are so spellbindingly sad that I was instantly keen to see it again.”

LIST: Top 10 Movie Performances of 2012
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Zero Dark Thirty is the standout choice, though if you need something a little lighter in its aftermath, This Is 40 should fit the bill.

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