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10 Movies that Are Perfect for the Holiday Weekend

A selection of recent releases to entertain in-laws and teenagers alike (and a few for just the grown-ups).

Photo Credit: Studio


Stuck inside with the whole family this weekend, in between platters of leftover stuffing and football games involving teams you don’t care about? Is your aunt or mom or in-law beginning to eye that DVD of “Sleepless in Seattle” with that speculative gleam in her eye?Again, you think? Well, I’m here to help. Here’s a selection of recent releases – all now available on DVD, from online streaming services or both – that are suitable for mixed family groups of widely varying ages and backgrounds, without being entirely predictable or conventional.

Most of these movies probably aren’t appropriate for young children, or simply might bore them. That’s an entirely different problem, but I’m going to assume you’ve heard of Walt Disney and Frank Capra (and also I refer you back to this  classic Salon listicle, which could no doubt use an update). But these should play well with adventurous kids from 11 or 12 on up, and nearly all adults. I’ve appended a special “adults only” list at the end, for that point late in the evening when the kids are in bed and grandma’s in the mood for something racier. Even so, we’re talking about R-rated sexual content, not full frontal nudity, ultraviolence or Lars von Trier-level angst.


Huck Finn-style boyhood adventure meets the economic dislocation of the 21st century South in this riverbank fable from writer-director Jeff Nichols. In one of the signature roles of his recent comeback, Matthew McConaughey plays a charismatic but mysterious drifter, living by himself on an island, who draws two boys into his romantic quest to win back a lost love. “Mud” has elements of thriller and a few episodes of violence – McConaughey’s character is being pursued by diabolical mobsters from the outside world – but the young protagonists are never in serious danger, and their disillusioning glimpse of the adult world is tempered with redemption.

“Fill the Void”

One of the first feature films to emerge from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, “Fill the Void” is only indirectly about religion and has little to do with politics. Director Rama Burstein convinced her rabbi that breaking with convention to tell this story was worth it, and the resulting fable of love and marriage is something like a Hasidic version of Jane Austen, a story about the collision between passion and convention. Her film is tautly composed, winsome and often very funny, and she captures the inner workings of a world almost never seen by outsiders.

“From Up on Poppy Hill”

This gorgeous work of Japanese animation — written by the great Hayao Miyazaki and directed by his son, Goro – is a classic childhood fable of innocence threatened and a community under siege, set against the relatively innocent backdrop of early-1960s Yokohama. While “From Up on Poppy Hill” lacks the supernatural or fairy tale elements of Miyazaki hits like “Princess Mononoke” or “Spirited Away,” it weaves its own gentler magic, largely through its lambent color scheme and its unhurried pace.

“Short Term 12″

Compelling performances from an impressive ensemble cast and an aura of entirely convincing realism save Destin Cretton’s debut film – set in a California group home for foster kids – from feeling too much like a movie of the week. Cretton once worked in just such a facility, a last-chance home for young people who’ve been repeatedly abused or failed by the system, and the whole project is clearly a labor of love. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. play the adult couple who run Short Term 12 (despite the name, some kids will live there for years), and who have to pretend they’re not a couple while they’re at work. Kaitlyn Dever nearly steals the whole movie as an embittered teenage girl whose tormented history throws their relationship into question. Maybe it sounds a bit like spinach, but the compassion and storytelling are both strong, and you’ll be hooked from the first minute.