David Edelstein on the holiday movies

"The Adventures of Tintin" (left), and "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," starring Tom Cruise.
Paramount Pictures

'Tis the season for holiday moviegoing . . . and for David Edelstein, there's no time to lose:


No time for cute introductions: Let's get to the movies . . .

You can skip the overblown "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," though Jared Harris makes an agreeably chilly homicidal runt of a Professor Moriarty.

And approach "Young Adult" with caution, given it's the sourest coming-home comedy ever, though Charlize Theron is a fetching delusional drunken shrew from hell.

Q & A with Charlize Theron

You will - no matter what I say - line up for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," the American version of the inexplicably popular Swede revenge thriller, because really, who doesn't like watching rapists and neo-Nazi serial killers get royally reamed by a hacker chick with piercings? The movie brings the hate.

Bringing the love is "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," loosely based on Jonathan Safran Foer's tricky novel about boys and their dads' tragic legacies. This boy lost his dad, played by Tom Hanks, on 9/11, and the film boils down to a scavenger hunt for his final inspirational message, mixed with flashbacks and calls from the burning World Trade Center. It's very powerful, and very manipulative.

But very powerful. But very manipulative. I'm still sorting out my feelings.

Video: Author on "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley looking for a mole in the Circus, though it has nothing to do with rodents or clowns, and Smiley never smiles. It's hard to follow even if you've read John le Carre's book and seen the old miniseries. But if you can, the re-immersion in that Cold War paranoid universe of agents and double agents and double-double agents will thrill you to bits.

So will a more action-heavy espionage picture, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," the fourth and most fun in the Tom Cruise series - possibly because Cruise lets actors like Jeremy Renner in on the action, more likely because it's Pixar genius Brad Bird's first non-animated movie, and the heroes quaver on ledges or above whirling blades like they know they're in the hands of someone used to indestructible cartoon characters.

"The Adventures of Tintin," on the other hand, is Steven Spielberg's first animated movie, and, freed from earthly restrictions, he's the slapstick-action wizard of his (and our) wildest dreams - which means it's Indiana Jones squared. I was grinning so hard my jaw hurt.

Spielberg has another superb film, "War Horse," based on a kids' book told through the eyes of a horse swept up in the First World War. I've heard complaints it's corny, and if corny means showing flickers of generosity amidst scenes of incomprehensible slaughter, I say, bring it on. We need something in these fractured times to remind us of our common humanity.

This season, it's a horse.