Scott Tobias

The Coopers have a gorgeous kitchen. And since it's Christmastime, those granite countertops are lined end to end with magazine-ready displays of food: fresh chocolate pastries, fluffy mashed potatoes, brilliant red tomatoes, a shimmering glazed ham with pineapple slices. The extended family gathers only once a year under the same roof and Charlotte (Diane Keaton), the matriarch, wants everything to be perfect. Even Rags, the family dog, has a festive red bow tied around its neck. This is all pretext for a holiday entertainment that feels more like a horror movie.

In movies, cancer tends to be more device than disease, a way of preserving a romance for the ages (e.g. Love Story, A Walk To Remember) or delivering people to a better place through the withering of a beatific martyr. There's a shred of the latter in Miss You Already, an affecting but ragged portrait of female friendship, but few movies have been so intent on showing cancer as the excruciating ordeal it is in real life.

Back in 1993, D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus' documentary The War Room made political celebrities out of James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, two of the masterminds behind Bill Clinton's underdog bid for the presidency in 1992. A decade later, director Rachel Boynton caught up with Carville for another documentary, Our Brand is Crisis, which subtly cast Clintonian tactics in a much less flattering light.

"Something's happening on the Internet," yelps Kimber to her shy older sister Jerrica Benton, the instant pop sensation known as "Jem," in the live-action version of Christy Marx's mid-'80s cartoon staple Jem and the Holograms. Kimber is delighting over an acoustic video gone viral, but the line aptly describes the modus operandi of the filmmakers, who are desperate to tap into the preteen zeitgeist but haven't got a clue how to do it.

The title of Guillermo Del Toro's luxuriant gothic romance, Crimson Peak, refers to the viscous red clay that burbles to the surface at an isolated British estate — which, in the wintertime, looks like the landscape itself is bleeding out. That Del Toro, the genre maestro behind The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth and Pacific Rim, essentially chose to name his movie after a bold stylistic conceit says a lot about his willingness to allow its surface pleasures to become a dominant force.

Pages