Big-Screen Cheat Sheet: Which Movie Should You See This Weekend?

From The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to Saving Mr. Banks, get the scoop on what's playing in theaters

Movie theaters nationwide are bustling as the Christmas holiday approaches! This weekend, Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen are continuing their epic journey in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, while Tyler Perry is back in his signature role for A Madea Christmas. Meanwhile, American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks are beginning their runs in select theaters. These are the movies to check out -- will you be grabbing your popcorn and seeing one of them this weekend?

'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' (Dec. 13)

The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug Review

Warner Bros. Pictures

Short Story: Picking up where last year's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey left off, The Desolation of Smaug once again follows Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and 13 other dwarves in their attempt to reclaim their lost kingdom from dragon Smaug.
Click here for the official movie site!

What They're Saying: "This movie is tremendously enjoyable, and considering how exotic it is, The Desolation of Smaug is weirdly unassuming. It rattles along, never drags, and is always terrifically likable: open, genial and good-natured." -- The Guardian

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%

Good for Kids? Despite its PG-13 rating for intense action violence, Common Sense Media says The Desolation of Smaug "looks milder" than the Lord of the Rings trilogy and carries an important message for young viewers: "Size doesn't matter when you're faced with larger-than-life obstacles."
Click here for the full Common Sense Review.

'Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas' (Dec. 13)

A Madea Christmas Review


Short Story: Based on Tyler Perry's play of the same name, A Madea Christmas finds Madea (Perry) and niece Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford) traveling to visit Eileen's daughter, Lacy, for Christmas. But when they arrive at Lacy's new home, they find themselves in for a rude awakening.
Click here for the official movie site!

Good for Kids? If you've ever seen one of the (many) Madea movies, you'll know the film franchise is crude and inappropriate. To that end, Common Sense Media says this crass Christmas flick "looks best suited for teens and adults."
Click here for the full Common Sense Review.

'American Hustle' (Dec. 13, Limited Release)

American Hustle Review

Columbia Pictures

Short Story: Set in 1970s New Jersey, con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his partner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are reluctantly roped into working with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Naturally, hijinks ensue. Also starring Jennifer Lawrence as Irving's manic wife Rosalyn, and Jeremy Renner as New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito. (Note: American Hustle will be released in theaters nationwide on Dec. 20.)
Click here for the official movie site!

What They're Saying: "It's a film of jaw-dropping virtuosity and pleasure, one that leaves you revved, enthralled, tickled, moved, and amazed." -- Entertainment Weekly

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%

Good for Kids? In case the con-artist subject matter isn't enough to drive young viewers away, American Hustle's R-rating for language, sexual content and violence should do the trick. Common Sense Media tells viewers to "expect strong performances, but save this one for older teens and adults."
Click here for the full Common Sense Review.

'Saving Mr. Banks' (Dec. 13, Limited Release)

Saving Mr Banks Review

Walt Disney Studios

Short Story: A dream is a wish your heart makes, right? In Saving Mr. Banks, it's Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) that has the dream, and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) who wishes to adapt her novel into a movie. (Note: Saving Mr. Banks will be released in theaters nationwide on Dec. 20.)
Click here for the official movie site!

What They're Saying: "Hanks IS Disney in these scenes, as we've never seen him before." -- The Huffington Post

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%

Good for Kids? Although this feel-good, Disney-centric flick might immediately appeal to little ones, Common Sense Media says its PG-13 rating (for unsettling themes and images) makes Saving Mr. Banks "appropriate for older tweens and up."
Click here for the full Common Sense Review.

'Out of the Furnace' (Dec. 6)

Out of the Furnace Review

Relativity Media

Short Story: Set in a Pennsylvania steel mill town, Out of the Furnace zeroes in on Russell Baze (Christian Bale) and his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck). When Rodney gets involved with a ruthless crime ring and mysteriously disappears shortly after Russell lands in prison, Russell must risk everything in order to find justice for his brother.
Click here for the official movie site!

What They're Saying: "Out of the Furnace is a lot of movie, a lot of it good and pungent." -- Chicago Tribune

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 52%

Good for Kids? With an R-rating for strong violence, language and drug content, Out of the Furnace seems suitable for mature viewers only. And Common Sense Media agrees, saying the film "may enthrall some older teens, but it's not recommended for younger viewers."
Click here for the full Common Sense Review.

Rebecca Iannucci is an iVillage contributing writer. Follow her on Pinterest, Twitter and

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