Why you should care

Because a flick like The Theory of Everything deserves your attention, holiday or not.

On the fourth Thursday of November, we give thanks for extended family. And — just between us — we also give thanks that we don’t have to see these weirdos very often. It’s one of the great traditions of turkey day: Spend a day with people you love but can only take in small doses. Unfortunately, the doses, be they food or time, are never small on Thanksgiving. If only there were a socially acceptable pastime that allowed people to technically be together while prohibiting them from actually having to converse? Good news — there is. It’s called a movie. On Thanksgiving, the cinemas are often full of good stuff for families who’ve grown tired of chatting. They can sit next to each other, not talk and still feel that, technically, they spent the day as a family. It’s a win-win. But what to watch? We’ve assembled a short list of flicks to consider.

The Theory of Everything

In wide release Nov. 26

Stephen Hawking is a genius among geniuses, perhaps one of the smartest people to ever walk the planet. He’s had great successes, and also suffered more than his share of tragedy. The Theory of Everything, which stars Eddie Redmayne as Hawking and Felicity Jones as his first wife, Jane, focuses on the couple’s courtship and the onset of the motor neuron disease that left Hawking largely paralyzed and unable to speak without the assistance of a speech-generating machine. Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking has generated a fair amount of Oscar buzz, though the film has been criticized for glossing over the couple’s troubles. They divorced in 1995 after 30 years together.

For: People who know Hawking is a genius but have no idea why. The film, though not perfect, does a nice job of explaining Hawking’s incredible theories in ways that most everybody can understand.

Not for: People seeking a break from the biopic formula.

Odds your Uncle Horace will fall asleep: Not even Hawking himself could predict with absolute certainty, but we’re going to go out on a limb and guarantee that your Uncle Horace will be entertained.*

*Guarantee will not be honored.

Happy Valley

Released online on Nov. 21

Not to be confused with the Netflix series of the same name, this documentary covers the fallout over the Penn State football abuse scandal that led to the conviction of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and the firing of legendary head coach Joe Paterno and caused an entire community to question its values. The film, directed by noted documentarian Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story, My Kid Could Paint That), focuses largely on how the community reacted to the Sandusky scandal as well the importance placed on football, tradition and myth.

For: Definitely not a feel-good holiday movie, but required viewing for those eager to learn more about the collective mindset at Penn State both before and after Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child molestation.

Not for: People who want to leave the house. This movie is being distributed largely online.

Odds your Uncle Horace will fall asleep: We’re guessing even the most jaded viewer will watch with a mixture of awe and disgust.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

Opens Nov. 21

If you’re worried about being alone on Thanksgiving, just go see this movie. The crowds will be around the block. This fantasy epic starring Jennifer Lawrence as a badass seeking to bring down a corrupt government is a behemoth. This is the first of a two-part story, meaning you’re not likely to get a lot of closure when you walk out of the theater. Still, early buzz is positive, and Lawrence has already proved herself a fantastic Katniss in the saga’s earlier chapters. Hollywood clearly expects big things. No other studios even bothered to release a film on the same day. They know not to mess with J.Law.

For: Families who like watching fearless teens take corrupt adults to task.

Not for: Folks averse to crowds, dictators who hate freedom.

Odds your Uncle Horace will fall asleep: Low because explosions.

Horrible Bosses 2

Opens Nov. 26

Long gone are the days that a film had to be a critical and commercial smash to demand a sequel. These days, especially with comedies, unless people loathed the original, you’re likely to get another installment. The first Horrible Bosses met with mostly positive reviews. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis starred as three overworked, unappreciated working stiffs who took revenge on their superiors. In the sequel, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz plays the role of the baddie, with his Django Unchained costar Jamie Foxx in a supporting role.

For: People who fantasize about taking revenge on their boss. Also, folks with a high tolerance for low humor. Don’t go in expecting Annie Hall.

Not for: Families who feel awkward watching R-rated movies together. Director Sean Anders also helmed the bawdy comedies That’s My Boy and Sex Drive.

Odds your Uncle Horace will fall asleep: Low because curse words.

Penguins of Madagascar

Opens Nov. 26

Got some kiddos you need to get out of the house? Penguins of Madagascar could be your best bet. The latest from DreamWorks’ long-running animated franchise isn’t going to be confused with a glory-days Pixar picture, but it’s sure to offer slapstick comedy for the kids and a few in-jokes for the parents. This installment features the vocal talents of Benedict Cumberbatch (he’s everywhere!) and John Malkovich, who finds a portal into his own head and wakes up on the side of a Madagascar turnpike. No, wait — wrong movie.

For: Kids, mostly. Also, people who’ve been waiting for a Madagascar movie that doesn’t have Ben Stiller.

Not for: People who don’t instantly find the idea of waddling penguins as spies to be uproarious.

Odds your Uncle Horace will fall asleep: Depends. Is he sleepy?

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