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January is a famously terrible month for new movies. Fortunately, December is a famously awesome month for new movies. Some December movies are just now expanding into wide release; others might have gotten lost in the holiday rush. So if you’re heading to the multiplex this weekend, there’s plenty of good stuff (or just interesting not-good stuff) to choose from. Let’s run down the list of 10 must-see movies in theaters this weekend, starting with…

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Finally expanding into wide release, Tinker Tailor is a whispery brain-teaser starring every British actor you’ve loved in every movie of the last few years. It’s also an English spy movie, and we’ve had a severe shortage of English spy movies in the last few Bond-free years. It’s also the biggest showcase for pure uncut Gary Oldman in years.

2. The Devil Inside

In the last few years, January has become a mini-season for bad horror movies, and Devil Inside looks to continue the trend. Still there’s no denying the appeal of spooky brunettes whispering scary things while doing yoga poses.

3. Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol

2011 was a good year for critically-praised blockbuster sequels to franchises that seemed half-dead (See also: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Fast Five) but it’s tough to beat the fourth Mission: Impossible movie for pure unexpected delight. As directed by Brad Bird, Ghost Protocol is the first movie since Dark Knight to really justify that IMAX price tag.

4./5. The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse

Reviews have been genuinely mixed for these two Steven Spielberg films. Some have praised Tintin for its animated exuberance; EW’s own Owen Gleiberman thought it was a holly, uncanny-valley mediocrity. Similarly, the rap on War Horse is mixed: it’s either lovingly old-fashioned or just plain sentimental. Make up your own mind! After all, how often do you get a chance to see two movies by one of our greatest directors at the same multiplex?

6. Young Adult

It’s basically a remake of Up in the Air, except starring Charlize Theron as a brilliant bitch instead of George Clooney as a morose handsome man, and with a better soundtrack. Plus, Patton Oswalt!

7. My Week With Marilyn

Because great performances deserve to be seen, even if the movies around them aren’t so great. (See also: the still-in-limited-release Iron Lady and Albert Nobbs.)

8. The Muppets

Still in theaters, still funnier than any of the horrible big-budget comedies released in December. You know how much your kids want to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked? So just tell them you’re going to see Chipwrecked, and then take them into The Muppets. You’re doing it for their own good.

9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Yes, you’ve read the book. Yes, you’ve seen the Swedish movie. But you’d still be crazy to miss David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s bestseller. If nothing else, check it out so you have plenty of debate ammunition the next time you get into a Rooney Mara/Noomi Rapace argument.

10. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Speaking of Noomi Rapace! Anyone interested in the basic science of blockbuster filmmaking should check out the new Sherlock. The first movie was a surprisingly fun, relentlessly charming thriller; the new movie is a bland retread, and the two stars’ smirks seem less charming than self-aggrandizing. It’s a study in how not to make a sequel – but at least Mad Men’s Jared Harris and Rapace keep things clicking along.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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