Going to the movies on Christmas for some families is as much of a tradition as exchanging gifts or avoiding fruitcake. Studios are aware and release a glut of movies around the Christmas season. So what should you go see with the family? Here’s what’s in theaters.
Malvern’s Adam McKay turns his lens to the former vice president Dick Cheney, played by Christian Bale, whose impersonation here is impressive. The movie is covering ground that’s been covered and covered, offering little that is revelatory. It’s an end-zone dance on the legacy of a vice president who left office with a ruined economy, a blood-soaked Iraq, and a 13 percent approval rating, and though Bale’s shtick is very good, it doesn’t improve our understanding of the famously opaque Cheney.
Holmes and Watson
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly reunite — and go head to head on opening day with their former collaborator Adam McKay, whose Vice also opens. This time, the duo aren’t driving NASCAR, but going back to 19th century England. Ferrell plays Sherlock, while Reilly takes on the good Doc Watson as they investigate a threat against the Queen. The movie didn’t screen for critics, which makes us weary of its quality, but if it’s like other Ferrell pictures, you pretty much know what you’re in for. Let’s just hope this one is more Talladega Nights than Get Hard.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Oscar winner Barry Jenkins adapts James Baldwin’s novel of a couple torn apart by racism — redlining separates Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) from the loft they want, disrupting Fonny’s own grand plan to be a sculptor. He then makes an antagonist of a hateful cop who arrests him on a rape charge, as flimsy as it is hard to dislodge.
On the Basis of Sex
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gets her second film of the year after the doc RBG. This one is a feature, focusing in on her arguments in Moritz v. IRS, in which she basically kicked out the pillars that supported gender discrimination. Felicity Jones plays Ginsburg, while her husband is played by Armie Hammer.
Mary Poppins Returns
Very stylish continuation of the P.L. Travers story, with Emily Blunt in the title role, coming back to take care of the Banks children (Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer) now grown, and in danger of losing their family home. Professional throughout — songs, choreography, special effects — but missing some of the magic of the original. With Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Welcome to Marwen
After he’s nearly beaten to death, an artist (Steve Carell) starts to heal by building a miniature WWII Belgian town, using toy figures to create stories that help him understand his assault. Director Robert Zemeckis creates fantasy sequences to bring those narratives alive. Erratic, ambitious film, based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp, actually works best in live-action scene featuring plain old acting. Costarring Merritt Wever, Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae.
>> READ MORE: Art imitates strife in the ambitious ‘Welcome to Marwen’
Aquaman (Jason Momoa) reluctantly returns to Atlantis to battle his half brother (Patrick Wilson) for control of the kingdom. A bright, wacky, wise-cracky change of pace from the usual D.C. Universe mope-fest, and Momoa brings some levity to the proceedings, but the movie is way to long, and over-reliant on animated effects. With Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman.
Ben is Back
As a mother (Julia Roberts) prepares for the Christmas holiday, her addicted son (Lucas Hedges) returns unexpectedly from a stint in drug rehab. Events transpire to shatter the family’s peace, leading mother and son on a dangerous trip during which both are forced to confront aspects of the young man’s past. Movie can be manipulative, but it’s well-acted throughout. With Courtney B. Vance,
Jennifer Lopez stars in the type of movie she used to topline annually but now feels almost like a throwback in the current movie climate. Lopez plays Maya, who, by no fault of her own, catfishes her way into a high paying consulting gig. Leah Remini takes on best friend duties, while Milo Ventimiglia is her studly boyfriend.