The year is coming to a close, and there are plenty of releases you may have missed that are still playing in theaters. Here are 10 movies to consider seeing during your holiday vacation, an after-work night out or even a weekend multiplex marathon.
“Aquaman” (3 stars)
This story about a merman with superpowers turns out to be ridiculously fun, with an appealing Jason Momoa in the title role and just the right balance between spectacle and silliness. It’s one of the liveliest Warner-DC movies yet, with vigorous direction from James Wan (“Saw,” of all things). Patrick Wilson proves a very good villain; Nicole Kidman is the ageless Queen Atlanna; Amber Heard brings the yowza factor as a flame-haired siren named Mera.
“Roma” (4 stars)
Alfonso Cuaron’s ode to his childhood in Mexico City is set on the cusp between 1970 and 1971, when political turmoil was rocking the country. What resonates most, though, are the personal stories of two women in crisis: A middle-class mother (Marina de Tavira) and her maid (Yalitza Aparicio, a non-professional actress in a stunning debut). You could watch it on Netflix, but this is a big-screen movie, packed with little details and featuring dazzling cinematography by Cuaron himself.
"The Favourite” (3.5 stars)
In 18th-Century England, an ailing Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) toys with the affections of her most faithful advisor (Rachel Weisz) and an ambitious new maid (Emma Stone). Imagine “The Crown” with a surreal streak and a dirty mind, and you’ve got something like this perverse costume drama from director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”). Terrific acting all around, and many a nasty line to remember.
“Creed II” (3 stars)
Remember “Rocky IV,” from 1985? They made it again! And It’s pretty good! This version is technically a sequel to “Creed,” of course, but along with familiar stars Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan, we’ll also see the return of Dolph Lundgren, Brigitte Nielsen and Russian-American competition. Corny but very satisfying.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (3 stars)
Energy, light and color virtually swirl off the screen in this animated film about the original Spider-Man (the voice of Jake Johnson), an alternate Spider-Man (Shameik Moore as Miles Morales) and several other Spider-Types (Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, et. al.). The comics-inspired visuals feel like a new chapter in contemporary animation; imitators surely won’t be far behind. Dig the hip-hop soundtrack, too, with Biggie, Post Malone and more.
"Mary Queen of Scots" (3 stars)
Hardcore fans of historical fiction will like this drama starring Saoirse Ronan as a young monarch caught in a web of religious bigotry, political jockeying and love triangles. The plot is as complicated as an LSAT puzzle, but the acting is quite fine (Margot Robbie astonishes as a wretched Queen Elizabeth I) and the screen is rich with period detail.
"Green Book" (3 stars)
This heartwarmer from director Peter Farrelly (!) stars the great Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”) as a musician taking a 1962 tour of the segregated South with the protection of a white mobster bouncer (Viggo Mortensen). The characters aren’t as simplistic as they might sound, and the two actors create a bond that feels very real. Based on a true story; co-written by the driver’s son.
"Mortal Engines" (3 stars)
Even if you’re tuckered out by teen-targeted dystopian adventures, take a gamble on this lavishly made epic from producer Peter Jackson. The premise is a hoot — mobilized cities roam the Earth, trying to eat each other — and the steampunk production design looks terrific. Think of it as a PG-13 “Fury Road,” which is not a bad thing to be. The fresh-faced cast includes Robert Sheehan and the Seoul-born musician Jihae.
"A Star Is Born" (3 stars)
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is as Hollywood as it gets, the fourth iteration of a classic movie (the first came out in 1937) about the price of stardom. In this case, the star is played by Lady Gaga as Ally, a talented but self-conscious singer who gets a boost from a country-rock legend (Cooper). The Cooper-Gaga chemistry is crackling, and Matthew Libatique’s cinematography makes them look staggeringly beautiful. Come Oscar night, you’ll want to have seen this.