Steve Carell stars in Welcome ot Marwen.EXPAND
Steve Carell stars in Welcome ot Marwen.
Universal Pictures

10 Gift-Wrapped Holiday Flicks

The holiday movie season is officially upon us, and in between shopping sprees and social gatherings, sometimes a break inside a darkened theater provides the perfect entertainment diversion. With so many great new films to choose from opening between now and Christmas Day, we've narrowed down the field to 10 that we're excited about and feel could be worth your hard-earned cash.

The Oscar-bait entries offer some truly interesting and transformative performances and characterizations, while the family-friendly popcorn arena is populated by the expected array of sequels, spinoffs and new riffs on familiar territory. Either way you choose to go this holiday season, these gift-wrapped movies promise to be both entertaining and thought-provoking experiences.

THE OSCAR BAIT

Welcome to Marwen (Dec. 21)

The compelling true tale of artist Mark Hogancamp comes to life with Steve Carell in the starring role. A man who loses his memory and motor functions after he's severely beaten by Nazis, Hogancamp retreats to his own miniature world, which he populates with dolls decked out in military uniforms and hardware. There he photographs his installations, pieces his life back together and plays out his revenge fantasies. Leslie Mann is Mark's neighbor who helps him to find the courage to face his enemies in this blend of live-action drama and CGI fantasy from director Robert Zemeckis, who finds plenty of warm-hearted inspiration amid the tragedy.

Watch the trailer here.

Kiki Layne and Stephan James in If Beale Street Could Talk
Kiki Layne and Stephan James in If Beale Street Could Talk
Annapurna Pictures

If Beale Street Could Talk (Nov. 31)

Oscar-winning Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins is back with an adaptation of James Baldwin's acclaimed, 1970s-set novel of a love affair, family drama, and a new life born into a complicated situation. Stephan James and Kiki Layne play Harlem sweethearts Fonny Hunt and Tish Rivers, who are torn apart and must fight for justice after Fonny is framed for a crime he did not commit. With Regina King, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal and Dave Franco also starring, expect some serious emotional fireworks and memorable performances.

Watch the trailer here.

Nicole Kidman in DestroyerEXPAND
Nicole Kidman in Destroyer
Annapurna Pictures

Destroyer (Dec. 25)

Nicole Kidman once again transforms her appearance for a tour-de-force performance as Erin Bell, an undercover LAPD detective whose assignment with a gang goes tragically wrong. Years later, when the gang's leader emerges, Bell must dive back into her emotionally jarring past to pick up the shattered pieces of her life and set things straight. Director Karyn Kusama helms this gritty crime thriller from a script by her husband, Phil Hay, and his writing partner, Matt Manfredi. Sebastian Stan, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Bradley Whitford, Jade Pettyjohn and Scoot McNairy also star.

Watch the trailer here.

Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, with Armie Hammer as her supportive husband, in biopic On the Basis of Sex.EXPAND
Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, with Armie Hammer as her supportive husband, in biopic On the Basis of Sex.
Focus Features

On the Basis of Sex (Dec. 25)

Don't let the tricky title fool you. The notorious R.B.G. gets her own compelling biopic tale this Christmas, with Rogue One star Felicity Jones portraying Supreme Court justice–to-be Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The period drama zeroes in on her legal struggle to bring a groundbreaking gender-discrimination case before the U.S. Court of Appeals — a case that threatens to topple a stack of laws that uphold similar discrimination. Directed by Mimi Leder, the film also stars Kathy Bates, Justin Theroux, Sam Waterston, Armie Hammer as Ruth's supportive husband — plus a cameo by R.B.G. herself.

Watch the trailer here.

Yes, that is Christian Bale under that makeup, as Dick Cheney in Vice.
Yes, that is Christian Bale under that makeup, as Dick Cheney in Vice.
Annapurna Pictures

Vice (Dec. 25)

Who knew a film about Dick Cheney could be so entertaining? Adam McKay follows up The Big Short with an insider look at how business bureaucrat Cheney landed the No. 2 spot next to George W. Bush and then manipulated the duties of the country's second-most-powerful post, with repercussions that are still felt today. Christian Bale transforms himself physically to play Cheney and deliver a stunning performance opposite Sam Rockwell's Bush, with a supporting cast that includes Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Tyler Perry as Colin Powell.

Watch the trailer here.

THE POPCORN FLICKS

Mackenzie Foy, left, and Keira Knightley update the holiday classic in The Nutcracker and the Four RealmsEXPAND
Mackenzie Foy, left, and Keira Knightley update the holiday classic in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Laurie Sparham/Walt Disney Enterprises

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Nov. 2)

This ain't your grandparents' Nutcracker! The perennial Tchaikovsky holiday classic gets an Alice in Wonderland–style CGI makeover with Mackenzie Foy as Clara, who finds a magical key needed to unlock a box containing a priceless gift. When the key is lost to a mysterious and fantastic parallel world, Clara must team up with a soldier (Jayden Fowora-Knight) to battle the tyrant Mother Ginger's (Helen Mirren) evil forces (with mice! lots and lots of mice!), reclaim the key and bring peace to the four realms. Keira Knightley, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland and Morgan Freeman add star flavor to this colorful extravaganza.

Watch the trailer here.

Eddie Redmayne returns as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.EXPAND
Eddie Redmayne returns as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Warner Bros. Enterprises

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Nov. 16)

Bring your magic wands! J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World universe continues to expand with the highly anticipated follow-up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which finds Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore recruiting magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to face off against the tricky wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). Featuring a welcome return to the halls of Hogwarts, the action takes audiences to London and Paris locations for plenty of magic, mystery, pyrotechnics and fierce/cuddly creatures. Mainstay Harry Potter director David Yates helms once again, with returning cast members Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterston.

Watch the trailer here.

John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman reprise their characters in Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to surprise hit Wreck-It Ralph.EXPAND
John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman reprise their characters in Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to surprise hit Wreck-It Ralph.
Walt Disney Enterprises

Ralph Breaks the Internet (Nov. 21)

The animated cast of Wreck-It Ralph is back and ready to break out of the video arcade. When Vanellope von Schweetz's (Sarah Silverman) Sugar Rush video game is threatened, she teams up with lumbering pal Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) to scour the Internet for a replacement part. Alongside a gaggle of Disney princesses, Star Wars characters and other Mouse House properties populating the World Wide Web, keep your eyes open for plenty of other corporate branding jokes to make you smirk, roll your eyes and prompt you to do more online shopping. Taraji P. Henson, Gal Gadot and Alan Tudyk are among the new voices joining in the fun.

Watch the trailer here.

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone are back in Creed II.
Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone are back in Creed II.
MGM

Creed II (Nov. 21)

Amazingly, the eighth installment of the four-decades-and-still-standing Rocky franchise looks like it will go the distance. Michael B. Jordan is back as Adonis Creed, with Sylvester Stallone's veteran fighter Rocky Balboa by his side, this time ready to face off against the son of Rocky's toughest opponent and the man who killed his father — Ivan Drago. Yep, Dolph Lundgren's there to stare down Rock as the next generation looks to break each other inside the ring. With original Creed director Ryan Coogler now on Black Panther patrol, Steven Caple Jr. takes over directing duties, guiding Florian Munteanu as the intimidating Viktor Drago and Tessa Thompson as Creed's love/conscience.

Watch the trailer here.

Emily Blunt stars in Mary Poppins.EXPAND
Emily Blunt stars in Mary Poppins.
Walt Disney Enterprises

Mary Poppins Returns (Dec. 18)

Expect this reboot/sequel to go down like a spoonful of sugar. Five decades after Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke delighted audiences in Disney's musical adaptation of the P.L. Travers novel, Emily Blunt floats into the title role as the magical nanny, signature umbrella in hand, to win over a whole new generation. Now grown up, siblings Michael and Jane Banks (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer) struggle with finances while Michael's children fall into line for Poppins, who takes them on another colorful adventure of animated delights. Lin-Manuel Miranda sings, dances and tries on a milder Cockney accent as a street lamplighter, Colin Firth is the stodgy banker boss, and Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury (and the returning Van Dyke!) bolster the fairy-tale cast, directed by Rob Marshall.

Watch the trailer here.

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