L.A. Weekly's Movie Guide is your look at the hottest films in Los Angeles theaters this week — from indie art house gems and classics to popcorn-perfect blockbusters and new movies garnering buzz. Check here every week before you make your big-screen plans.

Friday, Dec. 21

Bumblebee is the cutest, gentlest title for a rock-'em sock-'em robot movie yet, but it fits well with this sixth installment of the enormously popular (or just plain enormous) Transformers franchise. Directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and starring Hailee Steinfeld, the film is an origin story that details the relationship between a troubled teen and a giant hunk of sentient alien metal conveniently disguised as a yellow Volkwagen Beetle. The emphasis on character dynamics mark a refreshing reorientation for the notoriously overblown sci-fi series.

Second Act; Credit: STX

Second Act; Credit: STX

Jennifer Lopez, the most successful Latina actress to grace American movie screens since Lupe Velez, is back with another romantic comedy, Second Act. Here she plays a 40-ish single mom who finds success as a Madison Avenue consultant after her girlfriends create a fake résumé for her. J-Lo also sings the original song “Limitless.”

All Is True; Credit: Sony Pictures

All Is True; Credit: Sony Pictures

After nearly singlehandedly keeping the Shakespearean flame burning on the big screen for the last several decades, it seems fitting and proper that Kenneth Branagh should take up the mantle of playing the Bard himself. All Is True is an autumnal look at the immortal English poet and playwright's domestic life, which includes his relationship with his wife, Anne Hathaway (played by Judi Dench, 26 years Branagh's senior and looking not the least bit worried by it). Ian McKellen plays the Earl of Southampton, to whom Shakespeare dedicated two narrative poems. Branagh directs from a screenplay by Ben Elton.

Welcome to Marwen; Credit: Universal Pictures

Welcome to Marwen; Credit: Universal Pictures

Welcome to Marwen looks like one of the more audacious projects to be under-promoted by a major studio this year. Directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Caroline Thompson, the film is based on the work of artist and photographer Mark Hogancamp, played with disarming shyness by Steve Carrell. After being beaten into a coma by a group of neo-Nazis, Hogancamp performed self-therapy by creating a miniature WWII-era town in his backyard and populating it with dolls representing himself and the people in his life. Zemeckis moves freely between the “real” world and that of the wounded man's imagination, using motion capture techniques similar to those he pioneered in films like The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol.

Cold War; Credit: Amazon Studios

Cold War; Credit: Amazon Studios

Pawel Pawlikowksi's Polish period drama Cold War won the director an award at Cannes along with nearly unanimous praise from critics. It tells the story of a young jazz singer and her uneasy romance with a music director set against the bleak backdrop of 1950s Eastern Europe. Rendered in well-iced black-and-white compositions, the movie recalls the arthouse classics of that place and period, with an emphasis on life's cruel twists of fate.

John C. Reilly, left, and Will Ferrell in Holmes & Watson; Credit: Columbia Pictures

John C. Reilly, left, and Will Ferrell in Holmes & Watson; Credit: Columbia Pictures

Tuesday, Dec. 25

It's unknown just how many people were hotly anticipating another Sherlock Holmes spoof, but Holmes & Watson has come to us anyway. Sacha Baron Cohen was originally attached to play the famous literary detective, but the role was eventually handed to Will Ferrell, who rarely misses an opportunity to ham things up with a silly accent. John C. Reilly fills out the other half of the famous duo, and a swarm of British actors are on hand to offer support. Viewers still hungry for Holmesian shenanigans may want to check out the 1988 comedy Without a Clue, which rejiggers the Doyle characters in a more novel fashion.

Destroyer; Credit: Annapurna

Destroyer; Credit: Annapurna

Destroyer is headlined by Nicole Kidman in one of those radically de-glamourized Hollywood performances that seems predestined for an Oscar. (Kidman recently nabbed a Golden Globe nod.) She plays an undercover cop traumatized by a sting operation gone fatally awry; the film cuts between her younger self and a battle-scarred, grief-racked present self — both played by Kidman with the aid of a crack Hollywood makeup team. Karyn Kusama directs a screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Annapurna Pictures is the distributor.

Christian Bale transforms himself into Dick Cheney in Vice.; Credit: Annapurna

Christian Bale transforms himself into Dick Cheney in Vice.; Credit: Annapurna

Vice is the first major film to satirize the Bush administration since Oliver Stone's W, which had the audacity to do it while the president was still in office. Adam McKay's rollicking comedy trains its spotlight on Dick Cheney, whose influential foreign policy and 13 percent approval rating made him simultaneously the most powerful and least popular vice president in American history. Christian Bale packed on the pounds to play the VP; Sam Rockwell (as Dubya) leads the remainder of a cast dressed in celebrity drag.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) stands out in biopic On the Basis of Sex.; Credit: Focus Features

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) stands out in biopic On the Basis of Sex.; Credit: Focus Features

On the Basis of Sex is the second Ruth Bader Ginsberg film of 2018 and focuses exclusively on her work as a civil rights litigator. Felicity Jones plays the progressive female icon as a young Harvard grad who sued the federal government for gender discrimination. Viewers can expect big speeches, Brooklyn accents, and, of course, a cameo appearance by the real RBG, now in her 25th year as associate justice of the Supreme Court. Mimi Leder directs.

Also opening this week: Aquaman, Once Upon a Deadpool, American Renegades, Between Worlds, Delaware Shore and Die Hard/Silent Partner (at the New Beverly).

L.A. Weekly also recommends (still in theaters): Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse; Mary Queen of Scots; Ben Is Back; If Beale Street Could Talk; Vox Lux; Bohemian Rhapsody; Ralph Breaks the Internet; The Favourite; Creed II; Widows; A Star Is Born.

LA Weekly