The December holidays is a time for many to gather with friends and/or family and eat a lot of food, but plenty also take the opportunity to head to the local multiplex to check out a new movie. But if you’re wondering just what new movies are playing in theaters right now, we’ve got you covered. Below we’ve run down the major new releases currently playing, from Oscar contenders to thrillers to blockbuster sequels.
Avatar: The Way of Water
Over a decade after “Avatar” first hit theaters, James Cameron’s long-awaited sequel (the first of a planned four sequels in total) has arrived. And “Avatar: The Way of Water” is precisely the kind of movie for which movie theaters were made. This is an eye-popping, three-hour thrill ride that transports you to Pandora well beyond the sights and sounds of the first film. As the title suggests, water is a big theme here as Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his family spend a significant amount of time with the reef tribe of Na’vi who live near the ocean. See this one in IMAX 3D if you can to really get the full experience. – Adam Chitwood
A three-hour epic of a different sort, “Babylon” is a very R-rated look at 1920s Hollywood before, during and after the arrival of talkies. Margot Robbie plays a young ingenue who becomes a silent movie starlet (and sex symbol); Brad Pitt is an iconic silent film star who struggles to transition to talkies; and newcomer Diego Calva plays a wide-eyed Mexican-American who dreams of working in the movies. Oscar-winning “La La Land” and “First Man” filmmaker Damien Chazelle directs it all with panache to spare, and an absolutely stacked ensemble cast that includes Spike Jonze, Jean Smart and Jovan Adepo. This one’s drawn a divisive response from critics so your mileage may vary, but if any of the above sounds compelling, give it a go. Just be warned, the R-rating is no joke. – Adam Chitwood
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
At long last, another “Shrek” movie! Kind of. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a sequel to the 2011 spinoff starring Antonio Banderas’ lovable cat, and this story finds him having used up eight of his nine lives. With one life left to live, Puss goes in search of a way to extend his life, but along the way he must tread carefully — he’s only got one life to live now, literally. – Adam Chitwood
Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody
Whitney Houston gets the biopic treatment with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” from director Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”) and the screenwriter of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Anthony McCarten). Naomi Ackie fills the role of the songstress, and the film surprisingly gets into some of the more intimate aspects of Houston’s life — including her attraction to women and drug use. Ackie lip syncs to Houston’s songs in the film, and the story celebrates the major hallmarks of her career. – Adam Chitwood
If you’re looking to watch something specific to the holidays, how does David Harbour as an ass-kicking Santa Claus sound? “Violent Night” stars Harbour as a gruff iteration of Jolly Old Saint Nick who finds himself stranded in a warehouse and battling a who’s who of bad guys. Throw in John Leguizamo as the Big Bad and you have yourself an R-rated good time. – Adam Chitwood
“Black Swan” and “mother!” filmmaker Darren Aronofsky returns with his new drama “The Whale,” which stars Brendan Fraser as a morbidly obese teacher who attempts to reconnect with his daughter while battling convestive heart failure. This one’s drawing significant Oscar buzz for Fraser’s performance, but be forewarned: it’s a bummer.
Before or after your Thanksgiving feast, “The Menu” could make you feel better about what might have gone wrong in your preparations or celebration of the holiday. With a screenplay from writers Will Tracy (“Succession”) and Seth Reiss (“Late Night with Seth Meyers”), the film embarks on a creepy culinary experience with several well-known stars. Something sinister lurks beneath the surface of Hawthorne, a lavish restaurant located in a remote island location where a domineering chef rules. His servers see themselves as family, but he warns a certain character that there is a line between guests and help, and she must be careful once she crosses it. Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult star opposite Ralph Fiennes in this “eat the rich” thriller. John Leguizamo also appears. – Dessi Gomez
Steven Spielberg is back with a brand new film, and this time it’s personal. Extra personal. “The Fabelmans” finds Spielberg telling a story directly inspired by his childhood, of a young boy who becomes obsessed with movies (and moviemaking) all while his parents’ marriage begins to dissolve, unbeknownst to him. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano plays stand-ins for Spielberg’s parents, and this one’s already generating series Oscar buzz. While the filmmaker has mined his personal life (and particularly his parents’ divorce) in many of his films via metaphor, this one sees him taking a more direct route – he even co-wrote the screenplay. – Adam Chitwood
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
The simultaneously tragic and triumphant sequel to Marvel’s “Black Panther” (2018) brings the meaning of family home, allowing time to mourn Chadwick Boseman’s character and grieve the shift in his family. “Wakanda Forever” expands the MCU beyond Wakanda, diving deep underwater to the kingdom of Talokan, home of new antagonist Namor (Tenoch Huerta). Letitia Wright reprises her role of Princess Shuri alongside Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia and Danai Gurira as General Okoye. Winston Duke also returns as M’Baku. – Dessi Gomez
The investigation that led to the conviction of Harvey Weinstein is chronicled in the drama “She Said,” which stars Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as the two New York Times reporters who broke the story – Jodi Cantor and Megan Twohey. The film is based on the book of the same name by Cantor and Twohey. – Adam Chitwood