The jam-packed weekend also includes the openings of 'Bumblebee,' 'Second Act,' 'Welcome to Marwen' and 'Cold War.'
The weekend just before Christmas will bring a bevy of films to see over the holiday break.
Mary Poppins Returns, which opened Wednesday, features Emily Blunt as the iconic nanny, succeeding Julie Andrews who starred in the original 1964 film.
On Friday, buzzy, blockbuster action flicks Bumblebee and Aquaman will hit theaters, in addition to Steve Carell starrer Welcome to Marwen and the J.Lo rom-com Second Act. Poland's Oscar submission for best foreign-language film, Cold War, recently made the Academy's shortlist and will have a limited release this weekend as well.
Read on to see what critics for The Hollywood Reporter had to say about this weekend's offerings.
Bumblebee, the Transformers franchise's loyal black-and-yellow Autobot, gets his own origin story. Hailee Steinfeld plays Charlie Watson, a prickly teenager who's distanced herself from her family, but finds a friend when the dusty Volkswagen Beetle she takes home morphs into Bumblebee in his full, gargantuan form. The two must fight off threats from Decepticon arrivals and military commander Jack Burns (John Cena).
"The selection of Oscar-nominated animated feature film director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) to helm the prequel turns out to be spot-on, as he exhibits an instinctual sense for the film’s requisite action quotient while attentively crafting the central characters’ emotional arcs," THR's Justin Lowe writes in his review.
Cold War follows the story of two Polish lovers from the 1940s to the 1960s in Europe as they traverse the Iron Curtain. Musicians Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig) seem unable to surmount their warring loyalties and the fragmented political climate that separates them.
THR critic Leslie Felperin praises the film's music and visuals: "Despite the baked-in anguish and the title itself, Cold War is a sultrier, sexier, more sunlit film that evokes the 16mm cinematography of the period and yet doesn't ape it down to the grain.
Director James Wan brings to life the underwater civilization of Atlantis and the story of Arthur (Jason Momoa), or Aquaman, born to an aquatic queen (Nicole Kidman) and a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison). At the urging of Princess Mera (Amber Heard), Arthur opposes his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson), the power-hungry ruler of Atlantis who seeks continental domination.
THR critic Todd McCarthy commends Momoa's portrayal of the superhero, writing, "Momoa wears his superb physique casually and his take-it-or-leave-it, devil-may-care attitude makes the narrative's long haul much easier to bear."
Mary Poppins Returns is set some years after the first film, with Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) all grown up with children of his own, though he’s mourning the passing of his wife. Near the family's lowest point, the titular nanny (Emily Blunt) descends upon their home, which is in danger of being repossessed, to help soothe their emotional wounds along with lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda).
“Whether it's exploding into large-scale production numbers or closing in on intimate scenes of a family in crisis, the sequel captivates by adopting a time-honored Disney formula that combines the joy and imagination of childhood with an underlay of melancholy,” writes THR’s David Rooney. "Its old-fashioned, honest sentimentality plasters a smile across your face and plants a tear in your eye, often simultaneously."
Jennifer Lopez returns to the big screen in the romantic comedy Second Act, in which her character gets a huge career upgrade after her friend forges her résumé. She goes from working retail in a big box store to an office in a Manhattan high-rise, along with the elevated lifestyle to match. The film also stars Leah Remini, Vanessa Hudgens, Annaleigh Ashford, Freddie Stroma, Dan Bucatinsky and Milo Ventimiglia.
"No one scene flows smoothly into the next. Almost every dramatic crisis is resolved via a pop music-scored montage," THR's Keith Uhlich writes in his review panning the film as a "godawful workplace comedy."
Robert Zemeckis’ film, Welcome to Marwen, is based on the real-life story of Mark Hogancamp, who, after being the victim of a violent hate crime, turns to creating and photographing a scale model village in his recovery. Steve Carell portrays Hogancamp, who has a miniature figure counterpart along with other life-size characters played by Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, Janelle Monae and others.
In his review of the film, THR critic Keith Uhlich writes, “In the guise of a glossy entertainment, Welcome to Marwen gets at some unnervingly irresolvable truths about humanity.”