AQUAMAN That's not water. That's Axe Body Spray.

recommended MEANS WE RECOMMEND IT. Movie times are updated daily and are available here.

Aquaman
Aquaman is very goofy, and if it was an hour shorter, it would totally be worth your time. As the affably bro-y fishman, Jason Momoa punches CGI monsters and supervillains who wear stupid costumes; he also, in the film’s best moments, flips back his dripping hair and, angling his shirtless torso for maximum gleam, all but winks at the camera as an electric guitar wails. Eagerly and clumsily, Aquaman dispels the joyless grimdark that’s infested other movies based on DC Comics, and director James Wan delivers some genuinely great stuff—a horror-tinged encounter with dagger-toothed wretches from the deep, a psychedelic submarine chase through a fluorescent Atlantis. But he’s hampered by too much plot, dreary politicking that aims for Game of Thrones but lands at Phantom Menace, and a plasticky sheen that cheapens everything from the bad guys’ Power Ranger suits to the digitally de-aged faces of Temuera Morrison, Willem Dafoe, and Nicole Kidman. Aquaman’s super fun when it embraces its silliness—there’s an octopus who plays the drums! there’s an army of cranky crab-men!—but by the end, it just feels bloated and squishy. (Now playing, various theaters) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Ben Is Back
You know how Julia Roberts in Homecoming messed you up, and how Lucas Hedges in Boy Erased broke your heart? Well, what if for Christmas, there was a sure-to-be-devastating family drama starring Julia Roberts as a mom in denial about her addict son Lucas Hedges? Sure sounds like one holly jolly motherfucker of a Christmas movie to me! Not screened for Portland critics. (Opens Thurs Dec 20, Fox Tower 10, Bridgeport Village Stadium 18)

recommended The Big Lebowski
At first it was just a weird, low-key almost-misfire in the Coen brothers’ canon. And then it was an underrated work of layered comedic genius. And then it became this whole culty thing with festivals and cosplayers and idiots in bathrobes blocking traffic with marching bands playing jazzy versions of “Hotel California” on their way to the theater. And now? Now, it’s just The Big Lebowski again, a properly-rated work of layered comedic genius. (Thurs Dec 20, Clinton Street Theater) BOBBY ROBERTS

Black Christmas
The 1976 Christmas-themed slasher flick starring Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey, more or less regarded as the grandmother of the slasher film. Directed by the guy who made A Christmas Story. (Sun Dec 23, Hollywood Theatre) BOBBY ROBERTS

Bohemian Rhapsody
When Bohemian Rhapsody focuses on Freddie Mercury—as it damn well should—it soars. Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek nails both Mercury’s flamboyant stage persona and his off-stage idiosyncrasies, which is no small accomplishment. But when director Bryan Singer zooms out to include the rest of Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody falls victim to the clichés that encumber every rock doc and biopic. Some of this is inevitable: Band origin stories are boring to watch because they’re inherently boring. No amount of unique personalities can make a meeting with a record label executive seem fun. (Now playing, various theaters) MORGAN TROPER

VICE Lol, remember when we thought this was rock bottom? Lolololololol

recommended Bumblebee
Here’s the amazing thing about Bumblebee, the seventh theatrically-released blockbuster based on a line of toys for young children: It’s the first one to present as a family film. The 1986 film was barely a movie, much less fit for children’s consumption, and at no point in 2007 (or any time ever, really) did Michael Bay give fuck one about tailoring his leering, sneering spectacle for family friendly tastes. But Bumblebee is (mostly) safe for kids ages six and up (just like the recommendation on the toy packaging!), and is often very fun. Imagine that—trying to have fun with your toys. Huh. (Now playing, various theaters) BOBBY ROBERTS

A Christmas Story
It's the holiday classic that won’t go away! SEE! A shitty little kid rip his tongue raw on an icy pole! HEAR! The glorious collection of syllables that is Scut Farkus. WINCE! At that super-racist scene where they go to the Chinese restaurant! CHEER! As Santa kicks a little kid in the face! Directed by the guy who made Porky’s. (Fri Dec 19-Sun Dec 23, Mission Theater; Sun Dec 23, Hollywood Theatre) BOBBY ROBERTS

recommended Die Hard Double Feature
It's sort of amazing how re-watchable Die Hard really is, especially on a giant theater screen—a large part of this film's place in the Christmas movie pantheon is a result of every pan, swoop, and lens flare barreling through Jan DeBont's camera lending the bloody, blue-collar madness an air of legitimate magic. And that magic is exponentially amplified the bigger the picture can be projected. Die Hard is so rewatchable that you might not even mind sitting through its subpar first sequel, especially since almost every moment that works in Renny Harlin's Die Harder is basically a riff on something that John McTiernan did in the first movie. (Sat Dec 22, 6:30 & 9:30 pm, Hollywood Theatre) BOBBY ROBERTS

Dietrich & Garbo in the 1930s
An all 35mm retrospective of the most notable movies in the careers of two women—sometimes rivals, sometimes colleagues—whose combined legacies cemented the very notion of film stardom itself. (Through Sun Dec 30, NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium)

recommended Dumplin’
Based on Julie Murphy’s YA novel, Dumplin’ is a total delight. Here are a few of the totally delightful things you will see in the Netflix dramedy’s 110 minutes: talent show yodeling, Dolly Parton drag queens teaching youths how to vogue, and Jennifer Aniston blow-drying away her tears. (Now streaming, Netflix) CIARA DOLAN

Elf
Are we pretending that this a holiday classic now? Are we the ones who sit upon a throne of lies? (Fri Dec 21-Thurs Dec 27, Academy Theater)

recommended The Favourite
Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest is a hysterical, brutal take on the Restoration-era comedy of manners, using historical figures from early 18th-century England to make some decidedly bleak points about power struggles and human nature. The fact it’s the funniest movie of the year shouldn’t jibe with its sumptuous production design and gorgeously appointed costumes, but it does. This is a movie that works magnificently on every level. (Now playing, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN

First Man
The space stuff is great. When La La Land director Damien Chazelle’s biopic about Neil Armstrong focuses on NASA’s insanely ambitious and dangerous plan to put a man on the moon, it thrums with thrill and threat—from the astonishing scope of space to the claustrophobic confines of the command module, the best parts of First Man are worth experiencing on the biggest screen possible. Ryan Gosling offers an excellent turn as Armstrong, but even Gosling can’t liven up the story’s more pedestrian elements, which largely involve Armstrong’s relationship with his wife (Claire Foy) and his stoic mourning of his daughter. First Man bears the familiar curse of the biopic—it somehow feels both overlong and unsatisfying—and never quite escapes the shadow of The Right Stuff, Philip Kaufman’s remarkable 1983 film that told a similar story with more grace and smarts. (Thurs Dec 20-Fri Dec 21, Wed Dec 26-Fri Dec 28, OMSI Empirical Theater) ERIK HENRIKSEN

DIE HARD How's that for Christmas cheer?

Holmes & Watson
Over the last decade, the 2008 Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly team-up Step Brothers ascended to the modern comedy pantheon with all the grace of a 40-year-old man flattening a hastily-built bunk bed. So reuniting these two as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson sounds fuckin’ brilliant, right? Wellll, the writer/director this time isn’t Adam McKay (he decided to make Vice instead), but Etan Cohen. “Oh shit!” you say. “One of the Coen brothers!” No. Cohen’s only other directorial credit is the prison “comedy” Get Hard, and his writing credits include Men in Black 3 and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. But he also wrote Idiocracy and Tropic Thunder. So basically this is the Christmas movie equivalent of picking the big box in a white elephant exchange. It might be the best present on the table. It might be cleverly-wrapped desk leftovers. Good luck! Not screened for Portland critics. (Opens Tues Dec 25, various theaters)

Home Alone
A Christmas thought experiment: On one side of you sits an incontinent Cousin Fuller, guzzling Pepsi and shooting you a deranged look that strongly suggests—if not outright promises—he plans to purposefully urinate on you in your sleep. On the other side, a pair of dangerous burglars threaten their own brand of sadistic and unnecessary wetness. How to avoid that hot urine? How to dodge that felonious drenching? And how to do it all while discovering some real shit about Christmas? This is young Kevin McAllister’s burden. Come, marvel as he shoulders it. (It involves shooting a guy in the dick.) (Fri Dec 21-Thurs Dec 27, Academy Theater) DIRK VANDERHART

recommended If Beale Street Could Talk
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins’ masterful adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel perfectly captures how macro issues—particularly the rigged systems that work against Black people in America—affect one family like shuddering, foundation-cracking aftershocks. (Opens Tues Dec 25, various theaters) ROBERT HAM

It’s A Wonderful Life
The cherished Christmas tradition, remembered fondly as a black-and-white barrel of warm fuzzies, about a suicidal child-abuse victim whose fuckup uncle nearly sinks his savings and loan, but realizes abandoning his wife and children for all eternity to roast in Hell is a bad idea thanks to a helpful guardian angel who shows him how much shittier his tycoon-ruled small town would be if he wasn't in it. MERRY CHRISTMAS, BEDFORD FALLS! (Fri Dec 21 & Sun Dec 23, Hollywood Theatre; Sat Dec 22-Mon Dec 24, Mission Theater) BOBBY ROBERTS

Mary Poppins Returns
Undisputed, inarguable fact: Emily Blunt is an international treasure. If the makers of Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns did nothing else right, the casting of Blunt as the “practically perfect” magical nanny was a stroke of inspired genius. Unfortunately, it’s a fool’s game to try and force lightning to strike in the same place twice, which is why Blunt’s performance—which is easily equal to that of the great Julie Andrews—is the best thing about Mary Poppins Returns. I saw this film less than 12 hours ago, and cannot hum a single song from Mary Poppins Returns to save my life. (Now playing, various theaters) WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots is the latest effort to bring 16th century British historical drama into the millennial age, and for better and worse, it bears many of the hallmarks of such an effort: It’s got two legitimate movie stars at its core, with Saoirse Ronan as the titular monarch and Margot Robbie as her cousin Elizabeth I. Maybe it’s just Westeros withdrawal talking, but I got a consistent sense that Mary and Elizabeth’s rivalry compares to the one between Daenerys and Cersei on Game of Thrones. Mary, despite (or because of?) her Catholicism is the warmer, more progressive ruler, while the famously virginal, always tense Elizabeth, pox-afflicted and slathered in white face paint, resembles no one so much as a meth-addicted Harley Quinn in RenFaire garb. Toss in some hipster-worthy facial hair and some nontraditional casting, and, even without dragons, Mary Queen of Scots should help tide you over until GoT returns in April. (Now playing, various theaters) MARC MOHAN

Mortal Engines
Based on the 2001 steampunk book series by Philip Reeve about “predator cities” on wheels that roam the wastelands of a post-apocalyptic Europe, Mortal Engines is the sort of movie that you watch when you get home from a rave at 3 am and you’re still too high or amped up to go to sleep. It does not belong in a theater. At best, with all its giant motors gyrating and people jumping around while dressed up like bikers at a Renaissance faire, Mortal Engines deserved a straight-to-video release. But the script was written by Peter Jackson (along with his frequent collaborators Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh), so I’m as confused as anyone. What happened? The best I can hypothesize is that this thing was rotten at its seed—like most steampunk stuff, Mortal Engines is a pile of shit with some antique-looking cogs stuck on. (Now playing, various theaters) SUZETTE SMITH

On the Basis of Sex
On the Basis of Sex is a fictionalized telling of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s time attending law school, teaching at Columbia, and then trying some of her early game-changing cases. That’s one heck of a premise for a film, and I hate to write the following: It is not very good. Okay, it’s fine. It wanted to be great, but it’s corny and just... bleh. (Opens Tues Dec 25, various theaters) ELINOR JONES

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK Barry Jenkins' follow-up to Moonlight.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
What if Santa were actually buried under a mountain in northern Finland, an unforgiving winterscape populated by wolves, reindeer, and a few burly, hardscrabble men? Excavators unearth him a few days before Christmas, and now this naked, feral Santa’s out for the blood of children. At times, Rare Exports is effectively creepy, and the icy locations in Lapland are stunning. But its sly humor is portioned out too sparingly, leaving the brief movie—scarcely over an hour—feeling a little short on holiday cheer. (Fri Dec 21, Hollywood Theatre) NED LANNAMANN

Re-run Theater: Animated Christmas
Hollywood Theatre curators Greg Hamilton and the Phantom Hillbilly present their annual holiday showcase of rare short films and televised treats on both 16mm and VHS, including the rarely seen Paul Anka vehicle George and the Christmas Star, as well as A Cosmic Christmas and The Mole and the Christmas Tree. (Sat Dec 22, Hollywood Theatre)

recommended Roma
See Roma, and see it on a big screen, and see it loud. Alfonso Cuarón’s first film since Gravity is decidedly less flashy—a semi-autobiographical drama, it’s set in the early 1970s and is almost entirely focused on Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a live-in housekeeper and nanny for an upper-class family in Mexico City. But while Roma’s smaller in scope, it can be as jaw-clenchingly intense as Gravity, as melancholy and humane as Y Tu Mamá También, and as viscerally overwhelming as Children of Men. Roma is Cuarón firing on all cylinders, and it’s about as powerful a cinematic experience as one can have. (Now playing, Hollywood Theatre; now streaming, Netflix) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Second Act
Jennifer Lopez stars as a woman toiling at a fake-ass Walgreens who lies on her resume in order to prove to Madison Avenue that you don’t need a college education to be a sharky capitalist, anyone can sell soul-eroding bullshit to the masses if they really believe in themselves. (Opens Thurs Dec 20, various theaters)

recommended Shoplifters
The title of Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters could have just as easily been Collectors: An impoverished, three-generational family lives on top of each other in a tiny house cluttered with piles of stolen and salvaged junk. Other people’s trash is their treasure, and that idea is taken to extremes when the family adopts—or kidnaps, depending on your point of view—a neglected and abused young girl. But the true nature of this unusual family, and their methods of acquiring things, means their lives must be kept in the shadows. Kore-eda’s warm, heartbreaking movie is vivid and truthful and lived-in, with characters you’ll remember for a long, long time. (Now playing, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE: New York has multiple spider-people. Portland has zero. That's some bullshit.

recommended Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Superhero fatigued? NO ONE CAN BLAME YOU. In addition to all the Avengers movies and Justice League movies and X-Men movies, roughly 616 Spider-Man movies have come out in the past few years, and even for a lifelong Spidey fan (*raises hand, makes THWIP noise, gets lunch money stolen*) that is too many Spider-Mans. Especially now that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is here—a movie that’s hands down, no exceptions, no question the best Spider-Man movie, not to mention one of the best movies of the year. Does Planet Earth need any more Spider-Man movies? Probably not! But they’re going to keep coming, so here’s hoping they’re even half as fun and smart as Spider-Verse. Ugh. YOU GUYS. This movie is just SO GOOD. (Now playing, various theaters) ERIK HENRIKSEN

Vice
A damning, decades-spanning portrait of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Vice is a far cry from the genial comedies McKay used to make, like Anchorman and Step Brothers. Instead, it’s an angry, messy, overbearing, and frequently brilliant film—one that's indulgent in ways that are simultaneously admirable and irritating. At worst, it feels like a mashup of Oliver Stone's and Michael Moore’s worst tendencies. At its best, though, Vice is an elaborate juggling act of ideas and techniques, including broad comedy, documentary footage, propaganda, fourth-wall-busting, vicious satire, expository narration, and reworked Shakespeare. It’s impressive. It’s also exhausting. (Opens Mon Dec 24, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN

Welcome to Marwen
Robert Zemeckis has remade the mental-illness documentary Marwencol as a motion-capture nightmare with Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Janelle Monáe, and, for some reason, the DeLorean from Back to the Future. Something is wrong with Robert Zemeckis. (Opens Fri Dec 21, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN

recommended Widows
Widows is an overflowing plateful of entertainment, piled high with juicy plot, buttery performances, and plenty of sweet genre pie. Director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) co-wrote the twisty script with novelist Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects), and while the interconnected webs of Chicago’s crime underworld and its racially charged local politics contain more than enough intrigue, the performances are what’ll grab you. (Now playing, various theaters) NED LANNAMANN