Mortal Engines (Opens Friday, Dec. 14)
Mortal Engines (Opens Friday, Dec. 14) (UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

From now through the end of the year, you won't find another period that short so packed with intriguing films -- from awards-hopeful dramas to potential family classics -- and this year is no exception. Hope no one was expecting you to have time to shop for presents.

Mark your calendars with the sequels and superheroes, magical nannies and powerful vice presidents, and everything else the season has to offer.

Below are nine movies that open before the end of 2018. Some are already stirring up some serious Oscars buzz. Most are not. Some will do serious damage at the box office. Most will not.

Mortal Engines

Opens Friday, Dec.

Mary Poppins Returns ( Opens Wednesday, Dec. 19)
Mary Poppins Returns ( Opens Wednesday, Dec. 19) (DISNEY)

While this adaptation of the 2001 post-apocalyptic novel by Philip Reeve is set in a futuristic, dystopian, steampunk-influenced London, we may find it has a bit of a Middle Earth feel to it. It is written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, the braintrust behind six films that brought the world of J.R.R. Tolkien to life on the big screen. While Jackson didn't direct, a protegé of his -- and visual-effects artist who had made cameos in a couple of his films, Christian Rivers -- did. Also, Hugo Weaving, who played Elrond in "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" films, is a cast member. The film stars Robert Sheehan, whose Tom Natsworthy attempts to kill Weaving's powerful Thaddeus Valentine and then falls in with fugitive Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar).


Bumblebee ( Opens Friday, Dec. 21)
Bumblebee ( Opens Friday, Dec. 21) (PARAMOUNT PICTURES)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Opens Friday, Dec. 14

Are you frustrated that all the big-screen Spider-Man adventures have had only one friendly neighborhood Spider-Man? This animated adventure has a handful of heroic wall-crawlers, including, of course, Peter Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson), but also a recent character from the Marvel comic books, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). Trust us, it gets only weirder from there. (Did someone say Spider-Ham?)

Mary Poppins Returns

Opens Wednesday, Dec. 19

In a recent headline, Entertainment Weekly calls this "the most magical musical movie of the year." It had better be ... and then some.

Vice ( Opens Tuesday, Dec. 25)
Vice ( Opens Tuesday, Dec. 25) (ANNAPURNA PICTURES)
After all, we're talking about the sequel to one of Disney's most-beloved movies of all time (and that's obviously saying something): the 1964 live-action-meets-animation tale "Mary Poppins." "My goal was to pay great respect and honor the first film but create something completely new and original," director Rob Marshall ("Chicago") tells the magazine. The film is certainly brimming with on-screen talent, including gifted leads Emily Blunt ("A Quiet Place") as the titular, heaven-sent nanny, and Lin-Manuel Miranda of "Hamilton" fame as a man who knows her. In this tale, Mary and her umbrella return from the skies to help care for the children of the now-grown Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), who has been getting help from sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) after he suffered a devastating loss.
Aquaman ( Opens Friday, Dec. 21)
Aquaman ( Opens Friday, Dec. 21) (WARNER BROS.)
Other big names in the cast include Meryl Streep and, thankfully, Dick Van Dyke, reprising one of the characters he portrayed in the original.


Opens Friday, Dec. 21

Remember when a movie built around the DC Comics hero who roamed the seas and conversed with marine life was a running plot line on HBO's "Entourage"? Years later, we get the real thing, with James Wan directing and Jason Momoa starring as Aquaman, aka Arthur Curry, instead of James Cameron and Adrian Grenier's fictional Vincent Chase, respectively. We saw "Game of Thrones" alum Momoa do solid work in the role in last year's "Justice League," and Wan -- largely a director of horror films -- showed an ability to handle big action sequences in 2015's "Furious 7.

Welcome to Marwen ( Opens Friday, Dec. 21)
Welcome to Marwen ( Opens Friday, Dec. 21) (UNIVERSAL/DREAMWORKS)
" So go ahead -- be optimistic that this will be one of the better entries in Warner Bros Pictures' DC Extended Universe. Other cast members include Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe and Dolph Lundgren, who, along with the recently released "Creed 2," is suddenly back in our lives in a big way.


Opens Friday, Dec. 21

Director Michael Bay made the first five "Transformers" movies but is sitting out this prequel spinoff. Set in California two decades before the events of 2007's "Transformers," it centers around the titular Autobot hero. Bee makes friends with a teen girl played by Hailee Steinfeld, and the pair is hunted by a government agency called Sector 7, with John Cena playing one of its agents. Travis Knight ("Kubo and the Two Strings") directs.

Welcome to Marwen

Opens Friday, Dec. 21

For the second time in the last few years, director Robert Zemeckis has made a film about a subject already the focus of a documentary. In 2015, there was "The Walk" -- about a French high-wire artist's 1974 stroll between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, covered in 2008's "Man on Wire." Now comes "Welcome to Marwen," inspired by 2010's "Marwencol," about an artist who, during a period of a recovery following a violent attack that left him with brain damage, created a miniature World War II-era Belgian town. In the drama, Steve Carell, who can be seen now doing fine work in the drama "Beautiful Boy," stars as the artist, Mark Hogancamp.

Holmes and Watson

Opens Tuesday, Dec. 25

The latest big-screen take on world-famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusty assistant, Dr. Watson, is a mystery-comedy featuring the "Step Brothers" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" duo of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in the respective lead roles. If the trailer is any indication, this isn't the smartest version of the pair we've ever seen. (Watson at one point shoots a gun at a swarm of killer bees.) Etan Cohen, who was behind the camera for Ferrell's underrated "Get Hard," directs. There's little mystery as to why we'll be laughing during this one.

On the Basis of Sex

Opens Tuesday, Dec. 25, limited

Felicity Jones ("Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," "The Theory of Everything") portrays a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will go on to become a justice in the United States Supreme Court, as a young mother struggling to become educated and have a career in the face of the sexism of the day. Also in the cast are Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates and Armie Hammer. The film is directed by Mimi Leder, who worked with Theroux on HBO's "The Leftovers," serving as director for its near-perfect finale in 2017.


Opens Tuesday, Dec. 25

This film, from a lot of the people -- including director Adam McKay -- responsible for the excellent 2015 comedy-drama "The Big Short," about the financial crisis of the late 2000s, will see an all-but-unrecognizable Christian Bale made up to look like former Vice President Dick Cheney as he rises to power. Other notables portraying other notables include Amy Adams as Dick's wife, Lynne; Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld; and, last but not least, Sam Rockwell, who seems to have really captured the essence of President George W. Bush, if the trailer is any indication. Can't wait for this one.


Opens Friday, Dec. 28, limited

Portraying a Los Angeles police detective who had infiltrated a gang, Nicole Kidman appears to take a very dark turn in this drama. Its trailer parades around a bunch of blurbs from critics who appear to have been wowed by Kidman's performance, as well as the direction of Karyn Kusama ("Girlfight").

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