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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Concrete Playground's 2016 Boxing Day Movie Smackdown

Get maximum bang for your Kris Kringle gift voucher buck.
By Tom Clift
December 20, 2016
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By Tom Clift
December 20, 2016
  shares

Deck the halls and unpack the plastic tree — the festive season is well and truly upon us. And while that whole Christmas tradition stuff is nice, we're not going to deny what we're most excited about: a whole stocking-load of new films. Along with the cricket and stampeding through shopping centres, going to the movies is one of our favourite Boxing Day traditions. After all, what better place to recover from your post-Christmas food coma than in a nice, dark, air-conditioned cinema?

Of course, not all of the end-of-year titles measure up. That's why we're reporting in with our annual Boxing Day Battle Royale, to ensure that you get maximum bang for your Kris Kringle gift voucher buck. Or you could just go see the new Star Wars movie for the third time. That's also a totally valid option.cp-line

LA LA LAND

We give it: 4 stars

A surefire contender at this year's Academy Awards, Damien Chazelle's follow-up to the critically acclaimed Whiplash is a bittersweet love letter to music, movies and the old school sense of romance we associate with both. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are at their charming best as a pair of dreamers who fall madly in love against the backdrop of Los Angeles, only for their creative ambitions to get in the way. The film is beautifully shot, and its toe-tapping song and dance numbers will leave you with a gigantic smile on your face. Also: tears. Oh boy, will there be tears.

Tom Clift

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MOANA

We give it: 4 stars

The latest film from the Disney animation juggernaut, Moana hits all the right marks. Indeed, it's a cocktail of all of the best elements of the Disney princess genre – a desperate quest, a charismatic supporting cast, catchy tunes and an animal sidekick – but with one subtle but important difference. Unlike most Disney princesses, Moana doesn't need a training montage to become a boss bitch, because she already is one. She's a beautiful role model, maybe the best Disney princess ever. And the score, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa'i, is the music she deserves. Prepare your ears to hear the main refrain 'How Far I'll Go' more than that damn 'Let It Go' song from Frozen. We ain't mad, though, because it's the perfect summer jam.

– Imogen Baker

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A UNITED KINGDOM

We give it: 4 stars

As far as rousing romances based on real-life stories go, Amma Asante's A United Kingdom hits the jackpot. Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo star as typist Ruth Williams and future president of Botswana Seretse Khama, whose romance in the years following WWII challenged racial divisions and provoked widespread international attention. The film provides an example of solid emotional storytelling from start to finish. Complications keep forcing the star-crossed lovers in opposite directions, but they never lose sight of what's important. Nor does Asante or writer Guy Hibbert, who are at their best when swapping easy sentiment for quiet fortitude.

– Sarah Ward

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RED DOG: TRUE BLUE

We give it: 3.5 stars

Five years ago, a little local film with a lot of heart scampered its way into cinemas — and into the country's box office records. Given the tail-wagging success of Red Dog, a follow-up was all but inevitable. Still, while there's much that's familiar about Red Dog: True Blue, it still earns every bit of emotion that oozes from this second trip into family-friendly territory. This time around, the eponymous pooch gets an origin story starting in 1968, and a lonely boy (Pan's Levi Miller) gets a new best friend. For their part of the bargain, viewers get a broad, crowd-pleasing, affectionate effort that's certain to make everyone fall in love with the red-coloured canine all over again.

– Sarah Ward

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WHY HIM?

We give it: 3 stars

"Produced by Ben Stiller. Story by Jonah Hill. Starring James Franco." Put those things together and you already know what you'll get: fart jokes, dick jokes, poo jokes, semon jokes, stoners, swearing and sex. And yet, true to form, you also get laughs. Not as many as you might have hoped for given the involvement of Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key, but maybe just enough to keep you entertained. In this modern day riff on Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, Cranston's daughter invites her family out to Silicon Valley to meet her eccentric tech millionaire boyfriend Laird, whereupon daddy decides to go to war with the very idea of their relationship. Too often the film turns to the loud and the wacky for easy laughs, when all the best material comes in the gentler, well-directed barbs at San Fran startup culture. Franco steals the show, forging Laird into a genuinely endearing character whose vulnerabilities lie bare like the tattoos adorning his torso.

– Tom Glasson

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ALLIED

We give it: 3 stars

Partially styled after and sharing its initial setting with classic World War II romance Casablanca, Allied poses an age-old question in a specific context: how well does anyone actually know each other, particularly married couples who've started a family together while the planet battles it out around them. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard mightn't boast overwhelmingly convincing chemistry together, but each turn in fine performances as a Canadian intelligence officer and French resistance fighter, respectively, whose pairing on an undercover mission soon leads to a genuine connection. Obviously pitched at an older crowd, Allied is an elegant affair that seems like a response to the complaint that they just don't make them like they used to.

Sarah Ward

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SING

We give it: 3 stars

On paper, animal karaoke caper Sing sounds like reality television turned into a star-studded cartoon – albeit in a form that aims to make viewers feel warm and fuzzy rather than inducing a serious case of cringe. On screen, the latest film from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Son of Rambow director Garth Jennings plays out just as you'd expect, though it thankfully remains fun enough despite its obvious formula. Think bright colours, a bouncy pace, recognisable songs a plenty, Matthew McConaughey voicing a theatre-owning koala, and the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon and Eddie the Eagle's Taron Egerton among the cast. If you're looking for a film to keep youngsters distracted, this animated effort should do nicely.

Sarah Ward

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ROSALIE BUM

We give it: 2.5 stars

While Rosalie Blum bears the name of Noémie Lvovsky's protagonist— a middle-aged corner store-owner saddened by past pain – the intertwined fates of three individuals sit at the centre of this light and breezy effort. Adapted from a series of graphic novels, the film – a hit at this year's Alliance Francaise French Film Festival – explores the story not just of Rosalie, but also the hairdresser who starts following her every move, and the college student (and Rosalie's niece) who starts shadowing him in turn. Coincidence and contrivance rear their head, though so does a genuine understanding of the interplay between unhappiness and escapism. The result is a well-acted but often a tad too convenient movie about coping with life's ups and downs.

Sarah Wardcp-line

If you're looking to steer well clear of cinemas on Boxing Day, why not check out one of our favourite films from throughout the year instead.

Words by Imogen Baker, Tom Clift, Tom Glasson and Sarah Ward.

Published on December 20, 2016 by Tom Clift

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