Concrete Playground's 2018 Boxing Day Movie Smackdown
Get maximum bang for your Kris Kringle gift voucher buck.
December 17, 2018
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. From critically claimed indie flicks to an epic blockbuster about a man who can talk to fish, you're guaranteed to find something to enjoy.
We give it: 5 stars
With Cold War, writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski achieves a plethora of astonishing feats. Constrained within 4:3 frames, his sumptuous black-and-white imagery immerses audiences in an intimate and complicated tale, with the filmmaker painting every possible emotion across the screen. The talent behind Oscar-winner Ida also turns his parents' own story into a heart-wrenching romance, and crafts a snapshot of Polish life as the Second World War gave way to the Cold War. Last by no means least, he gifts audiences with astoundingly intricate performances from actors Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig. The duo plays a couple who are desperate to be together, but live in a world that cares little about their desires — or about them at all.
– Sarah Ward
We give it: 4.5 stars
One queen, two women vying for her attention, and nearly two hours of acerbic and perceptive black comedy. That's The Favourite, a historical drama that looks like a lavish period picture, but boasts a savage wit — and savage insights into human behaviour — that's far from standard for the genre. The key is The Lobster filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. Not only does he again showcase his winning ways with stilted conversations and his fondness for skewering social expectations; he also exhibits a knack for political comedy and even slapstick. Lanthimos is aided by his fantastic cast, including top awards contender Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as her bickering offsiders, and Nicholas Hoult as the wannabe leader with his own conniving plans.
THE WILD PEAR TREE
We give it: 4 stars
After Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Winter Sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylan crafts another slow-burning affair that combines probing insights into human behaviour with sublime imagery. A tale of dreams and disappointments both mundane and life changing, The Wild Pear Tree sprawls and spreads in its everyday drama and perceptive dialogue. The movie's protagonist is Sunan (Dogu Demirkol), a new graduate returning home with qualifications but no job, and with a manuscript but no means to publish it. Across the movie's 188 minutes, the aspiring writer walks the town's dusty farmland and quiet streets seeking financial help, while his father's (Murat Cemcir) gambling debts continue to mount. The result is a picture that fits firmly into the acclaimed Turkish filmmaker's exceptional oeuvre.
We give it: 3 stars
The latest film in the DC Cinematic Universe is far from perfect. Its plot is a mess and its leading man, a roguish surfer-dude turned superhero (Jason Mamoa), is criminally underused. Despite these issues, it's also, for the most part, wildly entertaining. With dazzling visuals that, at their best, feel like Blade Runner (and, at their worst, The Phantom Menace), Aussie director James Wan never lets things slow down for too long, aided by a thumping electro soundtrack reminiscent of Daft Punk's work on Tron: Legacy. Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson and Nicole Kidman help round out a stellar cast, albeit one that commands far too much time away from the true star, Mamoa. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that DC is slowly, painfully but ever so positively clawing its way back to credibility with each new film not directed by Zack Snyder. In the wake of the enormously successful Wonder Woman, Aquaman represents another small foot forward for the franchise.
– Tom Glasson
We give it: 3 stars
Sporting a hunch and a paunch, speaking in gravelly grunts and side-eyeing everyone around him, Christian Bale turns in another committed, transformative performance in Vice. His vision of former US Vice President Dick Cheney is a sight to behold, and with Amy Adams suitably steely as Lynne Cheney, Sam Rockwell in laidback mode as President George W. Bush and Steve Carell obnoxiously slippery as Donald Rumsfeld, he's in good company. But, as written and directed by Adam McKay in the same slick, jam-packed fashion as his previous film The Big Short, Vice never completely lives up to its performances. It's impassioned, amusing, designed to get audiences angry and stuffed with stylistic tricks to an almost overwhelming extent. However it also merely states the obvious rather than offers any new or deep insights.
We give it: 3 stars
How do you capture the enigma that is Yayoi Kusama in a single 85-minute film? The short answer: it's impossible, but Kusama: Infinity gives the task an affectionate try. Unsurprisingly filled with dots and pumpkins, this documentary celebrates the Japanese artist and showcases her work, however it doesn't break the mould the way that Kusama always has across her seven-decade career. What the movie does do well is explore the battles that the nearly 90-year-old artist has faced again and again, both as a woman in Japan and as a foreigner abroad. For those new to Kusama's story — people who've marvelled at her infinity rooms but haven't delved any further — writer-director Heather Lenz also provides a Kusama 101 lesson.
WRECK-IT RALPH 2: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET
We give it: 2 stars
A shadow looms over this Disney sequel — and, despite his hefty size, it doesn't stem from Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) himself. Rather, in taking the loveable video game character and his racer best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) out of the arcade and into the online world, the film brings one of 2017's worst movies to mind. Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet fares better than The Emoji Movie, but its efforts to both literalise and satirise cyberspace just keep falling flat. Worse: its straightforward vision of the internet instantly feels dated. With product placement and a pixel-thin emotional journey the flick's other main components, this pop culture-heavy affair proves visually lively but lacklustre overall.
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