Concrete Playground's 2015 Boxing Day Movie Smackdown
Get maximum bang for your Kris Kringle gift voucher buck.
December 24, 2015
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 Star Wars for the sixth time. That's also a totally valid option.
See it if: you can't get enough J-Law in your life.
We give it: 3.5 stars
Jennifer Lawrence stars in the latest film by David O. Russell (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook), a fictionalised account of the rise of a real-life home shopping network star. Joy is a rags-to-riches tale of a battler trying to improve herself and her situation. Wrestling Russell's current patterns and preferences into a canny character study, the film watches on as a woman fights for agency and control, despite constantly being told that she should take care of others and rein in her go-getting ways. Weaving in surreal soap opera segments, it's an astute and engaging dissection of the power of selling a fantasy.
See it if: you want to be inspired.
We give it: 3.5 stars
Sarah Gavron's Suffragette may play out somewhat conventionally, but that doesn't make its impact any less resounding. Carey Mulligan is fantastic as Maud Watts, a downtrodden washerwoman in early 20th century London who becomes involved in the fight for women's suffrage. It's a timely tale that will no doubt strike a chord with many modern viewers, reminding us of how far we have come and how much further we still have to go. Just don't expect much Meryl Streep. Despite being a major part of the marketing campaign, she's in the film for less than five minutes.
See it if: you love a good coming of age tale.
We give it: 3.5 stars
A box office smash in its native France, The Belier Family is an immensely charming holiday crowd-pleaser. The film tells the story of 16-year-old Paula, who acts as an interpreter for her deaf parents and brother in the running of the family dairy farm. But her future becomes uncertain when her music teacher encourages her to apply to a prestigious singing school in Paris. The film is overlong, a tad melodramatic and gets bogged down at various points in underdeveloped side-plots. But the family drama remains compelling — and surprisingly poignant — throughout, as does the remarkable performance from singer-turned-actress Louane Emera.
See it if: you're hoping to get in touch with your inner child.
We give it: 2.5 stars
In their stories and themes, Pixar often play in the same territory over and over. And yet, when it comes to visuals, they rarely do the same thing twice; each new Pixar movie might feel somewhat similar, but they always look different. The Good Dinosaur, the animation studio's latest effort, demonstrates both extremes. The tale of a dinosaur and his primitive human friend trying to make their way back home, the film takes a routine narrative that pales in comparison to the animated splendour that surrounds it. It's not often that the background proves more engaging than the figures at the centre of the frame, yet that's frequently the case here. The photorealistic details evident in images of fields, mountains, waterfalls, trees and other natural features are the real stars of the show.
See it if: you want something pretty to look at.
We give it: 2.5 stars
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel wonder about days gone by, while Rachel Weisz and Jane Fonda deliver verbal tirades designed to awaken the ageing men from their apathy. All four spend their time in an expensive Swiss spa, and in a film as visually luxurious as their lush surroundings, Paolo Sorrentino's Youth unravels — its seasoned cast and opulent images its obvious selling points. Musings about life, love and legacy have rarely looked as exquisite, even if the movie's charms remain somewhat surface level. It's a decadent picture about watching the world go by, rather than really experiencing it.
See it if: you're an art addict yourself.
We give it: 2 stars
Audio snippets from the eponymous art addict are all that keep this unremarkable doco afloat. Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland struggles with tone, never quite knowing whether to interrogate the gossip that surrounded Guggenheim's personal affairs or to simply recount the rumours. It still makes for pleasant-enough viewing, particularly for art addicts themselves — but it just never manages to fully do Guggenheim justice. In fact, it's only her vocal presence that stops the movie from amounting to little more than an interesting video of a Wikipedia listing.
See it if: you're a sucker for punishment.
We give it: 1 star
Apologies to fans of Will Ferrell, but watching Daddy's Home is one of the more agonising experiences we've had in a cinema all year. Ferrell stars as a dweebish music exec married to an improbably tolerant wife (Linda Cardellini), who is forced to compete for the love of his step-children when their cool but irresponsible biological father (Mark Wahlberg) rolls back into town. Cue a mind-numbing comedy that mixes kindergarten-level humour with weirdly adult sex gags and feels about three times as long as its 96-minute runtime. Stand-up comic Hannibal Buress manages to scrape a few laughs here and there, but otherwise it's slim pickings. Do yourself a favour and steer well clear.
See it if: ...yeah, we've got nothing.
We give it: N/A
Look, we're going to level with you here: we didn't actually see this. Life's too short. But if you want to go out and spend your hard earned money on a ticket for a film about a group of wise-cracking rodents, feel free to let us know what you thought.
If you're looking to steer well clear of cinemas on Boxing Day, take a look at our list of the year's ten best films that hardly anyone saw here.
Words by Tom Clift and Sarah Ward.