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By Concrete Playground
December 22, 2017
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Concrete Playground's 2017 Boxing Day Movie Smackdown

Get maximum bang for your Kris Kringle gift voucher buck.
By Concrete Playground
December 22, 2017
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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

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

We give it: 5 stars

It's easy to fall in love with Call Me By Your Name on sight. Full of the kind of sumptuous visuals that director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) is known for, the '80s-set effort proves a gorgeous piece of filmmaking from its opening frames. That said, it's the movie's sun-dappled dalliance that will really make you swoon, as Guadagnino follows the blossoming romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and grad student Oliver (Armie Hammer) over the course of a sweltering Italian summer. A seductive and sensual queer romance, and a pitch-perfect account of yearning and desire — one that features an emotionally intricate turn from Chalamet in particular — Call Me By Your Name is the film that stories about first love will be judged against for many years to come.

Sarah Wardcp-line

COCO

We give it: 4 stars

It's with vibrant detail that Coco bursts onto cinema screens. A tale of following your heart while honouring your family, Pixar's latest effort is both a colourful sight to behold and an exuberant journey; a film exploding with dazzling visual and emotional fireworks. Within frames heaving with intricacy, there's never a dull moment as the movie sashays from modern-day Mexico to the Land of the Dead during the country's Dîa de los Muertos celebrations. Often it's the little things that stand out, from the grain of the many flowers never far from view, to the weathered skeleton bones that literally dance through the streets, to the melancholy look on an old woman's face.

Sarah Wardcp-line

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE

We give it: 3.5 stars

Updating itself, quite literally, for more modern times, the new Jumanji sees the board game from the original film transform itself into a mid-90s video game cartridge. Fast-forward 20 years and, in a clear nod to The Breakfast Club, the game is discovered in a storeroom by four motley teens during high-school detention, who soon find themselves sucked in to the perilous jungle. But there's a twist: they're now in the bodies of the game character they chose. Each of the main cast members plays impressively against type: Dwyane Johnson as the allergy-afflicted nerd, Kevin Hart as the jock cut down to size, Karen Gillan as the introverted loner and – most amusingly – Jack Black as the vacuous popular girl. The laughs are frequent, coming mostly from the body-swap setup, but also from the tongue-in-cheek references to point and click video games.

Tom Glassoncp-line

JUST TO BE SURE

We give it: 3 stars

As a comedy, Just to Be Sure doesn't always hit the mark. As an insightful look at life, love and family, however, the French film proves both thoughtful and charming. In her third feature, writer-director Carine Tardieu explores the story of widower Erwan (François Damiens) and his pregnant 23-year-old daughter Juliette (Alice de Lencquesaing) — plus the man he has always called dad (Guy Marchand), the man who might be his biological father (André Wilms) and the attractive doctor (Cécile De France) that links them both. With great performances all round, the movie is at its best when it's getting to the heart of the various characters' emotional reactions, rather than trying to find laughs.

Sarah Wardcp-line

BREATHE

We give it: 2.5 stars

Based on the exploits of polio sufferer Robin Cavendish, Breathe comes to the screen with the best of intentions. Indeed, Cavendish's son produced the film, showing just how personal this true tale is. Sadly, celebrating his father's fortitude and crafting a rousing movie aren't one and the same, despite the fact that many of the right tools are there. As Cavendish, Andrew Garfield (sporting his natural accent) flits between frustration and determination, while Claire Foy gives a moving performance as the dependable wife by his side. The production also boasts thoroughly handsome cinematography that captures its '50s, '60s and '70s setting. And yet the directorial debut of motion-capture actor Andy Serkis (The Lord of the RingsWar for the Planet of the Apes) ultimately proves heavy on sentiment but light on emotional impact.

Sarah Ward

cp-line

DOWNSIZING

We give it: 2.5 stars

It's a great concept: to help save the planet, humanity gets shrunk down to size. But the unmistakably odd Downsizing isn't just an eco-friendly, statement-making update of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, even if it comes with a few ace sight gags. While director Alexander Payne has long been fascinated with ordinary guys struggling with their lot in life — think Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska — the theme doesn't quite work in this ambitious but messy sci-fi-esque comedy. The film isn't helped by Matt Damon rolling out his usual everyman routine, though other cast members fare better. Christoph Waltz is considerably more jovial than usual, and Hong Chau turns a thinly written, stereotypical character into something more memorable.

Sarah Wardcp-line

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN

We give it: 2 stars

If Hugh Jackman's mega-watt smile and Zac Efron getting musical out of high school can't save The Greatest Showman, then nothing can. Turning the life of 19th-century American circus whiz P.T. Barnum into a family-friendly musical, the film prefers easy sentiment over anything more than the most obvious of themes and the simplest, flimsiest of narratives. The flat, uninvolving pop songs scattered throughout don't help or demonstrate any depth, and neither does their music video-like staging by first-time Australian director Michael Gracey. There might be warm intentions behind this broad, unsubtle underdog story about dreamers and outsiders, but they're lost in a movie that resorts to painting a critic as the villain — as if to pre-emptively scold anyone who isn't enamoured with its empty spectacle.

Sarah Ward

Published on December 22, 2017 by Concrete Playground

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