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The New Movies You Can Watch at Australian Cinemas From Boxing Day

Spend the biggest cinema-going day of the year with an Oscar frontrunner, a savage satire of privilege, a Whitney Houston biopic and Antonio Banderas voicing a mischievous cat.
By Sarah Ward
December 23, 2022
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By Sarah Ward
December 23, 2022
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Christmas brings with it many traditions, from party season as soon as Halloween is over through to turkey and prawns on the big occasion itself (and, obviously, carols, stockings, lights and decorations aplenty, too). The next day has its own routine as well — swapping feasts, drinks, presents and backyard cricket for hitting up your favourite picture palace, ready to gorge your way through the year's biggest movie-going moment. And yes, getting an air-conditioned escape from Australia's summer heat is quite the nice bonus.

We're talking about Boxing Day, clearly — and, specifically, Boxing Day's annual haul of new films. 2022's lineup is a little smaller than past years because the hefty blue behemoth that is Avatar: The Way of Water opened in mid-December, but there's still plenty to watch.

Wondering what's newly showing? Eager to learn what's truly worth your time, more importantly? We've viewed and reviewed the day's full slate of new titles, including an Oscar frontrunner, a savage satire of privilege, a Whitney Houston biopic and Antonio Banderas voicing a mischievous cat. Here's our rundown — happy viewing!

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THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN

In The Banshees of Inisherin, the rolling hills and clifftop fields look like they could stretch on forever, even on a fictional small island perched off the Irish mainland. For years, conversation between Padraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell, After Yang) and Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson, The Tragedy of Macbeth) has been similarly sprawling — and leisurely, too — especially during the pair's daily sojourn to the village pub for chats over pints. But when the latter calls time on their camaraderie suddenly, his demeanour turns brusque and his explanation, only given after much pestering, is curt. Uttered beneath a stern, no-nonsense stare by Gleeson to his In Bruges co-star Farrell, both reuniting with that darkly comic gem's writer/director Martin McDonagh for another black, contemplative and cracking comedy, Colm is as blunt as can be: "I just don't like you no more."

In the elder character's defence, he wanted to ghost his pal without hurtful words. Making an Irish exit from a lifelong friendship is a wee bit difficult on a tiny isle, though, as Colm quickly realises. It's even trickier when the mate he's trying to put behind him is understandably upset and confused, there's been no signs of feud or fray beforehand, and anything beyond the norm echoes through the town faster than a folk ballad. So springs McDonagh's smallest-scale and tightest feature since initially leaping from the stage to the screen, and a wonderful companion piece to that first effort. Following the hitman-focused In Bruges, he's gone broader with Seven Psychopaths, then guided Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell to Oscars with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but he's at his best when his lens is trained at Farrell and Gleeson as they bicker in close confines.

Read our full review.

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TRIANGLE OF SADNESS

Ruben Östlund isn't interested in keeping his viewers comfortable, no matter how cushy their cinema chair. To watch the Swedish filmmaker's features is to feel yourself reacting — emotionally, always, and sometimes physically as well. It was true of 2014's phenomenal Force Majeure, aka as clever and cringe-inducing a portrait of marriage and masculinity as the 21st century has provided. With dropped jaws over a divisive piece of art within a divisive piece of art, it was true of 2018's The Square, the writer/director's first Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or-winner, too. And, earning him that same prestigious prize again in 2022, it's also wholly accurate of Triangle of Sadness. Make a movie with a shape in its title, score one of the biggest filmmaking awards there is: that's been a nifty formula for Östlund of late. But even if he directs a flick called something like Hexagonal Dreaming soon, or anything else with a geometrical bent, and it too nabs that Cannes gong, beating Triangle of Sadness' vomit sequence is highly unlikely.

To remind audiences that responding to films and life alike is an involuntary reflex, Östlund shows plenty of his characters doing just that — to existence, and to a choppy luxury cruise. It makes for simply unforgettable cinema, but it's also just one part of Triangle of Sadness and its sublimely shot unpacking of wealth, privilege and social hierarchies. Appearing to be coasting through perfection is an ongoing quest for Carl (Harris Dickinson, See How They Run) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean, Black Lightning), well-known models-slash-influencers, and the movie's focal point. When they take to the sea among the uber rich, they're still working the requisite angles (and snapping everything for Instagram from every angle). But then, under the captain's (Woody Harrelson, Venom: Let There Be Carnage) watch, being stranded on an island becomes their fate — and the way that Östlund satirically carves into the resulting chaos is equally hilarious and and astute, even when his film is both obvious and hardly subtle.

Read our full review.

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WHITNEY HOUSTON: I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY

In the decade since her death in 2012, Whitney Houston has proven one of filmmaking's greatest loves of all. No fewer than five movies have told her tale, including documentaries Whitney: Can I Be Me and Whitney — and that's without including a feature about her daughter Bobbi Kristina, a miniseries focused on her ex-husband Bobby Brown and dramas clearly based on her story. All of that attention echoes for obvious reasons. Houston's mezzo-soprano voice, which earned her the nickname "The Voice", soared to stratospheric and literally breathtaking levels. Still holding the record for the most consecutive number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, which she took from The Beatles and the Bee Gees, her career zoomed skyward as well. That swift rise from New Jersey church choir member to one of the biggest bestselling music artists ever was matched by tabloid-fodder lows, however, and that tragic, gone-too-soon passing — and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody charts it all.

Taking its name from one of Houston's most exuberant singles isn't just music biopic 101 (see also: Bohemian Rhapsody, also penned by this film's screenwriter Anthony McCarten). Kasi Lemmons' (Harriet) feature follows the standard Wikipedia entry-like genre template, but the filmmaker wants those titular words to reflect how Whitney (Naomi Ackie, Master of None) just wanted to be herself, to be loved as such, and openly be with Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams, Black Lightning), the girlfriend-turned-creative director that her gospel singer mother Cissy Houston (Tamara Tunie, Cowboy Bebop) and stern father John (Clarke Peters, The Man Who Fell to Earth) disapprove of. Instead, after being signed to Arista Records at 19 by producer and executive Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci, The King's Man), Whitney becomes America's princess next door. Ackie turns in a commanding, multi-layered performance as the conflicted singer — even while lip-synching, with the movie smartly using Houston's own vocals — in a film that's impassioned, wisely filled with electrifying performance recreations, yet is happy to just hit every expected note.

Read our full review.

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THE LOST KING

When King Richard III was killed in battle in the 15th century, did anyone wonder about a public holiday? Given the era and its working conditions, likely not. There's also the hardly minor fact that the monarch was slain by the forces of Henry Tudor, who promptly became England's ruler, so downing tools for a day of mourning probably wasn't a priority. The world has a frame of reference for grieving a British sovereign, though, and recently. When Queen Elizabeth II died in September 2022, pomp and ceremony reigned supreme. Dramatising the discovery of Richard III's remains, The Lost King wasn't made with the queen's passing in mind. Actually, it world-premiered a day afterwards. But the Stephen Frears (Victoria & Abdul)-directed, Steve Coogan- and Jeff Pope (Philomena)-scripted drama benefits from audiences knowing what's done now when whoever wears the crown is farewelled.

The Lost King isn't about chasing a parade, pageantry, and a day off work for the masses in Britain and further afield. Charting the true tale of Richard III's location and exhumation 527 years after he breathed his last breath, it follows a quest for recognition and respect. When the film opens, Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins, The Phantom of the Open) wants it for herself, as a woman over 40 overlooked for a promotion at work in favour of a younger, less-experienced colleague — and as someone with a medical condition, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, who's too easily dismissed due to her health. She's also newly separated from her husband John (Coogan, This Time with Alan Partridge), adding to her unappreciated feelings. It's no wonder that Richard III's plight catches her interest thanks to a production of Shakespeare's Richard III, aka one of the reasons that the king was long seen as a hunchbacked villain. More surprising: that the film about all of this, while engaging enough and featuring stellar work by Hawkins, doesn't seem to trust that its real-life story can hold its own.

Read our full review.

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LYLE, LYLE CROCODILE

The Paddington movies did it better. That's a general catch-all statement that can apply to almost anything, zero context required, and it's also the prevailing feeling while watching Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. Instead of a marmalade-coveting bear, a singing crocodile is trying to win hearts — and the similarities don't stop there. The page-to-screen leap from a children's favourite? Tick. An adorable animal winding up in a family of humans who need its unique presence to make their lives complete, bring them together and show them what truly matters? Tick again. The strait-laced dad, creative mum, nasty neighbour and kindly kid? Keep ticking. Also present in both: the titular critter donning human clothing and craving fruity foods, warm colours aplenty, a vintage look and feel to interior spaces, a tense and traumatic capture, and an accomplished star having a whole lot of fun going big, broad and cartoonish (Javier Bardem here, and worlds away from The Good Boss, Dune or Everybody Knows).

Bardem's playful turn as magician Hector P Valenti is the best thing about Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, which is breezily watchable but so indebted to Paddington and its sequel — so desperate to be an American version of the charming English franchise — that orange conserve might as well be smeared across the lens. As directed by Office Christmas Party's Josh Gordon and Will Speck, and scripted by Johnny English Strikes Again's Will Davies (adapting from Bernard Waber's books), the film is also a musical, with the eponymous croc (voiced by Shawn Mendes) able to sing but not speak. Those forgettable songs pad out a slight story, after Valenti discovers Lyle, hopes to get famous as a double act and loses his New York City brownstone when his gambit fails. Then the new residents, the Primm family, find the reptile in the attic, son Josh (Winslow Fegley, Come Play) finds a friend and his parents (Hustlers' Constance Wu and Blonde's Scoot McNairy) find their own reasons to get snapped up in the critter's singing-and-dancing vibe — although Mr Grumps (Brett Gelman, Stranger Things) downstairs obviously lives up to his moniker.

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PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH

Since arriving in cinemas in 2001, Shrek has inspired three more ogre-centric flicks, a heap of shorts and TV specials, and a stage musical for the whole family. It's also the reason that green-hued burlesque shows exist, plus all manner of parties and raves — none of the last three of which are appropriate for kids, obviously. But beyond the Mike Myers (The Pentaverate)-voiced titular figure himself, only Puss in Boots has become solo big-screen fodder from among the franchise's array of characters. Like much in this series, the shoe-wearing feline hails from fairy tales, but the reason for its ongoing on-screen popularity is as simple as casting. Who doesn't want to see a kitty swashbuckler voiced by Antonio Banderas (Official Competition), basically making this a moggie Zorro? Based on the 2011 Puss in Boots' $555 million at the box office, that concept is irresistible to plenty of folks — hence, albeit 11 years later, sequel Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.

Pairing the right talent to the right animated character doesn't instantly make movie magic, of course; however, The Last Wish, which literally has Puss seeking magic, is among the best films that the broader Shrek saga has conjured up so far. The eponymous cat begins the picture being his usual swaggering self and caring little for the consequences, including his own dwindling lives. One raucous incident sees him realise that he's died eight times already, though, and knowing this ninth go-around is his last according to feline lore suddenly fills him with existential woe. That's a thoughtful premise for an all-ages-friendly flick, and one that's never dampened by the film's plethora of fairy tale nods, high-energy vibe and usually amusing gags. So, Puss, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek, House of Gucci) and their new canine companion Perro (Harvey Guillén, What We Do in the Shadows) attempt to find a famed wishing star that can make avoiding death a reality — but Goldilocks (Florence Pugh, The Wonder) and the three bears (Black Widow's Ray Winstone, Mothering Sunday's Olivia Colman and Our Flag Means Death's Samson Kayo) are also after it, as is a no longer 'little' Jack Horner (John Mulaney, Big Mouth).

Published on December 23, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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