Boxing Day is the greatest film release day of the year in Australia, and it has long been my tradition to do a mega-marathon of as many of the Boxing Day releases as I can fit. Thankfully my friends at the Sun Theatre gave me some good programming this year and I managed to fit in 5 films back to back with a 30 minute lunch break in the middle. So, if cricket and sailing aren't really your things and you're wanting to escape the madness of the city and the post-Christmas sales, you might find something from the list below that can help you.
I'm going to start with ALLIED which I saw a couple of weeks ago at a preview screening, that had its official release yesterday. Starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, ALLIED tells the story of a Canadian intelligence officer and a French Resistance fighter who meet in 1942 on a joint mission in Morocco. On completion of the mission Max and Maryanne flee together to England, get married and start a family. Instead of living happily ever after, their relationship is threatened by distrust and suspicion as Max undertakes a solo mission to uncover the truth about his wife. The storyline had potential, and it came with an incredible director - Robert Zemeckis - and what should have been a great cast. Unfortuantely it was all a bit meh. The film dragged in parts which took away from the excitement and suspense, the twist was given away far too early (for me anyway), and it was almost like Brad Pitt just phoned that performance in. Which is a real shame because he can be really great, and it meant that Marion Cotillard's performance seemed over done, because his was so underwhelming. The film looked incredible, and the costuming was amazing, but the everything else left me feeling a little deflated. Out of all the things to choose from this week at the cinema, ALLIED wouldn't be at the top of the list of films I'd be willing to part with 20-something dollars for. Probably not even in the middle...
2.5 out of 5 for this new war drama
My Boxing Day marathon started at 9:50am with the first session of the day - the new Universal Pictures film SING. With an incredible voiceover cast including Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, John C. Reilly and Jennifer Saunders, and a cute premise, I had high hopes for this little number. A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theatre to its former glory and decides to produce the world's greatest singing competition. But when a typo, a con-artist mouse, three Russian mobster bears and a flood get in the way, things go a little awry for Buster and his competitors. With a soundtrack that's got a little something for everyone, this film will be a hit with the kiddies this holiday season. Not quite up there with Universals' hit DESPICABLE ME, it doesn't quite hit the mark with the script, but it was enjoyable and I even managed to have a little sing-a-long. It might not sit as well with the older kidlets, I'd say you'd be tapping the top of the age bracket at about 10 maybe 12.
3.5 out of 5 for this holiday sing-a-long
11:50 saw me headed straight into the next session of the day - A UNITED KINGDOM. Based on the true story of Prince Seretse Khama of the country now known as Botswana, who caused quite an international scandal when he married a white woman from London in the late 40's and took her back as his queen. Starring David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport and Tom Felton, this romantic biography would have to be my pick of the day. It had history, drama, romance, and a great script to boot. It really is a feel good story where love conquers all, and it gets you in the feels because it's actually true and not just some cods wallop that Hollywood has made up. I'm sure the script writers have taken some liberties with the story to make it more palatable, but the key facts are all there. David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike do an amazing job carrying this film, although no surprises there. I did have a little lol when Tom Felton hit the screen with his dark hair and creepy moustache. It was all I could do not to blurt out loud "oh look, it's Draco Malfoy". Not his fault of course, and credit where credit it due, he played his slimy, pompous ass of a character quite well. A good one for you historical buffs out there, and those who enjoy a biopic, but also well suited to those who love a love story.
4.5 out of 5 for this true story of true love
Here's where I got my lunch break - 30 minutes to have a picnic in the pop up park, go to the loo and get some fresh air. Then all too quickly it was back inside for the 2:25 session of WHY HIM? Not generally something I'd worry about seeing at the cinema unless boyfie wanted to go, but it fit into the schedule quite nicely, and I thought I could probably use a no brain power required film to break up the day. And I was right on two counts. I did need the comic relief to break up the day and it required absolutely no brain power. If stupid comedy is your thing, then this film is for you. Although if you're easily offended by expletives then perhaps give it a miss. I'd say that approximately half of the script is the F-word, and a further quarter is whole bunch more expletives including a few I wasn't familiar with. Zoey Deutch the leading lady I recognised, but could place did an ok job, but the focus was really on James Franco and Bryan Cranston who had a spectacular on screen chemistry. Megan Mullally and Keenan-Michael Key also had a few shining moments. Over the holidays, Ned (Cranston) and Barb Fleming (Mullally) visit their daughter Steph (Deutch) who is studying at Stanford. There they meet Ned's biggest nightmare: Steph's well-meaning, but socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend, Laird (Franco). Laird is trying to make a good impression, so that he can get Ned's approval to propose, and things get incredibly out of control. I mean really, there's a moose in a glass case of its own urine that explodes and floods the living room, so you can appreciate the type of movie this is. I can't complain, I saw the trailer, I knew what I was going in for, and given what it was, it wasn't actually all that bad. I didn't hate it, and the cast did a pretty good job with the shitty script that they had. What I will say is that if I had a magical billionaire boyfriend who wanted to marry me, my dad would probably say something like "well if she won't marry you, I will". There were some laugh out loud moments and some truly cringeworthy moments. I'm not sure if I pay to see it at the cinema to be quite honest, but if things like THE HANGOVER and SUPERBAD are up you're alley then you might not be as sad parting with $20 something dollars as I would be.
2.5 out of 5 for this wrong-town comedy
Immediately following WHY HIM, I headed off to LA LA LAND - my most anticipated Boxing Day release. I have been hanging out for this for months, a little musical with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, what's not to love? They've had great chemistry on screen together before, they can both sing and dance, the set and costumes looked amazing and the soundtrack seemed on point. And yet sadly, something didn't quite work and LA LA LAND didn't quite hit the high note. It's difficult to put my finger on exactly what it was that didn't work, I think it was a combination of things. Parts of the script were slow, some of the lyrics were awful, Emma Stone didn't quite get there with her vocals and Ryan Gosling didn't take his shirt off once. Not once dammit! That wasn't really a problem, but I might have kinda sorta been hoping that he would, so I just wanted to let you know in case you were hoping the same, that he doesn't. Here's the deal, Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie start in between auditions and Sebastian (Gosling), a jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars. They meet and fall hopelessly in love, but as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart. You get to take turns in loving and hating them both in this musical about mundane everyday life. There are romantic highs and dramatic lows, there's a tap dancing scene and then an odd scene at the observatory that didn't quite fit in my opinion. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't all I was hoping it would be. My good friend LahLah went and saw it at the Albury cinema today where she's been hiding out for Christmas, and she loved it, so I think it's going to sit well with the female audiences. The gents, not so much. During the opening musical number the guy sitting next to me let out a very audible 'sigh' that roughly translated as "a musical are you kidding me? What the hell am I doing here" and then he promptly proceeded to snore for the entire film. So maybe don't take your man along with you, save this one for a girls night. I'd hand over the 20-something to see it in the cinema, but I wish I had gone in with slightly lower expectations so I wasn't so let down.
3.5 out of 5 for this new age musical
To round out the day, I saw the one film I know everyone was expecting me to see - MOANA. The latest edition to the Disney collection, MOANA, the story of a young girl who hears the call of the ocean, and guided by the sea and her grandmother sets out on a voyage to save her village. Demi-God Maui once stole the heart of Te Fiti the mother island and unleashed a curse of blackness upon the world. Moana must find Maui and get him to return the heart of Te Fiti to save her island and her people. The story is based around Polynesian mythology, and although it does have a few moments that seem borderline racist, it's fairly enjoyable. Starring Auli'i Cravalho as Moana and Dwayne 'THE ROCK' Johnson as Maui, it has some enjoyable and funny moments. The music is not as awesome as I would have hoped - I don't think this is going to come anywhere close to being the next FROZEN - but it has been nominated for a Golden Globe in 2017 for best original song. There were a few little digs at past disney movies, but the highlight for me was the very Bowie-esque number by Tamatoa the crab, voiced by the very remarkable Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Concords fame. The kidlet I took loved it, and I think it's going to be a huge hit this holidays. It will probably have a slightly more even audience than something like FROZEN because of the action and adventure, which I think will entice the little chaps. I mean who doesn't like a sailing adventure with coconut pirates, a demented rooster, a lava monster and an incredibly shiny, singing crab? It doesn't make it anywhere close to the top of my Disney list, but I'm pretty sure I'd pay money to see Dwayne Johnson singing his song live. It's definitely worth taking the kiddies to on a rainy day this holidays, but beware the lava monster - it is a tiny bit frightening before it all works out in the end.
It kills me to say this but 3.5 out of 5 for the new Disney number
So, for a little recap;
ALLIED - 2.5
SING - 3.5
A UNITED KINGDOM - 4.5
WHY HIM? - 2.5
LA LA LAND - 3.5
MOANA - 3.5
There is something for everyone out this Boxing Day, and there is more good stuff to come in January including COLLATERAL BEAUTY, PASSENGERS, LION AND JACKIE. There isn't really much for the young chaps in the 8-14 age bracket which is a real shame, although come Jan 19 MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST is released and that's sure to be a hit with that age group. So on the next day that's too hot to move, or too rainy to do anything, becuase you know, Australia Summer, pick something from the list and go be entertained. I'm now going to have a week or so off until the next lot of new releases hits the screens!
The Blonde Bombshell