Boxing Day is the biggest day of the year for moviegoers in Australia, and as usual, the 26th of December will see a slew of new films in theatres. It seems like every studio is cowering in fear of Disney’s Avatar: The Way of Water, thus this year’s absence of blockbuster action comes as a surprise to practically everyone.
Movies that the major studios in Hollywood are hoping will be Oscar candidates are often released around the end of the year. This year we have seen the premieres of such critically acclaimed films as The Banshees of Inisherin, Triangle of Sadness (which took home the top award at the Cannes Film Festival in May), and The Lost King, with the release of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans set for January 5.
A Puss in Boots animated adventure, the live-action/animated hybrid musical Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, and Netflix’s film of Matilda the Musical all arrive at the same time, making this season a delight for families as well as fans of serious filmmaking. Plus, there’s a biopic of Whitney Houston that every music diva lover ought to see.
Stay tuned because our staff of cinema critics and journalists will be covering all the major new films this summer. However, here is our current Boxing Day film schedule. Enjoy.
The Banshees of Inisherin is devoid of fantasy, save for a few prophecies made by a local soothsayer. However, writer-director Martin McDonagh’s (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) newest bucolic tragicomedy has a charming otherworldly flavour that recalls the chronicle of a fight between hobbits.
McDonagh may have spent his formative years in London, but he has certainly made the most of his Irish roots. When Robert Flaherty came to film his groundbreaking docudrama Man of Aran in 1934, the island of Inishmore “played” the imaginary island of Inisherin, which was a jigsaw puzzle of lush green meadows surrounded by low-lying dry stone walls.
Flaherty, notoriously, was on a search for authenticity that ignored the facts, depicting his islanders as fighting a perpetual war for basic existence even when they weren’t participating in their supposedly customary shark hunts.
McDonagh, on the other hand, doesn’t try to pass off as realistic in any way. His Inisherin is more of a retirement village for dopey middle-aged bachelors than a bustling metropolis.
As a notional cow farmer living in a two-room hut with his sensible sister (Kerry Condon), I have never been able to wrap my head around how gormless Padraic (Colin Farrell) can afford his nightly pints of Guinness and his pricey-looking knitwear.
Despite his responsibilities, Padraic insists that he always has time for “regular discussions” with his closest buddy Colm (Brendan Gleeson), at least until Colm, impatient because he wants to spend more time practising the violin, tells Padraic he doesn’t want to hear from him ever again.
A curious neighbour exclaims, “What are you, 12?” That’s being fair, at best; as is typical with McDonagh, the characters are effectively grown-up preschoolers making hasty decisions with far-reaching implications.
Anyone acquainted with McDonagh’s previous work will not be surprised to hear that the action grows progressively grisly, nor that there is a subplot involving sexual assault, both of which reflect his own undimmed enthusiasm for cheap shock effects. Similarly repetitive is the speech, with characters frequently reciting “feck” to pick up the tempo whenever things slow down.
When it comes to the use of a threatening absurdism that can be traced back to Harold Pinter’s plays, McDonagh isn’t too far from his American contemporaries like Quentin Tarantino or the Coen brothers.
But as a performer, he lacks the nimbleness of his Atlantic relatives. Banshees’ fantastic content demands a more graphically stylized approach than he can provide. Without that, the film’s third act story holes and tone shifts, not to mention the hazy allegory for the Irish Civil War, are harder to stomach.
But the central theme here, the hurt felt when one is rejected, is so near to universal that few spectators would fail to react. McDonagh uses close-ups to great effect as he follows Padraic through the phases of mourning, which are played for laughs and tears. Farrell’s pleading, puppyish face seem intended to portray every shade of anguish and bewilderment.
Farrell and Gleeson, like they were in McDonagh’s debut picture In Bruges, are a sure bet as a comedic pair. As an acting and directing duo, Farrell and McDonagh are equally in sync, to the point that it’s hard to believe that the same man (here so buffoonish) once played Alexander the Great. Wilson, Jake
There has been a broad distribution of The Banshees of Inisherin in theatres.
Do we truly want to believe that time is the mother of the truth? The protagonist of Josephine Tey’s acclaimed 1951 novel based on the adage is a Scotland Yard inspector who, while in the hospital for treatment of a broken leg, becomes obsessed with answering the issue of who Richard III is.
In an earlier century high school, I read The Daughter of Time. I vaguely recall its findings, which essentially said that the common conception of Richard as a hunchback who slaughtered the princes in the Tower was a fabrication established by the Tudors and propagated by their favourite dramatist. Richard was very different from the horseless maniac from Shakespeare’s play.
Tens of thousands of readers agree with Tey. The Richard III Society was formed by those committed to exonerating him.
One of these ‘Ricarians,’ as Philippa Langley called them, was her. In Stephen Frears’ uneven and controversial picture, we first encounter her as a petite, sickly Edinburgh lady with two sons and an ex-husband played by Steve Coogan. The writing partnership of Coogan and Jeff Pope, who previously worked together on the script for Philomena, is back together again.
Sally Hawkins, a little gem of the British film industry, has consistently delivered excellent performances. It’s not like this one is much better, but the team isn’t doing a good job supporting her. While accusing others of doing the same to Richard, the film ends up manipulating Langley’s tale for its own objectives.
The true Langley is a writer who started looking into Richard for a movie. There is silence on that front. Rather from being an isolated outsider, she was really a driving force behind The Richard Project. Yes, she did do an about-face after seeing a R painted on the asphalt of a Leicester council parking lot. She has stated several times that she “felt” Richard was buried beneath. The film completely glosses over the 1975 historical account that suggests his presence. His burial church had been destroyed decades before his burial in 1485.
The consent to dig was largely due to Langley’s efforts. The Richard Project was successful in raising funds to compensate a Leicester University-based archaeological firm for their work on the project, despite widespread pessimism about its prospects. After they located Richard, though, university administrators took all the credit and pushed Langley and the Richardsons to the side. That seems to be the case at least.
Frears and Coogan were appalled, so they decided to make a movie about an underdog who eventually prevails. Chronic tiredness syndrome is a condition that Langley suffers from. She can relate to how Richard has been stigmatised because of his illness. The entire time, Hawkins’s voice trembles with righteous anger, and at one point I was afraid she would actually crack under the strain. She gives a passionate performance; what she needs is direction.
Frears is responsible for a number of critically acclaimed movies. You may cross this off the list. It’s too willing to discover villainy even as it says that Richard was no villain, making it too slippery with the facts to have any credibility when it comes to the truth. The goal of the investigation was to uncover the truth, but you can’t eat your way through it. It is best to be direct while telling a truthful story. Act Four, Scene Four of “Richard III” The Reverend Paul Byrnes
The Lost King is now playing in theatres nationwide.
The question is, how low can humanity go before it crosses the line into insanity? Swedish iconoclast Ruben Ostlund, like the waiter in the Monty Python skit about the overweight guy in a restaurant, continues delivering us “just a wafer-thin slice” to push us to the breaking point, where our suffering is the goal. His goal is to create a film that will attract audiences from far and wide. A (very) lengthy comet of cinematic bile and trickery.
Subtlety is overrated in Ostlund’s opinion. As the story of Triangle of Sadness demonstrates, he is correct. It’s as brutal as a Pieter Bruegel painting, and it does a superb job of tearing down modern existence.
Ostlund’s mother was a teacher and a communist, and he spent his childhood on a Swedish island. When he sees the adversary, he knows exactly who it is. Once he gets them pinned against the wall, writhing like ants on a pin, his surprising empathy becomes apparent.
After a little prologue, we’re dropped into the stunning world of two fashion models. South African actress Charlbi Dean Kriek plays Yaya, who expects Carl (Harris Dickinson) to foot the bill even though she pulls in four times as much every year. They become closer after an explosive dispute and are asked to join the other guests on a luxury yacht. As a woman of power, Yaya is used to having every door she walks through opened for her. The money she uses.
It might be anywhere in the Mediterranean, probably close to Greece, but the precise position is unknown. Ostlund gathers a bunch of scum, and the most of them are there simply because of their wealth. Oliver Ford Davies and Amanda Walker play Winston and Clementine, an English couple with impeccable manners who have amassed a fortune in land mines and hand grenades. Russian oligarch Dimitry (Zlatko Buric) brags, “I sell excrement,” to the delight of onlookers. Pickled in champagne, his wife Vera (Sunnyi Melles) issues bizarre commands to the ship’s impeccably courteous crew.
The drunken Marxist captain (Woody Harrelson) locks himself in his cabin and refuses to come out. During a severe storm, the ship’s Marxist and Russian capitalist both become so trolleyed that they take turns reciting from the Communist Manifesto over the ship’s public address system. Meanwhile, most of the passengers have begun vomiting up the seven-course supper prepared for the captain. The septic systems eventually reach their capacity and overflow.
Ostlund does not pull any punches; the next scenario is one of the most reprehensible (and funny) in film history, a wonderfully satirical face-off as nature overturns privilege. The group of survivors finds itself on a barren island. There is no value in youth or wealth any longer. Dolly De Leon’s character, Abigail, a Filipina who formerly cleaned the ship’s bathrooms, discovers a new calling. She is a skilled fisherwoman. Like if The Hunger Games and Gilligan’s Island had a baby.
Force Majeure and The Square were successful for Ostlund. The last instalment of a trilogy about troubled masculinity in a society devoid of compassion or a moral compass, Triangle of Sadness, is a jarring addition to these.
Force Majeure depicted the breakdown of a family. The Square is Ostlund’s indictment of the art industry and its supporters. Here, he compassionately dissects numerous sorts of privilege, including physical attractiveness, genetic predisposition, and just dumb luck. In fact, he has a soft spot in his heart for the poor souls he torments. This is a really moving scene, with one character weeping over the body of another. Both had previously appeared lifeless, victims of their own bad luck. Humanity is restored through death and mourning.
If Ostlund goes too far, it is for a reason rather than out of vanity. Never once does he boast about his own (great) abilities. Even as he makes us laugh and cry, he wants us to be completely enchanted by the narrative, submerged in its sea of concepts and meaning, and grasping desperately for some sense of comfort or understanding. What an interesting interaction of consequences! PB
As of recently, Triangle of Sadness has been released to theatres everywhere.
What else can be said about Whitney Houston, whose stellar career, drug use, and untimely death have all been discussed at length in the media?
In order to answer it, she returns to the soundtrack of her narrative in I Wanna Dance with Somebody. The film’s script was written by New Zealander Anthony McCarten, who captured the thrill of Queen’s biggest concerts without sugarcoating the tragedy of Freddie Mercury’s brief life.
It required a light hand, and other famous musicians haven’t had the same success. Respect (2021), a biopic of Aretha Franklin, got increasingly melancholy as it went on, in contrast to the joyousness of Rocketman, which did respect to Elton John as a performer. A similar film, Billie Holiday vs. the United States, was released in 2017. It had impact, but it wasn’t a party. Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, on the other hand, was all flash and little substance since it was told from the cynical perspective of Elvis’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
Family members of Houston were interviewed extensively for a documentary four years ago. However, filmmaker Kasi Lemmons made considerable use of the singer’s original recordings, including those that were demoed on the way to the final versions, for this film, which was also created with the family’s cooperation. It gave actress Naomi Ackie the opportunity to use Houston’s fumbles, pauses, and off-the-cuff remarks as springboards for her own performance. Despite being filmed singing, Houston’s voice was used instead.
She does a good job of capturing Houston’s ambivalent personality, with all its naiveté, fear of failure, rebellious tendency, and impact on her religious values. Ackie may sound like the singer, but she looks nothing like her. With the sight of Houston still fresh in everyone’s mind, this is unnecessary noise.
The script has an impressionistic tone, covering a lot of subject with careful editing and the power of Houston’s music. Clive Davis, head of the record label and one of the film’s producers, is credited for discovering Houston and assisting her with song selection. Stanley Tucci gives us an iron fist wrapped in velvet with his wryly urbane performance. Houston’s smoking has him so distressed that he compares the sight to that of a Stradivarius being left out in the rain.
While it doesn’t exactly pull any punches when it comes to addressing her father’s financial irresponsibility, the film comes a bit short of its vow to be “warts and all.” Also not downplayed is the significance of her ongoing connection with ex-lover Robyn Crawford, performed with great vigour by Nafessa Williams.
I’m not even unhappy that they choose to end the film with the unforgettable medley she sang at the 1994 American Music Awards rather than reveal her actual death. S. Hall, SandraCurrently, the Whitney Houston film I Wanna Dance with Somebody is playing in theatres nationwide.
Many youngsters have a fascination with the macabre, and Roald Dahl wasn’t the first author to recognise this; the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen were both ahead of him in this respect. Nobody, though, save Dahl, has had as much fun with this realisation.
The character of Matilda Wormwood (Alisha Weir) is one of Roald Dahl’s most well-known works; she is a little girl who must learn to get by in a world ruled by some of the most evil adults in children’s literature. Matilda’s parents (Andrea Riseborough and Stephen Graham) are awful, but the headmistress of Crunchem Hall, a gothic mansion of horrors that serves as Matilda’s school, is even worse: Miss Trunchbull. She is a monstrous person.
When the global tour of Matilda: The Musical first began, a male portrayed the role of Trunchbull. Once it was revealed that a film version would be made, everyone assumed that Ralph Fiennes would play the lead. As an alternative, Trunchbull is portrayed by an unrecognisable Emma Thompson. Her features are unnaturally angular, and her outfit has a disturbing similarity to a stormtrooper’s garb as she stomp around her castle. Despite Thompson’s long-ago abandonment of vanity, this invention is far more hideous than her Nanny McPhee, who had only one bucktooth and a hairy mole.
Matilda’s parents don’t want her around, so they send her to boarding school at Crunchem Hall. She has made the neighbourhood bookmobile her second home and does her best to stay out of their way. Mrs. Phelps, the librarian (Sindhu Vee), has taken on the role of surrogate mother and enthusiastic listener to Matilda’s fantastical tales.
Matt Warchus, creative director of London’s Old Vic and collaborator on the original stage production, helms the film. He did an excellent job of translating the excitement of the show to the big screen.
Matilda’s schoolmates, or Crunchem’s “maggots,” as their headmistress calls them, total over two hundred kids, and their chorus work gives Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics, which play a significant role in developing the story and crystallising the film’s mood, a lot of life. As talented comedians, they are able to do the slapstick that provides the choreography with its energy.
In spite of its status as an American classic, I never read the children’s book Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. However, the latest version by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, a mix of live action and animation, seemed very similar, shifting from an homage to the wonderful Warner Brothers cartoon One Froggy Evening to an attempt to replicate the popularity of the truly amusing Paddington flicks.
Lyle, voiced by Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes, is a reticent but musically talented juvenile crocodile who is found lurking in the attic of a New York brownstone by its new tenants.
With Javier Bardem as a flashy magician, a suite of forgettable songs written by the same people behind The Greatest Showman, and Adult Swim comedian Brett Gelman as a nosy neighbour dubbed Mr. Grumps with hipster cynicism, this picture is trying to be a “elevated” children’s film but ultimately fails.
Less sardonically satirised is the film’s central message, which appears to be the same one that Randy Newman, a former Pixar songwriter, satirised in his 1980s novelty hit Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear: that anyone, no matter how lowly they may be, can fit in anywhere as long as they can sing and dance.
The “maggots,” as well as Trunchbull’s mild-mannered subordinate Miss Honey, eventually gain the courage to confront and defeat their oppressor (Lashana Lynch). Dennis Kelly’s script strikes the right balance between the story’s dark and light elements, reflecting Dahl’s belief in happy endings despite his penchant for the sarcastic.
Weir, who is just twelve years old, acts similarly. Innocence and intellect are intertwined with bravery and righteous wrath in this performance. As she attempts the impossible, you encourage her every step of the way.
Younger viewers may be frightened by the fierce Trunchbull, but those who enjoy a good scare and know that everything will out out okay will love this. SH
The Matilda musical, based on the book by Roald Dahl, is now available on Netflix.
For viewers like myself, who are quickly won over by the idea of an intrepid marmalade cat voiced by Antonio Banderas and capable of buckling a swash with the best of them, Joel Crawford’s completely animated Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has a few more things going for it.
In all honesty, I wasn’t exactly hoping to witness this feline Zorro have a midlife crisis and confront his own death. Nonetheless, it’s reasonable that fatigue would set in, given that the character first appeared in Shrek 2 back in 2004.
Puss in Boots has used up eight of his nine lives and must go on a shamanic spiritual adventure through a psychedelic world where his worries come to life (the painting style, influenced by anime, is a departure from the typical “photorealistic” approach).
The ominous Jack Horner (John Mulaney) and a Cockney Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), who has converted the three bears into her criminal sidekicks but still longs for the day when everything will be “just perfect,” lead a procession of baddies hot on his heels.
There are a lot of funny parts, but there are also some scary parts that may put off younger viewers. (I found one such example, involving carnivorous flowers, to be really eerie.)
The films both create an unsettling impression, typical of most contemporary Hollywood family entertainment: that of humour, personality, and emotional understanding having been more or less successfully mimicked. JW
The movies Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile are now playing in theatres nationwide.