Boxing Day traditionally is the day of big things at the cinema box office. And what a perfect place to hide while you digest that ute-load serving of pudding you stashed away the day before! Here’s a sliver of just some films on release over the silly season.
In cinemas now
Peter Jackson’s hugely entertaining remake of the 1933 classic is a thrill and a half. While King Kong frequently verges on the impossible and ridiculous -“ I’m sure we weren’t meant to laugh our heads off in the dinosaur stampede scenes -“ the film is a worthy homage to Jackson’s all-time favourite piece of celluloid about a giant ape captured on the near-mythical Skull Island by an adventuring film director and brought to New York as a sideshow freak.
Actor Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar for Best Gorilla for his motion capture performance as King Kong -“ the performance is beautifully embroidered with nuance and great empathy. Marvellous also is Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, the vaudeville actress King Kong falls for. Their emotional connection anchors Jackson’s mad spectacle in something very real right to the climax -“ with requisite biplanes -“ atop the Empire State Building. Jack Black and the sublime Adrien Brody also appear.
Opens 26 December
C?ic Klapisch’s follow-up to the feel-good hit, The Spanish Apartment. The group of 20-something students we first met in their Barcelona apartment are now verging on 30 and feeling an existential crisis. The whole crew is back including Romain Duris as the writer Xavier who can’t seem to settle down, Audrey Tautou as his ex-girlfriend Martine who is now a single mum and C?le de France as his lesbian flatmate Isabelle who’s living the good life and chasing girls.
A screenwriting gig takes him from Paris to London to work with another old flatmate Wendy (Kelly Reilly). Then there’s Kevin Bishop as Wendy’s brother William who is about to marry a Russian ballerina in Petersburg. It’s charming, romantic and as much fun as you can fit on the back of a Vespa.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
Opens 26 December
C.S. Lewis’s well-loved story -“ about four children escaping war-torn London who discover the mythical land of Narnia when they crawl into an old wardrobe -“ has finally been brought to the big screen. Tilda Swinton is perfect as the cruel White Witch who has Narnia under her icy spell, while Liam Neeson’s voicing of the lion leader Aslan -“ who returns to help the children fulfil their destiny in Narnia -“ nobly embodies wisdom. As the youngest child Lucy, Georgie Henley is a standout with her innocent big eyes and genuine good-heartedness.
But the film’s real star is the CGI animation, so superbly realistic right down to the unicorn’s horn. Even the huge battle scene is carefully crafted. Having said that, it’s quite a violent and dark film, so don’t go hauling any six-year-olds off to see it without checking with mum and mum, or dad and dad, first.
MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS
Opens 26 December
Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette) casts Judi Dench (there’s talk of an Oscar nomination) as a very rich widow who -“ looking for a post-husband hobby -“ opens a vaudeville theatre in 1930s London. Mrs Henderson enlists the theatrical management skills of Mr Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) despite the obvious friction between them. The lady loves a challenge. When business takes a dip, she lights upon the idea of putting naked women onstage and becomes a hit with the young soldiers heading off to fight the Nazis.
An often delightful and nostalgic film, Mrs Henderson Presents probably offers your only chance to catch a brief glimpse of Bob Hoskins in the nick. And it’s not at all as frightening as it sounds. Also on hand are the beautiful and charismatic Kelly Reilly, Brit-pop singer Will Young and Mr Spinal Tap -“ Christopher Guest.
Joyeux No?(Merry Christmas) recreates another true wartime tale. In 1914, German, French and Scottish soldiers in the WWI trenches shot at each other daily but on that first Christmas Eve, a profound moment of humanity sparked a temporary truce. The soldiers put down their weapons, brought out their Christmas stashes of pudding and chocolate, their instruments and a soccer ball to share a moment of peace, a Christmas Mass and to bury their dead.
Frenchman Christian Carion’s very moving film was a hit of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and features a strong European ensemble cast including Diane Kruger, Daniel Br?of Goodbye Lenin, Benno F?nn, Gary Lewis and Guillaume Canet.
Opens 26 December
Deadpan specialist Bill Murray receives an unsigned letter from an ex-girlfriend of decades past revealing an unknown 19-year-old son is looking for him. Murray’s amateur sleuth neighbour sends the one-time Casanova off with a list of addresses and itineraries to discover who sent the letter.
Director Jim Jarmusch lines up a smorgasbord of ex-girlfriends for him to track down including Julie Delpy, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton. It’s fun for a while, but the storyline’s repetitiveness and Murray’s performance as an existential tundra wears thin despite a strong premise and an endearing Jeffrey Wright as Murray’s neighbour Winston. While sometimes exquisite, at its worst Broken Flowers is as exciting as watching tea towels dry on a rainy day.
WAIT, THERE’S MORE -¦
Among other silly season openings are a bunch of remakes and spin-offs I haven’t managed to catch including The Legend Of Zorro, Cheaper By The Dozen 2 and Jim Carrey in Fun With Dick And Jane. Add in Charlize Theron in Whale Rider director Niki Caro’sNorth Country about the US’s first sexual harassment lawsuit, and Just Like Heaven, with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, a supernatural love story of theGhost variety, and it’s going to be a very busy 12 days of Christmas.