Ducks amok in the winning family comedy ‘Migration’.
Greetings to all. Here’s a concise rundown of the films opening on Boxing Day. Some good, some not so good.
Traditionally one of the biggest release days of the year, the size and scale of the post-Christmas offerings have cooled a bit since Covid.
The only film resembling a blockbuster is Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the sequel to the 2018 hit superhero movie.
The film will no doubt contain all the flash and sparkle a $200 million production budget can buy, yet Aquaman 2has quite a hill to climb.
Despite a petition signed by four million fans, the now-controversial Amber Heard returns to try and revive her public standing after losing big in the Johnny Depp defamation case.
Will it work? That’s part of the adventure in checking it out. The film was not previewed to media. Always a good sign.
Likely to land as the biggest kids’ film of the festive season is the very funny animated lark Migration (***; 92 minutes; PG), a family-friendly treat from Illumination, the makers of Despicable Me, Minions and Sing.
Feeling a bit like a old-style Pixar film (back in the day when Pixar understood its connection to its audiences) the tale follows a family of mallards who are persuaded to finally leave the comfort zone of their pond and fly south with all the other birds.
Hoping to find a reasonable version of paradise they go off course (of course) and wind up in the big, bad city where they are confronted with a host of comic dangers, the most heated of which is a crazed chef.
Beautifully animated, Migration is a hoot and a half, with lashings of slapstick and a nicely packaged theme about the importance of being part of the wider world. Oh, and of family, of course.
A surefire crowd pleaser, Migration comes with a terrific short called Mooned, in which Vector (the track-suited villain from the Despicable films) finds himself stranded on the Moon. Minions also appear.
Way over at the other end of the spectrum, sadly, is Wish (*1/2; 95 minutes; PG), a very expensive and rather dull musical fantasy misfire from Disney that joins the long list of films to demonstrate how far the studio has fallen from its mission to serve its traditional family audience.
The wobbly story involves a singing teen girl called Asha who sets about trying to reclaim the cherished wishes of her community, which are being held in floating bubbles by the nasty King Magnifico.
The film, which has already tanked in the US both critically and commercially – who’d want to be a Disney executive these days? – struggles with casting Magnifico as the villain of the piece.
The dude starts out as a benevolent sorcerer who creates the loving world Asha and everyone else lives in. He seems like a nice guy.
His main flaw is that he gets a little power hungry, but rather than following through with the carefully established redemption arc the story oddly decides to treat him as a satanic figure. This gives the film a very mean-spirited tone and leaves it with a very nasty, arguably sadistic aftertaste.
Though Wish contains none of the identity politics that have soured other Disney flops (Strange World; Lightyear; Elemental), its main snag is just how abstract and drab the premise is, with its mediocre songlist and surprising dearth of humour leaving viewers unengaged. If Disney creatives can’t do better than this, Heaven help them.
Woody Allen hits another latter-career high with Coup De Chance (***; 96 minutes; PG), a French-language comedy thriller about a beautiful socialite Fanny (Lou de Laâge) who begins questioning the state of her otherwise happy marriage to successful, if shady businessman Jean (Melvil Poupaud) after she runs into old flame Alain (Niels Schneider).
With much more camera movement that we usually get, Allen brings his well-honed lightness of touch as Fanny’s mother Camille (Valérie Lemercier) begins digging into the mysteries behind Jean’s business practices, which prompts him to engage a professional hitman.
Allen’s love for richly nuanced performances and witty dialogue is as strong as ever, his choice of shooting the film in French no doubt designed to please his legion of fans in France. Talk about fan service.
Think David Lynch on meth and you’ll have a sound handle on Poor Things (**** 141 minutes MA), a devilish delight from director Yorgos Lanthimos and Australian writer Tony McNamara (based on the 1992 book by Alasdair Gray) designed for those keen to dive head-first into something different, darkly funny and somewhat deranged.
Set in a heightened version of Victorian Europe, Emma Stone is virutally unrecognizable early on as Bella, a hyperactive brain transplant patient of the experiment-loving Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe, perfectly cast).
Keen to sample the outside world, she heads off with her forlorn lover Duncan (Mark Ruffalo) on a long cruise that leads to adventgures in philanthropy and prostitution.
Anchored by a truly remarkable, edgy performance from Stone the film is graced by fantastic set design and amazing cinematography that toggles between black-and-white and luscious colour.
Wonderfully weird and sometimes graphic, Poor Things is a feast for aficionados of the bizarre.
In One Life *** (108 minutes) PG), Anthony Hopkins puts in a typically understated, affecting performance as Nicholas Winton, the English stock broker who, along with a team of dedicated volunteers, rescued hundreds of children from Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s on the even of the Nazi invasion.
Alternating between the pre-war period – with Johnny Flynn playing the young Winton with quiet stoicism – and 1987, the film chronicles the risky effort to transport the children and Winton’s attempts to share his story.
It’s a true jewel of a film, a touching real-life tale about real heroes, with the exacting recreation of Winton’s appearance on the popular TV show That’s Life a powerful highlight.
Anyone But You (*1/2; 103 minutes; MA) is a dire American romcom set in Sydney that is neither very funny nor very romantic.
Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing , it’s a highly predictable jaunt about two one-night standers (played by Sydney Sweeney & Glen Powell) who have to pretend to be together so they can survive a wedding and avoid unwanted entanglements.
With way too many shots of the Opera House and strained caricatures of Australiana, the film contains plenty of near-nudity, including porn-like shots of naked men with their genitals falling just below the frame line.
All hail the crusade of adult-geared rom-com fluff, yet it is chiefly the easily pleased who will forgive the film its lack of invention and the rather glaring fact that the main male character is a total and unlikeable prat.
Rachel Griffiths and Bryan Brown chime in with bland support, as do Sydney’s helicopter rescue services, which are called into play on a distressingly regular basis and all paid for by Sydney taxpayers. Unfortunately, nobody ever brings that up. Could have been funny.