With the galaxy far, far too excited about the recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the traditional Boxing Day movie bonanza has stiff competition for bums on seats this year.
That’s not to say there isn’t great stuff on offer... Other than Star Wars. Here’s our guide to what’s out there for the post-Christmas, turkey-belly come down.
Who doesn’t love Jennifer Lawrence? With The Hunger Games franchise well and truly behind her, the down-to-earth megastar teams up once more with director David O. Russell, who worked on both American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, plus her cast mates in both movies Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.
Lawrence plays the titular Joy Mangano, a single mum with three kids whose entrepreneurial spirit resulted in the mega-best-selling Miracle Mop and a vast fortune. A fraught saga spread across four generations that proves fame and fortune doesn’t necessarily equate to happy families.
VERDICT: With Lawrence front and centre and a director who helps her shine, we can’t wait to see this one.
Meryl Streep is an instant YES PLEASE in our books, but only has a brief cameo in director Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette as Emmeline Pankhurst, an inspiring political activist pressing for voting rights for women. Likewise, Natalie Press, as pivotal protester Emily Wilding Davison, is pushed to the background.
Strange, because they’re at the centre of this incredible true-life story of women prepared to risk all for equality. Instead, the main lead is the brilliant Carey Mulligan who ably portrays a fictional, working-class member of the movement, Maud Watts, presumably to get us into the debate at ground level - but it does seem an odd choice by scriptwriter Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady).
VERDICT: Worth a look for a great cast that also includes Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Wishaw and Brendan Gleeson.
Austin Powers director Jay Roach casts Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston in the lead role of this biopic about the rise, fall, and rise again of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.
A fascinating character, he was an outspoken supporter of the Communist Party in fraught times and as such his career hit the skids before he wound up in prison. Upon release, Trumbo was forced to pump out B-Movie scripts for peanuts - though he did also pen the Audrey Hepburn classic Roman Holiday, but all under an alias. He was given another go with Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, which proved a winner. John Goodman and Louis C.K. are on hand for comic relief.
VERDICT: Worth checking for a fascinating look at the politics behind the golden age of Hollywood.
Legendary Italian director Paolo Sorrentino brings his inimitable visual style to this English-language musing on growing older, headed up by the iconic Michael Caine. He plays retired conductor Fred, who is holidaying at a stunning Swiss Alps spa resort with his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) and best mate Mick (Harvey Keitel) - a filmmaker who also happens to be Lena’s father-in-law.
Far from getting bogged down in the vagaries of old age, Youth is full of life and a fantastic ensemble of kooky characters, none more so than the fabulous Jane Fonda as a straight-shooting Hollywood star packing some home truths with her.
VERDICT: Visually stunning, with a super-powered cast bringing their A-Game. This is a must see.
The Bélier Family (La Famille Bélier)
French director Eric Lartigau delivers a heart-warming twist on a musical with this inspired family comedy. Louane Emera plays Paula, a teenage girl with her heart set on a singing career who feels duty-bound to stick with her farming family - who are all profoundly deaf. They rely on her to help them communicate with hearing villagers, including somewhat delicate trips to the sexual health clinic with her frisky parents.
While it plays to a familiar beat, the performances are great - particularly from Emera, who reached the semi finals of France’s version of The Voice, and Karin Viard as her highly energetic mum. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny film, and you’ll be wiping away a sly tear by the end too.
VERDICT: A smart, fun take on the coming of age genre that’s ideal for a Boxing Day family outing... if they don't mind subtitles that is.
Speaking of complicated families, Daddy’s Home reunites Will Ferrell with his The Other Guys co-star Mark Wahlberg in this Sean Anders-directed romp.
Ferrell plays Brad, a mild-mannered step-dad suddenly confronted with Wahlberg’s leather jacket-wearing, motorbike-riding and muscular Dusty - the biological father of Ferrell's two step-kids, and a total troublemaker. Pretty soon the supposed grown ups are locked in one-up-manship combat.
VERDICT: This could be a total train wreck, but there may just be a laugh or two along the way.
The Good Dinosaur
Leading the herd of kids’ movies this Christmas is Disney animation house Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. Kicking off with a great concept, the film imagines that the dino-wiping asteroid that struck our world 65 million years ago actually misses the earth. Dinosaurs begin to develop a farm-based civilisation first, ahead of grunting, animal-like humans.
When the stock standard Disney family tragedy strikes, apatosaurus Arlo finds himself all alone in the world until he makes an unlikely human friend.
This one looks absolutely stunning, but compared to Pixar’s previous offering Inside Out, it’s pretty plodding and uninspired. The kids will probably love the sweet-natured plot that’s surprisingly short on the villain front, but the bad news is there’s almost nothing here for adults, barring a highly humorous drug reference.
VERDICT: Little ones will have fun, but it’s one of Pixar’s least sophisticated outings.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip
Displaying nowhere near same level of animation prowess, poor Jason Lee is once again teamed up with the digitally inserted, high-pitched rodents for a third Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel after 2011’s Chipwrecked. This time they’re taking it on the road.
VERICT: Strictly for kids who love the first three instalments.
Image credit: Joy official movie poster