Written by Tom Augustine.
There’s a school of thought that the summer is no time to go to the cinema – why sit in a dark theatre when you could spend that time at the beach? What these detractors forget is the element that used to be plastered across marquees across the land, beckoning audiences forth: cold air conditioning. In the past few days, the heat in Auckland has soared. It’s muggy, it’s sticky, it’s unforgiving. Escape the heat, and engage in a little bit of escapism – there’s plenty of great movies on offer for every palate.
The space between Christmas and New Years is an ideal window to catch up on some cinema that’s already been running in cinemas. There are some great films not to let slip by – Godzilla Minus One; Hayao Miyazaki’s late stunner The Boy and the Heron; Napoleon; Ken Loach’s The Old Oak – reportedly the British social realist’s final fil;, action legend John Woo’s Silent Night; and of course, Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, a must on the big screen. All of these are contenders for some of the best cinema of the year. If you haven’t had the chance yet, another cinema experience practically unparalleled in terms of joyous energy is the re-release of Jonathan Demme’s concert film Stop Making Sense, which profiles Talking Heads’ astonishing tour of the same name. Also flying under the radar is the nominal release for Bradley Cooper’s Oscar contender Maestro, which also released wide on Netflix yesterday. For kids, there’s no going past Wonka, which arrives care of Paddington director Paul King, a sugary holiday delight that’s drawn surprisingly great notices since its release.
It’s also a great time to catch preview screenings and special retrospective screenings. Among the Christmas requisites – Elf, Home Alone, A Muppet Christmas Carol, The Wizard of Oz, Love Actually, and so on, there’s also some holiday themed classics of the slightly more artistic sensibility. Most notable is Todd Haynes’ (of May December, my pick for the best film of the year) swooning romance Carol. Also showing at Takapuna Beachside Cinemas (formally the Monterey) is Bing Crosby starrer Holiday Inn, which once won the Oscar for Best Original Song for ‘White Christmas’. They’re also showing one of the greatest of all films, It’s a Wonderful Life. Never seen it? Catch it on the big screen and be swept away. At the Academy Cinemas is a retrospective screening of cosy ensemble comedy The Big Chill, while The Capitol Cinema is screening oddball romance Harold and Maude, a genuinely lovely classic. Intriguingly, the Academy Cinemas’ pick for Christmas Eve this year is Wong Kar-Wai’s 2046, the glorious semi-sequel to the Hong Kong filmmaker’s revered In the Mood For Love. Rarely screened, it’s not to be missed. On the 23rd, The Academy will be giving a preview screening of All of Us Strangers, from the wonderful Andrew Haigh (45 Years, Weekend), reportedly one of the most moving films of the year. The Academy is also having a mini-Yorgos Lanthimos retrospective in the days after Christmas, giving viewers an opportunity to refresh themselves on The Lobster and Dogtooth before the release of Poor Things in early January.
Releasing over the Christmas break is a range of Oscar hopefuls, as well as the expected holiday blockbuster fare. All eyes will be on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (December 26), the second go-round for Jason Momoa’s waterlogged superhero. Directed by James Wan, will it be a much-needed hit for DC, or further fuel to the superhero fatigue fire? The first film is a good bit of fantasy fun – with a proper director like Wan at the helm, there’s reason to believe there might be more than meets the eye here. Another holiday hopeful is throwback rom-com Anyone But You (December 26), which unites hot young stars Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell in an Aussie-set formula rom-com in which two ex-lovers at loggerheads pretend to be a couple to appease their families during a getaway wedding. Sweeney and Powell have enough chemistry to have fuelled saucy off-screen rumours – both are real talents, so it’s up to Easy A director Will Gluck to back them up with a good enough romantic comedy to refuel this one time box office giant of a genre. Here’s hoping.
It’s unlikely any of the kids offerings will best the Wonka juggernaut, but for those looking for a couple of hours’ peace from the little ones, Boxing Day sees the release of two additional family films – Migration and Disney’s Wish (both December 26), that arrives to us on the back of absolutely vicious critical response. I’d stick with Wonka. Speaking of toxic reviews, Zack Snyder is back! Over on Netflix, the much-maligned (and beloved, in certain circles) mind behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 300, and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole returns from a lengthy hiatus with Rebel Moon Part One: A Child of Fire (December 22), a sprawling sci-fi epic that evidently hopes to assume the mantle of the new Star Wars. If advance reviews are to be believed, this probably won’t be the case.
With the New Year comes the arrival of three much buzzed about films to keep an eye on as award season rolls around. All are worth seeing in their own way. The best is Ferrari (January 4), the new film from the great, great Michael Mann. The director of Heat, The Last of the Mohicans and Collateral is in classical mode here, telling the story of Enzo Ferrari (a superb Adam Driver) as he battles for the survival of his company in postwar Italy and grapples with the loss of his son. A slow-burn drama, it features fiery work from Penelope Cruz as Laura Ferrari, wife of Enzo and co-owner of the Ferrari brand. Also excellent is Dream Scenario (January 1), the wild and thought-provoking dramedy from Sick of Myself director Kristoffer Borgli. Nicolas Cage stars as Paul, a schlubby family man who suddenly becomes a worldwide sensation when he starts inexplicably appearing in the dreams of people the world over. What follows is a strange and frequently delightful dive into the pitfalls of fame, in the vein of Being John Malkovich, featuring one of the best Cage performances in years. There’s also George Clooney’s The Boys in the Boat, out January 4, which is a more under the radar offering well in Clooney’s respectable, handsome drama wheelhouse, telling the story of the University of Washington rowing team’s 1936 Berlin Olympics bid. Less Oscar-friendly, but still intriguing, is Night Swim (January 4), the latest Blumhouse horror offering, which appears to be about a haunted swimming pool. Bizarrely, the film stars The Banshees of Inisherin highlight Kerry Condon, and looks sure to be prime switch-your-brain-off summer fare.
The heaviest hitter of this period though will undoubtedly be Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things (January 1), a riff on the classic Frankenstein story, strained through a resolutely feminist lens. Emma Stone burns up the screen as Bella Baxter, a woman whose body is resurrected by a mad-scientist type (Willem Dafoe, wonderful as always), the brain of her unborn child replacing her own, dead brain. Growing up in the body of a grown woman, but with the mind of a child, Bella finds herself on a journey of self-discovery and awakening as lecherous, Victorian-era men seek to possess her for their own, most notably a caddish fop played by Mark Ruffalo in a glorious heel turn. Lanthimos’ directing style and storytelling approach has never really clicked with me – The Lobster being my favourite of his work – but there’s no denying the feat of craftsmanship that has gone into the production design and shooting of Poor Things. The trio of main cast members – Stone, Ruffalo and Dafoe – are all utterly fantastic, and the film’s script is frequently disarmingly funny. It’s well worth seeing, and sure to be a major presence in this year’s Oscar season. It’s a cliche, but hey, it’s Christmas – there really is something for everyone this summer at the multiplex.
Movie title: Summer PreVIEW
Movie description: View Magazine will be taking a break over the Christmas/New Year period, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fantastic films populating the cinemas that demand your attention. Here are some of the must-sees.
Date published: December 21, 2023
Country: New Zealand