Here we are at the end of another year, and it’s certainly true 2016 became something of a slog. With just Christmas and the run-up to Near Year’s left, hopefully a little joy can finally arrived amidst all the death, misery and entrenched political divisions. With that in mind, settle down for a bumper edition covering the major releases over the next two weekends.
We start just before Christmas with Passengers, a mix of science fiction, romance and adventure set in deep space. The story sees Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt waking up nearly a century early from induced hibernation on a journey to another planet. There’s plenty of scope for stunning imagery, and some slightly stalkerish behaviour from Pratt, though Morten Tyldum’s follow-up to The Imitation Game has not received good reviews.
Things don’t pick up much on Boxing Day when a distinctly underwhelming collection of films arrive in cinemas. Will Smith looks set to continue his disappointing run with Collateral Beauty, a misfiring attempt at uplifting drama. Smith plays a New York advertising executive thrown off course by personal tragedy. After writing letters to love, time and death, he surprisingly receives a response bringing all that tepid understanding Hollywood loves so much. It’s taken a real kicking critically, which is even more of a shame considering the likes of Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley are in the cast. Perhaps it’s better to stay with the leftover turkey.
Or you could go for something a little less irritating, if not actually better. Why Him? sees James Franco play the obnoxious boyfriend from hell desperately trying to impress Zoey Deutch’s family in order to marry her. Bryan Cranston’s father proves the real problem, the two falling into a battle of increasingly ridiculous proportions. It’s the kind of comedy that isn’t all that good, but might still draw the occasional laugh if you need to get out the house.
Maybe it’s something about 2016 because things finally get cooking when we arrive at the New Year’s Day releases. First up there’s the excellent A Monster Calls. Adapted by Patrick Ness from his own book, it focusses on a young boy struggling to deal with his mother’s terminal illness. Help is in the shape of a giant yew tree, voiced by Liam Neeson, who comes to life to tell initially perplexing stories. With good performances from Lewis MacDougall as the boy, and Felicity Jones as the mother, it’s a superb emotional ride that is almost certain to prompt tears in a large percentage of the audience.
We stick with Liam Neeson for Silence, Martin Scorsese’s new film. Adapted from Shūsaku Endō’s most famous work, the story follows two young Catholic priests who trek out to Nagasaki to find their mentor who has committed apostasy. Neeson plays the older Priest with Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as his protégés. Scorsese has repeatedly dipped into spirituality and the Catholic religion in his work. Early reviews suggest he’s made one of his very best films with this effort.
From thoughtful drama to the complete opposite for Assassin’s Creed. Big screen video game adaptations do not come with a stellar record, but much about this attempt to bring Ubisoft’s franchise to the cinema looked good on paper. Acclaimed Australian director Justin Kurzel came on board along with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, the trio teaming up again after last year’s Macbeth. There’s also plenty of potential as a career criminal is saved from execution and thrown into a system that returns him to the memories of an assassin ancestor in the time of the Spanish Inquisition. Unfortunately, scathing reviews suggest it’s gone the way these things usually do.
There’s not really all that much in the way of home releases to get excited about over the festive period, but if you do find yourself with loose cash after Christmas, Sausage Party arrives on DVD on Boxing Day. Seth Rogen and team’s crude comedy about the awakening of a bunch of supermarket items has certainly split opinion, but for everyone who found it crass and offensive, there seem to be plenty who thought it was hilarious. Maybe not one for the family, but when you’re bored of endless games of scrabble, it should offer effective diversion.
On that note the only thing left to do is wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2017.