Boxing Day 2019 films include Cats, Jumanji: The Next Level and The Truth

It's a strategy, not a coincidence.

Boxing Day is traditionally when a bunch of movies are released. Sick of eating? Opened all your presents? Melting in the heat? Go see a movie!

The big summer movie, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, opened last week to no competition: nobody wanted to try to compete with the Force.

Interestingly, though, this Boxing Day isn't as saturated with new releases as in some years and, perhaps even more interestingly, is focused more on the arthouse than the multiplex.

Boxing Day

Cats

Francesca Hayward in a scene from Cats. Picture: Universal Pictures

Francesca Hayward in a scene from Cats. Picture: Universal Pictures

What is it?

Andrew Lloyd Webb's collaboration with the long-dead poet T.S. Eliot became a huge international stage success with a hit song, Memory (lyrics by stage director Trevor Nunn). Cats has been bandied about as a movie project for years - animated, live action - and has finally come to the screen directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Miserables) who also co-wrote the script with Lee Hall (Billy Elliott). Given how thin the story was in the original show, you have to wonder what they added or changed.

What's it about?

A bunch of anthropomorphic Jellicle cats dance and sing about themselves, apparently auditioning so one of them will be chosen by Old Deuteronomy to ascend to the Heaviside Layer. The storyline was never the show's strong point. Hal Prince who had directed Lloyd Webber's Evita, was offered this show. When the composer played him the score, Prince said, "I looked at him curiously and said, 'Andrew, I don't understand. Is this about English politics? [Are] those cats Queen Victoria, Gladstone, and Disraeli?' He looked at me like I'd lost my mind, and after the longest pause said, 'Hal, this is just about cats.'"

What's the buzz?

Not great. Some people hate Cats and Lloyd Webber on general principle but the film has been criticised for its frenetic camera style, uneven pacing, and general weirdness. Devotees of the original musical might not mind but it sounds like this was a show that would have been best left in the theatre.

Jojo Rabbit

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), left and Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) in Jojo Rabbit. Picture: Corey Te Wharau

Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), left and Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) in Jojo Rabbit. Picture: Corey Te Wharau

What is it?

New Zealander writer-director-actor Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do In the Shadows) adapts Christine Leunen's novel to create what he calls an "anti-hate satire" set in the Nazi era.

What's it about?

Ten-year-old Jojo, growing up in Germany during World War II, is a fervent member of the Hitler Youth who has Adolf Hitler as a rather bumbling imaginary friend. Then Jojo discovers his mother is harbouring a Jewish girl.

What's the buzz?

Opinions are divided on how well how Waititi negotiates the tricky tonal shifts required - satire, broad comedy, whimsy, drama - much as they were with Roberto Begnini's Life is Beautiful. Certainly it's not standard holiday fare, but it's certainly different.

Jumanji: The Next Level

Dwayne Johnson Dwayne Johnson in Jumanji: The Next Level. Picture: Frank Masi/Sony

Dwayne Johnson Dwayne Johnson in Jumanji: The Next Level. Picture: Frank Masi/Sony

What is it?

A sequel to Jumanji: Into the Jungle (2017), itself a long-delayed follow-up to Jumanji (1995).

What's it about?

The kids from the previous film get sucked into (literally) the same video game as before for another adventure but with some shakeups in their avatar identities. One of them is missing and along for the ride are two older men who are also transformed.

What's the buzz?

More of the same - comedy, action - for those who liked the first movie.

Sorry We Missed You

 Kris Hitchins as Ricky in Sorry We Missed You. Picture: Supplied

Kris Hitchins as Ricky in Sorry We Missed You. Picture: Supplied

What is it?

Veteran British director Ken Loach (Kes, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) with a script by regular collaborator Paul Laverty, takes another look at the plight of the working class.

What's it about?

Financially struggling Ricky (Kris Hitchens) gets a high-stress job as a delivery driver after buying a van funded by the sale of the family car. His wife Abbie (Debbie Honeywood), a home care nurse, struggles without a vehicle of her own. And things get worse from there.

What's the buzz?

The film's reception has been very positive but be warned: if you are after something light and easy to take, this isn't going to be it.

Portrait of a Lady On Fire

Noémie Merlant, left and Adèle Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Picture: MIFF

Noémie Merlant, left and Adèle Haenel in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Picture: MIFF

What is it?

Writer-director Céline Sciamma (Girlhood)'s multi-award-winning film is a love story in which male characters have very few lines. And, yes, a lady (or at least her garment) is on fire at one point.

What's it about?

In 1760, a young painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant) arrives in Brittany to surreptitiously produce a portrait of Héloise (Adèle Haenel), the daughter of a wealthy woman (Valeria Golino), as a gift to a potential suitor whom Héloise does not want to marry. Marianne falls in love with her subject in more ways than one. Interestingly, Sciamma and Haenel were once a couple.

What's the buzz?

The film has been critically acclaimed for both its look and its execution so if you're looking for an upmarket art house queer romance, here you go.

The Truth

Juliette Binoche, left, and Ethan Hawke in The Truth. Picture: Supplied

Juliette Binoche, left, and Ethan Hawke in The Truth. Picture: Supplied

What is it?

Japanese writer-director Koreeda Hirokazu's first French-language film with two French stars and one American.

What's it about?

Screenwriter Lumir (Juliette Binoche), her TV actor husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and their child come from New York to Paris to celebrate the publication of the memoirs of Lumir's mother, actress Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve). Old wounds between mother and daughter are reopened.

What's the buzz?

High praise for a film that balances humour and melancholy as it reveals secrets and lies.

This story Your guide to Boxing Day film releases in 2019 first appeared on The Canberra Times.