If you’re looking to escape the summer heat by heading into a movie theatre — or if you just want to veg out at home with some Christmas ham and a flick — there’s plenty of new release movies that are worth your time.
Whether you’re into Daniel Craig as a well-dressed detective, or a frizzy-haired Greta Gerwig with a child on her hip; looking for something joyful to watch with the kids or with your friend who can’t stop quoting The Trip; there’s something on the plate that’s just for you.
Here’s a cheeky primer:
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
- Starring: Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Kate Hudson
- Director: Rian Johnson (Knives Out; Star Wars: The Last Jedi)
- Run time: 2h 19m
- Noteworthy because: Writer-director Rian Johnson and star Daniel Craig reunite for another murder mystery after the twists and turns of their 2019 smash, Knives Out.
- See it with: Fans of whodunnits; that bougie friend who constantly posts eat-the-rich memes.
- Our critic Luke Goodsell says: Having lampooned Trump’s America in Knives Out, Rian Johnson takes aim at billionaire tech bros in this pandemic-set sequel. Southern sleuth Benoit Blanc (Craig) finds himself invited to a murder mystery party hosted by an obscenely rich ‘disruptor’ (Norton) at a private Greek island, where a gallery of guests have gathered direct from the Twitter time line: Bautista’s men’s rights activist, Hahn’s climate change politician, and Hudson’s problematic fashion influencer among them. But when a real murder unmoors the party plan, it’s up to Blanc to peel back the layers and reveal the dark secret binding this seemingly disparate bunch. (Spoiler: The walrus is Paul.) As in the first movie, Glass Onion is at its best when Craig’s drawling, dapper detective cuts through the satirical exertion, anchoring Johnson’s social critique with an amusing weariness.
- Likely to make you: Feel intrigued; entertained.
- Watch it: Netflix.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical
- Starring: Emma Thompson, Alisha Weir, Lashana Lynch, Stephen Graham, Andrea Riseborough
- Director: Matthew Warchus (Pride; Matilda the Musical on stage)
- Run time: 1h 57m
- Noteworthy because: One of literature’s most beloved bookworms finds new life in this musical version of Roald Dahl’s book (adapted from the stage production, a hit on the West End and Broadway), with music and lyrics by Australia’s own Tim Minchin. Plus, it features that fierce red beret dancer who’s all over your TikTok.
- See it with: The whole family; friends who grew up with the first non-musical Matilda film (1996).
- Our reviewer Cassie Tongue says: Iconic bookworm Matilda, from Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s novel (and then Danny DeVito’s 1996 film), is back to delight families – this time, as a musical. Our resourceful and brilliant hero (Alisha Weir, 13 and charming) sees school as the perfect escape from her self-absorbed parents. One problem: the dictatorial Miss Trunchbull (Emma Thompson, having the time of her life). Can Matilda fight a bully by means of brains, heart, and a little bit of magic? Warchus takes this stage musical, featuring witty lyrics by larrikin-turned-award-winning-auteur Tim Minchin, and explodes it onto the screen with striking vitality. There’s magical realism, breathtaking choreography (by Ellen Kane), and Lashana Lynch as beloved fictional teacher Miss Honey. The film has a winning sense of childlike wonder that turns occasionally, movingly, into something wistful. Growing up, finding your voice, and the power of stories to help us write the future: It’s all here, and it sings.
- Likely to make you: Laugh; get a little misty-eyed; hug your kids; visit a library; stand up to a bully.
- Watch it: Netflix.
In cinemas from Boxing Day:
The Banshees of Inisherin
- Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan
- Director: Martin McDonagh (In Bruges; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
- Run time: 1h 54m
- Noteworthy because: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and writer-director Martin McDonagh reunite for the first time since In Bruges (2008).
- See it with: Your best friend (or maybe you shouldn’t); your best pony.
- Our reviewer Keva York says: Whatever your opinion of McDonagh’s previous films – for all the awards they’ve picked up, they remain divisive – Banshees proves the most mature offering from the typically trigger-happy writer-director by a verdant country mile (and could even become his most-laurelled, if its bevy of Globe noms augur future triumphs).
- Likely to make you: Laugh, but also cry.
I Wanna Dance with Somebody
- Starring: Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Nafessa Williams, Ashton Sanders
- Director: Kasi Lemmons (Harriet; Eve’s Bayou)
- Run time: 2h 26m
- Noteworthy because: It’s a biopic of the late, great R&B vocalist Whitney Houston, one of the reigning pop superstars of the 80s and 90s.
- See it with: Whitney fans; aspiring divas; biopic masochists.
- Our critic Luke Goodsell says: Penned by the screenwriter of – you have been warned – Bohemian Rhapsody, this career-spanning Whitney biopic sprints through the icon’s life, from the teenage singer’s 80s breakout to her tragic death in 2012, with a TV-movie scope that makes her massive stardom seem oddly perfunctory. Ackie (Small Axe: Education; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) performs a spirited mimesis, letting the soundtrack of original cuts (like Rhapsody, a mix of studio versions, live takes and remixes) flow through her, while director Lemmons crafts an affecting relationship between the star and her bestie/former lover Robyn Crawford (Williams), showing how Whitney’s queerness was sidelined in the pursuit of minting an American pop princess. But they’re battling a paint-by-numbers script in which nothing emotional sticks, leaving the music, which should soar, feeling muted – a disservice to a singer who fought to prove she was more than a slick crossover product. Still, just try and hold back a tear when she hits that crescendo on I Will Always Love You.
- Likely to make you: Want to listen to Whitney.
The Lost King
- Starring: Sally Hawkins, Steve Coogan, Harry Lloyd
- Director: Stephen Frears (Philomena; The Queen)
- Run time: 1h 48m
- Noteworthy because: It tells the bizarre, behind-the-scenes story of how the remains of King Richard III were found in a Leicester car park.
- See it with: Family and friends.
- Our reviewer Jason Di Rosso says: When was the last time you saw a female lead achieve a historic archaeological breakthrough while battling chronic fatigue and going through a divorce? Never? Well! Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), sporting a tousled bowl cut and courage under fire, plays Philippa Langley, an amateur historian who stares down a chorus of sceptical archaeologists to locate the unlikely final resting place of England’s last medieval king, Richard III, much maligned in Shakespeare’s famous play. The detective story intrigue sits alongside a sensitive, and sometimes refreshingly original, portrait of middle age, with Philippa also dealing with chronic health issues and an awkward if amicable divorce. The central theme of searching for truth within institutional frameworks recalls director Stephen Frears’s catholic abuse drama Philomena, written by the same screenwriters, Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan (who plays the husband here). This is not as strong as that film, but it’s arguably stranger, with a supernatural plot line involving King Richard III himself (Harry Lloyd aka Viserys Targaryen from Game of Thrones), who appears as a recurring vision.
- Likely to make you: Smile; put the kettle on; feel inspired to head down a rabbit hole of medieval history.
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile
Starring: Javier Bardem, Constance Wu, Shawn Mendes, Winslow Fegley, Scoot McNairy, Brett Gelman
Directors: Will Speck and Josh Gordon (Office Christmas Party; Blades of Glory)
Run time: 1h 46m
Noteworthy because: It’s a musical adaptation of the beloved children’s book, with pop star Shawn Mendes as the voice of the all-singing, all-dancing reptile.
See it with: Kids (musical theatre and otherwise).
Our critic Luke Goodsell says: Who can resist a 9-foot, 300-pound computer-generated crocodile with sad eyes, a natty scarf and the mellifluous pipes of Shawn Mendes? Not Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians), whose extremely flirtatious song-and-dance duet with the titular lizard nearly tips this amiable kids’ movie into the realm of something truly outré. (She even draws him like one of her French girls, and can you blame her? He’s kinda hot.) Fun tunes (from The Greatest Showman songwriting team) and a typically irrepressible turn from Bardem (as a flamboyant impresario) give this take on the 1965 picture book some pizzazz, but the rest is mostly mild, post-Paddington kindness schtick – with the obligatory Elton John singalong.
Likely to make you: Smile at a crocodile.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
- Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Harvey Guillén, John Mulaney
- Director: Joel Crawford (The Croods: A New Age)
- Run time: 1h 42m
- Noteworthy because: DreamWorks returns to its massively popular Shrek franchise for the first time in more than a decade.
- See it with: Kids; cat fanciers; scholars of folklore and mythology.
- Our critic Luke Goodsell says: The Shrek universe might be the last place you’d expect to find a meditation on mortality, but 11 years after the first Puss in Boots spin-off, the fancy furball is getting long in the tooth and facing an existential crisis. Stripped of eight of his nine lives and pursued by Death in the shape of a sickle-wielding wolf, our dashing hero (voiced with grizzled gusto by Banderas) is joined by Kitty Softpaws (Hayek) on a quest to capture a magical wish and restore his derring-do, with a grotesque “Big” Jack Horner (Mulaney), a cockney Goldilocks (Pugh) and her crime gang of bears (Colman, Winstone) in hot pursuit. In a pretty lacklustre year for major studio animation, this fleet, funny, Fortnite-esque jaunt is refreshing holiday catnip.
- Likely to make you: Swing your cat from the chandelier (please don’t do this).
Triangle of Sadness
- Starring: Woody Harrelson, Hanna Oldenburg, Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon
- Director: Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure; The Square)
- Run time: 2h 27m
- Noteworthy because: This riotously funny satire about the fashion industry and the uber rich won the top prize at Cannes.
- See it with: Marxists; yacht lovers; male models.
- Our reviewer Jason Di Rosso says: Östlund’s satirical approach is a lot like a stand-up comedian’s, riffing on a single idea until the gag surpasses the threshold of our expectations and attains some overblown, glorious absurdity. It doesn’t always work … but when it does, the result can be riotously funny.
- Likely to make you: Cringe; laugh; avoid boat parties at all costs.
Streaming from December 30:
Starring: Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Jodie Turner-Smith, Don Cheadle, André Benjamin, Raffey Cassidy
Director: Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha; Marriage Story)
Run time: 2h 16m
Noteworthy because: It’s the prince of mumblecore’s take on a postmodern classic by Don DeLillo, starring Adam Driver (as a professor of “Hitler studies”) and Baumbach’s partner Gerwig (as his pill-popping wife). That’s sad lit girl/guy bingo.
See it with: Your nerdy book friends; Adam Driver stans.
Our reviewer Michael Sun says: For the majority of its run time, Baumbach’s work hews too closely to its source material. The result is a film that feels both stuffy and overstuffed, lending credence to the long-held belief in White Noise’s unadaptability … To his credit, Baumbach films the supposedly unfilmable with great gusto – which, at least initially, sustains a winning union between author and adaptor.
Likely to make you: Chuckle, darkly.
Watch it: Netflix.
- Starring: Harry Turner, Samantha Zwicker
- Directors: Melissa Lesh (The Story of Plastic), Trevor Beck Frost
- Run time: 1h 46m
- Noteworthy because: It’s a moving story of animal conservation and human redemption, tipped for an Oscar nomination in the documentary race.
- See it with: Someone you love – especially if they have four legs.
- Our critic Luke Goodsell says: Come for the ridiculously cute jungle cats, stay for the… exploration of mental illness, PTSD and toxic relationships? A tender tale of animal and human bonding, this Amazon documentary follows young British man Harry Turner, a former teen soldier in Afghanistan who hopes to purge his psychic demons by joining a wildlife rescue mission – run by American conservationist Samantha Zwicker – deep in the Peruvian rainforest. Into his life like a cool breeze comes Keanu, an orphaned ocelot kitten Harry must nurture before releasing back into the wild – a process that will test his fragile mental health and his relationship with Samantha, who has her own history of caring for troubled souls. A sensitive portrait of an ecosystem in peril, and the scars that cut deep – no matter how far we run from them.
- Likely to make you: Emotional.
- Watch it: Prime Video.
In cinemas from January 1:
A Man Called Otto
- Starring: Tom Hanks, Mariana Treviño, Rachel Keller, Truman Hanks, Mike Birbiglia
- Director: Marc Forster (World War Z; Quantum of Solace)
- Run time: 2h 6m
- Noteworthy because: America’s dad Tom Hanks is tipped for another Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a grouchy widower in this adaptation of 2012 bestseller from Sweden, A Man Called Ove.
- See it with: Parents, grandparents.
- Our critic Luke Goodsell says: Tom Hanks may not be in his Clint Eastwood era just yet, but he’s sure doing a lot of uncharacteristic growling and scowling as Otto, an irascible Pittsburgh boomer grieving the recent death of his wife (and making some comedically unsuccessful attempts at joining her). Of course, Hollywood’s favourite father figure could never stay mad forever, and pretty soon Otto and his not-so-well-hidden big heart – which is literally a medical condition in this case – are touching the lives of everyone around them. After his wonderfully out-there performance in Elvis, this is Hanks back on familiar terrain, with scene-stealing support from a vibrant Treviño (as a relentlessly upbeat neighbour) and Schmagel (as a relentlessly fluffy, um, cat). Expect to be moved, the old-fashioned way.
- Likely to make you: Feel uplifted.
- Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Radha Mitchell, Eddie Baroo, Erik Thomson, Eric Bana
- Director: Robert Connolly
- Run time: 1h 42m
- Noteworthy because: It’s an adaptation of the beloved, award-winning 1997 Tim Winton novel, about a girl who becomes an environmental activist after she befriends a wild blue groper.
- See it with: Your Winton-loving mum; your nature-loving child.
- Likely to make you: Join a climate protest.
Posted , updated