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Top Film Releases in December: Sisters Slay This Christmas

Daniel Pateman

‘Tis the season to be jolly! Despite a General Election on the horizon – an event sure to resound with pantomime “boos” and cries of “They’re behind you!” –blockbuster thrills and Christmas-themed chills await you in cinemas. Films like Honey Boy and Judy and Punch highlight female talent behind the camera, while hard-hitting dramas and fantastical comedies ensure that all tastes are accounted for this month.

We have two narrative-film debuts, courtesy of directors Mirrah Foulkes and Alma Har’el. Set in the fictional town of Seaside, Foulkes’s Judy & Punch begins with the titular duo wowing the crowds with their puppeteering finesse. Punch, however, has a penchant for whiskey, and when Judy confronts him over their missing child, she’s beaten and left for dead. “Does that little Punch-y guy always win?” an inquisitive child asks after finding Judy (Mia Wasikowska) unconscious in the woods. “He won’t be winning any more” she declares. Combining black comedy, drama and social critique, it’s a timely takedown of culturally normalised violence, and described by the Daily Mirror as “bold, boisterous and brutal”. 
 

More emotionally affecting is Har’el’s Honey Boy, in cinemas 6 December. Written as a form of therapy while Shia LaBeouf was in rehab, it’s based on his relationship with his father, a former alcoholic and ex-rodeo clown. The film jumps between Otis’s career as a twelve-year old child actor (played by Noah Jupe) and ten years later (Lucas Hedges), with Otis now famous and struggling with alcohol addiction. LaBeouf gives a career best performance as his own father, while Har’el’s music video background infuses proceedings with a visual lyricism; effortlessly interweaving reality, artifice, and raw emotion. A unique filmic experience with a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s further proof that LaBeouf is one to watch.
 

Black Christmas joins Better Watch Out, Krampus and Silent Night, Deadly Night in the hallowed halls of festive fright-flicks. A loose remake of Bob Clarke’s 1974 original – already remade in 2006 – one wonders why this tale of sorority sisters murdered by an unknown stalker requires further attention. The answer? Girl power. Directed by Sophia Takal, this film shifts focus from the genre’s traditional depiction of victimised females to relish their defiant retaliation instead. As the trailer affirms, “Sisters never stand down”. Giving a tired story a fiery pink update, and with horror-maestro Jason Blum producing, Black Christmas 2019 should be…a slay ride! *Pause for applause*. In cinemas Friday the 13th(!!).
 

The Sound of Music, The Great Escape: both films featuring Nazi’s and dead certs for programming around the holidays. Echoing that trend, Jojo Rabbit hits cinemas New Year’s Day. Based on Catherine Leunens’s book Caging Skies, it focuses on ten-year old Jojo’s exploits in Germany during World War II. A member of the Hitler Youth whose imaginary friend is an infantile version of Adolf himself, his nationalistic beliefs are challenged when he discovers a Jewish girl hiding in their attic. Director Taika Waititi delivers the same blend of irreverent humour and heart seen in Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, while TIME magazine hailed the film as “exceptional” – although some have criticised its representation of Nazi Germany as distastefully flippant.

Just one last thing. There’s a little film called Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker being released on 19 December. Here’s hoping the force is strong with this one. Merry Christmas!!
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