Movies out this festive season: here’s what’s in cinemas over the next few weeks

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Well, I must say I’m glad that we’re back, but there is a lot to catch up on! For Kervyn, this meant feverishly posting about every cool trailer that came out while we didn’t have a website (Star Trek Beyond, The Legend of Tarzan and Independence Day: Resurgence to name but a few). For me, this meant having to put four weeks’ worth of movies in one post. So, here’s everything that’s come out in the two weeks we’ve been down, and everything that’s coming out in the two weeks until we’re back in January. Because it’s a very, very, very long list, I’ve included some quick links for you to jump down to the movies you’re interested in:

11 December:
Victor Frankenstein | The Gift | The Lady in the Van | The Night Before | The Little Prince

18 December:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Carol | The Last Witch Hunter | Trouvoete

25 December:
Steve Jobs | Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip | Point Break

1 January:
The Good Dinosaur | Concussion | Sisters | In the Heart of the Sea


11 December

  • Victor Frankenstein

James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe star in a dynamic and thrilling twist on a legendary tale. Radical scientist Victor Frankenstein (McAvoy) and his equally brilliant protégé Igor Strausman (Radcliffe) share a noble vision of aiding humanity through their groundbreaking research into immortality. But Victor’s experiments go too far, and his obsession has horrifying consequences. Only Igor can bring his friend back from the brink of madness and save him from his monstrous creation.

Judging by the trailer, Victor Frankenstein seemed like it was going to reanimate an old story, but instead it stumbles and lurches like the monster Frankenstein creates. And much like the monster, the story is a mish-mash of different movies, part costume drama, part gothic horror, part comedy (although that’s more accidental than not), all grafted together for an unsatisfying 27% on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • The Gift

Simon and Robyn are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon’s high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin. Simon doesn’t recognize Gordo at first, but after a series of uninvited encounters and mysterious gifts prove troubling, a horrifying secret from the past is uncovered after more than 20 years. As Robyn learns the unsettling truth about what happened between Simon and Gordo, she starts to question: how well do we really know the people closest to us, and are past bygones ever really bygones?

Low-key but incredibly dark, The Gift is a wickedly smart psychological thriller that will stick with you for days afterwards. With its twisty, nuanced plot, well-crafted characters and some sneaky messages, The Gift scores 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • The Lady in the Van

This film tells the true story of the relationship between Alan Bennett and the singular Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who ‘temporarily’ parked her van in Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years.

Almost as highly rated as The Gift but polar opposite in every other respect, The Lady in the Van is another one of those quirky British movies about some random scenario that seems totally implausible but somehow it happened, and many life lessons were learned along the way. Based on a true story from writer Alan Bennett’s own life and lead by the indomitable Maggi Smith, The Lady in the Van is poignant and funny, earning 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • The Night Before

Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have been friends since childhood, and for a decade, their yearly Christmas Eve reunion has been an annual night of debauchery and hilarity. Now that they’re entering adulthood, the tradition is coming to an end, and to make it as memorable as possible, they set out to find the Nutcracka Ball – the Holy Grail of Christmas parties.

The Night Before has been described as a stoner Christmas movie, which is something I’m struggling to picture. Nevertheless, it exists, and it’s not as bad as it sounds. While it’s still a typical “party-animals have to learn to be responsible adults” story, it’s still funny enough and there’s enough chemistry between the three leads to keep it going over the relatively thinly stretched plot. Getting a decent 66% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Night Before might not be become a Christmas favourite, but it’ll do for this year.

  • The Little Prince

KUNG-FU PANDA director Mark Osborne teams with producers Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam for this animated take on Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s beloved novella about a pilot (voice of Jeff Bridges) who crash lands in the Sahara desert and encounters a mysterious young boy who claims to be an extra-terrestrial prince.

Paying excellent homage to the original story, The Little Prince is captivating and emotional. The animation is beautiful, the characters are complex, the story as wonderful as you’ve always remembered it, both kids and adults will love this movie to bits. Scoring 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Little Prince is a delight.

  • Love the Coopers

LOVE THE COOPERS follows the Cooper clan as four generations of extended family come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration. As the evening unfolds, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.

Despite an A-list cast and some potentially interesting plot threads, Love the Coopers dissolves into a total mess of clichés and wasted potential, playing off like a series of skits and never coming together as a whole. Instead it winds up schmaltzy and weak, with a low 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.


18 December

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Wow. What can be said about The Force Awakens that hasn’t been said already? It’s just… marvellous. Brilliant. Fantastically amazing. I was totally blown away, as was Kervyn, who gave it a solid 4/5 stars in his spoiler free review. Along with its 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, if there’s one movie you have to watch this December, it’s Star Wars.

  • Carol

In an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel The Price of Salt, CAROL follows two women from very different backgrounds who find themselves in an unexpected love affair in 1950s New York. As conventional norms of the time challenge their undeniable attraction, an honest story emerges to reveal the resilience of the heart in the face of change.

Lead by flawless performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol is an incredibly stirring and emotional story, filled with longing and hope, and will stay with you long after you leave the cinema. Scoring 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, this might be a major Oscar contender.

  • The Last Witch Hunter

Vin Diesel is Kaulder, an immortal witch hunter who has spent centuries tracking down those who practice evil magic. When history’s deadliest witches resurrect their bloodthirsty Queen Witch, Kaulder becomes humanity’s last hope as he clashes with the supernatural in an epic battle for the ages.

I know Rotten Tomatoes only gave The Last Witch Hunter 16%, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t actually rather like it. Yes it’s flawed and over the top, yes Vin Deisel’s acting is wooden and his supporting cast are one-dimensional at best, and yes there were some odd scripting and editing choices… but I still enjoyed it. It’s silly, borderline ridiculous, but I love that Diesel makes the movies he wants to make, and that makes it entertaining in its own right. As far as swords-and-sorcery fantasy movies go, you could do a lot worse

  • Trouvoete

Louis van Est is a professional when it comes to the anatomy of the human body, yet he knows nothing about the condition of the human heart. This GP is not your stereotypical clean cut, hotshot doctor, in fact he retreats home to his laptop where he escapes from his bland life to a world where a certain “Natgrassterrekyker” (Dewswardstargazer) inspires him to discover a part of his personality that he has always known to exist, yet never had the courage to explore. Ella Gouws, a straightforward, no holds barred speaking thirty year old, has been wounded by love one too many times. She has made a pact with herself to never allow anyone close enough to break her, already broken heart, again. Except for Ella’s chat buddy with whom she shares her dreams, thoughts and philosophies. Magriet Gouws, Ella’s younger sister, is fervently planning the wedding of the year to take place during the silly season that is Christmas. As Christmas draws closer and wedding arrangements contribute complications of their own, conversations between “Natgrassterrekyker” and her mystery man cover everything apart from personal details. Ella starts to fall madly in love with the prince on the other side of the screen. Until he decides that they should meet…

The trailer says that it’s not a love story, but a story about love, and if you thought that was cheesy, then wait until you see the rest of the movie. Trouvoete is over-the-top, clichéd and rushed, with some good performances marred by its poor scripting and offensive stereotypes. It’s also so chock-full of product placement one reviewer compared it to a Verimark ad. If you’re looking for a South African equivalent to Love, Actually, sadly this isn’t it.


25 December

  • Steve Jobs

Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter

While Steve Jobs is a good movie overall – solid, intelligent, daring and critically acclaimed with 85% on Rotten Tomatoes – it’s still been a total box office flop. Despite his near-faultless performance, casting the slightly-lesser-known Michael Fassbender as the titular character turned out to be a bad decision, as did its release window in the States, where it competed against much more highly anticipated movies. But don’t let this deter you, Steve Jobs is sure to be popular when the awards season rolls around, so be a hipster and watch it before everyone else.

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami…and dump them. They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal, saving themselves not only from losing Dave but possibly from gaining a terrible stepbrother.

Alvin and the Chipmunks 4 might seem harmless, but it’s really a cleverly designed torture device anyone over the age of 7, especially for the poor, stressed parents that are desperately trying to keep hyper-excited kids entertained during the school holidays boredom and are wishing they could be watching Star Wars instead of this drivel. It’s bad, as in 14% on Rotten Tomatoes bad, and if you part with your hard-earned December bonus to see it, you should feel bad too.

  • Point Break

An undercover cop makes his way into a scene of bank-robbing extreme-sports atheletes in this remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Ericson Core directs from a script by Equilibrium’s Kurt Wimmer.

If you were expecting a frame-by-frame remake of the 1991 classic, you’re going to be disappointed. If you were looking for a film that maybe paid homage to the original, this will be a let-down. But, if you wanted a movie that is only tangentially related to its namesake, but stripped of all cohesive narrative, memorable characters, quotable dialogue and silly fun, then do we have a winner for you! Point Break might have some impressive set pieces and action-filled sequences, but completely lacks everything that made its predecessor great – which is to say, everything.


1 January

  • The Good Dinosaur

THE GOOD DINOSAUR asks the question: What if the asteroid that forever changed life on Earth missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? Pixar Animation Studios takes you on an epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. While traveling through a harsh and mysterious landscape, Arlo learns the power of confronting his fears and discovers what he is truly capable of.

As is par for the course when it comes to Pixar, The Good Dinosaur is a treat. It’s visually stunning, wonderfully original and heart-warmingly sincere. But… it doesn’t quite live up to the usual Pixar standards. Maybe it’s the same old messages are trotted out once again make the movie feel tired, maybe it’s the fact that Inside Out was so recent and so, so very good, heck maybe it’s the fact that the short that plays before the film (Sanjay’s Super Team) pulls off such a good story in seven minutes that the feature you’re there to see pales in comparison. Either way, something is a little off about The Good Dinosaur, meaning that it “only” gets 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. You’ll still love it, but perhaps not as much as you could.

  • Concussion

Based on the true story of the doctor who discovered CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in football players, and the uphill battle he faced in bringing the information to the public.

Concussion might have an interesting story behind it, but that interesting story didn’t make it to screen. Ignoring every subtlety the movie could have had to make it compelling or even thrilling, instead it bludgeons movie-goers over the head with its paint-by-numbers story and predictable plot. Only worth it for Will Smith’s performance, Concussion gets a blunt 63% on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • Sisters

SNL alumni Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-star in this Universal Studios comedy about a pair of 30-something sisters who learn that their parents’ house has been put on the market, and who decide to spend one last rowdy weekend in the home where they grew up.

Current comedy queens Tina Fey and Amy Poehler might have all the energy and charisma it takes to do laugh-a-minute skits and host SNL or awards shows, but honestly they should have skipped making this movie together. Sisters is crude and cringe worthy, with few laughs and even fewer good ideas. Disappointingly juvenile and slapstick, Sisters only scrapes by with 62% on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • In the Heart of the Sea

In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex was assaulted by something no one could believe: a whale of mammoth size and will, and an almost human sense of vengeance. The real-life maritime disaster would inspire Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. But that told only half the story. “In the Heart of the Sea” reveals the encounter’s harrowing aftermath, as the ship’s surviving crew is pushed to their limits and forced to do the unthinkable to stay alive. Braving storms, starvation, panic and despair, the men will call into question their deepest beliefs, from the value of their lives to the morality of their trade, as their captain searches for direction on the open sea and his first mate still seeks to bring the great whale down.

Sombre and grim with a dodgy CGI whale, Ron Howard’s latest outing is far from flawless. While it has some thoughtful storytelling, the dialogue suffers here and there, and it doesn’t quite reach the depths everyone hoped it would. Even if critics have been quite harsh, totalling only 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, the audience rating is significantly higher, meaning you’ll probably just sit back and enjoy the ride more than those paid to critique it.

Last Updated: December 21, 2015

Tracy Benson

All about movies, board games, cider, sci-fi, fantasy and geek culture.

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