Holiday Hits with Gains for the Heart
by Mark A Hadley | Reviewer
You thought the cinemas were just an opportunity to ‘switch off’ and enjoy the ride? Sure, there are plenty of special effects, belly-laughs and dream-like dance numbers waiting these holidays. But there are also graces to be gleaned from the biggest titles – standing witness to your beliefs, humility towards others, sympathy for the outcast, and the sort of giving that out-shines self-love…
The Rise of Skywalker – 19 December
‘Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.’
The final chapter in the nine-part ‘Skywalker Saga’ has arrived. It’s a year after the events of The Last Jedi and all the key cast members unite to battle what director J J Abrams calls, ‘… the ultimate enemy.’ Emperor Palpatine, who appeared to have died in Return of the Jedi, reveals he has been playing a very long game indeed. But the good guys have their surprise appearances too. Lando Calrissian retakes the controls of the Millennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker returns as a ‘Force projection’ and Princess Leia has a starring role even though actress Carrie Fisher died in 2016. But be prepared. Disney is emphasizing this will be the final battle for many characters in that galaxy far, far away.
What, then, will survive? The will to resist. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times the Resistance takes a beat-down, there’s always a rag-tag group of freedom fighters ready to give it another go. ‘We’re not alone,’ says once-stormtrooper Finn. ‘Good people will fight if we lead them.’ The suggestion is there’ll always be people with a conscience prepared to stand up for what’s right. In the Star Wars universe that ‘right’ is freedom to pursue your own destiny. Even if you can’t get behind that particular moral, though, there’s no doubt that in an age which praises individualism, yet requires increasing conformity, those who are prepared to speak their mind will be a rare but valuable commodity.
Jumanji: The next level – 26 December
Game: Remember, the future of Jumanji is in your hands!
Bravestone: I have one important question. Who is Jumanji?
Finbar: Is that Barbara’s boy?
The Jumanji franchise began as a child-thriller then segued into slapstick comedy, but the message remains the same: games are less fun than we think. In The Next Episode, high school students Bethany, Fridge and Martha arrive at friend Spencer’s house to discover he’s once again disappeared inside the magical game. They mount a rescue attempt, but two extra players are sucked in as well. Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his friend Milo Walker (Danny Glover) take on muscular characters, adding a ‘cranky old men’ vibe to the usual ‘body switch’ trope.
Jumanji adds a dose of reality to our seemingly harmless pastimes. Consequently, it majors on humility. More confident characters have to rely on the young and unsure. Players who find themselves in bodies nothing like their real-world selves, learn what it is to be weak. In The Next Episode that humility stretches across generations, with the younger competitors realising they can benefit from the very older people they were so quick to dismiss. All up, it’s a safe watch for the family with a swag of laughs and an easy lesson thrown in.
Cats – 26 December
‘A very timely story about the importance of inclusion and redemption.’ – Tom Hooper, Director
Cats is one of those rare stories that has spanned almost every medium imaginable. Beginning as a book of poetry by T.S. Elliot, emerging as a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and enduring as collection of Broadway songs, the story now has its debut on the big screen. Tom Hooper was the mind behind 2012’s Les Misérables, which introduced a new generation of cinemagoers to a sung storyline, as well as The King’s Speech which lionised a humble monarch. In Cats he seeks to inspire hope for a divided world.
Memory, the song at the heart of Cats, is placed in the mouth of Grizabella, a once-glamorous feline, now withered by old age. She is shunned by the other cats for her mangy appearance and eventually uses the song to reflect on how far she has fallen, and appeal to the younger cats for acceptance. Cats appeals to a world that has become enamoured with the talented and the beautiful at the expense of the awkward and the undesirable with the certain knowledge that we will all one day grow old. It offers a hope that if we can see ourselves in the shoes of those who struggle to belong, we will find a place for them in our hearts.