Pick of the flicks: Our expert guide to Boxing Day at the movies

The wrapping paper is in the recycling, the turkey has been sliced for sandwiches, the mercury is on the climb. Time, then, to head to the cinema for the biggest day of the year, the Boxing Day bonanza. Not sure which of the multitude of offerings to pick? Let our experts guide you.

The Greatest Showman
?????????
(PG) 105 minutes

Hugh Jackman brings all the energy and verve we expect from the stage actor who played Curly in Oklahoma! and Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz to the film role of Phineas Taylor Barnum.

???Between all the rousing song-and-dance numbers, the script tries to tell the story of a quintessential American go-getter, but Jackman never quite seems to fit this man's clothes, a conman with an incomprehensible mixture of contradictions.

It's like The Voice with the Bearded Lady (Keala Settle), General Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey) and the Tattooed Man (Shannon Holtzapffel), plus elephants.

Perhaps Barnum's real gift and his legacy is the idea that you can lie like a rug, get rich doing it and the public will love you for hoodwinking them. Paul Byrnes

Read Paul Byrnes' full review of The Greatest Showman

Hugh Jackman as Phineas Taylor Barnum in <i>The Greatest Showman</i>.

Hugh Jackman as Phineas Taylor Barnum in The Greatest Showman.

Downsizing
???????????
(M) 135 minutes)

Director Alexander Payne comes up with a new breed of Lilliputian. Standing just short of 13cm, they're "downsizers": people who have elected to reduce themselves physically in the hope of enlarging their assets and raising their expectations.

Paul and Audrey Safranek??? (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) are first introduced to the idea of downsizing by an old friend of Paul's. Having made the change, he and his wife are now residents of Leisureland, a luxuriously appointed toy town where the Safraneks' paltry savings could buy them a whole estate.

After giving insufficient thought to it they take the plunge. Paul is full of optimism - until he wakes up in his new body to find that Audrey has lost her nerve at the last minute and gone home to Omaha.

Paul's horizons begin to expand in unexpected ways. He gets to know his neighbour, Dusan (Christoph Waltz), a conman and party boy, and meets Dusan's cleaner, Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), who has been downsized against her will as punishment for her activities as a Vietnamese dissident.

It's a tantalising film - a picaresque tale packed with big ideas and original ways of looking at them. Yet Payne fails to find a rhythm for it, or a tone consistent enough to tie its disparate elements together. Sandra Hall

Read Sandra Hall's full review of Downsizing

Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon star in <i>Downsizing</i>, a film of big ideas.

Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon star in Downsizing, a film of big ideas. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
?????????
(PG) 119 minutes

A Jumanji reboot could not only tarnish childhood recollections of the original, it could also be seen as mark of disrespect to the memory of its star, Robin Williams. The new film is a hyperactive hybrid artfully echoing the original with star power in Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson and Jack Black.

The game which caused all the trouble in the first film is no longer a board game. It's had a video upgrade and the players are familiar high school stereotypes. They discover the game in an old storeroom and the mayhem begins. But this time they don't unleash hordes of jungle animals on their home town. Instead, they are whisked off to meet the wildlife on their own churned-up turf.

It's a cheeky script and the cast knows exactly how to work it. The camaraderie they generate ensure that this qualifies as something more than a special effects movie. Sandra Hall

Read Sandra Hall's full review of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Can Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Jack Black survive the mayhem in <i>Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle</i>?

Can Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan and Jack Black survive the mayhem in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle? Photo: Frank Masi/Sony Pictures

Coco
???????????
(PG) 105 minutes

There aren't many players in today's Hollywood who can match the crew at Pixar Studios for sheer storytelling expertise.

Coco is centrally a film about remembering, inspired by the rituals surrounding the Day of the Dead, when Mexican families light candles for their ancestors.

Rather than working in the family footwear business, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) wants to be a musician in his own right. After stealing a guitar, he finds himself in the land of the dead - where he has a single night to obtain the blessing of his ancestors before he's prematurely transformed into a skeleton himself.

Every plot point and thematic implication slots into place, but the pleasures of Coco are above all visual.

There are stunning individual images: a drifting overhead shot of a cemetery filled with candles, or the magical city of the dead itself, with luminous towers in the distance like frozen fireworks. There are fabulous creatures, too, modelled on Alebrije - the grotesquely colourful Mexican folk art sculptures beloved by Frida Kahlo, who has a cameo here in skeleton form. Jake Wilson

Read Jake Wilson's full review of Coco

Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) explores the land of the dead in Pixar's <i>Coco</i>.

Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) explores the land of the dead in Pixar's Coco. Photo: Disney-Pixar

Call Me By Your Name
?????????
(M) 130 minutes

Based on a 2007 novel, Call Me By Your Name is set in 1983 - a year just distant enough to be romantic in itself - in a sumptuous villa in northern Italy. Here teenage Elio (Timothee Chalamet) lives a charmed life as the pampered, precocious son of wealthy Jewish parents.

Each summer, Elio's father, a professor of archeology, employs a graduate student as a live-in assistant. This year, the visitor is Oliver (Armie Hammer), a hunk from New England, with a discreet Star of David around his neck and a laidback confidence as much physical as intellectual.

Elio is smitten, though he has little reason to believe his feelings are returned. Or does he? The two share glances, moments of physical contact, words that could carry more than one significance, while the natural world around them ??? dappled sunlight, orchards heavy with ripe fruit ??? encourages them to let desire have its way.

Looking at the situation with modern eyes, some viewers may be perturbed by the age gap between the pair ??? or, more precisely, by the fact that Oliver is a fully-grown man where Elio isn't quite. Oliver, at least, is aware that in allowing the relationship to proceed he may be playing with fire. Yet the dangers of the situation are touched only lightly. Jake Wilson

Read Jake Wilson's full review of Call Me By Your Name

Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet in <i>Call Me By Your Name</i>.

Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name. Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Just To Be Sure
????????????
(M) 100 minutes

French cinema retains some of the things that Hollywood has given away, what might be described as movies about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. Just To Be Sure, the third feature from director Carine Tardieu, is exactly this.

Set in Brittany, it strives for fluency, rather than the disruptive rhythms that so many young directors now employ. Belgian actor Francois Damiens is Erwan Gourmelon, a middle-aged widower with a feisty daughter, Juliette (Alice de Lencquesaing).

Juliette is a social worker who got pregnant in a one-night stand, and now she won't tell him who the father is.??? Erwan isn't particularly old-fashioned but he believes a child needs to know who its father is, even if he's not around. In the medical check-ups, Erwan learns that he shares no DNA with his own father.

A broader kind of comic director would have milked this situation, but Tardieu sees the pain, as well as the possibility of comedy and drama walking together, in balance. Paul Byrnes

Read Paul Byrnes' full review of Just To Be Sure

Francois Damiens and Cecile de France star in <i>Just to Be Sure</i>, a muted classical comedy of errors.

Francois Damiens and Cecile de France star in Just to Be Sure, a muted classical comedy of errors. Photo: Palace Films

Breathe
???????????
(M) 118 minutes

Breathe is the story of Robin Cavendish, a British tea broker, who was stricken with polio in 1960 at the age of 25 and paralysed from the neck down.

Robin (Andrew Garfield) and his wife, Diana (Claire Foy) had money but much more important was their group of well-connected friends, ready to do all they could to ensure that Robin was not confined to house or hospital.

The most significant of these friends was Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville), who designed a wheelchair with a battery-operated respirator. With this machine, Robin was able to recover his spirit of adventure and with the gift of mobility, he regains his desire to go on living.

There are times when the film's unassailable optimism gets in the way of its credibility; only one scene coming to grips with the horror of what Robin might have had to face if Hall had not come up with the chair. Sandra Hall

Read Sandra Hall's full review of Breathe

<i>Breathe</i>: Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy as Robin and Diana Cavendish before tragedy struck.

Breathe: Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy as Robin and Diana Cavendish before tragedy struck. Photo: Transmission Films

This story Pick of the flicks: Our expert guide to Boxing Day at the movies first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.