Office Christmas Party and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon
Christmas themed comedies for the most part (at least the ones that aren’t made for TV) have a pretty solid track record with classics like Elf, Bad Santa, Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas movies among their prestigious ranks. I would also include How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the Ron Howard one) and even Jingle All the Way among those, but I tend to be in the minority with that particular opinion so we’ll save those arguments for another time. The point is that there’s a certain sense of… shall we say EFFORT that comes to be expected when trying to cash in on the holidays; even if the goal is to make it raunchy like they did with A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (another classic) which seems to be the intent here as this movie seems to be a mix between Project X, The Hangover, and the first ten minutes of Die Hard before the terrorist took over the Nakatomi building. Does this wild party live up to the standards of excellence we expect from Christmas films, or is this just a lazy cash in that just so happened to wrangle in a whole bunch of popular comedians to do a whole bunch of lazy material before collecting their Christmas bonuses? Let’s find out!!
Our story begins at the Chicago branch of Zenotek which sells servers or something like that where we meet our key characters for the shenanigan fueled debauchery that will unfold in due time. We’ve got Josh (Jason Bateman) who’s basically if Jason Bateman worked at a branch of a tech company, Clay (TJ Miller) who’s basically if TJ Miller was in charge of said branch of a tech company, Mary (Kate McKinnon) who is what you’d imagine Kate McKinnon would do as a caricature of the head of human resources at said branch of a tech company, and a bunch of others played by Sam Richardson, Vanessa Bayer, Karan Soni, Randall Park, and Rob Corddry to fill out this scenario where a branch of a tech company as filled entirely by smart asses and awkward comedians. Oh, and Olivia Munn is in here too as the uber savvy hacker Tracey to be Josh’s love interest and to provide the very obvious Chekov’s Gun for the finale. Anyway, while we’re getting introduced to all these employees at Zenotech and setting up the boring typical Christmas Party, The CEO of the company Carol (Jennifer Aniston) who also happens to be Clay’s sister has informed them that the branch is about to get some HEAVY cuts and that the party is cancelled. Well that certainly sucks! If only there was a way to fix both problems at the same time… Oh wait! There’s a big contract up for grabs and the company’s representative is in town (Courtney B Vance) so maybe they can woo him into signing a contract with the BEST CHRISTMAS PARTY EVAR, giving their employees the great time they deserve and saving the branch in the process. It could work, right?
Incarnate and all the images you see in this review are owned by Blumhouse Tilt, High Top Releasing, and Universal Pictures
Directed by Brad Peyton
I go to see a lot of movies, and I don’t think I saw a single trailer for this at any of them; not even other horror films or Blumhouse productions. That seems pretty strange though considering they’ve got a well-known actor in here with Aaron Eckhart who may not be quite A list, but should be enough to sell a movie like this, and yet it seems to have slipped completely under the radar. That’s usually a bad sign, but it’s not always the case as films like last year’s We Are Your Friends was a movie I never heard of until I went to the theater to see it, and that turned out to be pretty solid; especially compared to other Zac Effron outings like Dirty Grandpa and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Maybe the same is true for this little horror flick. I mean… it’s possible… right? Either way, let’s find out!!
The movie begins as most demon possession movies do with a young child getting his soul hijacked from some horrifying hell spawn with the victim here being Cameron (David Mazouz) who seems to catch it from this homeless woman as the demons here apparently jump from host to host. Naturally, the Vatican is all over this and sends out one of their representatives (Catalina Sandino Moreno) to keep an eye on things, but it soon becomes clear that conventional methods are gonna take care of it this time. Instead, she calls upon… Dr. Seth Ember (Aaron Eckhart)! Who is he? Well he’s some guy who looks to have watched Inception a few too many times and has come up with a new exorcism technique where he goes into the mind of those possessed and convince their subconscious or whatever to reject the monster that is feeding off of their soul. Of course, Dr. Ember isn’t some bright eyed idealist who’s doing this for the good of mankind! He has a DARK PAST full of TRAGEDY and WOE, and the techniques he’s developed were all in service of killing ONE DEMON SPECIFICALLY who has something to do with said tragic past. Of course, it JUST SO HAPPENS (or maybe not?) that the kid is being possessed by that ONE SPECIFIC DEMON, so Dr. Ember begrudgingly takes the case along with his two hipster tech brats Riley and Oliver (Emily Jackson and Keir O’Donnell). Will Dr. Ember finally gets the vengeance that has eluded him all these years? Will he be able to save Cameron in the process, or will Ember see him as expendable in the pursuit of a greater goal? What… exactly did I just sit though?
Bad Santa 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Broad Green Pictures
Directed by Mark Waters
Well this certainly seems necessary, right? I mean, who WASN’T clamoring for Billy Bob Thornton to don the red suit once again and try to catch lightening in a bottle twice!? Comedy sequels are already a bad idea to start with, but when we get one that’s not only this many years after the fact but also for a movie that’s REALLY freaking good? What the hell is the point!? Is there really much more that we need to learn about Willie that wasn’t already covered in the first film? I mean, we DO get his mother this time around so maybe it will fill in some of the gaps of how he ended up as a drunken piece of trash, but it’s hardly necessary considering how well the role was fleshed out the first time around! Still, maybe there’s some hope for this one! After all, at least they didn’t completely recast the damn thing like Kindergarten Cop 2 or The Tooth Fairy 2 (ugh…), so maybe that’s a sign that they actually care about this one! Yeah… the bar is still really low and I’m not expecting too much from this. Will this at least be funny enough to justify its existence even if it can’t match up to the original, or was this just a cash-in for everyone who could be bothered to come back? Let’s find out!!
The story follows the exploits of Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) who it turns out DID NOT have a happy ending as he ended up going back to the bottle and pissing away whatever goodwill he built up with the last movie. Well… ALMOST all the goodwill as Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) still thinks he’s the bee’s knees and brings him sandwiches whenever he can. Unfortunately ham and cheese on wheat don’t seem to lift Willie’s spirits as much as you’d expect they would, but after a series of suicide attempts he’s given a chance to sort of get his life back on track. It turns out that Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox) just got out of jail and needs someone to help him with a heist in Chicago that’s being set up by a third party associate. With nothing else to do other than drink another bottle and suck on a shotgun, Willie decides he might as well put his safe cracking skills to use and agrees to join him… but it turns out the mysterious associate is actually his mother Sunny (Kathy Bates) and they have a… complicated history. With only a few days before they have to steal a shit ton of money from a local charity, will they get their act together long enough to not get caught? What about Thurman who wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his favorite Santa and is still unaware of just how awful of a human being Willie is? IS he finally gonna get his heart broken by the one person on Earth he’s somehow idolized all these years? Just what kind of charitable organization was dumb enough to hire these three scumbags!?
The Handmaiden and all the images you see in this review are owned by CJ Entertainment
Directed by Chan-wook Park
I have been waiting to see this one for a while now which is somewhat depressing considering all the other film critics got to see it some time ago, but on the other hand at least I was lucky enough to see at all which a lot of other people haven’t been lucky enough to do yet. Now all the way back in 2010 (I think) when Netflix was still delivering DVDs, the first movie I ever watched when I took the plunge into their streaming service was oddly enough Sympathy for Lady Vengeance which… I guess doesn’t REALLY have any significance, but it was my introduction to Chan-wook Park’s work, and I ended up watching Old Boy not too long after that. If you aren’t aware already, this is a guy who is an absolute legend that we get to experience in his prime; on par with the greats like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and John Waters. Okay… that last one was for me, but there are comparisons to be made between those two as Chan-wook Park, like Waters, finds humor and absurdity in people just being people. Now to be fair, Park tends to go in a much darker direction with that concept, especially in films like Thirst which is about someone desperately trying to find a way to live as a vampire while maintaining his humanity, but its honestly these touches along with his technical acumen that has led him to stand out and garner all the critical praise that he has. So is his latest film yet another example of this director being just as brilliant as everyone says he is, or are the cracks starting to show now that his work has been at the bleeding edge of film discourse for over a decade now? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins in Japanese occupied Korea with Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri) who’s been recruited by Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) who’s managed to drag himself out of the lower class but still doesn’t have the kind of money he needs to truly be accepted into high society. What is Sook-Hee recruited for? Well he has a plan to rob this rich guy known simply as Uncle Kouzuk (Cho Jin-woong) who’s niece Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) is the inheritor a vast fortune. Count Fujiwara plans to have Sook-hee go undercover as the titular Handmaiden to Lady Hideko and will gain her trust so that she can start convincing her that this dashing new suitor is the PERFECT husband. Once married, Count Fujiwara will lock Lady Hideko in an insane asylum (which I’m guessing wasn’t all that hard to do back in those days) and split some of the money with Sook-hee. Now obviously things don’t go exactly as planned as we watch Sook-hee get closer and closer to Lady Hideko, and we learn more and more about the life she’s led and how her uncle has treated her since her aunt died some time ago. Will Sook-hee go through with the plan that will get her all the money she could ever need, or will her feelings make it impossible to do so? Will Count Fujiwara be able to stay civil long enough for the plan to even work in the first place? Just what the heck is going on in that library they keep bringing up!?
Rules Don’t Apply and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Warren Beatty
Oh wow! THAT’S a guy we haven’t heard from in a while! I certainly have no idea what the hell he’s been up to for the last two decades, but the guy is finally back from what looked to be retirement to make this film about one of Hollywood’s most iconic names, though in fairness I really don’t know about Howard Hughes besides the name. Does the triumphant return of Warren Beatty prove to be one of the high points of the year, or is his latest film evidence that he’s gonna need a bit more time before he can truly get back into the film making game? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) who’s working as a driver for the one and only Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty) in order to possibly get him to invest in some housing project that Frank is trying to get off the ground. The problem is that he’s not driving Mr. Hughes himself; rather he’s assigned to drive around Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) who’s been brought to Hollywood in order to do a screen test for a movie that Hughes is producing. Marla along with at least twenty other women are all vying for the same part… as far as I could tell, and eventually she gets called in to meet Howard Hughes. At this point, things get a bit confusing as it’s not clear exactly if Marla ever gets the part (or any parts in any movies for that matter), but in the process Frank gets the attention of Howard who makes him one of his personal assistants as the movie is now about following the both of them along with another assistant Levar Mathis (Matthew Broderick) as they do whatever the hell Howard Hughes wants to do during the declining years of his life. In the background, there’s a romance brewing between Marla and Frank, though Howard forbids any “hanky-panky” between his employees, and things start to go further and further south as Howard’s mental state gets worse and worse. Will Frank ever get Howard’s attention long enough to bring his plans to life, or is Howard just stringing him along? Will Marla and Frank get together despite the rules that are keeping them apart? Just… what the hell was this movie about? Can someone explain that to me please?
Allied and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Oh hey! I remember that guy! Didn’t he do that one movie no one saw last year? Sure, Zemeckis hasn’t had the best track record since Cast Away (mostly due to his obsession with CG animated films for a while there), but The Walk was a pretty solid film that just didn’t get much attention for some reason. Sure, it wasn’t full of explosions or even A list actors (Joseph Gordon Levitt still has a ways to go), but it still a really well made little caper that kept things light and fun. Now it seems that Zemeckis is going in the opposite direction with this sizably budgeted war thriller with two super stars in the cast and a much more intense feel to it. Not to say that any of that is a BAD thing; it’s just interesting that his new film seems to be so diametrically opposed to what he did just last year. Is this movie not only another stellar outing for Zemeckis but the big hit that The Walk just couldn’t manage to be, or will we be wishing to see Philippe Petit walk across another tightrope before this film is over? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Canadian Super Spy Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) arriving in Casablanca Morocco to meet up with French Resistance Fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) to do the one thing you’re supposed to do Casablanca during World War 2; kill some damn Nazis! Say what you will about the greatest generation; at least they knew not to VOTE for them! Of course, during the course of this mission they end up falling in love and Max manages to get Marianne passage to England so that they can get married and he can take a desk job in British Intelligence. Things seem to be going well for some time (they even have a kid together), but then one day some dude who’s like fifty pay grades above Max that they suspect Marianne to be a German Spy. Not only that, but if they find OUT she’s a spy then he’ll have to kill her with his own hands; lest he get charged with treason hang from a noose. Okay… I’m pretty sure that’s still murder even if some dude in the government tells you to do it, but whatever. Needless to say that Max doesn’t buy this for a second and then proceeds to break every rule in the book to try and prove his wife’s innocence despite the evidence this government dude is laying out for him. Will Max find the truth and is it the truth he’s hoping for? Where exactly did the higher ups get all this evidence, and why are they coming to Max like this while they’re still investigating? If she’s REALLY a Nazi what the hell could she POSSIBLY hope to get by going THIS deep under cover for THIS long when she’s hooking up with THIS pencil pusher!?