Office Christmas Party

“Office Christmas Party” is directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, who both directed “Blades of Glory” and “The Switch”, as well.  Their strength is comedy but when a movie is good just not good enough, it doesn’t surprise me when I find out there was more than one director.  I can imagine the back and forth they might have about how to go about a certain scene and you can definitely tell when one man’s option should have won over the other.  However, I could be reading into it too much.  Don’t get me wrong.  This is a good, dirty and off-colored little picture, just in time for your holiday cheer, and one you will enjoy watching if you’re a fan of the genre… but had they put a little more effort into originality, you would have applauded the effort and most likely added it to your ever growing pile of every year holiday favorites.  As it is, this is a one time watch and one time only.  It’s your atypical party flick with one advantage… almost the entire cast of SNL has a spot in the film.  Think, “The Hangover”, “Superbad” and the like.  You’ve seen this before but not only have you seen the film, you’ve seen the actors play the same characters time and time again.  I’ll admit, I love it when I see Aniston play a cold, calculated b*tch but wasn’t “Horrible Bosses 2” out not that long ago?

This is a good, dirty and off-colored little picture, just in time for your holiday cheer” Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Moving on.  We meet the boss of the company ZenoTek, Clay Vanstone (Miller) and his right hand man, Josh Parker (Bateman) directly before the moment CEO, and Clay’s sister, Carol (Aniston) walks in.  We’ve established that Clay and Parker love to have fun and don’t necessarily adhere to company rules very well, despite the efforts of human resources head, Mary (McKinnon), but Carol is not sweet on the branch, nor is she thrilled with her brother.  Forever the butt of his jokes and constantly reminded by him that he was dad’s favorite, she uses the fact that their father made her CEO and not him, against him.  After this latest visit it’s time to show Clay why.  She will keep the company a success at any cost… even if that cost is him.  After cancelling their Christmas bonuses and party, she gives him two days to turn things around or he would face cuts or possibly branch closing.

His only hopes of saving the branch is to catch a major client, Walter Davis (Courtney B Vance), and to impress him, they throw the party of a lifetime; two birds with one stone.  Proud of himself, Clay is certain it’ll all work out to plan.  What could go wrong?  The employees get Christmas joy and he saves the branch.  What could go wrong?  Everything!  When a fun office party becomes a drunken brawl with alcohol, drugs and pimps having a bad day, what could go right?  Actually, several things do go right, and they are the reasons to see this nonsensical comedy.  The cast is great, T.J. Miller does a good job as he steadily gets drunk and Jillian Bell is hilarious as a pimp with a personality disorder.  The script has its fun moments but it goes overboard at times.  You will cherish the efforts from the cast to stand out, but there’s not enough of a discernible difference between it and films of the genre to say its worth paying a high ticket price for.  This is matinee at best. 

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Bad Santa 2

“Bad Santa”, back in 2003, unleashed quite a few “Bad” types of movies (“Bad Teacher”, “Bad Moms”, etc.) It brought a very hard edge to idea of a ‘Christmas movie’. Well, 13 years later, the raunchy comeback kid returns with “Bad Santa 2”. This is the movie that will put the “X” in X-Mas.

Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is living in Phoenix, still as bad-tempered and mean-spirited as ever. He drinks all day holding crummy jobs until he again meets up with Marcus (Tony Cox). Marcus is his diminutive friend in the thievery business who tried to kill Willie during the last heist. Marcus is out of jail and knows about a big score they can pull off up in Chicago.

 

Willie is a small-time safe-cracker, but the drinking and hard living has made problems for him. One of his problems is Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) who got to know ‘Santa’ in the first movie. Willie cannot get rid of the lovable little cherub with the angelic face. Marcus is a creepy little dwarf, but he promises a big money payoff in Chicago.

Once there, Willie and Marcus get hooked into a large charity organization that raises lots of dollars. There will be many Santas collecting the loot, and if they get into the company safe, the cash will be theirs. But then Willie meets the person who organized this heist, Sunny Soke (Kathy Bates) his long estranged mother.

Sparks fly and insults hurl and put-downs become the order of the day. Thurman follows Willie to Chicago to be with him. The charity owner’s wife Diane (Christina Hendricks) finds a new ‘friend’ in Willie, because her husband in cheating on her and stealing from the charity.

The final day of the robbery is planned out, and the three main participants are planning to double-triple-cross each other. The safe is full of cash and the characters are all ready to get rich. Or perhaps dead…

 

The movie producers waited for this many years to make a sequel, and this sort of takes a lot of wind out the sails. The whole thing is a retread of the original, and they think that it will be ‘better’ with many of the same actors and with many more curse words and insults. Well, most of the lines are maxed out on the crudeness credit card, and there are a few that are pretty funny.

But mostly it is a failed trip down the memory chute of better forgotten characters and dialog. Billy Bob Thornton can slum down his acting ability, and Kathy Bates also leaves the award-winning ways in the dirt. The addition of Tony Cox and Brett Kelly make it resemble the original, but without the same motivations as the first one.

This is another entry in the curmudgeon Christmas movie, a small group of movies that take the light, peacefulness, and hope out of the holiday. When the title even reminds you that it is ‘Bad’, there is not that much to expect. If you are looking for disgusting behavior, crudity and vulgarity, all wrapped up in a dull brown paper, then this is the one for you.

Merry Eff’n Christmas, as Willie would say…

almost-christmas

Almost Christmas

After the death of his wife the family patriarch, Walter, played by “I’m too old for this shit” Danny Glover, attempts to get through his first Christmas.  Writer/Director David E. Talbert gently starts the movie with a clever introduction of Walter and his wife, Grace, a cute young couple happily in love, and moves us through the years.  The clips, in particular, show Grace feeding Walter a piece of sweet potato pie, a Christmas staple, setting up the hole in the hearts and the stomachs of all who will feel abandoned by its absence; by not seeing it waiting for them to eat this year, by not seeing the maker of the pie.  As we meet the present day widower, we feel we know him and for him.

Struggling with whether or not to now sell his house, Walter decides not to tell his family but rather brings them all together for possibly one last Christmas in the family home.  His adult children start to file in, some of whom don’t get along very well, and he finds himself playing referee almost immediately.  All he is asking for from them is five good days, is he asking for too much of them?

Through the film, there are tender moments and comedic moments.  Mo’Nique is responsible for most of the comedy relief.  She plays Aunt May and steps into the role of her sister, trying to make sure this dysfunctional family doesn’t fall apart. She does a great job of making the audience laugh, dealing with the burden of the holiday and the heavy hearts within the house.  Writing slapstick comedy and mixing it with the appropriate amount of drama, plus the perfect chemistry of the actors on screen, makes this film one Talbert can be proud of.

“I’d put it alongside any of the comedy holiday greats”. Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

There are a lot of moving pieces and a lot going on with this cast from Malachi (Malco) venturing into a business deal that would kill his mother’s favorite charity to drug use by Walter and Grace’s youngest son (Usher).  The sisters are about to kill one another, and while that’s going on one of the men, Uncle Lonnie, (Smoove) is doing the unthinkable during this holiday break with a cashier he meets at a store.

How these moments are handled, with fights or teasing, is what you’ll find it hard not to remember.  Hysterical scenes of the family coming together, such as a scene where they dance away the grief over their missing mother for a moment and flashes of discussing their mother and how much she loved them are the points of most significance in a film that almost all are.  The emotion is palatable and at times such as this in life, “Almost Christmas” will be one you’ll be unable to forget this season.  It’s usually a good sign that the director has done his job when at the end of the movie, nobody wants to leave.  Rather than stay for a second showing, you can always purchase this to keep for your very own as I intend to do.  This was almost the perfect Christmas film.  There were a few incidents where the performances went a little over the top but outside of those moments I’d put it alongside any of the comedy holiday greats going as far as to say you’ll feel the same way.  Take my advice and add it to your collection.