Holiday Movie Binge Watch


Sometimes when it's a long weekend, it's a time to check out movies you may have missed. Below is a recap of eight movies I checked out this long weekend.

Collateral Beauty
Starring: Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Kate Winslet, Ed Norton, and Michael Pena
Synopsis: It would be hard to find a cast more loaded than this. Plus, I loved the trailer. But when it came out near Christmas last year, it was a packed cinematic landscape. That combined with middling reviews, and I let it slip by. But I really wanted to see what they would do with the story. Without giving much of the plot away, I'll say the trailer is misleading, and the way that our main character engages with the concepts of Love, Death, and Time is much less noble. He's a victim, both of his loss and of something else. I was engaged by the emotional journey in this film, and I appreciated Will Smith's performance in the lead role. But I thought there was a large element of the plot that doesn't get addressed, and the ending felt rushed and a bit unsatisfying.
Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.

The Hollars
Starring: John Krasinski, Margo Martindale, Sharlto Copley, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Randall Park, Charlie Day, Elizabeth Winstead, and Josh Groan
Synopsis: This little independent film came out in 2016. It was directed by Krasinski, who stars as John, a man about to have a baby with his girlfriend in New York and struggling with work and life. When his mother is diagnosed with a brain tumor, he returns home and encounters even more dysfunction. This is a quick movie (1:28 running time), and a funny movie, at times. It's sad, at times, too. There's some rich performances, especially from Krasinski, Martindale, Jenkins and Copley. I enjoyed the relationship between Krasinski and Kendrick, too. This film was a pleasant surprise and worth checking out for those that enjoy relationship dramas.
Rating: PG-13 for brief language and some thematic material.
Verdict: Four stars out of four.

Keeping Up With the Joneses
Starring: Zach Galifinaikis, Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot, Isla Fisher, and Matt Walsh
Synopsis: This comedy was released in October and didn't have a long theatrical run. It didn't make much at the Box Office, either. But I enjoyed the trailer and liked the cast, so I wondered why. The film is about a boring couple living in the suburbs who get a pair of spies that move in next door. Hilarity ensues. And that's the case for much of the movie. This film is fine. It has somewhat interesting characters and some decent performances. But it's just OK. If you're looking for a comedy, you could do worse, but the reason it didn't make a bigger splash at the Box Office is because it has a flat plot and presentation.
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Stamp, Judi Dench, and Samuel L. Jackson
Synopsis: This film, which was released in September, is based on a popular children's book and directed by Tim Burton. The trailer was enough for me to get a sense of Burton's trademark directing style, but I missed it when this film was released in theaters, so I was curious to catch up. The story was sufficiently strange, and the visual style — especially the use of color — was delightful. Burton has a way of storytelling that works well with the visual medium of film. But this story was a little slow and dry, and the performances weren't incredibly engaging. I enjoyed Green as the titular Miss Peregrine and Jackson as the primary villain, but most of the rest of the cast was flat and the characters were a bit under developed.
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.

Sausage Party
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Kristen Wiig, and Bill Hader
Synopsis: This was one of the stranger films of the summer. It's an animated film, but not meant for kids. This decidedly hard R-rated film is for adults, and mostly adults with a certain sense of humor. If you were a fan of "This Is The End" or some of Rogen's other comedies, this will be right up your alley. If not, this is one of the filthiest films I've ever seen and one of the strangest. It wasn't my cup of tea.
Rating: R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use. Enter with caution.
Verdict: One star out of four.

20th Century Women
Starring: Annette Benning, Billy Cruddup, Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, and Lucas Jade Zumann
Synopsis: This is a film that came out late in 2016 and was an award contender, mostly for the script written by director Mike Mills. Mills has only made a handful of films, but his previous film, "Beginners" in 2010, was an Oscar winner for star Christopher Plummer. In "20th Century Women" the story takes place in 1979 as a single mother is trying to find the best way to raise her teenage son, employing the help of several boarders staying in their home. It's a weird, strange and, at times, beautiful story of growing up. It will probably resonate more strongly with some than others. I wasn't completely drawn into the story as I didn't relate to the characters and experiences, but I appreciated what Mills was trying to do as a filmmaker.
Rating: R for sexual material, language, some nudity and brief drug use. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.

The 33
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Lou Diamond Phillips, Juliette Binoche, and Cote de Pablo
Synopsis: This 2015 film is a docudrama about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped below ground for 69 days. The film follows their struggle, and the struggle of those who try to free them. I remember following this story from 2010 on the news, and it was interesting to see the film played out. That being said, the story was a little boring in the way it was conveyed and some of the casting choices were a bit odd. The real life story is inspirational. The movie was somewhat less so.
Rating: PG-13 for a disaster sequence and some language.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.

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