One could argue that holiday-themed films about families coming together, despite their bickering and differences, are a dime a dozen nowadays. They're those warm-and-fuzzy ensemble pieces that come with all the trimmings: Adorable dog who eats from the dining table! The miserable sister who'll never find love! The cute kid whose purpose is to run a recurring joke into the snow-covered ground (in between watching his parents fight, of course)!
Love The Coopers is no different (except for one thing, which I'll get to later).
Diane Keaton and John Goodman play Charlotte and Sam, the heads of the titular family. Sam's ready to announce to their brood that, after 40 years of marriage, he and Mama Cooper are planning to go their separate ways (the word "divorce" is never tossed around, so you know they ain't that serious). All Charlotte wants is to have one last picture-perfect Christmas with their grown children and grandkids before everything crumbles.
And let's talk about Ms. Keaton for a minute: At this point in her career, it appears she's gravitating towards roles that are as interchangeable as a wooden nutcrackers on a fireplace mantle. (Perhaps this requires a bigger discussion on what roles are available for someone of her caliber.) Maybe something about her just screams snow-globe-collecting-WASP-who-loves-Restoration-Hardware. Her Charlotte Cooper is no different from the frazzled-but-smartly-dressed sexagenerians she has portrayed ever since she nailed it in 2003's Something's Gotta Give. The typecasting, at this point, is so embarrassingly obvious. More proof can be found in forgettable titles like 2014's And So It Goes, 2013's The Big Wedding, and 2012's Darling Companion. But there's one movie on Keaton's IMDB page for which Coopers feels like direct carbon copy, and that's 2005's The Family Stone, which happens to share the same producer (Michael London, shocker).
But back to the Coopers: Charlotte and Sam's kids are not much better off. Son Hank (Ed Helms) is coping with single parenthood, and daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is coping with being a disappointment as an unemployed playwright who flirts with the Army soldier (Jake Lacy) she meets an airport bar. (Their bantery scenes are the most enjoyable.) Meanwhile, Charlotte's younger sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) wallows in self-pity with the stone-faced officer who catches her shoplifting (Anthony Mackie), and their dad Bucky (Alan Arkin) befriends a doe-eyed waitress (Amanda Seyfried) who has nowhere else to go on Christmas, despite Bucky's odd attraction to her. (This borderline creepy storyline falls flatter than one of Charlotte's decorative placemats.)
But despite the blatantly bland cookie-cutterness of the film, there's something charming in the way director Jessie Nelson and writer Steven Rogers weave in flashbacks for each character. And that's where Coopers slightly stands out from the rest of the holiday-family fodder. It goes ahead and reminds us why holiday gatherings are so tricky, and it's often provided by an omniscient narrator (Steven Martin) and punctuated by a moody holiday soundtrack full of eclectic tunes. Forget the cutesy poster tagline "You can't regift family." The real message behind this cliche-riddled production is a commentary on nostalgia and how easy it is to fall into that memory trap whenever you come home to festive lights, a good meal, and individuals who love you unconditionally.
It's a shame the rest of the movie couldn't take on a more winking, irreverent tone and eventually ends up being the longest saccharine-filled Hallmark greeting card ever created.
The subtitle for this gloriously overblown sequel might as well have been "America Fuck Yeah!"
For those of you who enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen, the 2013 action-thriller about shit blowing up at the White House, get ready for more iconic monuments - this time in Europe - to be obliterated.
Gerard Butler returns as Secret Service Agent Mike, the POTUS's BFF who needs to get back into fighting shape when a terrorist baddie named Barkawi (what?) threatens to ruin everyone's day during a very important gathering in the U.K.
Serious Actors Who Deliver Generic Lines With Serious Faces like Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, and Melissa Leo can be seen in a few scenes trying to bring on the gravitas, but let's face it America, we're here for the destruction of a capital city with loads of great architecture and greater accents.
Just when you thought you've seen every horror-comedy imaginable, along comes Freaks of Nature, an unapologetically R-rated flick about a small town overrun by bloodsuckers and braineaters...that gets taken over by extraterrestrials. Proceed to comment with your standard "WTF?"
With a cast that includes Denis Leary, Patton Oswald, Bob Odenkirk, and Vanessa Hudgens, it looks like we're in for a bloody, over-the-top, fantastic ride. Check out the red band trailer:
Room starts out observing the mundane daily lives of Ma (emerging frontrunner Brie Larson) and 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay). They're being held prisoner in "Room," a confined shack in the middle of the woods with minimal contact. Jack, having been born in Room, has never set foot in the outside world - or "outer space,” as he puts it. You see, throughout his entire life, Ma has shielded Jack from anything real that exists beyond the four walls of the tiny garden shed where they're being held captive. And on top of that, their lives are in danger every day; their captor, "Old Nick" (Sean Bridgers), a mysterious man Ma only knows for his weekly visits, food drops, and the occasional new article of clothing. When she learns Old Nick has been laid off from his job, she fears the worst. Thus begins a plan for an escape.
What follows is one of the most tense scenes in recent movie history. Director Lenny Abrahamson manages to construct an edgy "car chase" that features no more than a single truck meandering its way through a sleepy neighborhood. By the end of the scene, Larson and Tremblay display a level of raw emotion and talent that only an intimate movie like this can produce.
We get to know the two of them as they know each other - insular, restricted, controlled. Their eventual reintegration into the real world is just as traumatic as their captivity. Jack has trouble speaking to anyone other than Ma, and she (Joy) has a hard time dealing with the fact that her loved ones have eventually moved on during her 7-year absence. The second half of the movie could have easily fallen into the melodramatic territory of a Lifetime movie-of-the-week, but the strength of Emma Donoghue’s script (based on her novel) is in what’s left unsaid. We know Jack is the product of Joy's captor, but she never once sees the face of Old Nick when she looks at her son.
Subtle performances from Joan Allen and William H. Macy, as Joy’s parents, round out the cast, but Larson and Tremblay are undoubtedly the centerpieces of this film. Both performances are Oscar-worthy, but it seems as if this is the type of acting that the Academy rarely rewards these days. (Hopefully we're proven wrong when ballots go out soon.) The bond they share through this horrific ordeal and eventual journey to gain independence from the memory of their past, as well as from each other, is at the heart of this gripping story.
Jack may be young enough for his memories of Room to fade, but Ma has a longer, more difficult journey ahead, one where Room no longer exists and “outer space” is home for both of them.
Knock Knock...Who's There? I think that should be the name for the sequel to the new thriller Knock Knock. If you saw the trailer featuring sexy stars Keanu Reeves and newcomers Lorenza Izzo and Ana De Armas, chances are you'll run out to the theater expecting buckets of blood from horror master Eli Roth. But you may be disappointed. This flick is more in the same vein as Fatal Attraction, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and cult fave The Crush (starring Carey Elwes, who may have been a good choice to star in this...but I digress).
The set up is almost like an episode of ABC's What Would You Do? Keanu Reeves plays a dad (take a minute to wrap that around your brain) with a wife and two kids. At the age of 50, he still oozes a natural coolness; the guy is super Zen. With his wife and kids conveniently out for the weekend, he's home alone to work on a project during a dark and stormy night. Cue the titular door knock! Outside are two young, sexy thangs standing in the rain, stuck with a dead phone and nowhere to go.
At this point, I started thinking, how would I handle this? Mr. Reeves becomes the Everyman, and at first, he does everything right, helping these young ladies, remaining cool and hip. However, I am not giving anything away when I say he gets seduced by the girls and they all end up having a menage a trois (Mistake #1). True, we live in the Age of Ubers, and he does call a car for them, but with a 45-minute wait, what else is there to do but casually talk with beautiful strangers about everyone's favorite topic: SEX!
It would be a perfect world for this dad if the two giggly girls were gone after the crazy romp, but they don't leave, and thus begins the cat-and-mouse game. The second act makes you root for the innocent dad and then it flip-flops to the girls because they seem to be having a blast torturing this guy. (Because technically, he is a cheating dad and no good, right?) With contagious laughter, the girls completely destroy everything in his life, and you almost don't want to see them get caught. They hit the house like a wrecking ball!
I kept waiting for the movie to get more ruthlessly wicked (because, hello, Eli Roth), but it never turned that queasy corner; even the sex scene was pretty tame. I walked in thinking it was going to be Fatal Attraction 2015, but the scariest element of the movie was the idea it ultimately suggests: The Internet can change your life and instantly bring on lots of judgment. That is something Glenn Close didn't have in her crazy bag of tricks for Michael Douglas back in 1987.
Eli Roth has clearly grown up with this thriller, working with comedic actress/producer Colleen Camp (Yvette in Clue!) who also has a cameo. During the press junket for the film, the two discussed how they were able to finance the project. In 2014, they got tickets to the Oscars and ran around trying to get a big name to star in the thriller. At one point, she yelled to Roth, "Come on, John Travolta is getting us in to the Vanity Fair party!"
Moral of the story: this is one unlikely duo that needs to work together on more projects.
The Jane Austen classic is getting a horror remix in 2016, this time with stars from Doctor Who (Matt Smith!) and Downton Abbey (Lily James!), and we are IN LOVE.
We read Seth Grahame-Smith's novel back in 2012, and we knew back then that a kickass film adaptation was inevitable. Who wouldn't want to see Lizzy Bennett and her corset-wearing sisters slice and dice their way through Britain's undead? For those who loved Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, this is your bloody cup of tea.
Do you love 80s slashers? If the answer is "yes," then Dismembering Christmas is the film for you, a straight-up homage to cult faves like Happy Birthday to Me, Friday The13th, Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, and Curtains.
Slasher Studios has clearly done its homework, and I'm going to go ahead and give this an A+ for the awesome effort. Writers Kevin Sommerfield and Steve Goltz have their work cut out for them trying to make a decade-specific genre feel fresh for a 2015 audience. They stick to a formula that keeps a slasher like this entertaining and give the audience what they want and expect.
The set-up: A group of fresh, young faces spends Christmas in a secluded cabin in the woods that has a scary history and lots of red flags. So does the group leave as soon as possible? Nope! Thank goodness these kids don't listen to the old folks who try to warn them.
In the grand tradition of Jason, Freddy, and Michael, Dismembering Christmas comes a slasher to follow in the snowy footprints around the cabin. Without giving too much away, the mask is unsettling, and you definitely would run away if you saw it.
Getting the characters separated around the cabin is no easy task, but Dismembering Christmas does this in a believable way. The creative deaths are all worthy of being mentioned here, but I don't want to spoil anything because, after all, that's the fun of this movie!
The actors all rise to the challenge, play it straight, and don't knock the horror genre. The score by Dylan Curzon is first-rate and sets the perfectly eerie tone. And director Austin Bosley has created a tight thriller and doesn't waste time -- he gets to the horror we've all been waiting for.
Do yourself a favor and check out this terror-filled treat during the upcoming holiday season...or put it in a stocking for the horror lover in your life.
You can order Dismembering Christmas and other Slasher Studio titles and soundtracks at Slasher Studios.
The gay rights movement is brought to visceral life in director Roland Emmerich's Stonewall, a retelling of the 1969 New York City riots during which "the toss of a single brick" birthed a crusade for equality.
Synopsis: STONEWALL is a drama about a fictional young man caught up during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Danny Winters (Jeremy Irvine) is forced to leave behind friends and loved ones when he is kicked out of his parent’s home and flees to New York. Alone in Greenwich Village, homeless and destitute, he befriends a group of street kids who soon introduce him to the local watering hole The Stonewall Inn; however, this shady, mafia-run club is far from a safe-haven. As Danny and his friends experience discrimination, endure atrocities and are repeatedly harassed by the police, we see a rage begin to build. This emotion runs through Danny and the entire community of young gays, lesbians and drag queens who populate the Stonewall Inn and erupts in a storm of anger.
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