The Silver Bullet ~ Life of the Party

Synopsis: When her husband suddenly dumps her, longtime dedicated housewife Deanna turns regret into re-set by going back to college – landing in the same class and school as her daughter.

Release Date: May 11, 2018

Thoughts: The smartest thing the makers of Life of the Party did was refrain from including the phrase “From the folks that brought you Tammy!” in their marketing materials.  Yes, Melissa McCarthy (Spy) has reteamed with her husband Ben Falcone (Office Christmas Party) on another comedy but this one looks considerably less revolting…so there’s a glimmer of funny hope to be had.  Reteaming for the third time (2016’s The Boss was another step in the right direction) Falcone directs a script he and McCarthy co-wrote and while it may seem a bit like the sorta-classic Rodney Dangerfield 1986 comedy Back to School, McCarthy has put her own shine on things.  No McCarthy vehicle is complete without a scene of her getting knocked down and the trailer gets that one out of the way immediately so…spoiler alert!  McCarthy’s been absent since the female-led Ghostbusters fizzled in 2016 but if Life of the Party is as lively as it looks it could get her back in Hollywood’s good graces.

Movie Review ~ Office Christmas Party

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The Facts
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Synopsis: When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand…

Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Vanessa Bayer, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Rob Corddry, Abbey Lee, Kate McKinnon, T.J. Miller, Olivia Munn, Karan Soni, Courtney B. Vance, Matt Walsh, Da’Vine Joy Randolph

Director: Josh Gordon, Will Speck

Rated: R

Running Length: 105 minutes

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: In the new comedy Office Christmas Party, Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters) plays Mary, a Human Resources manager at a mid-range tech company that’s business in front and no party in the back.  When branch manager Clay (T.J. Miller, Daredevil) and CTO Josh (Jason Bateman, This Is Where I Leave You) want to throw a bad-ass Christmas party to impress a much-needed new client (Courtney B. Vance, Terminator Genisys), Mary’s HR violation antennae pop up and she tries her hardest to derail the frivolity before giving in and just having fun with it all.  Plenty of critics venturing out of their hovels to catch OCP will be Mary’s and implore you to stay home but ‘tis the season to be jolly and this critic thinks this Party is worth an HR write-up.

Look, Office Christmas Party isn’t the be-all, end-all of raucous, growth-stunted juvenile comedies but it has its fair share of laughs and rambles along for most of its 105-minute running time with an inordinate amount of goodwill.  Maybe because I saw it on a Monday with a busy week at my own 9-5 job staring me down, but I (usually so averse to ribald druggy humor) found myself entertained by Miller, Bateman, and co who have set out not to redefine the raunchy comedy but to give audiences who can’t stomach the sight of Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa 2 an alternative option.  Then again, stomaching Thornton in anything is a feat in and of itself.

When Clay’s CEO sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston, We’re the Millers, yet again reveling in a role with a mean streak) announces plans to reduce the workforce at her brother’s failing branch right before the holidays, Clay and Josh make a play to nab a high-profile client (Vance) by showing him how well their company rewards its employees.  Trouble is, most of their workforce is already disgruntled and apathetic in their antiseptic office so whatever Clay and Josh do it has to be big…really big.  Along with the head of technology (Olivia Munn, X-Men: Apocalypse), they pull out all the stops in a few hours to put on a boffo holiday gathering that quickly devolves into a Sodom and Gomorrah style bash complete with co-worker make-outs, drug- fueled stunts of stupidity, and a bevy of genitals photocopied on the office machine.  Sounds kinda nasty, right?  I have a real nose for the overly lewd and while I got a few good whiffs I never thought this tipped the scales into plain bad taste.

It’s a minor affair to be sure, written and directed without much originality…but it’s the performances that help to elevate this one slightly higher than its peers.  I’ve found that a little Miller goes a long way but even in his more ADD moments the actor never lets us forget his character it good natured and the kind of people pleasing boss we’d all like to buddy up to.  Bateman is at his most Jason Bateman-y here, again playing the straight man at the center of some very zany periphery performances.  Bateman’s dirty scene with an ice sculpture and egg nog lets the actor venture slightly out of his comfort zone and for that alone I appreciated it.  McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer (Despicable Me 2), Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street), Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies), Abbey Lee (The Neon Demon), and Karan Soni (Safety Not Guaranteed) are but a few of the party goers that make an impression.  Only Munn disappoints…I continue to be stumped at what makes Munn in any way appealing aside from the fact that she always seems to be happy with being just one of the guys.

While it isn’t the kind of movie you could see as a holiday outing sponsored by your work, Office Christmas Party is a decent choice for adults looking for an R-rated holiday romp.  Like most parties, it might end up being one you want to leave early but being the last one out the door won’t kill you either.

Movie Review ~ Into the Storm

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The Facts:

Synopsis: Storm trackers, thrill-seekers, and everyday townspeople document an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes touching down in the town of Silverton.

Stars: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress, Jeremy Sumpter, Kyle Davis, Jon Reep, Scott Lawrence

Director: Steven Quale

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 89 minutes

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review: The winds won’t be the only thing howling in theaters showing Into the Storm this weekend. Audiences can expect to get some good laughs out of this disaster of a disaster film that mixes some decent super storm effects with a lame-o script delivered by an overly emotive cast of near-unknowns.

I knew we were headed for trouble in the first five minutes when the title was displayed in the same font I used for my senior thesis. This unimaginative wrinkle was just a harbinger of the overall effort that is the cinematic equivalent of cocking your head to the side and shrugging your shoulders. Clearly everyone involved from the top studio brass to the catering department was just in it for the storm effects and like a direct to video creature feature or made for television SyFy movie, audiences have to wade through a whole lot of terrifically terrible dialogue before getting their pay off.

While the images of twisters wiping out everything they come into contact with gets the blood flowing during the short but not short enough running time, the movie makes the mistake of giving us no one to root for thanks to John Swetnam’s screenplay that feels like the compilation of a first draft of a “Bet You Can’t Write the Worst Scene Ever” dare and Steven Quale’s direction of a cast that appears to have been culled from a local Arby’s open call.

Framed as a found-footage film, the premise of Into the Storm merges multiple storylines of people you won’t care about that find themselves (either on purpose or by accident) in the path of a storm cell that takes no prisoners. Storm chaser documentarian Matt Walsh (TV’s Veep) has outfit his tank of a car with all the latest technology…which of course winds up being of little use against the wind, rain, and golf ball sized hail it powers through. He’s joined by the worst meteorologist ever in film (Sarah Wayne Callies, the poor man’s Sandra Bullock) and a rag-tag group of cameramen just waiting to be sucked up into a fiery tornado. I imagine a subplot of two redneck Jackass wannabees will be the litmus test for home viewings to see how long it will be before you hit the stop button on your remote.

On the other side of things are two brothers living with their widowed father (a boringly bland Richard Armitage, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) filming a local graduation ceremony eventually disrupted by gale force winds and bad acting from the extras. When one brother gets trapped with the girl of his dreams in an abandoned factory, it affords audiences the chance to witness one of the most comically melodramatic ‘life is to be lived’ speeches ever captured on film. And it goes on for-ev-er.

Even with the nicely executed storm mayhem and a booming sound design the film is a total wash. Warner Brothers is distributing Into the Storm and I find it interesting that the studio that owns Twister didn’t just slap the moniker on this one, sell it as a sequel, and send it straight to the discount bin at your local big box retailer.