Today we’re doing our regular rounding up of the pick of the week’s US cinematic releases to see what’s worth a visit to the local multiplex, what’s probably best left to a later viewing at home and what’s not worth wasting your precious time at all… Love it – or leave it!
BAD SANTA 2 – dir. Mark Waters
George Wolf calls this sequel as ‘more like desperation than inspiration’. The new director Mark Waters and his writing team are ‘not thinking any deeper than being crude and having Kathy Bates in the cast’, ‘the characters are thin, the plot is contrived and few of the jokes find a mark’. Yet, the biggest thing that BAD SANTA had going for it, Theurman Merman, cannot be replicated here, as George puts it, ‘he was the MVP of BAD SANTA, so you can’t really have a sequel without him, yet there’s no way to recreate that magic. Thurman was 8 back then, and his unending belief in a “bad” Santa created a sweet conflict that felt impossibly real and drove the film. Sure, it’s a kick to see him at age 21 but beyond that, the writers can’t seem to decide how the character fits in anymore’. Read George’s full ☆☆ review here, BAD SANTA 2 is ‘just too much of an empty suit’.
MISS SLOANE – dir. John Madden
‘I’m curious’, Hope Madden writes, ‘Is every film going to take on sharper, darker political meaning post-election? Because MISS SLOANE definitely does’. Screenwriter Jonathan Perera’s ‘much-lauded screenplay’ documents Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), a ‘driven and single-minded to a nearly sociopathic degree, Sloane finally finds a line she’s unwilling to cross when the gun lobby wants to hire her to make guns more appealing to women’. The film, ‘though far from flawless […] has a lot to offer. Mainly, Jessica Chastain’. She gives a ‘fierce performance’ and brings a ‘comfort with ambiguity’ that ‘come together in a turn that mesmerizes’. ‘This is an anti-hero, and Chastain gives her enough savvy, contempt, drive, self-loathing and vulnerability to make her fascinating. Not knowable, but forever provocative’. Away from Chastain’s performance, Hope comments upon the way the film’s ‘core plotline and its greater themes work together’. It’s the ‘us-versus-them battle, with each lobbyist one-upping the other in the most unconscionable (yet clever) ways, commands attention. But beneath all that MISS SLOANE clarifies the way in which the American public is never privy to true information’. Read Hope’s full ☆☆☆ review here as Perera and Chastain ‘push envelopes’ and ‘unleash an appropriately cynical view of a political system that is rotten’.
MOANA – dir. on Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams
Hope Madden reviews Disney’s latest offering, writing that ‘the animation behemoth never strays for too long from its merch-encrusted path’, ‘yes, Moana (Auli’i Cravahlo) is a Disney princess. She’s the daughter of a Polynesian chief, but as demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) points out, “You’re wearing a dress, you have an animal sidekick – you’re a princess.”’. Hope points out that ‘he’s a princess who yearns for more than the responsibilities life affords her. (Mercifully, that dream never does involve a beau.)’ as the film ‘carves out its own presence, partly due to a refreshing cultural change’. Dwayne Johnson ‘Johnson steals most of the film. With broad humor to match Maui’s enormous, ornately tattooed body, his chemistry with the teen voyager is nearly as entertaining as his struggles to shape shift’. Not without its troubles, ‘including a slog of a first act’, ‘MOANA contains more than enough freshness to offset its weaknesses and guarantee holiday family fun’. Read Hope’s ☆☆☆1/2 review here.
FILM OF THE WEEK: MOANA