Office Christmas Party

Damn, this turned out to be much more funny than it had any right to be, but mostly because of the actors/comedians that were in it. The story was more just a vehicle for the ensemble to be funny, and a few standouts really carried the movie.

I’m not sick of TJ Miller yet, even though he plays pretty much the same character in every movie/show he’s in. Then throw in Kate McKinnon and a little sprinkle of Rob Corddry and you have just enough to carry you through. It isn’t something I’d watch again or buy on Bluray, but it was a nice, light, R-rated way to end the year.

Moana

Once again, I think Disney Animation has bested Pixar. Pixar seems kind of mired down in franchises and sequels as of late, which used to be the Disney thing. But now Disney Animation seems to have more free will at creating original cartoons, an Moana is a pretty good one.

It’s hard to not be charmed by The Rock, even in animated form. Here it is a week later and I’ve just been reminded about the ‘You’re Welcome’ song/ear-worm. Dang. That’ll be in there for a couple more days.

The rest of the songs were pretty good, too, if not memorable (to me) and the actors/singers did a bang-up job. I also liked the lack of a love story/interest for the main character, which usually seems shoehorned in and gets in the way. This was more of an epic/quest picture. Thumbs up.

Rogue One

Not bad! I liked it!

It’s sort of the glue between two worlds, so they had a lot of leeway in what they could do with it. The entire timeline between the prequels and the original Star Wars trilogy was basically just barely mentioned in the crawler at the beginning of A New Hope, so there weren’t too many specifics to the story that they had to stick through.

I thought they did a good job of retconning the whole ‘How could the Empire build a space station with such a fatal flaw?’ thing. They did a good job of weaving that story line into the reality that we already knew about from the original Star Wars trilogy.

SPOILERS AHEAD

I also thought it was interesting/ballsy how they tied up the loose ends of ‘none of these characters are mentioned in the original trilogy’. Really, I thought they didn’t have to bother with that, the movie could have just ended at that point, but they went ahead and basically killed everyone off. Sort of out of character for a Star Wars film but I guess they’re trying to be more gritty. It worked. I didn’t expect that.

We’ve also almost gotten to the point where cgi face replacement can look pretty realistic, nearly lifelike. They did a bang-up job resurrecting Peter Cushing and Princess Leia. Kudos to the filmmakers for not overdoing that. It was a nice touch.

La La Land

Put two of the prettiest and most talented people in Hollywood together (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone), add a few musical numbers, a well-executed love story, great costumes, technical camera-work and at least one song you’ll be humming to yourself days after hearing it for the first time, and what do you get? A fantastic goddamned movie, that’s what you get.

I’m not a fan of musicals, per se, but a few of my all-time favorite movies are musicals (Blues Brothers, Grease and Moulin Rouge.) So I’m up for them whenever they come out. I can’t say I’ve been enamored by any animated musicals in recent memory, and even classics like The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz are more entertaining to me because of the non-musical parts of the stories.

But La La Land is such a spectacle to look at, such a classic production yet simultaneously contemporary that it’s a difficult movie not to like. If you’re not automatically repelled by musicals, you’ll at least like this one very much. If you hate them then yeah, don’t bother. The magnetism of the two stars alone might not be enough to hold your interest. If that’s the case, though, then what the hell is wrong with you?

The story outside the musical performances is (what I perceive to be) an accurate depiction of two young artists falling in love within the insular wold of trying to ‘make it’ in Los Angeles. They touch on subjects such as who has the more important career or aspirations, selling out vs being poor but true to your art, and exactly what it means to be true to your art in the first place.

La La Land is up for a bunch of Golden Globes, and I find it hard to believe it won’t win all the music-related awards. Plus I think it’s a strong contender for best picture (comedy or drama.) I’d expect a similar result for the Oscars. All the accolades from critics are on point. One of my favorites this year.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Meh! It was alright, I guess, but it’s difficult to catch fire in a bottle again when it comes to movie franchises, unless you make a really shitty one in the middle. Maybe this is the Harry Potter world’s Phantom Menace.

Though it wasn’t terrible, just not terribly compelling. I didn’t feel like there was much at stake. In the first Harry Potter movie there was at least the prospect of child murder. In this one, a klutzy wizard accidentally unleashes some monsters in NYC, so the set-up was basically self-inflicted.

Some of the dialog was clever, characters were funny, as with all the Harry Potters, the production design was magnificent, it’s just perhaps that the story was a little simple and didn’t have a lot of gravity.

Lookit that f’in raccoon!

Just look at that thing. What he hell is it doing?

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I came across this scene walking home from the bus after work the other day. Four raccoons were digging around in the grass in front of a house a couple doors down from ours, then this one plopped down and sat on his ass like a polar bear. Not sure if he was resting or what. None of them seemed to care that I was standing five feet away.

Arrival

I want to thank the studio for showing restraint in their trailers for this one. They showed just enough to be intriguing, but not enough to give up any major plot points. In fact, they pretty much get through all the trailer parts in the first 10 minutes of the movie or so, so you were sufficiently in the dark enough to let the story unfold without distraction.

There is a sort of reveal, or at the very least a couple specific words I could say about the plot that would ruin it for you, or at least put you in a state of mind to figure out what’s going on before the film wants you to figure it out, so I have to be a little vague here.

At first I was sorta not on board with the conclusion, I thought that I liked the big ideas around the story, but not the device (aliens) used to deliver it. Then my wife basically told me I was stupid, and the more I thought about it, the less easily I was able to think of a different literary device that would have worked as well. That’s why making movies is left to the professionals, folks.

Plus, I read this exhaustive treatise on the science in the film, and it made me appreciate the dilemma of language and expressing thoughts to an alien race:

http://blog.stephenwolfram.com/2016/11/quick-how-might-the-alien-spacecraft-work/

Anyway, if you liked Interstellar you’ll like this. It’s all science-y but then there’s a human element to it that really makes it work. This will probably be in my top five of the year.