“All is Bright”
Nothing gets you into the holiday spirit faster than two French Canadian ex-cons traveling to New York City to sell Christmas trees. Director Phil Morrison likes stories that travel south. His 2005 indie hit “Junebug” was about a Chicago art dealer going to North Carolina. This one is equally under the radar, even though he pulled in two big names with Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd. It’s a misshapen, downtrodden buddy flick. It’s refreshing when movies like this get quality actors. It adds dimensions and dynamics to a script that could be a real downer. Rudd is restrained and plays oblivious like a champ. No one does grumpy and broken-spirited like Giamatti does. Together they shine in a film that’s not bright or jolly, but it’s better because it refuses to pretend to be cheerful – worth a watch.
“We’re the Millers”
How about this? Nothing says it’s time for the holidays like a fake family smuggling weed from Mexico. Jason Sudeikis is a pot dealer. Jennifer Aniston is a stripper with a heart of brass. Emma Roberts is a pierced runaway. Newcomer Will Poulter is a goofball. Ed Helms is a drug kingpin who collects killer whales. Nick Offerman is a DEA agent. These results may appear to be severely miscast. On second thought, there’s no may about it, this film is severely miscast. It takes a while to settle in, but after Sudeikis hits a few sardonic stabs, and Aniston throws out a line like, “Eat a dick,” it rolls along pretty well. It was written by a committee and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, the guy who brought you “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” so everyone should be advised to suspend all belief and just go along for the ride. It doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground, but it’ll do for an R-rated family film – worth a watch.
This one has nothing to do with the holidays but it is a sort of tribute to John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his untimely death. OK, we’re a week late, so technically it’s the 50th-year-plus-one-week anniversary. But it is sort of fitting because this movie deals with the aftermath of the shooting, a patchwork of the ordinary citizens that were in direct contact with JFK’s assassination in Dallas in 1963. The cast is full of quality actors – the aforementioned Giamatti plays Abraham Zapruder, the man famous for capturing the shooting of the president on 8-millimeter film. Zac Efron plays the young emergency room doctor and Marcia Gay Harden plays the nurse who treated the president. Ron Livingston and Billy Bob Thornton play secret service agents. This directorial debut of Peter Landesman doesn’t deal with conspiracy theories. It merely dramatizes what was on record. And these moments are impactful enough to show the mayhem and human trauma that this tragedy unleashed – worth a watch.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge