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Krampus

Krampus

Are you in the Christmas Spirit? You better be otherwise Krampus will get you!

It’s 22 December and Max (Emjay Anthony) finds his parents, sister and extended family are all arguing, causing tension and detsroying the holiday spirit. Upset Mex rips up his letter to Santa, inadvertidly bringing to town Krampus -a demonic spirit who punishes those who are bad at Christmas. Can the family survive Christmas?

I didn’t know much about this film apart from it featured an evil Santa type figure terorising Toni Collette (how did she end up in this movie!) and family. It may seem a rather odd plot for a Christmas themed movie but Krampus is a little Christmas gem, a dark comedy horror to go up against the sugary chessy Christmas films you normally see this time of year.

At first the movie seems like a normal Christmnas movie as the family gets together and then fall out leaving poor, adorable Max to finally give up on Christmas due to their bickering. Then suddenly the film changes into black comedy with lots of horror filled moments. Gingerbread men are denomic (and annoyingly sound like Alvin and The Chipmunks), there’s something hiding under the snow and someone is on the roof and it ain’t Santa. Considering the film isn’t gory it manages to provide some good jump scares and deaths that are both horrific and funny at the same time. I don’t think I can look at a Jack in the Box the same way again. I also liked how the film flashbacks one’s character previous horrific encounter with Krampus in stop motion. It’s creepier than it sounds.

While their characters acknowledge how ridiculous the whole thing is, the actors themselves take the film seriously enough so that you feel the peril they are in. Toni Collete and Adam Scott are strong as Max’s parents who have to learn to fight back against Krampus, while the extended family including David Koechner as the redneck uncle and Conchata Farrell as the blunt Aunt Dorothy are a hoot in their broad roles. Even the kids aren’t annoying-except the ones who are meant to be.

This will not be the top of everyones Christmas list and some may find the whole thing a bit too silly to take seriously. The ending was also a bit underwhelming considering all thats gone before it. But for those looking for an alternative Christmas movie you could do a lot worse than Krampus!

Rating 3.5/5 – don’t upset Krampus this Christmas, go watch this darkly funny horror

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Miss You Already

Miss You AlreadyI love watching comedies and films that make me feel good but sometimes you just need a good cry. Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) latest movie is a comedy-drama that aims to get its audience in floods of tears.

Best friends Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been through many ups and downs in their lives, but they face their toughest challenge when Milly is diagnosed with breast cancer. Their friendship is put to the test as Milly struggles with cancer while Jess tries balancing being a supportive friend as well as her own fertility issues.

Miss You Already sounds like a made-for-tv movie that has somehow been given the green light for the big screen. However Hardwicke and screenwriter Morweena Banks try bypass the clichés of the cancer movies. In another film Milly would probably look glamorous and healthy even with cancer but here the side affects of her illness are appropriately shown and the film doesn’t shy away from showing how awful cancer is not just to Milly but how it affects her family and friends too. The script also isn’t afraid to mix a bit of dark humour within the tears, best shown when Milly goes to have a wig prepared for when she loses all her hair.

Collette is brilliant as Milly, handling the tough material well and it was refreshing to see that Milly isn’t portrayed as a martyr, instead she’s flawed and three-dimensional. Sometimes she isn’t even likeable but you are still sympathetic to her situation and to why she makes the bad choices that she does. Barrymore is also strong as Milly’s dependable friend Jess whose trying to support her friend while also dealing with her own fertility problems. Dominic Cooper also impresses as Milly’s devoted but overwhelmed husband.

Despite it’s best intentions sometimes the film does stray into melodrama. Also while Jess and Jago (Paddy Considine) make a cute couple their constant arguments about IVF and Milly get a bit repetitive. While It’s not as good as the ultimate weepie movie Beaches it’s still a pretty emotional and effective film.

Rating 3.5/5 – a powerful movie that’ll make you appreciate your loved ones more

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A Long Way Down

I think most people would agree that suicide is probably not the best subject for a comedy film. However will this dark comedy based on Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel of the same name be a hit?

On New Years Eve four strangers meet at the top of a building in London with the intention of killing themselves. This chance meeting stops them from going through with it and they decide to temporarily hold off their intentions. Soon the media hears of their situation and the unlikely friends are front page news.

I remember reading this book when it first came out and I liked it a lot. But as you would expect the film adaptation has problems trying to condense its themes about suicide, depression and friendship into an hour and a half. A lot of the subtlety of the book is missing therefore some the characters can come across as caricatures. Toni Collette’s Maureen suffers the most as her chapters in the book really went into her situation with her disabled son Matty and there was more time to go in-depth about the reasons behind her suicidal feelings.  Pierce Brosnan’s Martin Sharp was quite a one note character in the book compared to the other characters and is exactly the same here. He’s mostly there for cheap laughs at his situation and is not that sympathetic a character.

The younger actors impress the most here. Imogen Potts is great as Jess, an eighteen year old impulsive politician daughter’s who holds a sad family tragedy behind her wild behaviour. I remember finding her character very annoying in the book at times, but in the film she was my favourite of the four. Aaron Paul also impresses as struggling musician JJ and he and Potts have nice chemistry together in their scenes.

It’s not always as laugh out loud funny as it should be and sometimes the bigger problems the four of them face are simplified or resolved too easily. But its an easy watch with some amusing moments and characters, so it’s not the all out disaster that I feared it would be.

Rating 3/5 Harmless enough although a lot is lost in the translation from the book

 

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The Way Way Back

Coming of age stories are nothing new, and few can do it better than my favourite movie ever Stand By Me. Can this new film win me over?

14 year old Duncan (Liam James) is on an uncomfortable holiday with his mum Pam(Toni Collette), her obnoxious boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Awkward and shy Duncan expects the holiday from hell, but he finds unexpected friendship from a local waterpark manager Owen (Sam Rockwell). Slowly Duncan grows in confidence, but that doesn’t mean all his problems go away.

Written and directed by Jim Rash (Dean Pelton from Community) and Nat Fraxon-who also won the Oscar for their screenplay The Desendants, The Way Way Back is a fun, often bittersweet movie full of a lot of heart. Newcomer Liam James is great as Duncan, the quiet teenager who learns to have fun and stand up for himself. Sam Rockwell is even better as Owen, the one adult who notices Liam and tries to help him without being patronsing or insulting him. What could have been a bit of a creepy friendship is actually quite sweet, and their goodbye at the end of summer really pulls at the heart stings and made me quite emotional.

It was good to see Steve Carell playing against type as a character whose a complete jackass. I kept expecting us to see a nicer, softer side to Trent, but no,  you realise he’s just a tool. It made me really angry the way he spoke to Duncan and how he treated Pam. Toni Collette also deserves praise as her role is tricky. Its frustrating at times how she seems to let Trent get away with his behaviour, but then she also manages to show her vunerable, lonely side and you can see why she stays with Trent despite how he acts.

The scenes at the water park are great fun, with great small roles for Maya Ruldolph and Jim Rash among others. Its at this place Duncan starts becoming the man he wants to be, and his intereaction with the people there enable his confidence to talk to girl-next-door Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), a  subplot that manages to be sweet and cringeworth at the same time.

Rating 4/5-funny, and bittersweet at times The Way Way Back is a comedy with heart

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