Office Christmas Party ***

We all have them, some more eventful and memorable than others. This is just an excuse to showcase one of the wildest ones, surrounded by a film ‘plot’ about corporate meanness (festive redundancies etc) and Christmas spirit. Office Christmas Party has the staple offering of comic heavyweights Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Kate McKinnon and Rob Corddry who between them provide enough gurns and giggles to keep us entertained. Short of that there is nothing new to be had.

When uptight CEO sister Carol Vanstone (Aniston) threatens to shut down a failing branch of an IT firm that was run by her late father, her laid-back brother and party animal Clay (T.J. Miller in true ‘bogus’ hippie style) decides to throw the ultimate office Christmas party to woo a big client in town – and keep up his supposed office popularity.

Carol has forbidden any festivities, but Clay orders in excess. The night plays out well, until Sis gets wind of it and the VIP guest over-indulges. The party gets way out of hand, but in the haze of a hangover and complete destruction, a solution to all their problems arises, thanks to a little office camaraderie.

Aniston puts her best assets on show. Bateman is the reasonable man trying to resolve the situation. McKinnon channels her inner Ghostbuster eccentricity into a rigid façade crying out for release. And Corddry plays the angry man – again. So far, nothing is new.

The ‘saviour’ of the story is not Bateman as usual though, but the stunning Olivia Munn as programming whizz kid Tracey, fulfilling every geek’s wet dream and proving that beauty, brains and a killer sense of humour can co-exist in one screen goddess. In fact, this is very much a tale of female dominance, which is surprising to admit (without getting any deeper either), considering the party depravity. It even includes an unhinged female pimp, played by Jillian Bell.

The plot really isn’t up to much, so go along to Office Christmas Party with just that in mind – like being invited to the most outrageous do for 2016, without tasting a drop of beverage on offer. Every party has its characters, which fuel the memories – as this bunch do. Even though it will all be a haze in a month’s time as to what actually happens here, there was less of a sore head after watching, and more a cracking good time had that you can walk away from, without much consequence.

3/5 stars

By @Filmgazer

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We’re The Millers ***

It seems like ‘dumb-ass’ comedy on offer here, a goodhearted road movie that covers a lot of bumpy ground along the way. However, it has a strong will that you just can’t knock that aims to make the lives of its delinquent fake family a little more gratified in the end. Oh, and it promises Friends star Jennifer Aniston in her undies – as gratuitous (and irrelevant as the plot goes) as can be imagined, naturally.

We’re The Millers’s improvisation actually works against the darker-edge humour it tries for in the first half. Falling in the former category means a lot of the characterisation is stereotypical and events rather predictable. However, like any road movie, it’s always how the players get from start to finish that counts, and director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s film is no exception: has its funny bits and its flat bits but generally, it’s an entertaining watch.

When small-time drug dealer David (Jason Sudeikis) gets robbed, his unhinged yuppie boss, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms), forces him to bring a batch of cannabis over the US-Mexican border, telling him to say it’s for ‘Pablo Chacon’. David hatches an idea of creating a pretend family to take along as a cover story – jaded stripper and neighbour Rose (Aniston) as mum and nitwit neighbour Kenny (Will Poulter) and foul-mouthed ‘homeless’ girl Casey (Emma Roberts) as his kids, all travelling in a Winnebago as a normal family on holiday. With a few hiccups along the way, including an encounter with fellow ‘average’, travelling family, the Fitzgeralds (great turns from Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn, with Molly C. Quinn) and with the real Pablo Chacon (Tomer Sisley) and his henchman on their tail, will the Millers get home and dry with the dope…

We’re The Millers will be remembered for two things: ‘walking yoga ad’ Aniston in wet skimpy briefs like some Victoria Secrets model, trying desperately to move sexily like a seasoned pro, and Poulter sporting a painfully embarrassing never-region injury inflicted by a spider. If cheap gags are all it takes, this film serves them up for sheer entertainment value. Shame, really, as there are two standout scenes, one involving both sets of parents (Millers and Fitzgeralds) as things get a little experimental, and Sudeikis and Aniston in one of the film’s better improvs unwittingly turning into their elders.

Sadly, Aniston’s fit form and Poulter’s crotch job overshadow anything resembling well-written gags gets because the tone can’t decide between slapstick and dark humour, so slides to the former – even from the start with infamous YouTube joke clips. This goes to trivialise any touching comedy innovation of, say, the Little Miss Sunshine variety, another ‘self healing’ road movie with mismatched family players.

That said We’re The Millers is also very self aware, with some looks to camera that say ‘yes, we know’, allowing daftness to prevail and injecting a gleeful sardonic side. Combine this maybe with the bittersweet edge of Miss Sunshine – after all, each Miller member has individual issues that need addressing – and we could have had a more intriguing concept to bear witness to. After all, Marshall Thurber has a great cast to hand, especially in one-to-watch Brit Poulter of Son of Rambow fame who gets his ‘career highlight’ moment entangling with Aniston. Instead, the film is one gag set up and played out, followed by the anticipation of another. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just We’re The Millers appears to be trying harder to be more than a gag reel of silliness as it has genuine heart and concern. Stick around for the end credits for an Aniston surprise – or not, perhaps? There’s also a faint whiff of sequel on the cards too, if we take to the Millers.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Horrible Bosses ****

We’ve all had one. They come in all shapes and sizes. Their mission, it seems, is to make our working lives a living nightmare. So it’s understandable that Michael Markowitz’s story, Horrible Bosses, brings a gleeful curiosity as to how other helpless souls deal with their own private workplace horror. Director Seth Gordon’s cast of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikisdemonstrate with effortless panache how to get the boss back in understated but pitch-perfect humour.

The plot is simple: three average, hard-working friends, Nick (Bateman), Dale (Day) and Kurt (Sudeikis) have three different nightmare bosses to contend with each day. Nick’s is a control-freak psycho called Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey). Dale’s is a man-eating sex pest called Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). Finally, Kurt’s top boss dies leaving his tool of a son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), running matters – and he’s only concerned with squeezing every last drop of cash out of the family firm to fund his playboy lifestyle. The trio decide to take drastic measures to rid each other of their awful bosses once and for all.

The comedy has all the initial characteristics of an Apatow/Rogen romp like Pineapple Express, including an endearing central bromance, trouble with some white powder and oddball characters, and is paced in much the same way. However, Gordon has struck gold with his three leads, Bateman, Sudeikis and Day, who are a comic tour de force of understated, observational and more mature humour, and who keep the giggles coming in the more serious moments.

A lot of the gags, however, still cover old ground, but the story-defining buddy bond that seems so completely natural between the trio rekindles the same affections for more of the same humour, especially as the casting is so strong in this. In fact, rather that clashing personalities swamping the same scene, each character is carefully introduced, along with each devil boss, showing their woes and individual coping mechanisms, allowing us to empathise with each. Apart from the odd freak-out moment of Day as drug-induced Dale – reminiscent of screeching Bobcat Goldthwait’s Zed, the insanity comes not from the three trying to be such, but the escalation of each farcical situation.

Actually, it’s the bosses, played by Spacey, Aniston and Farrell that are far larger than life in comparison, making them appear even more neurotic, narcissistic and appalling, and emphasising their evil traits. Markowitz clearly defines his good and the bad guys in this, without showing any mitigating personal circumstances of those in charge and clouding any judgements. We hate all three from start to finish – even though one (Aniston) makes for an attractive distraction in the process.

Horrible Bosses delivers what it promises; a hugely satisfying sacrificial culling of those at the top, goading a panto-style witch hunt of all three bosses with relish and a guilty-free conscience. It’s a great balance of a sharply written script and all those involved, and makes for a seriously refreshing tonic after a hard week’s graft.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Just Go With It – 3*

If there’s a romcom on the horizon, chances are it stars romcom babe Jen Aniston playing her usual tart but loveably dizzy character – not far removed from her Rachel days in fact. So, without knowing much more, the film immediately sparks interest. But Aniston teamed up with manly hunk Gerry Butler in The Bounty Hunter last year, and that stank to high heaven. So, Aniston opposite ‘asexual’ Adam Sandler (sorry, Adam) seems a little far-fetched in the chemistry stakes. Sandler may always want to come across as your average man’s man, the likeable ‘guy next door’ – a comfortable stance to take, but setting the gorgeous Aniston’s heart a flutter in a film seems a long stretch.

Well, Aniston helps by dumbing it down for starters in this, playing Katherine, a single mom with two (irritating) kids who is not only Sandler as plastic surgeon Danny’s office manager/medical assistant, but his best friend, and the one who (surprise, surprise) knows him best. After keeping the ‘downtrodden married man’ routine going when an attempt at getting hitched turns sour, Danny finds the woman of his dreams in Palmer, a stunning blonde maths teacher (played by swimwear model Brooklyn Decker) at least 10 years his junior, and tries to convince her he’s the genuine article. Along comes Katherine as the ‘fake ex’ to save the day, and help spin one big fat lie after another. As you can guess, the Doc sees sense at the last minute, and the rest is history in glorious Hawaii.

Aniston attempting to look dowdy aside – greasy hair, specs and a pashmina is not going to convince anyone, there is a warmly witty banter going on between Aniston and Sandler to enjoy that seems effortless. Naturally, neither offers anything new to their history of romcom appearances – including their bog-standard attire, with Sandler still dressed in his trademark baggy jeans as a plastic surgeon (come on), and Aniston letting those famous tanned pins out for an airing in some of the best footwear of the season.

For us females who often scowl and covet for Aniston’s toned physique, there’s an added secret pleasure. It’s the biggest question of the lot: Who’s the fittest in the itsy, bitsy bikini? Aniston or Decker? There is a Bo Derek 10 moment when bikini babe Palmer comes out of the water like a lost Bond girl who’s just gone for a quick ocean swim, so even before you get to the ‘girl pissing contest’ by the Hawaiian waterfall, Decker’s in the lead for the gong for ‘top totty’. Move over, Jen. And to add to the fortysomething’s woes, Decker is a nice surprise – yes, the model can act, and actually gets to deliver some funny lines, albeit in a goofy manner. It’s no easy feat either, considering whom she plays opposite. The only bile-inducing moment is when they wheel in her real-life hubby, Andy Roddick, for a magical meeting cameo in the Mile High club.

The comedy show stealer by far, though, is Nicole Kidman as the ultra-competitive Devlin Adams, Katherine’s acidic-tongued and insensitive school nemesis who has ‘foot-in-mouth’ disease. Kidman in a part against type is utterly hilarious and has an obvious ball in the process, so this comes across well. Musician Dave Matthews is her equally nauseating husband, Ian Maxtone Jones, supposed iPad inventor, who’s in denial of a different sort. There’s a ‘coconut decider’ that involves Devlin, Ian, Katherine and Danny that’s a real hula howler.

The film also stars Nick Swardson as Danny’s egit cousin Eddie, who comes along for the paradise ride, and pretends to be a sheep exporter and Katherine’s new flame as part of the plan. His appearances turn the film back into a Sandler schoolboy farce, but they detract some of the idiocy away from Sandler who comes across as a wiser being in this.

There are the token kiddies meant to twang the heartstrings, with Bailee Madison as a little Cockney (in the very loosest terms) haggler and Griffin Gluck as her shy brother, Michael, who wants to swim with the dolphins – queue Hawaii. As young actors go, they irritate the hell out of you as they try to be as funny and quirky as their adult counterparts, but are a necessary evil in the plot. The film also has some highly bizarre injects of ‘humorous’ scenarios or set-up shots, like the kid getting Mom with a drink in the car park as Danny’s ‘family’ stride with purpose towards the camera in the background. It’s one of the many slow-mo moments for those who haven’t quite realised how stunning Katherine/Aniston is now she’s all scrubbed up. Plus Palmer does a proper slow-mo Bo moment for sheer titillating purposes, so something for the boys to enjoy.

As the title suggests: just go with it, and take it how you think it will be – you’ll be spot on, either way. You will find some sunshine laughs, though. This isn’t a Devlin by far – you need to see the film to understand this in context, but rest assured there will be plenty using this turn of phrase afterwards, so pity any real Devlins out there. There are far worse romcoms out there at present – not looking at anyone in particular, Kate Hudson

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer