Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the alien invasion flick “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams, “Loving,” with Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga and “Almost Christmas” with Danny Glover, Mo’Nique and Gabrielle Union.
It may be a warmer than usual November, but at the movie theatres, it’s already Christmas. It’s not a Christmas miracle, it’s a movie hoping to grab double digit grosses to go along with the month’s double-digit temperatures.
Danny Glover is Walter, the recently widowed patriarch of a large family. Retired and lonely he invites his four children, daughters Rachel (Gabrielle Union) and Cheryl (Kimberly Elise) and sons Christian (Romany Malco) and Evan (Jessie Usher) and the extended family home to Birmingham, Alabama for the holidays. “This is our first Christmas without your mother,” says Walter. “Just five days for you all to act like a family.” It’s not the twelve days of Christmas, it’s five fraught filled days as the family tries to get along. Cheryl and Rachel can barely stand being in the same room together for reasons neither of them can remember and Christian can’t seem to stop working long enough to enjoy the visit. “We’re not going to make it to Christmas are we?” “Not a damn chance,” sighs Aunt May (Mo’Nique).
“Almost Christmas” is like a Bollywood movie. There’s action, tragedy, a dance number, comedy, romance, humour, infidelity and even a slightly risqué bit of slapstick. It has something for everyone and if you can hold on tight as it rockets between heart warming and humourous with the speed of Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, you’ll have a pretty good time.
It’s barely a movie in the strictest sense. It’s more a collection of moments strung together as old ghosts rear their ugly heads during the few festive days the family spends under the same roof. It’s episodic but melodramatically likable as it careens toward a funny and over-the-top dinner scene that involves everything from hurt feelings and guns to Danny Glover’s most famous line from “Lethal Weapon.” The siblings—and everyone else—learn that despite their differences they are stronger together than individually.
Not that you need to be told that. The story telegraphs everything that’s going to happen—there are no surprises under this Christmas tree—but does so in a way that is as sweet as the Potato Pie the family enjoys at dinner.
“Pitch Perfect 2” is perfect for two groups, Anna Kendrick fans and people who have already worn out their “Glee” DVDs and need another fix of footstompin’ vocal pop songs. The follow-up to the popular 2012 film is sillier than the original but should keep toes tapping and audience’s laughing.
The acapella bellas of the first movie begin the story as the reigning national champions of unaccompanied singing. They are, as an acapella commentator (John Michael Higgins) says, “An inspiration to girls all over the country too ugly to be cheerleaders.” Their career takes a nosedive as they perform at the Kennedy Centre in celebration of President Obama’s birthday. In an extreme wardrobe malfunction the Australian member, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), gives POTUS “a gift from down under” when she accidentally goes commando on stage.
Barred from competing in national singing contests and events—“Whose going to sing at the Puppy Bowl?” they wonder—the group, led by Beca (Kendrick), decide to go international for their final performance before graduation. Signing up for the world championships in Copenhagen they understand they are taking several risks. First, “No American team has ever won because they hate us,” they’re told, “The whole world hates us.” Secondly, they’re up against some stiff competition in the form of the German Das Sound Machine, a Teutonic terror of choir singers who vow to destroy the Bardem Belles.
“Pitch Perfect 2” is about underdogs, female bonding, coming of age and overcoming fear.
What am I saying? It’s actually only about as deep as a lunch tray, with only the barest of story to hold the characters together. The stars (Ester Dean, Shelley Regner, Kelley Jakle, Brittany Snow, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Chrissie Fit and Hailee Steinfeld) sing, dance, do slapstick and tell mildly raunchy jokes. It’s a summer movie that is relatively unconcerned with coherency and more concerned with spending time with likeable actors as they warble their way through the script.
Director Elizabeth Banks (yes, that Elizabeth Banks, who also appears as a sarcastic acapella podcaster) keeps “Pitch Perfect 2” nimble on it’s feet, adding laughs with funny cameos from Snoop Dogg and Keegan-Michael Key and keeping the pace in two-four time. Picking on the movie’s odd construction—the villains, Das Sound Machine, disappear for half-an-hour and a subplot involving a Beca’s career choice is wrapped up a bit too quickly—seems harsh when the film has this much of a feel good vibe.