Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

audiobook, blogger, blogging, book blogger, books, Jennifer Aniston, Netflix, Penguin Books, women, Women's Prize for Fiction
It’s the start of the third week of the new year and I’m still in that smug phase where I’m keeping up with my good habits… for the most part anyway. I slip now and then but I’m getting there. Even Mary Poppins was only practically perfect. I am, thankfully, doing okay at keeping up with my reading. I’m on course to finish another book in the next few days, which I’m quite proud of. Or at least I was until a friend of mine told me she’d already read 4 books this year. I guess I have some catching up to do. Either that or pretend to myself that those books were only a couple of pages long. Yeah, that sounds okay. Plus she doesn’t work 5 days a week like I do. So she has a young child? Like that’s time consuming…

Tuesday’s Reviews: Office Christmas Party (2016)

Christmas, films, fucking awful, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, meh, review

As we’re now well into the month of January 2017, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the time for watching Christmas films is over. You’d be correct but I’ve had a weird desire to see this film for ages now. I say weird because my expectations for the film were microscopic. It looked abysmal and, let’s be honest, Jason Bateman isn’t exactly known for his superb film choices. However, my insane love of Kate McKinnon meant that I really wanted to give it a chance. After all, doesn’t she guarantee that, even if the whole thing is baf, that she’ll provide adequate comedy to make anything passable? Well I certainly hope so. Considering I’m potentially drenching myself in bad luck by watching this after the twelve days of Christmas is up.  Imagine if it’s bad and Santa doesn’t bring me any gifts next year. Sheesh!

Office Christmas Party seems like it should be a super simple film: a childish boss organises a Christmas party at work that gets wildly out of hand. However, thanks to the seemingly endless number of writers, this film becomes unnecessarily bloated and full of needless characters. Especially when you consider that, at it’s most basic level, it is a comedy about a staff Christmas party that gets wildly out of hand. I mean it was hardly crying out for subtext or depth. Just some typical workplace comedy utilising the cast of great comic talents and enviable improvisational skills. Instead we have a film in which the titular Christmas party is actually less important to the plot than almost everything else happening on screen. If anything that’s just an after thought.

The main narrative of Office Christmas Party involves ambitious CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down her brother, Clay’s (TJ Miller), branch of their recently deceased father’s tech company. She will only give the branch a reprieve if Clay can land a high profile account. So Clay teams up with his friend, CTO Josh (Jason Bateman) and the head of tech Tracey (Olivia Munn) to encourage the account manager Walter (Courtney B. Vance) to agree to a partnership. Apparently the only way to make this happen is to throw a massive Christmas party that Walter never really seems keen to attend.

So there we have the central theme running through this travesty of a Christmas comedy. In addition to that is Josh’s impending divorce and attraction to Tracey; new single mum Allison (Vanessa Bayer) dipping her toe back into the dating pool; the head of HR ary (Kate McKinnon) and her desire to not cause offence to anyone in the world ever: and the desperate attempts of Nate (Karan Sori) to not lose face in a lie about a hot girlfriend by hiring an escort. And even that isn’t the end of the plot points on display but if I try and name all of them here it’ll waste too much time and space.

The problem with Office Christmas Party is that it tries too hard to be funny. There are so many failed attempts to be funny that the random times in which it happens just don’t seem as great. I mean if you throw enough darts at a dartboard then at least one of them is bound to hit something big, right? There were too many voices being heard when this film was being written and it shows. It is bogged down by the huge cast of characters and the number of storylines that it’s meant to tie up before the credits role. It means that none of them feel satisfactory. It’s all kind of cliched and obvious but nothing memorable. Even the great improvisers like Kate McKinnon aren’t really given much room to work and are wasted in terrible roles. I even felt sorry for Vanessa Bayer, my least favourite SNL current cast member, for being underused here.

Office Christmas Party is so keen to create whimsy, fun, and Christmas cheer that it fails to manage any of them. Everything is forced instead of feeling natural and the jokes are so clearly signposted that the eventual punchline is more of a comfort than a joy. This is just a lazily written film that takes any potential it had and throws it out of the window. It’s cheap and easy comedy that adds a few emotional plots in for good measure. The central love story and brother/sister relationship are lacking in real sentimentality and seem to exist only for the traditional Christmas spirit ending. I knew that this film was going to be terrible before I watched it but even I was surprised by how bad it was. Never has is been so obvious that ideas were lacking. Well, what else explains the need to throw every possible scenario onto one screen? If I do get bad luck this year then it’s clear that Office Christmas Party wasn’t worth it..

TBT – Horrible Bosses (2011)

Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, meh, murder, review, TBT
I’ve made it to the end of the first week of my promotion and I’m fucking exhausted. Partly questioning my decision and definitely missing working only 4 out of 7 days a week. Also, facing the transition from being weekly paid to monthly paid (goodbye for now I can’t complain about the job, I’ve basically been doing it for the past few months anyway, but I’m having some issues with one woman I’m working with. Unfortunately, she’s my superior and a massive bitch. On my second day in the job I faced one of her regular tirades and barely made it out alive. She’s a huge pain in the arse and I have to act like her biggest fucking fan just so I keep her happy. She’s one of the biggest dicks I’ve ever met: you might go so far as to say she’s a horrible boss! Ah ha, now this work-related tirade finally makes sense.

We’ve been here before, dear readers, with Identity Thief: I take the time to watch the delightful Jason Bateman in a supposedly fantastic comedy and then spend the rest of my days regretting the loss of my limited time. I’d heard someone I work with telling me how fucking funny Horrible Bosses was and felt that, despite every natural instinct warning me against it, I would give it a go. In hindsight, I should have worried as soon as the phrase “Colin Farrell is awesome” came up: remember, oxymorons can ruin lives people.
Although, on paper, Horrible Bossessounds like the easiest comedy ever-made: take three lovable comic actors, pair them with three Hollywood stars and place them in a mix between The Office and Strangers on a Train. Unfortunately, the end result is less impressive and just depressingly tedious. Horrible Bosses isn’t a stand-out comedy but a mediocre film whose side-effects may include the occasional titter.
The problem stems from its complete lack of self-awareness. It is neither as clever, outlandish nor as funny as it thinks it is. The bosses themselves leave some room for hilarity to ensue but it all feels a little clawing and desperate: a state I have often associated with Colin Farrell to be honest. Jamie Foxx’s eccentric ex-con had the potential to be fucking amazing but, again, everything falls a bit short.
The blame falls almost entirely on the shoulders of the writers who deliver a script that is willing to teeter in the entrance of cool and edgy but too timid to actually step inside. A premise like this deserved something clever, original and, most important of all, funny. The final film fails to make use of its impressive cast and lacks precision in both the narrative and script. The only actor to really shine here is Kevin Space and, lets be honest, that’s because there isn’t anything Kevin Spacey can’t work with.
No room has been given for proper development with either the employees or their bosses: meaning the overall premise that drives the film just doesn’t work properly. Three put-upon guys meet up to bitch about their awful bosses and decide their only option for professional contentment is murder. Talk about escalating quickly, for fucks sake! The basic driving force of the whole production is so fucking flimsy and silly that it would be impossible to make all of the strands work together into a cohesive story.
The film is obviously pandering to very current social and economic issues: people with very few options being forced into potentially humiliating, soul-destroying labour to earn a shitty wage in order to survive. It’s a feeling that a lot of people can understand but isn’t something that has been effectively set-up for humour. The bosses here are caricatures, yes, but they never reach the right side of funny. They take something that is horrificly realistic and just make it louder: louder never really equals comedy in my experience.
The script offers them something to work with but it’s not enough to make any of them truly memorable once the credits are over. There are a number of laughs here and there but they mainly come out of an atmosphere of discomfort. A lot has been made of Jennifer Aniston’s sex-crazed dentist because, obviously, it’s something of a fantasy for the type of lad that would rush to see this film. Aniston is a funny actor: something that was proved to me when I recently re-watched Friends. The desperate and unsettling depths that she is forced to sink in this film just makes me sad.
Horrible Bossesis in no way a smart and praise-worthy comedy. It’s just another in an increasingly long-list of hyperactive, laddish comedies. The writers and director obviously got a bit too excited with the unusually high rating and just went fucking crazy. It didn’t work. This is the kind of thing that a group of horny teenagers would make if they were given a Hollywood budget, their pick of actors and permission to say and do anything they want. Jason Bateman, I will always love you but I implore you to stop making shitty films.