Movie Reviews: Office Christmas Party and Nocturnal Animals

Office Christmas Party

Cary, NC – Office Christmas Party is an R-rated comedy about, well, an office Christmas party. It might sound a little boring, but thanks to comedy veterans Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and a plethora of other comedy actors, Office Christmas Party proves to be a very funny time at the movies.

Familiar, Fun Story

So it turns out there is a bit of plot at play here. T.J. Miller, one of the many MVPs on HBO’s Silicon Valley, is the office boss who is trying to stop his CEO sister, played by Jennifer Aniston, from closing down the branch. So in a hail mary attempt, he decides to throw the greatest office party of all time in hopes of attracting a new client that could save the branch.

It’s not much, but it’s enough to get this amazing cast to do what they do best. Miller has been around in supporting roles for a while now, in hits such as Cloverfield and Deadpool, and here he finally gets to be front and center. Miller excels at playing a jerk, and while he has his moments here, he actually gets to show a little heart as well. He actually cares about his employees, and Miller has an everyman quality to him that helps sell that.

Great Comedic Cast

The supporting cast is what really makes this movie flow though. Kate McKinnon (SNL, Ghostbusters) is easily one of my favorite comedians right now. Even with her brief screen time, she makes sure to make the most of every second. Even just picturing her now, I can’t help but laugh.

Jillian Bell (Workaholics, 22 Jump Street) also has a ball playing one of the nicest pimps you’ll ever meet. Bell has a way of saying the most vulgar and outrageous things while still coming across as sweet and innocent.

I haven’t even mentioned Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Courtney B. Vance and many others. Everyone is having a blast on screen, making it very easy to join the fun.

Worth Seeing

Overall, Office Christmas Party is extremely funny. The cast is killer and the laughs keep coming. Worth the trip!

Nocturnal Animals

Cary, NC – In a year of strange movies, Nocturnal Animals is one of the strangest, blending time and stories-within-stories with an unsettling atmosphere, great performances and striking visuals that is leaving audiences conflicted.

Excellent Performances

Nocturnal Animals, directed by Tom Ford (yes, the fashion designer), is the story of Susan, a woman who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward, wanting to show her his first completed novel. Susan, played by Amy Adams (Arrival, American Hustle), reads the story and we see the action take place, mixed in with Susan’s own life and flashbacks to her relationship with Edward, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler). Simple enough, right?

Adams is having a breakout year in 2016, with this film, the highly acclaimed Arrival and while it isn’t universally praised, her role as Lois Lane in the new DC films puts her on a larger stage. Gyllenhaal has been doing well for the past few years, steadily becoming a top name for thoughtful dramas. Here, both prove why they are in such high demand with varied, emotional performances. As good as Gyllenhaal’s performance is in the story-world Susan reads, Adams actually takes on more diverse roles, skipping between the past and the present day when she is two very different people.

Nocturnal Animals has plenty of good performances to go around. Michael Shannon (Loving, Midnight Special, Man of Steel) is one of the best actors working today and he lights up the screen when he appears as a police officer in the story-world, with intensity and conviction and a pinch of humor. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Godzilla) is also a whirlwind as the villain of Edward’s story, portraying a creepy criminal who makes you hate him so much, the actor fades away and you only see the character.

Lots to Think About

The performances in Nocturnal Animals are a good reason to see the movie but everything else might turn you away. From the first scene, you’ll see that this is not a normal movie. That can be good but here, I think it lost the thread.

Tonally, the three stories (past, present, Edward’s book) are very different tonally. Edward’s story, also called Nocturnal Animals, is dark and grimy, while the past feels like a standard emotional drama. The present day, however, has lots of surreal imagery, humorous moments meant to mock the world of modern art and paranoia that feels undeserved. There is even a jump scare that feels totally pointless.

What we are meant to see is that Edward’s book mirrors his relationship with Susan but the connection seems very flimsy. In the past, we see people call Edward a coward for not giving his writing to editors, but in the story, he’s a coward because he doesn’t fight off a small gang of crooks. It’s jumps of logic like this that should make the audience see a deeper message in the movie but, then again, it’s possible the message is not there.

On their own, each of the three elements would make for an above-average movie but nothing rises to the level that Nocturnal Animals is being talked about now. Were it not for the strong performances, I think this would fall completely apart.

For A Select Audience

If you enjoy convoluted or experimental movies, Nocturnal Animals may be for you as there are still many people who seem to like it. But if you have less patience for that sort of thing, this is not going to be the film for you.

Jordan Hunt reviews movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews. Photos from Facebook (Office Christmas Party/Nocturnal Animals).

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