Not feeling overly festive – check these Anti-Christmas movies out!

Paragraph Film Reviews

It’s the most wonderful time… of the yeeeeearrr – but you’re probably sick to death of the same 20 ‘classic movies’ being played on mega-rotation on every TV channel? Here’s a rundown of the best Anti-Christmas movies for people who fancy something a little different this festive season.

Bad Santa Terry Zwigoff. With Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, John Ritter

Bad Santa: any such list that doesn’t start (or end) with this film isn’t worth reading. Billy Bob Thornton plays an alcoholic, sexually deviant Santa that uses his mall access to loot the place on Christmas Eve. It takes a slightly simple 8-year-old and a normal woman (with a Santa fetish) to show him the true meaning of the holiday – in a film that’s bursting with great characters and laugh-out-loud jokes. Adults only. (After years in development hell a sequel looks to finally be on the cards!!!)

Bruce Willis, John Mclean, Alan Rickman, Hans Gruber, Bonnie Bedelia, alexander godunov, hart bochner, Robert Davi

Die Hard: not just a great XMas film, or Anti-Christmas movie, but one of the best films ever…

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Hatchet: a boatful of tourists go on a haunted swamp tour and end up coming face to face with a local superstition… the murderous Victor Crowley. There’s some strong horror ancestry in here; Kane Hodder (Jason/Leatherface) is the main baddie, with Tony Todd (Candyman/Final Destination) and Robert Englund (among others) popping up in cameo roles. Even though this is the kind of sloppy horror premise you’ve seen a thousand times before Hatchet is different in that it’s very well made: it’s brilliantly lit, boasts supreme gore FX & inventive deaths, and has a cast full of good performances. It takes everything that people love and expect from a slasher film and turns it up to eleven: e.g. you don’t just get to see one pair of boobs, but are treated to entire line-ups of Mardi Gras waps. It’s also got a cool comedy/horror vibe in that if it wasn’t for the brutal ultra-graphic moments of cartoonishly over-the-top deaths, the film would probably be a 12A, as it’s overall quite playful and funny; the wannabe actresses in particular provide more than their fair share of the LOLz. There’s also a beautiful ‘classic’ orchestrated soundtrack that wouldn’t be out-of-place in something like Indiana Jones. Everything comes together nicely to create a movie that’s surprisingly hard to describe or define, but is undeniably fun… it’s not quite a parody, and it’s definitely not a kids film, but it’s a rip-and-roaring “Old School American Horror” – and for once, a slasher that lives up to its tagline.

Score: 7.5/10
B-Movie Score: 9/10

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Mechanic Resurrection: a retired hitman gets pulled back into action when his new girlfriend is captured and he’s forced to whack three seemingly unconnected criminals. Being the sequel to a somewhat derivative remake expectations going in aren’t exactly high; but the film just about meets them. Everything that isn’t an action/fighting scene is there to set up the next action/fighting scene; including a nonsensical plot and some ultra-dubious character motivation: within 10 mins a pragmatic contract killer has fallen and is risking it all for a random babe?!? It’s also ‘subconsciously Bond,’ with multiple exotic locations, submarine pen shootout, Rio cable cars, exploding boats etc. Not content leaning on one franchise, the story’s also centered around three “Impossible missions”: a prison kill, swimming pool kill, and boat-chaos… all fun, but none are particularly tense as Arthur Bishop never loses the upper hand. We get a rent-a-baddie (Hazeldine) with no charisma, personality, or memorable traits; and a rent-a-babe (Alba) with a suspiciously small wardrobe and whose cleavage is deeper than her character. On the upside, Jason Statham is back in his bone-breaking action lane; Tommy Lee Jones is chewing it up (but is literally in two scenes) and the film has an aesthetically pleasing, vibrant, Lucy-esque visual style (although some of the CGI is very ropy). Mechanic Resurrection is an uninspired action film with only one reason to watch it; Statham returning to his action roots… if you like mile-high body counts, entertaining dispatches, and Jason Statham punching & shooting his way through obstacles look no further than this.

Score: 5.5/10

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Self/Less: when a terminally ill millionaire has his mind copied into a young and healthy body he gets a second chance at life… but there’s always a catch. This one has a great, high-concept idea at the core, however it deliberataly shifts lanes into a generic Bourne-type action movie instead; shying away from the higher brow sci-fi elements. It’s not all bad though as the action is to a decent standard, the story is a bit different, and because it’s a Tarsem Singh film the look and design is fantastic (although it’s nowhere near as styalised or ‘Tarsemmy’ as his other movies). The emotional scenes are also stronger than you’d expect from a film like this. Reynolds is great at portraying a new man; and I love how he isn’t afraid to take on more risky and interesting pictures than his peers: stuff like Buried, RIPD, The Nines, Deadpool. While Self/Less won’t be going down as a Sci-Fi (or action) classic, it’s a both solid and interesting enough to keep you entertained – and maybe even think a little – for two hours.

Score: 6/10

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There are very brief glimpses of Tarsem’s visual flare

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Kickboxer: Vengeance – when his brother is killed in an underground deathmatch by the brutal Tong Po, a young fighter plots his revenge with the help of a master fighter (JCVD). I love martial arts movies and despite what you’ve read elsewhere this is a solid remake. First off; there’s shitloads of fighting – as in every five minutes, fight fight fight. There’s all the punches, all the kicks, a homoerotic rain fight, workmen walking through fights with panes of glass… there’s even a couple of street / marketplace fights that remind you of something like Ong Bak. Director John Stockwell clearly knows and respects the ancestry of this film; retaining key markers like the training montages, and bringing back key cast members; he even throws in some gratuitous boobs… however, most of the cheesier elements have been dropped and the story is more (Tong) po-faced. Just when you think they missed out the infamous car crash drunk dancing scene our new lead pays his respects with some truly horrendous Van Damme jivin’ during the end credits. Casting-wise, the new lead (Moussi) isn’t much of an actor, but what he lacks in charisma he makes up for with some high end fighting/action/stunt prowess; Batista doesn’t have a whole lot to do, although he’s a larger-than-life baddie; meanwhile JCVD steals all of his scenes with his cheeky acting chops, legendary moves, and unbelievably shredded torso. My only real niggle was the weirdly flashy subtitles clearly aimed at people who don’t read subtitles!. There’s a lot of misplaced nostalgia for the original Kickboxer: it’s ultra-80s, it hasn’t aged well, didn’t actually contain much fighting or action, and was basically a showcase for JCVDs moves. Kickboxer Vengeance however is a worthwhile and respectful remake that’s short on acting but crammed full of action. A sturdy modern martial arts movie.

Score: 7/10

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Black Mass: follows the criminal activities of the notorious James “Whitey” Bulger and his closest conspirators. First off; why the fuck would anyone want to make such a pointless film? One that tells the story of an evil murderer, pointing out that he’s an evil murderer by showing him commit and sanction said evil murders. We get it; but y tho? There’s no arc, no development, no story… it’s just a series of decreasingly effective cold-blooded killings. The pacing is dead slow, full of unlikable characters and shows zero motivation for anyone’s actions; especially the vampiric and despicable lead. If anything, it felt farcical that a FBI would allow such openly compromised detective to continue working on cases they were obviously invested in! Being set in Boston we’re treated to everyone trying (but failing) to nail BAWSTAN accent: Cumberbatch lands poll position with a change in both pitch and hammy accent, that feels like a straight-up comedy voice. The ensemble cast are phenomenal, but nobody is given a credible character to work with, and although he’s as good as he’s been in the last 10 years or so Johnny Depp continues his obsession with distracting dressing up / make up to get in to character. Black mass is well shot, boasts a couple of good scenes, and a decent central performance but it is the opposite of an enjoyable or interesting film.  It’s the film that nobody was crying out for; and a great companion piece for Killing Them Softly.

Score: 2/10

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Arrival: when aliens make contact in twelve different countries the race is on to find out why they are here. The main themes and purpose of the movie is revealed very slowly, in tiny pieces that don’t slot together at all until the very end, where – if you’re still paying attention – it should hit you like a ton of bricks. Because of this, it’s the type of film that I imagine would be more rewarding on the second viewing, knowing how it plays out and fits together from the start. There’s a lot of nice details & observations about language; and Villeneuve’s recurring themes of repetition, circularity, loops, and significant numbers (12!!). Other than the director, as mentioned everywhere else Amy Adams puts in a great shift; although I’m not so sure she’ll be taking home an Oscar as there’s a lot of CGI reaction shots, and not many big acting ‘moments’. With the critical praise, box-office hype, and an alieninvasion trailer I felt that arrival suffers from the ‘Sicario Effect’ in that it’s smarter, lower key, and more nuanced than the film it’s been sold as; with absolutely massive ideas and questions thrown at the audience, played though one character’s story and experience. Is Arrival intelligent? Yes. Interesting? Yes. Thought provoking? Yes. Compelling? … Somewhat. A ‘great’ film? I don’t think so. For me it feels like Villeneuve spends too much time setting up his ideas instead of telling a grand story.

Score: 6.5/10

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