Bombshell

I was privileged to see this film before the UK release date as I was abroad, in Turkey and the release date was much earlier. I thought I would post however on the UK release date to give potential watchers an idea of what the film entails.

I was not aware of this story before the film was announced but it only happened four years ago in 2016. I have heard of Fox News, the American news channel that broadcasts incorrect or speculative information. I had no idea of the size of this media giant with all of its news programmes and breakfast shows.

This scandal was right on the cusp of the #MeToo movement where many famous actors, sportspeople, finance workers and many other fields all came forward with stories of sexual abuse or assault. Bombshell is set in the lead up to the 2016 US Presidential Election. It is before the candidates have officially been announced so there isn’t necessarily a Trump v Clinton race going on but they are both present. The first major scandal of the film comes when Trump talks about Fox presenter Megyn Kelly on TV and refers to her menstruating as an excuse for her statements. This affects Megyn with Trump then tweeting harsh words about her. Even though this incident isn’t part of the main narrative it is certainly a warm up of what is to come.

The film focuses on three separate women working at Fox News. There is Gretchen (Nicole Kidman) who has just been demoted for trying to be more women-positive on her breakfast show. She was a top presenter transferred to a less popular show.

Megyn Kelly played by Charlize Theron is another of the main women. She goes on holiday for a week to avoid the controversy after the Trump incident. Her support or not openly dismissing the assaulter later in the film is make or break for conviction.

The third woman, Kayla ( Margot Robbie) is a researcher who has grown up watching Fox News. She wants to be on TV and starts meetings with the head of Fox News. Her relationship with fellow researcher and desk buddy, Jess (Kate McKinnon) is another sub plot. Even though they hook up after a night out, Kayla says she is not a lesbian. Jess also supports Clinton and wants her to be the Democratic candidate. Fox News is firmly a Republican station so she keeps that part of her identity hidden.

The catalyst of the film is when Gretchen meets with her lawyers to sue Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), the boss of Fox News for sexual assault. She claims that she was demoted for refusing to be with him sexually. When she decides to come forward publicly, more and more women come forward with stories about Roger and how he made them do awful things to progress their career. In the film, we see how Kayla is being groomed by Roger in her aim to be on TV. Megyn eventually admits to her own assault some 10 years previously. Although the majority of the assault claims focus on Ailes, other executives on the second floor also have allegations made against them.

It is shocking that this scandal took so long to come out but it is not so surprising seeing how Ailes and the others treat the female presenters. They all have to wear short, tight dresses showing cleavage and with Spanx to look as thin as possible. There is one scene in the wardrobe department where there are racks and racks of dresses in every colour and one woman in at least two layers of Spanx. Someone asks to wear trousers and they are told they aren’t allowed without permission from the second floor which is Ailes.

I thought this film was very powerful and eye-opening about what goes on behind closed doors. I was surprised that everything about Trump could be put in this film considering he is currently the President but I am glad it was included. The acting was also strong with Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie all at the top of their game. Charlize and Margot have also been nominated for various awards for their performances at the Globes, SAGs, BAFTAs and Oscars. Nicole also has a nod at the SAGs.

This sort of film is really important in today’s climate and even though the #MeToo movement has changed things, audiences need to understand what it was like and in some cases still is in this kind of cut-throat business. If you dared to speak up, you were fired. Many people couldn’t afford this so were forced into accepting assault.

Overall I think this film was very powerful and brought light to a situation I had no idea about. 4.5/5.

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Knives Out – 2nd Watch Review

I saw this film for the first time the weekend after it opened. I had seen the trailer and thought it looked interesting. With the starry cast and original storyline, not to mention the acclaimed director, Rian Johnson, I was hooked. My first reaction was pure delight. I love a whodunnit murder mystery and they have faded out of popularity this century but seeing Knives Out and its updated version of the classic Agatha Christie tale was amazing. So many films these days, especially American ones are reboots, remakes, sequels, third sequels; based on books, games, apps or true stories, it was refreshing to see something original.

The ending truly shocked me and when it was all explained by the Private Investigator, I did not expect what unfolded to happen.

I saw this film again last night and I was a little concerned that seeing it a second time around might ruin the magic as I knew the result but it did not. When viewing this film a second time, I could spot all the small clues that led to the answer.

The basic storyline of the film is that a family gather for their father’s 85th birthday party. There are arguments and family drama and the next morning, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), head of the family is dead. Many think a suicide but after Private Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is hired by an anonymous source, foul play is suspected. Harlan Thrombey is a rich man with a grand mansion, he makes his money from writing mystery novels. He has three children, one deceased before the film starts. There’s Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), self-made estate agent and her husband, Richard (Don Johnson). Their son, Ransom (Chris Evans) is the black sheep of the family and he leaves the party early.

Next is Joni (Toni Collette), widow of Harlan’s son, Neil. She runs a beauty business, Flam and receives a yearly allowance from Harlan. There is her daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford) who Harlan pays for to go to college.

The youngest son is Walt (Michael Shannon). He runs Harlan’s publishing company and is trying to get his father to agree to selling rights to film and TV. His wife, Donna (Riki Lindhome) is not a main player and is never questioned as a suspect. Their son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell) is always on his phone and is part of alt-right wing parties. He is only 16 so isn’t questioned either.

There is also Harlan’s mother, Wanetta (K Callan) who is disregarded by the family due to her age. She becomes a vital part in the investigation.

The non-family members are Fran (Edi Patterson), the maid and Harlan’s nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas). Marta was the last to spend time with Harlan. There is also the two Detectives, Lieutenant Elliott (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan)

I love this film and the differences between the characters are all subtlety outlined by their responses to certain questions. Joni says to Benoit Blanc that she saw a tweet of a New Yorker article about him. Linda then says she read about him in the New Yorker. Richard, Joni and Walt all appear to have motives at the beginning of the film.

I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it as it is really something you have to see for yourself. I read a Buzzfeed article last week about why its still so popular 5 weeks after release. My answer is that it is a great story with a twist and the acting was superb. Overall 5/5.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Finally here is the conclusion of this generation’s Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars has been a big piece of pop culture and film history since the first film came to cinemas in 1977. As a millennial, I have not before been exposed to the excitement of seeing a Star Wars film in the cinemas until I went to see Force Awakens with my dad. I have never been a big Star Wars fan but as he has always been a follower of the franchise, we went to see it. This was five years ago and I must admit I was anticipating Episode IX along with millions of other die hard fans. This review is spoiler-free so feel free to read if you are planning to watch in the future.

I watched The Rise of Skywalker in a cinema abroad with subtitles but this did not hinder my viewing at all. I hate watching films with subtitles on Netflix if they are in the same language as the audio but as English is not the first language where I am for the holidays, there was no other option.

Now to the actual film. I have heard a lot of noise on the grapevine about The Rise of Skywalker being a redo of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, Episode XIII in the franchise. I am definitely not an expert so I don’t feel I have the knowledge to comment on this controversy having only seen both films once each.

I thought the film was excellent. Star Wars has a certain flavour of teamwork, rebellion, adventure, final showdowns and lasting friendships that other popular franchises haven’t really accomplished. I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the film and accompanied with John Williams’ score, the adrenaline was pumping. Having been in the last two films the new trio of Rey, Poe and Finn have settled into their roles in the films. Rey is finding herself as a Jedi, Poe has a position of leadership and Finn has found his own place in the Rebel alliance as a former Stormtrooper.

The film starts, of course, with a mission that leads the trio to ending the fight between good and evil. We get new characters, ships, planets as well as all the old friends, foes and gadgets. The original trio of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa all make appearances despite Luke and Han perishing in the previous films and Carrie Fisher sadly passing away in 2016.

There were a few things I didn’t understand not having brushed up on my Star Wars trivia or having seen the original films but I knew enough to be shocked at demises and thrilled at successes.

Seeing Star Wars at the cinema is a must-do, the spectacle demands the big screen and surround sound but I also had the added benefit of seeing it in a special screen with leather recliners and lots of space. I believe that the place determines one’s enjoyment of a film. There are films I would have enjoyed more if I wasn’t surrounded by noisy children or in a tiny screen but there are also those films that it doesn’t matter where you are, the excitement can override the discomfort.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and apart from an epic conclusion to a nine film saga spanning over forty years, it was a great adventure in space. 4/5.

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Golden Globes 2020 – What’s Worth Watching

I am going to review the nominations for this year’s Golden Globes that I have seen at least one film in that category. It is fair to only review the films that I have seen, to give an honest opinion. I am going to focus on the film nominations as I have not seen many of the television shows due to them only being available on US TV or streaming services that I am not subscribed to. The films that are highlighted are the winners.

Best Film – Drama

The Irishman – This film reminded me of the Godfather and Goodfellas, classic gangster films. This is not my sort of film but I did enjoy it despite the 3.5 hour run time. The world of the film was created very well and the ageing and de-ageing of the actors was interesting to see.

Marriage Story – A powerful story about an amicable couple dealing with separation and managing parenting whilst living on opposite coasts of the US. I enjoyed this film despite the brushing aside of the husband’s adultery.

The Two Popes – This film depicted a world I have experienced yet seeing it from the point of view of the Popes showed a different side to the religion. Delving into the back stories and seeing them as actual people added amazing depth to the story. Archival footage enhanced the reality of the film.

Best Actress in a Film – Drama

Renée Zellweger – Judy – I saw this film for my birthday last year and Renée’s performance as Judy Garland was outstanding. I loved the Wizard of Oz as a child and seeing what happened to her was emotional. A deserved win.

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story – A role that Scarlett hasn’t played for a while, I have recently seen her as Black Widow or in comedies but she was a standout in the film.

Charlize Theron – Bombshell – I recently saw this film and will be doing a separate review on my blog. I thought Charlize’s performance as Megyn Kelly was brilliant. She captured the essence of the character very well.

Best Actor in a Film – Drama

Christian Bale – Ford vs Ferrari (Le Mans ’66) – I loved this film and Christian’s performance as racing legend Ken Miles was captivating and his accent was accurate. He doesn’t normally do this sort of role but I think he should do more like it.

Adam Driver – Marriage Story – Having recently seen Adam in Star Wars, his performance in Marriage Story was a complete 180 degree turn. I thought he was great and opposite Scarlett made a convincing self-centred theatre director.

Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes – His performance as Pope Francis was inspired and I think his mannerisms and accent were accurate and he made Pope Francis into a 3D character rather than simply the figurehead of the Church.

Best Film – Musical or Comedy

Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood – I don’t think of this film as a musical or comedy and I’m not a big fan of Tarantino. I liked the setting of the film but I thought the ending was too violent in true Tarantino style and Margot Robbie wasn’t utilised enough.

Knives Out – An amazing, detailed murder mystery with top quality acting. This film was one of my top of 2019 and hopefully I will be seeing it again soon. I think this film deserved to win although I don’t think I would call it a comedy either.

Rocketman – Another amazing film depicting the life of Elton John. The songs were amazing as well as the acting. I had no idea of the pain and hardship that Elton went through and I would now call myself an Elton John fan. Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother was a standout.

Dolemite is My Name – An unusual choice for best film. I saw this recently and after initially dismissing it, I stuck with it and actually really enjoyed it. When Dolemite started to make a film with his friends and some UCLA students is when I started to get into it. I loved that it told Rudy Ray Moore’s true story.

Best Actress in a Film – Musical or Comedy

Ana De Armas – Knives Out – Her role as Harlan Thrombey’s nurse was some of the best acting in the film and I think Ana De Armas is going to be a really big name. I look forward to seeing her win big in the future.

Best Actor in a Film – Musical or Comedy

Taron Egerton – Rocketman – The best performance of his career. Taron and Elton have a very special bond which shines through in Taron’s portrayal of Elton. Their appearance is more similar than I realised when they acted together in the second Kingsman film. I am very glad that Taron won.

Daniel Craig – Knives Out – A role we don’t usually see Daniel play but he brought a real authority and prowess to the detective. It was jolting at first to hear his Southern drawl but I have seen him with this accent in Logan Lucky.

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood – I would say this was a comeback role for Leo and he did very well. These days he appears to lend his name to only projects he feels passionate about, choosing to focus most of his energies on his environmental work.

Eddie Murphy – Dolemite is My Name – One of the best of his career, Eddie’s performance was dramatic, funny, easy to empathise with and echoes something of his own personality. He portrayed the characters emotional highs and lows very well.

Best Supporting Actor in a Film

Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood – Brad’s perfromance was the best of the film in my opinion. His relaxed and jaded character reminded me of Brad at his best. Another comeback role in this film.

Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes – I have not seen many films where Hopkins plays the lead character. At this stage in his career, he is usually a side character. Seeing him in this role was a change for me and I thought he did well.

Al Pacino – The Irishman – Another comeback role for Al and one that echoes the great roles he has acted in. The ferocity and ruthlessness he brought to Jimmy Hoffa made the gangster come to life.

Joe Pesci – The Irishman – I haven’t seen Joe in many films due to him only having 6 roles in the last 20 years. The films I recognise him from are Home Alone 1 & 2. I thought he was very good as he has not done much acting in over two decades.

Best Score – Film

Marriage Story – I must admit I didn’t take note of the score while watching this film but as the film as a whole was exciting and emotional, the score probably enhanced this.

Best Director

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – I am not a big fan of Tarantino as a director but I think he has done well with this film. The world he created in the film echoed the spirit of 60s Hollywood.

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman – Scorsese always directs big spectacles and isn’t afraid of a long run time. His handling of the film was very good and I am not surprised he was nominated.

Best Song – Film

I’m Gonna Love Me Again – Rocketman – This song was sung by Elton John and Taron Egerton. I think it sums up the tone of the film, learning to love yourself and I think it is one of my favourite songs from the film.

Beautiful Ghosts – Cats – Possibly the only good thing about this confusing, mind-altering film, this song written by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber is hauntingly lovely. I don’t think it was featured in the film enough as a character sang perhaps one or two verses.

Into the Unknown – Frozen II – I quite enjoyed this film, a worthy sequel and there were some funny adult innuendos. This song was very powerful and was featured in a key moment of the film.

Spirit – The Lion King – I was not enamoured with this CGI remake of the children’s classic and nodded off a little during the part of the film that Spirit was in. Listening to it again now, I am glad it wasn’t a winner. I am not a big fan of Beyoncé anyway but I don’t think the song was as powerful as the others nominated.

Best Supporting Actress in a Film

Laura Dern – Marriage Story – Laura Dern’s role as Nicole’s lawyer, Nora Fanshaw was one of the best of her career. It is not a role I have seen Laura typically play but I thought she was one of the best characters in the film. Her win was well deserved.

Margot Robbie – Bombshell – In interviews, Margot has said that she is only playing roles that are empowering to women so when I saw her as Kayla, a fictional victim in the Roger Ailes Fox News Scandal, I was perplexed. I then considered how important it is to show this story and that only by showing the scandal, that the story can get out. Her role was very good and her character became more complex as the film progressed.

Best Film – Animated

Frozen II – I saw this with some friends as part of a society I am involved in at university. I wasn’t expecting too much from it as a children’s film but it was actually a fun watch with Kristoff’s boy band song as a personal highlight. The songs from the first film are more catchy but I liked the plot of this one better.

The Lion King – I prefer the original 1994 animation but the CGI in this film was amazing. Very life-like. The director, Jon Favreau included a real shot at the beginning of the sun rise to see if anyone would notice. I think if I watched this film when I am more awake and there isn’t a small child in the same row talking the whole way through, I might enjoy it more.

Toy Story 4 – It is unusual that a third sequel of a film still holds the magic but in this instance it does. The story was perfect for those who have grown up with the franchise and the toys were all still the same. I even shed a tear or two at the end. A worthy nominee.

Best Screenplay – Film

Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood – I didn’t find the screenplay particularly inspiring. The set decoration and costumes to me were the best part of the film and not the script. Margot didn’t really have any lines and nothing has stuck with me. I would say that the other nominees deserved to win more.

The Irishman – A well-written script that provided a good base for the actors. I liked the way it was told as a flashback, cutting to an elderly Robert De Niro telling his life history. Explanations were well told and the language was rich and detailed.

The Two Popes – Wonderfully colourful, revisiting Pope Francis’ past was a clever way to help the audience sympathise with him and I enjoyed the story.

Marriage Story – An emotional roller coaster of a film, showing how divorce can change a family. Arguments were particularly vicious and the way everyone spoke to each other showed the tone of their character. I would say the script was one of the best parts of the film.

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New Year’s Eve – 31st December

This film is one by Garry Marshall who has also directed Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. As with these films, New Year’s Eve is an ensemble film following many different characters and their individual stories that intertwine with each other. An American version of the British ensemble comedy such as Love Actually.

The film follows a range of groups and relationships on New Year’s Eve in New York City. Stories follow a mother and daughter; an older woman and her much younger acquaintance; rival expecting mothers; a lonely dying man and his nurse; the woman working to make the ball drop in Times Square happen; a chef and her rock-star ex-boyfriend; a man rushing to make a speech in a RV and two strangers trapped in an elevator.

I have seen this film before, a few years ago so wasn’t expecting it to be as emotional as it was. There was a certain intensity in some of the scenes especially as characters reunited or forgave one another. Even though each story probably has 15 – 20 minutes screen time, they were all fully told and I did not find it hard to follow. I loved that some connected in unexpected ways.

This film has an amazing cast featuring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Sarah Paulson, Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Abigail Breslin, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Sofia Vergara, Jon Bon Jovi, Lea Michele, Nat Wolff and Seth Meyers. There are many others, even on the poster above but these are the names I felt are most recognised.

Overall, this is an enjoyable feel-good film with many highs and lows in one of the most exciting New Year’s Eve cities in the world. 4/5.

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The Night Before – 30th December

This is a film for the more mature audience but it isn’t filled with insulting language or terrible swearing, just the odd narcotic. A Christmas film with a different tone to the classic family comedy or child’s fantasy, The Night Before celebrates the city that never sleeps at its busiest time of the year. Childhood friends, Ethan, Chris and Isaac all spend their Christmas Eve on an epic night out around the Big Apple looking for the best Christmas party. This film is one with a mission but has lots of obstacles in the way.

It is like the quest from ancient mythology updated for the modern age where three middle-aged men seek out the ultimate fun before they get too old. They spend every Christmas Eve together since Ethan’s parents passed away. Every year, they try and find the best party out there, the Nutcracker Ball. In this film there is phone switching, a public proposal endorsed by Miley Cyrus and the night of a lifetime. It is one that doesn’t sound as great in words but is hilarious to watch.

I found this film a fun take on the Christmas film and modern-day adventure. It has a great cast with the three main actors, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt making a believable trio. Other stars on the cast include: Jillian Bell, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Shannon, Mindy Kaling, Ilana Glazer, Tracy Morgan and James Franco playing himself. Overall I give this film 4/5.

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Klaus – 29th December

This Netflix animation was not at all what I expected. From the tagline, I expected a cute Disney-esque film featuring a postman. What I got was a sad yet violent tale about how Christmas was created. A pompous heir to the Royal Postal Academy is sent to the remote island of Smeerensburg to set up a post office. The townspeople have been at war with each other for years and the children don’t go to school. Jesper has to stamp 6000 letters in a year to back to his life of luxury. He figures out that a kindly woodsman will make a gift for a child if they write him a letter. He befriends Klaus and uses the kids to get his letter count up. He learns of why Klaus has so many toys in his barn, a sad moment and learns to become a better person.

The animation style was really unique and a fresh take on the cutesy Christmas film. I didn’t expect it to go in the direction it did, but was pleasantly surprised. Suitable for all ages and a lovely Christmas tale that isn’t all about the big day. A starry voice cast: Joan Cusack, Rashida Jones, J.K. Simmons and Jason Schwartzman. 4/5.

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The Knight Before Christmas – 28th December

I was excited for this film because the medieval knight is Sir Cole of Norwich in England which happens to be my hometown. Despite the very inaccurate portrayal of Norwich, I enjoyed this film and thought it was less soppy than other films on the Countdown. Vanessa Hudgens has returned for another Netflix Christmas film after her role in the Princess Switch.

The basic premise is that Sir Cole has to fulfill a quest as a knight in 13th Century Norwich. After encountering a sorceress, she transports him to present-day Ohio where he meets Brooke. She’s a science teacher, this doesn’t play into the story very much apart from one student who she bumps into multiple times. Cole and Brooke become closer as Brooke helps Cole to become accustomed to the modern world. He is desperate to complete his quest and return home for his brother’s knighting ceremony.

Cole becomes close with Brooke and her family – her sister and niece. Her parents both passed away a while before the film. There is one scene where they binge Netflix and scenes from Holiday in the Wild (a 2019 film I reviewed earlier) and The Holiday Calendar are briefly shown on the TV. There’s also a reference to the Christmas Prince, a film I have also reviewed this year, with one of the tree decorations.

I thought this film was very cute and had the right mix of family fun, goofiness and fantasy. Josh Whitehouse who played Sir Cole did a good job of pretending to be from a different time. I always wonder how actors pretend that they don’t know what basic things are like cars or television as it seems impossible to not be aware of these things at least subliminally.

Overall I give this film 3.5/5. Romantic and a little cheesy, just the right thing if you’re clinging on to the magic of Christmas while waiting for New Years Eve.

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Surviving Christmas – 27th December

The last couple of films in my Countdown to Christmas have not been very good so I hoped that this would be at least enjoyable. It wasn’t the best film or even in my top five but certainly better than Bad Santa 2 and Scrooged.

A rich, lonely businessman goes to visit his childhood home to try and get rid of his feelings of loneliness around the holiday season. He meets the family now residing there and on a whim makes them an offer. He will pay them £250,000 if he can be part of their family for Christmas. At first, the family are shocked at this stranger’s offer but agree to do it for the money.

They must commit and pretend that Drew (Ben Affleck) is their son and brother. When the older sister, Alicia (Christina Applegate) comes home, she finds the situation very odd and wants Drew to leave. She is convinced when she is told her parents find it fun. It is never revealed whether she knows about the money. Everything is going as smoothly as it can after Drew then hires a local community actor to play ‘Doo-Dah’ the grandfather. His girlfriend, Missy who had gone to spend the holidays with her parents then invites herself and her parents around for Christmas.

Meanwhile, Drew and Alicia have bonded after a wild toboggan ride and the family as a whole have become closer due to Drew’s presence. I liked this film. It was a good All-American family film although with a dubious plot but great acting from Catherine O’Hara, James Gandolfini and Jennifer Morrison. Overall I give this film 3/5.

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Bad Santa 2 – 26th December

I have seen the first film of this franchise so have been anticipating the second one for quite a while. I was very disappointed and could not sit through the film after 15 minutes. It is rated 18 for a reason. There was so much swearing, bad language, racism, insults towards many different minorities that I couldn’t watch more. I was annoyed as the writers should know that people don’t want to watch something that is degrading to just about every group included in the film.

Billy Bob Thornton is usually an enjoyable watch, from his work on Goliath and recent film, A Million Little Pieces but even he couldn’t save this abomination. Overall 0.5/5 if that. The premise was interesting, using a Santa outfit to cover a robbery but robbing from a charity is a step too far. I would not recommend this film to anyone and will not be watching it again.

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