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Holiday Movie Review 2017

A collection of short reviews for new movies now playing in cinemas for the 2017 holiday season. | A collection of short reviews for new movies now playing in cinemas for the 2017 holiday season.
A collection of short reviews for new movies now playing in cinemas for the 2017 holiday season. | A collection of short reviews for new movies now playing in cinemas for the 2017 holiday season.

The holiday season is in full swing, with plenty of chances for a night out at the movies. These two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Years is the busiest window for new releases in the entire calendar year.

And there’s plenty of choices for audiences of all kinds. From family features to upcoming Oscar hopefuls, there are several new films to see while schools and some businesses are off for the holidays.

In the last two weeks, a record-setting 11 new releases have opened across Oakville’s cinemas. Because of the overwhelming film schedule, this week’s feature is a set of mini-reviews, each about some of the most popular films released in December, and all now playing in Oakville.

Even if you’ve already been to the movies recently, you have another week (and a half) to enjoy the lucrative holiday movie rush. Especially since January usual brings an eclectic mix of studio flicks to the silver screen.

The films below have a short biography along with a short, bare-bones review. There’s a trailer for each, followed by where you can see it playing from now until at least the next week and a half.

Movies reviewed below are listed in order of their original release dates. Next week will see the return to the usual long-form reviews of single films. Overall, these movies have been a great end to 2017. Happy Holidays!

The Shape of Water

4 out of 4 stars

14A, 2hrs 4mins. Sci-Fi Crime Romance.

Starring Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones and Octavia Spencer.

Released December 8th, Expanded Dec. 15th, playing at Winston Churchill.

Mastermind Guillermo del Toro has made the best film of his career. There’s great fun and sincerity in his 1960s Baltimore love story - even if it's between a mute woman and a South American fish creature. Their love is compelling and the criminal action hails back to the glamour of film noir.

This is an Oscar frontrunner in several categories. Don’t be put off by the dark marketing or Toro’s past work. Be warned though, while it’s not horror (there’s nothing scary) the film is firmly adult and intense. A few scenes will be difficult to watch if you have a light stomach.


Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

3 out of 4 stars

PG, 1hr 59min. Action Comedy Adventure.

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan.

Released December 20th, playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill, and Cineplex Oakville/VIP.

More of a wildly fun spinoff than a sequel, the new version of 1995’s Jumanji has a slightly adjusted premise. Instead of the board game coming alive in the real world, four teenagers in the real world are sucked into a video game. The jungle is lush, the funny and authentic, and the mood is fun. It’s definitely not for little kids, but it's far more original than the…well, original. All five main actors give the funniest and sharpest performances of their careers. It’s the surprise delight of the holiday season.



Pitch Perfect 3

1 out of 4 stars

PG, 1hr 34mins. Musical Comedy Adventure.

Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld and John Lithgow.

Released December 22nd, playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville/VIP.

Here’s a classic case of sequels gone bad. Its devoid of all the spunky characters and refreshing zeal from the first two films. The newest Pitch Perfect is a strange mix of Disney channel plot and girly heist film (a la Rough Night). Anna Kendrick’s lead as Becca and the vocal talent is just as enjoyable and crisp as before. But even the 90 minute run time drags with only four musical numbers and a zillion minor subplots.




2 out of 4 stars

14A, 2hrs 15mins. Sci-Fi Comedy Drama Epic.

Starring Matt Damon, Hong Chau, Christoph Waltz and Kristin Wiig.

Released December 22nd, playing at Winston Churchill and Oakville/VIP.

Director Alexander Payne (of recent hits The Descendants and Nebraska) creates 2017’s quirkiest film. The quirky story is of a near future with an interesting way to solve overpopulation. That answer? People are undergoing a medical procedure that shrinks them to five inches tall.

Charming humour and a dazzling debut from Hong Chau as a saintly friend to hero Paul (Matt Damon) are its best parts. But the sluggish pacing and switching tones and genres over two hours prevent the movie from being truly great.



Darkest Hour

3 1/2 out of 4 stars

PG, 2hrs 6mins. War Biopic Drama.

Starring Gary Oldman, Lily James, Stephan Dillane, Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Released December 8th, Expanded Dec. 22nd, playing at Winston Churchill.

A chronicle of Winston Churchill’s (a surefire Oscar performance from Gary Oldman) first month as prime minister in May 1940. His struggle to command leadership in the United Kingdom is a fiercely funny and stirring story in the loom of early WWII.

The cast is dynamic and transformative from Oldman to Lily James’ Secretary Layton and Ben Mendelsohn’s King George VI. Its compelling intensity doesn’t fully inspire until about halfway through, but its majestic stakes only get richer and deeper.



Father Figures

1/2 out of 4 stars

14A, 1hr 53mins. Comedy.

Starring Owen Wilson, Ed Helms and Glenn Close.

Released December 22nd, playing at Winston Churchill, and Oakville/VIP.

Vulgar, unfunny, and destructively masculine. All chemistry is missing from Wilson and Helms, playing adult twin brothers in search of their biological father. None of their shallow super-Dads inspire truly humorous scenes or meaningful lessons. Father Figures is the perfect capstone to a devastating year for R-rated comedies. It’s the season's worst film and among the worst of 2017.



All the Money in the World

2 1/2 out of 4 stars

14A, 2hrs 13mins. History Crime Drama.

Starring Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg and Christopher Plummer.

Released December 25th, playing at Winston Churchill and Oakville/VIP.

The grandiose new film from Ridley Scott is perhaps best known for its recent recasting of Kevin Spacey to Mr. Plummer, even after the movie was finished. Inspired by the true story of John Paul Getty III’s kidnapping, the new product is better acted than conceived. But the reshoots with Plummer as oil baron Getty I don’t just fit seamlessly - they’re the best in the film.

My other recommendations include earlier December releases The Disaster Artist and the inescapable Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The two biggest blunders to avoid are Daddy’s Home 2 (yes, it’s still playing!) and The Greatest Showman.

There are also two releases from November still playing, Coco and Lady Bird, which are among the year’s absolute best. They are still the best movies currently in theatres.