It’s beginning to look like a very busy Christmas this year movie wise.
Not only is Disney releasing “Soul,” Pixar’s latest animated feature, directly to Disney+ on December 25, but it also seems like they’re gonna have a little competition come Christmas morning.
In a move that took me completely off guard, last Wednesday Warner Bros. announced plans to release their next upcoming blockbuster, “Wonder Woman 1984,” directly to their streaming service HBO Max, while also opening in movie theaters the same day.
Even now, over eight months into this pandemic, it still surprises me when major, big budget films like this go straight to streaming.
With lockdowns going into effect across the country again, it certainly isn’t a great time to release any movies in theaters. Heck, as far as I know Regal Cinemas, one of the largest theater chains in the country, doesn’t have plans to reopen their locations anytime soon.
Still, I guess I just assumed “Wonder Woman 1984” would delay like so many other major films.
I guess the bean counters at WB decided going straight to streaming and increasing subscriptions to HBO Max made enough financial sense for them to pull the trigger.
Whatever the reason, it’s definitely good news for homebodies like me.
I’ll miss the experience of watching this film on a giant IMAX screen like I used to all those months ago, but it’ll be nice to be able to finally see it after waiting for so long.
I know I’ll happily be watching both “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Soul” come Christmas Day from the comfort of my bedroom.
But enough about upcoming films, there’s brand new movies to talk about.
This time around we have an odd Christmas film starring Mel Gibson about a young boy who hires an assassin to kill Santa Claus. This one definitely isn’t for the kids.
Plus, from the writer-director of “Searching” comes his next mystery-thriller about a wheelchair bound daughter and a mother with a dark secret.
So without any further ado, let’s get to the reviews.
First up is “Fatman.”
To save his declining holiday focused business, Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson), also known as Santa Claus, is forced into a partnership with the U.S. military to make ends meet.
Making matters worse, Chris gets locked into a deadly battle of wits against a highly skilled assassin (Walton Goggins), hired by a precocious 12-year-old (Chance Hurstfield), after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking.
Well, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a movie with this premise before.
If it wasn’t already clear from the description above, this is definitely not a Christmas film for children.
This movie features copious amounts of violence, a ridiculous amount of blood, and strong language. Plus, you know, someone in the film is trying to murder ol’ Saint Nick. Not exactly something you want to show your kids before tucking them in at night.
Honestly, the most fascinating thing about the film itself isn’t its ludicrous concept. It’s that it has this ludicrous concept while also playing it completely straight.
This movie takes itself seriously to a fault. There’s no winking at the camera, no poking fun at the insanity of everything going on, it’s just a serious movie about a spoiled brat who hires an assassin to kill Santa Claus.
Though the film bills itself as a comedy, there aren’t really any jokes or gags to speak of. The bulk of the humor comes from the sheer absurdity of everything that happens. Like from moment to moment, you can’t believe the things you’re seeing happen on screen.
Oddly, in a movie featuring Mel Gibson as a gun toting, whiskey drinking Santa Claus, he actually isn’t the most outlandish character in the film.
No, that honor goes to our professional assassin, played by Walton Goggins. It’s like this man took the famous General Mattis quote, “have a plan to kill everybody you meet,” and ran with it.
The body count Goggins racks up throughout the film is truly shocking. Nine times out of ten, if he interacts with someone in the film, he kills them. And if he doesn’t kill them, he leaves them mentally scarred for the rest of their life.
He’s just so casual about it too. Like murder to him is the equivalent of shaking hands.
Of course even cold blooded assassins need hobbies, and Goggins’s character is no exception. And considering the premises of the movie, his off-hours pastime does tie in rather nicely.
In the film, Goggins enjoys collecting toys built in Santa’s workshop. There’s no question of if Santa is real in this universe. It’s just taken as a given here. I suppose it helps when the man labels everything with a “Made in Santa’s Workshop” metal plaque on every toy he delivers.
This is just such a strange little film, I can’t help but admire its commitment to this insane concept.
It’s not what I would call a good movie, but I found it absolutely fascinating seeing it all unfold.
It definitely won’t be for everyone, or even most people I’d wager.
To many it’ll be flat out offensive, and as I mentioned in the beginning you certainly shouldn’t watch it anywhere near children.
But sadly, as far as R-rated holiday comedies go, this isn’t a terribly funny movie either.
It did make me laugh here and there, but most of the time I was just stunned speechless, shocked by what I had just witnessed. I think the laughter was largely just a nervous response to the insanity of it all.
Still, I think I did enjoy watching “Fatman” overall. In this case, I think experiencing a unique concept was entertaining on its own. I don’t imagine it would be enough for many people, but it was enough to keep my interest for a solid 100 minutes.
“Fatman” is rated R and is available to rent or purchase on video-on-demand.
The other movie this week is “Run.”
There’s something unnatural about the relationship between Chloe (Kiera Allen) and her mom, Diane (Sarah Paulson). Diane has raised her daughter in isolation, controlling every move since birth, and there are secrets that Chloe’s only starting to grasp.
Of all the mystery-thrillers I’ve seen over the past few years, very few have captivated me quite as much as the movies by writer-director Aneesh Chaganty.
Back in 2018, he released his first feature length film titled “Searching,” a movie about a man desperately looking for his missing teenage daughter. The twist? Everything that took place in the movie was shown inside a computer screen.
Naturally, Aneesh wasn’t the first to use this novel storytelling method. Unique ideas are pretty hard to come by these days. What he did do though was take that concept, and use it more effectively than anyone else before.
Not only was “Searching” fascinating due to it’s avant-garde technology bound presentation, it was also an engrossing experience from beginning to end, and ended up becoming one of my favorite films of 2018.
So naturally, the second I found out Aneesh was making another film, I knew I had to see what he had in store for audiences next.
This time, the new filmmaker has made something that on its surface appears much more conventional than his previous movie.
Even so, with this film Aneesh has proved to me that he doesn’t need an off-the-wall concept to craft a captivating experience. And it all starts with the characters.
Enter Chloe, a very smart and capable 17-year-old girl. Beyond being homeschooled, the only major thing that sets her apart from other young women her age is an absolutely wild assortment of medical issues due to a premature birth.
Her conditions include heart arrhythmia, asthma, and diabetes just to name a few, but the main thing that makes Chloe’s life the most difficult is the inability to move either of her legs.
All around, it’s a rough hand she’s been dealt, but she doesn’t let that keep her down.
In fact, one of the major things that struck me while watching the movie unfold was just how capable Chloe seemed while moving around in a wheelchair and going about her daily life.
Well, it turned out the actress who plays Chloe, Kiera Allen, is actually a wheelchair user herself and the producers behind this film actually went out of their way to cast a disabled actress, even though it probably would have been much easier not to.
According to Variety, this makes “Run” the first major thriller in 70 years to star a wheelchair user. The last movie to do so was supposedly 1948’s “The Sign of the Ram,” which I honestly can’t say I’ve heard of before now.
Kiera Allen’s presence certainly makes for a wonderful addition to this film.
While I’m not necessarily a stickler for casting actors solely based on the race, gender, sexual orientation, or physical attributes of the character they’re portraying, I do think it can add a certain amount of authenticity to the role as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of a good performance.
Luckily, Kiera not only checked the “wheelchair user” box this movie’s producers were looking for, she also manages to deliver a fantastic performance. One that instantly endeers us to her character and keeps anyone watching on edge as she goes through this harrowing experience.
Of course, her co-star, Sarah Paulson, also helps in that respect. One moment it seems like Sarah’s character, Diane, is like a fairly normal, if overly protective, loving mother. But as the movie goes on, her mere presence is enough to make your hair stand on end.
It’s such a contrast to the beginning of the film, where the filmmakers take their time to show just how good of a relationship Diane and Chloe have.
There’s such a wonderful attention to detail during the opening sequence of the film.
It not only sets up our two main characters and shows us their daily routine, but it also does a great job of exploring the location of their house and gives us a glimpse of the health complications Chloe is forced to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
It’s the editing and pacing that really makes the scene come together though. It’s just such a good opening montage. If only more movies could make everyday activities this interesting.
It’s not a completely perfect movie though, and I suppose if I did have a complaint about the film, it’d be with how they ended up showing the movie’s major twist.
I don’t want to spoil it, but the scene basically amounted to someone finding a stack of documents and news clippings, which just kind of struck me as lazy.
I know I’ve seen worse reveals, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed considering how captivating the rest of the film was. All that build-up, just for someone to find some old papers in the end that explain everything? I guess I was just hoping for more.
Still, that minor grievance doesn’t take away too much from the movie. “Run” is still an all around enthralling experience from beginning to end.
As far as I’m concerned, Aneesh Chaganty is two for two now. After this film and “Searching,” I cannot wait to see what this guy has next up his sleeve. If you’re someone who enjoys mystery-thrillers, he is definitely not someone to be ignored.
“Run” is rated PG-13 and is available to stream on Hulu.
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