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Staff & contributors

Of all the Christmas-set films to have come out over the last couple of months that were, inexplicably, about grief and regret (you'd be surprised by how many there are), The Holdovers easily outdoes its contemporaries by being confident enough to just sit with its characters. Like the best of director Alexander Payne's other films, there are no melodramatic crescendos or overcomplicated metaphors; there are only flawed individuals going about their lives, occasionally noticing the things that bind them together. Payne's gentle touch means the characters (and the audience) aren't forced to "solve" their grief, but allowed to come to terms with it in their own way, with each other.

Payne evokes the film's 1970s setting through a muted color palette and analog—almost tactile—sound design, giving warmth to this New England despite all its snow and chilly interiors. It's understandable that these characters are similarly cold to each other on the surface at first, but they manage to thaw the ice simply by taking the chance to listen to each other's pain. It's the kind of film in which relationships develop so gradually, that you hardly notice until the end how much mutual respect has formed between them when they return from their dark nights of the soul back to their status quo.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexander Cook, Andrew Garman, Bill Mootos, Brady Hepner, Carrie Preston, Carter Shimp, Cole Tristan Murphy, Colleen Clinton, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dakota Lustick, Dan Aid, Darby Lee-Stack, David J. Curtis, Dominic Sessa, Dustin Tucker, Gillian Vigman, Ian Dolley, Ian Lyons, Jim Kaplan, Joe Howell, Jonathan von Mering, Kelly AuCoin, Kevin Daigneault, Kevin Fennessy, Melissa McMeekin, Michael Malvesti, Michael Provost, Naheem Garcia, Oscar Wahlberg, Osmani Rodriguez, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Paul Giamatti, Rena Maliszewski, Stephen Thorne, Tate Donovan

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

You’ll recognize more than a few faces in Uncle Frank. There are no mega-stars but the caliber of acting in this 70s story is truly impressive.

Beth is an 18-year-old in rural South Carolina who grew up admiring the family member she could relate to the most: her uncle, a college professor living in New York.

When she finishes high-school, she makes the move to the city her beloved uncle told her so much about. Once there, she discovers that he has been living a double life which he kept a secret from the family.

This is the perfect holiday movie for those looking for a story that’s not about the actual holidays. It’s sweet, often funny, and packs a heartfelt and genuine story without being too predictable.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Banks Repeta, Britt Rentschler, Burgess Jenkins, Caity Brewer, Christopher Speed, Cole Doman, Colton Ryan, Hannah Black, Jane McNeill, Judy Greer, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale, Michael Banks Repeta, Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, Sophia Lillis, Stephen Root, Steve Zahn

Director: Alan Ball

Rating: R

With phone scams becoming more elaborate, it’s easy to understand and empathize with the wrath Jason Statham as The Beekeeper has when his elderly friend gets drained out of her entire life savings. It’s thrilling to see him punch his way into the scammers’ headquarters and burn the whole place to the ground. And when director David Ayer uses his extra hour to dial up the low stakes tech scheme into a nationwide scandal that implicates the entire U.S. government, it’s ludicrous, sure, but it’s somehow wildly entertaining. That being said, your mileage of the film highly depends on your tolerance for randomly dropped bee facts and silly bee puns, but The Beekeeper isn’t a terrible choice to watch.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Adam Basil, Arian Nik, Bharat Mistri, Bobby Naderi, Dan Li, David Witts, Derek Siow, Don Gilet, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Enzo Cilenti, Georgia Goodman, Jason Statham, Jay Rincon, Jemma Redgrave, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Cohen, Josh Hutcherson, Kevin Golding, Kojo Attah, Martin Gordon, Megan Le, Michael Epp, Minnie Driver, Peter Brooke, Phil Hodges, Phylicia Rashād, Rebecca Hazlewood, Reza Diako, Rocci Williams, Sophia Feliciano, Sunny Dhillon, Taylor James, Valentina Novakovic

Director: David Ayer

Rating: R

For almost the entirety of its runtime, Old Dads feels like it has something it's desperately trying to prove. But while the millennial generation and a newfound popular interest in political correctness are ripe for satire, this film chooses the lowest hanging fruit possible to make jokes about—inventing one senseless situation after another in order to laugh at people's "sensitivity" with little energy or wit. The main cast has tried and tested talent, but the material they're working with feels more artificial and whiny than truly perceptive of today's generational clashes. The movie tries to manufacture some sort of dramatic realization by the end, but it hardly changes the protagonists anyway. A film need not be PC to be good, of course, but it should at least stand for something instead of simply standing against so much.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abbie Cobb, Angela Gulner, Bill Burr, Bobby Cannavale, Bokeem Woodbine, Bruce Dern, C. Thomas Howell, Cameron Kelly, Carl Tart, Chelsea Marie Davis, Cody Renee Cameron, Dash McCloud, Erin Wu, Jackie Tohn, Josh Brener, Justene Alpert, Justin Miles, Katie Aselton, Katrina Bowden, Leland Heflin, Miles Robbins, Natasha Leggero, Paul Walter Hauser, Rachael Harris, Reign Edwards, Rick Glassman, Rory Scovel, Steph Tolev, Tom Allen

Director: Bill Burr

Rating: R