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‘Violent Night’ Review: David Harbour Stars in Your Basic, Everyday Heist Meets Bloody Action Santa Meets ‘Home Alone’ Christmas Thriller

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The now-ancient joke about the kind of pitches that movie executives respond to (“It’s ‘Avengers 2’…meets ‘Glass Onion’!”) is really about what the audience responds to. We’re the ones who like our special-sauce tacos stuffed inside a bacon burger topped with a bun made of pizza. And “Violent Night” is a movie that takes the oversize appetite of the audience very seriously. The title might lead you to expect a holiday horror film, with Santa as a mad slasher ­— but, you know, we’ve been there, eaten that. In “Violent Night,” David Harbour, that jovially quirky actor from “Stranger Things” and the 2019 “Hellboy” reboot, does in fact play a dissolute Santa who cruises through Christmas on a bender of holiday cookies and random alcohol, peeing and puking off the side of his sleigh — but in movies like “Bad Santa,” we’ve tasted that fast-food combo, too.

To wake up the jaded taste buds of today’s holiday movie audience, you need a piece of entertainment that’s truly going to combine flavors. So consider this: a comedy about a filthy-rich family whose members can’t stand each other but gather anyway, on Christmas Eve, at the Greenwich, Conn., mansion of their misanthropic matriarch, Gertrude Lightstone (Beverly D’Angelo), for a little forced holiday cheer. Before the festivities have begun, they’re set upon by a ruthless team of home invaders led by a psycho who calls himself Scrooge (John Leguizamo). He sets the tone with a hearty “Bah humbug, motherfucker!,” and the foul-mouthed Yuletide spirits escalate from there.

Scrooge, who’s been casing the joint for months, knows that there’s $300 million hidden in the vault below, and he has arranged it so that everyone — catering staff, security agents — is secretly working for him. What he wasn’t counting on is Santa Claus, who’s making his yearly Christmas pitstop. Santa is a bit of a Scrooge himself: a drunk and a curmudgeon who can’t get over what consumerist zombies today’s kids have become. But he’s also got special powers. Do I mean his ability to glide, with a twinkling twitch of his nose, up and down chimneys? Or the golden digital scrolls he unfurls with a list of what each kid has done that’s naughty or nice? Certainly all that.

Mostly, though, this Santa is a weapon-welding badass. He’s many centuries old and started off, in vintage Kris Kringle fashion, as some sort of earthy Scandinavian Viking warrior. Now he’s like a member of the Expendables, dispatching enemies with old-school brutality. When he grabs a sledgehammer, he becomes a death-wish version of Thor. But since “Violent Night” is a Christmas movie, it’s all in good fun! Especially when Trudy (Leah Brady), the 7-year-old daughter of Jason (Alex Hassell), the only honorable member of the Lightstone clan, goes “Home Alone” medieval on the asses of the home invaders. Ladders are booby-trapped so throats get pierced with nails; heads are scalped; the pain gets brought. As someone in a film like this might put it: That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Or maybe I should just say: Have yourself a bloody little gonzo action Christmas.  

Over the last week, everyone in entertainment media, including me, has churned out hand-wringing articles about how the acclaimed awards films are all fizzling at the box office. One after another, “Tár,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “She Said,” “Triangle of Sadness,” and “Till” are all crawling their way to a gross of maybe $10 million. (“The Fabelmans,” with a more high-profile pedigree, will probably crawl its way to $20 million.) We know that this is the age of Marvel, so “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the triumphant counterexample. But even in 2022, people don’t just go to Marvel movies. One of the things that’s defeated adult moviegoing is the insatiable hunger for unabashed junk food like “Violent Night.” The movie has no comic-book hook; it’s a trash-compactor genre buffet that smashes together a dozen things you’ve seen before. But that’s the hook. “Violent Night” is amusing in a few spots, wearying in more than a few others, but to complain about it in the way that I’m doing is to come off as churlish. It’s a movie that feeds the beast.

David Harbour gives off of a ping of likability, and that makes him the right actor to play a down-in-the-dumps, vengeance-is-mine Santa who is really, beneath his bloody mottled gray curls, the Christmas mensch we want him to be. John Leguizamo, as always, refuses to phone anything in; as Scrooge the sociopath who hates Christmas, he makes every obscenity pop. Beverly D’Angelo, Edi Patterson, and Cam Gigandet play the rest of the Lightstone clan as walking high-camp horrors, and Alexis Louder, as Jason’s estranged wife, lends a lone note of stubborn sanity to the proceedings. “Violent Night,” with its action-thriller soundtrack built around themes from classic Christmas songs, is a movie that makes you think: What’s next, “Massacre on 34th St.”? Christmas movies, like all Hollywood pulp, build on one another, and maybe this is just one more age-of-nothing-sacred holiday mish-mash, but “Violent Night,” depending on how it performs, could open the door to a new kind of down-and-dirty Christmas/action hybrid. Just imagine hearing lines like “God bless us — every one, motherfucker!” The possibilities are endless.



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Director Jafar Panahi Anxiously Awaits Iranian Court Ruling on His Release From Jail

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A ruling on Jafar Panahi’s release from Tehran’s Evin prison is deemed imminent now that Iran’s supreme court has overturned the conviction that led to the incarceration last year of the auteur who is considered one of Iranian cinema’s greatest living masters.

Panahi’s wife, Tahereh Saeedi, has launched an appeal on Instagram stating that his lawyers have managed to successfully overturn the six-year sentence issued against the director in 2010 for “propaganda against the system.” That sentence has become obsolete due to the country’s 10-year statute of limitations. Panahi’s case has now been sent to an Iranian court of appeals.

“Last week we were informed that Jafar will be out in a week,” Saeedi said in the appeal posted on Instagram this week. However, “a week passed by and Jafar is still not with us,” she went on to lament.

Panahi’s lawyer, Saleh Nikhbakht, told French news agency AFP that under Iranian law, “he should immediately be released on bail and his case reviewed again.” But the directors’ wife and others in Iran’s film community fear that Iranian security forces will manage to force the judiciary to keep him behind bars.

“The liberation of Jafar is in total accordance of their own laws,” Saeedi pointed out in the appeal. “But they [Iranian authorities] are above the law; without any respect for the law,” she said.

Panahi, 62, is known globally for prizewinning works such as “The Circle,” “Offside,” “This is Not a Film,” “Taxi,” and most recently “No Bears,” winner of last year’s Venice’s Special Jury Prize. He was arrested last July in Tehran in the wake of the country’s conservative government crackdown. Panahi had been there to visit Tehran’s prosecutor’s office to follow up on the situation of fellow dissident filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulov, who had been incarcerated a few days earlier after signing an appeal against police violence.

On Jan. 7, Rasoulov was granted a two-week release permit for health reasons, his lawyer told AFP. Panahi’s lawyer also said that Panahi, during his detention in Tehran’s Evin prison for political prisoners, has contracted a skin disease which requires treatment in a hospital outside the jail.

Rasoulov and Panahi’s imprisonment took place before the wave of protests sparked in September by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was held in custody for allegedly wearing a loose hijab. Those protests have caused more than 500 civilians to be killed by government security forces and more than 100 members of the Iranian film industry to be arrested or banned from making movies.

On Jan. 4, Iranian authorities released Taraneh Alidoosti, the star of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning film “The Salesman,” almost three weeks after she was jailed for criticizing a crackdown on the anti-government protests.



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Archer Star Reacts To Live-Action Jon Hamm Movie Fancasting

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Exclusive: Archer voice actor Chris Parnell reacts to Jon Hamm’s fan-casting as the eponymous main character in a live-action film adaptation.


Chris Parnell, who voices Cyril Figgis on the long-running animated sitcom Archer, gives his thoughts on Jon Hamm’s fan-casting as the secret agent Sterling Archer in a possible live-action film adaptation. Archer follows the narcissistic and clever eponymous main character and parodies espionage while also making commentary on culture, society, and the human condition. The show, which debuted in 2009 and is still running, has received wide critical acclaim and has even racked up four Primetime Emmy Awards during its run. But like many animated shows, there has been a discussion about what a potential live-action Archer movie may look like and its cast.

SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

In an exclusive interview with Screen Rant‘s Grant Hermanns, Parnell discussed the possibility of an Archer movie and whether he thought it would be better to remain in the animated format or adapt a live-action feature film. Parnell, who also revealed that production for Archer season 14 is already underway, said that he didn’t expect himself and the rest of the voice cast to necessarily be able to play their respective characters in a live-action format. He also commented on the possibility of casting Jon Hamm in the live-action role of Archer for the prospective movie. Check out Parnell’s full quote below:

“I’d love it if it happened, especially if I was involved with it. If it happens, that would be very cool. But, I don’t know that there’s an assurance that any of us would get to play our actual characters. I think, if anything, it might be more likely to have an animated movie version of the show, but I’m open to whatever. I don’t know that you’re gonna get too many actors who want to have their voices dubbed in English. [Chuckles] He is a fun guy, he’s a good guy. I don’t know how he’d feel about that. I can’t speak for Jon, but I think he would probably feel like he could bring enough of Jon’s style to the live-action version that that wouldn’t be necessary, but you can also put a wig on Jon and dapper him up. [Laughs]”


Will An Archer Movie Happen?

Archer holds his pistol from Archer

The idea of an Archer movie adaptation has been floating around for some time now. Executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis stated back in 2016 that a discussion between the producers and Archer creator and writer Adam Reed about a movie happens once every couple of years. Back then, the producers said that in a perfect world, Hamm would be the actor to play Archer if the film ended up being a live-action project. Reed also supported that Hamm would also be his choice while revealing that a lot of Archer‘s production and costume design was influenced by the look of Hamm’s show Mad Men.

Should An Archer Movie Stay Animated Or Live-Action?

Lana and Archer in Archer Season 13 wearing their parachute gear

If the movie does get made, the big question is whether the producers would be better off sticking with their tried and true animated format or taking a risk to make it a live-action production. Any plot for the film adaptation of the super spy animated show would also have to work without Archer’s mother and spy agency head Mallory Archer. After Mallory voice actor Jessica Walter passed away in 2021, her character was written out of the show during season 13, with the egotistical Sterling having to take the reins of the agency and lead the way.

While live-action films generally rake in more money, the action-packed high jinks of a Sterling Archer story would likely be expensive to bring to life in live-action. H. Jon Benjamin, who voices Sterling on the show, said in 2022 that he was interested in participating in a feature film adaptation, citing the success of the recent Bob’s Burgers movie – a series where he also lends his voice to the main character. Benjamin’s voice is synonymous with Archer, so it would be tough to envision the character without him. But as Archer‘s Benjamin himself admits, the voice actor doesn’t quite match up with the animated character’s looks. If an Archer movie does come to fruition, difficult choices will have to be made regarding its casting and the live-action vs. animated format.

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‘Girl’ Review: Luminous Visuals Buoy a Heartsore Portrait of Immigrant Unrest

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It’s five years since Theresa May, then the United Kingdom’s first prime minister of the Brexit era, coined the term “citizen of nowhere” to denigrate residents of the country who identified themselves more globally. Those three words swiftly became a media catchphrase to encapsulate the Conservative government’s apparent hostility toward immigrants; liberal-minded multinationals adopted the […]

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