HBO’s Friends: The Reunion

As someone who watched Friends casually, in the background, when it was on cable in my kid and teenage years, tuned in absentmindedly but never became and active, engaged fan of the series, I have to say that Friends: The Reunion is kind of brilliant and can be greatly enjoyed by someone who isn’t quite a hardcore disciple of the show itself. Friends is a lynchpin sitcom that meant and still means a lot to a lot of people who fell in love with these characters, watched every week and got swept up in the cultural phenomenon of a sitcom that became a way of life. So, what made this such a hit for someone like me who isn’t a super fan? It’s the way they go about this reunion, that being the key word. This isn’t a reboot, continuing season, cap-off feature film, animated series or otherwise fictional addition to the canon, it’s simply a loving documentation of these six actors having a catch-up, an emotional, totally unscripted trip down memory lane on detailed recreations of the sets they lived, worked and made core memories of for decades and I think the format here is kind of a stroke of genius, really, and that employed just right for any show’s reunion will be a showstopper. Jennifer Aniston, Matt Leblanc, Courtney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry and eternally lovely Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe was always my personal favourite character) have come such a long way since Friends, their lives are very different now but watching them get together in the same sacred space where they changed the history of television feels like they never left their evening cable slot and really just brought me back to former times in my life when I’d get home and watch Friends, That 70’s Show and others all in a giddy lineup. This reunion spends a reverent opening segment just letting these actors play, rediscover their characters and touchstone areas of the set that hold significance to them while clips from the show are spliced in in parallel fashion. There’s also a more formal, organized part where they sit and discuss various things by that iconic fountain and yes this sequence is hosted by that James Corden dude and yes he’s annoying as ever but oh well. There are some shocking celebrity cameos that no doubt come from a place of love as they’re mostly people who would have themselves grown up with the show but I much preferred video testimonials from fans all over the world who give their thoughts and feelings on why the show was so important and what it means to them personally. Say what you want about Friends, I know it’s become one of those things that it’s just cool to hate on (never a good look, honey) but there’s no denying the fact that it pioneered a subculture of television and pop culture, and did a lot of good for a lot of people who may not have had much else in their lives to hang onto at the time. This reunion is a loving testament to that, a life affirming, blessedly nostalgic and just plain happy look back for six actors whose careers were defined by it.

-Nate Hill

HBO’s Friends: The Reunion

As someone who watched Friends casually, in the background, when it was on cable in my kid and teenage years, tuned in absentmindedly but never became and active, engaged fan of the series, I have to say that Friends: The Reunion is kind of brilliant and can be greatly enjoyed by someone who isn’t quite a hardcore disciple of the show itself. Friends is a lynchpin sitcom that meant and still means a lot to a lot of people who fell in love with these characters, watched every week and got swept up in the cultural phenomenon of a sitcom that became a way of life. So, what made this such a hit for someone like me who isn’t a super fan? It’s the way they go about this reunion, that being the key word. This isn’t a reboot, continuing season, cap-off feature film, animated series or otherwise fictional addition to the canon, it’s simply a loving documentation of these six actors having a catch-up, an emotional, totally unscripted trip down memory lane on detailed recreations of the sets they lived, worked and made core memories of for decades and I think the format here is kind of a stroke of genius, really, and that employed just right for any show’s reunion will be a showstopper. Jennifer Aniston, Matt Leblanc, Courtney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry and eternally lovely Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe was always my personal favourite character) have come such a long way since Friends, their lives are very different now but watching them get together in the same sacred space where they changed the history of television feels like they never left their evening cable slot and really just brought me back to former times in my life when I’d get home and watch Friends, That 70’s Show and others all in a giddy lineup. This reunion spends a reverent opening segment just letting these actors play, rediscover their characters and touchstone areas of the set that hold significance to them while clips from the show are spliced in in parallel fashion. There’s also a more formal, organized part where they sit and discuss various things by that iconic fountain and yes this sequence is hosted by that James Corden dude and yes he’s annoying as ever but oh well. There are some shocking celebrity cameos that no doubt come from a place of love as they’re mostly people who would have themselves grown up with the show but I much preferred video testimonials from fans all over the world who give their thoughts and feelings on why the show was so important and what it means to them personally. Say what you want about Friends, I know it’s become one of those things that it’s just cool to hate on (never a good look, honey) but there’s no denying the fact that it pioneered a subculture of television and pop culture, and did a lot of good for a lot of people who may not have had much else in their lives to hang onto at the time. This reunion is a loving testament to that, a life affirming, blessedly nostalgic and just plain happy look back for six actors whose careers were defined by it.

-Nate Hill

Office Christmas Party

There’s something about a bitchy Jennifer Aniston telling an eight year old girl to fuck off in an airport lounge that puts me in the Christmas spirit. She also fake calls Santa on her cell and tells him to put her on the naughty list. Such is the stuff of Office Christmas Party, one of those improv heavy, uber raunchy, disposable comedies with a disposable title and a whole host of ‘flavour of the month’ standup talent that despite itself, actually turns out pretty great. Aniston and TJ Miller play rival siblings who squabble over the corporate syndicate they’ve inherited, he wants to have an epic, balls out holiday fiesta and she won’t have any of it. The party does happen, complete with hookers, blow shot through a snow machine, rampant destruction of corporate property, ice sculpture penises and more. And.. that’s the plot, but what more could you ask for in a flick called Office Christmas Party. Jason Bateman plays yet another beta dude who sort of hovers on the cusp of being an alpha, he could probably do the shtick in his sleep by now but is charming enough. Mad Max’s Abby Lee is a persnickety escort, Jillian Bell her pimp with major anger issues, Randall Park another office drone with a kinky fetish, while Olivia Munn and Rob Cordry run about as well. Courtney B. Vance doesn’t so much run as dangerously swing on a Christmas light Tarzan rope when he’s given a Santa sized dose of blow by accident, and Kate McKinnon plays hilariously against type as the prudish HR manager. The film doesn’t have much to say other than ‘lets gets fucked up into oblivion’ (who can argue that this time of year), plus a vague underdog subplot that’s lobbed in and a few notes about taking a stand to save the company from going under, a prospect that Aniston’s cunty pessimist readily embraces. Most of it is just wanton debauchery though, which is what these comedies do best. I enjoyed Fortune Feimster as an Uber driver with some trouble reading social cues, McKinnon scaring the shit out of Vance with by singing a German nursery rhyme out of nowhere and other funny bits. It has that distinctly self aware vibe that R rated comedies often do these days, following the genre pioneering trickle down effect of Seth Rogen and others, which can work or can run amok and feel straight up dumb sometimes. Here it’s a loosely plotted throwaway flick about a party anyways, so it works great and the film is highly enjoyable.

-Nate Hill