“The Family Stone” is a Personal Christmas Favorite

Thomas Bezucha’s “The Family Stone” is that movie that takes from “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and in many ways feels like a tribute to that very film. It’s still about acceptance and coming to terms with growing up, in the end. Except rather than the central theme being acceptance of race, the subtext revolves around a liberal brood accepting a conservative opposite as one of their own. It’s a rich, touching, sometimes painful look at the highs and lows of family, challenging our own perceptions, and dealing with an impending loss. The question that lingers in “The Family Stone” is not whether the matriarch of their very tight knit middle class brood can survive breast cancer, but whether the family can survive losing her.

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The Bootleg Files – Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music

BOOTLEG FILES 616: “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music” (filmed version of award-winning 1981 Broadway show).

LAST SEEN: It is on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: A VHS release in 1984.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Most likely due to music rights clearance issues.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: It’s possible.

In March 1980, Lena Horne announced that she would be retiring from show business. That did not last very long. In May 1981, she was back in what became the crowning commercial achievement of her long and often tumultuous career: the Broadway production “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.” The show ran for 333 performances, earned Horne a special Tony Award, then successfully toured North America and played in the West End to standing ovations.

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The Colgate Comedy Hour: Abbott & Costello – The Christmas Show (1952)

Originally airing on December 14, 1952 for the Colgate Comedy Hour, Abbott and Costello get to celebrate Christmas with the viewing audience and have a raucous time doing so. As with all Abbott and Costello comedy, the show moves at a rapid fire pace with consummate professionals Bud Abbott and Lou Costello having an impossible time staying still and taking a breather. Despite some segues here and there which were very typical of variety shows in the height of their popularity (there’s a wonderful dance routine by the Nicholas Brothers). Lou Costello is brilliant at reaction shots and double takes, and Bud Abbot is a wonderful straight man and foil. Also like skilled comedians, they make the best out of flubs.

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

If there’s only one person who could have played Mildred Hayes, it’s Frances McDormand. McDormand is enormous in the role of Mildred Hayes, a flawed but fierce protagonist who is so rock solid, but shattered underneath what she eventually reveals to be a pure façade. One of the greatest moments in McDormand’s turn is the moment when she battles to save her trio of billboards as they inexplicably go up in flames. The battle is futile, but to her it’s everything. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a poetic, and occasionally darkly funny film about revenge, as well as the fallout and the ripple effect that reactionary anger to tragedy can have. Much of Mildred Hayes’ life since we met her has been spent with a lot of anger and fury, and she’s been kept awake by the nagging notion that she may never get resolution on one horrendous period of her life.

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The Post (2017)

Steven Spielberg’s latest bad movie attempts to recapture the emotional drama surrounding the 1971 publication of the Pentagon Papers. One might imagine that the film would highlight the challenges and consequences faced by Daniel Ellsberg in ferrying the documents out of the realm of government classified restrictions, or the efforts of the New York Times in bringing these astonishing documents to the public. Instead, the crux of the film is curiously focused on the Washington Post, which was late to reporting the story but wound up picking up the publication of the Pentagon Papers’ contents after the Nixon White House threw temporary legal obstacles in the Times’ path.

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Fast Convoy (Le Convoi) (2016)

A convoy carrying drug to Spain hits a few issues on the road and must make due with what they can.

Written by Yann Brion and Frédéric Schoendoerffer and directed by the latter, Fast Convoy is a road movie and a drug movie while it also kinda feels like a heist movie in that these guys, in multiple cars, are basically trying to make it to a destination with illicit merchandize.  The film is rather character-based with each character traveling with a co-pilot and taking orders from an unseen man.  The story builds around them as they drive.  While the title is a bit misleading, the film does have a few car-chase-ish scenes which have occasional nods to different car films and may or may not be influenced by the Luc Besson way of shooting cars on the road (low to the ground, front car pov).  The car stuff is really one of the main appeals to this film and the scenes are well done and shot.

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Danger Boys: Punks in Osaka

Nick Romi is one of the most exciting new talents in today’s independent film scene. On this episode, we highlight his new feature documentary, “Danger Boys: Punks in Osaka,” and learn about the challenges of shooting this Japanese-based nonfiction music production.

The episode can be heard here.

“The Online Movie Show” is produced at the Platinum Wolfe Studios.

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Like most of Greg McLean’s films, “The Belko Experiment” is just a big excuse to be as sadistic and inexplicably cruel as humanly possible, while taking pages from Koushun Takami’s “Battle Royale.” Coincidentally, another film in the same vein as “The Belko Experiment” came to theaters in 2017, in the form of Joe Lynch’s “Mayhem,” and while both films are insanely violent, at least the latter film had something to say about office culture and corporate politics. There’s a certain point in “The Belko Experiment” where it’s clear that McLean and writer James Gunn have no commentary on office culture and are by no means exploring the idea of fighting for a job through over the top violence, clearly just going for cruel unnecessary violence.

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