Many filmmakers have spent decades examining the meaning of life and the state of existence, but we don’t often get the chance to explore the idea of existence after life. True, films like “Ghost” and whatnot have taken a more dramatic idea toward existence after existence, but what if the after life is nothing? What if there is no darkness or hell or heaven? What if there is simply the essence of what we once we lingering on and on after we reach some kind of conclusion and then cease to be for all eternity? Much of what David Lowery wants us to focus on is only important within the context of where the ghost of our protagonist is and what he chooses to focus on. A lot of M’s life is left for the character within the narrative to deal with and to hold on to, all the while Lowery focuses on the now.
I think one of the many reasons why “Silent Night, Deadly Night” has remained a cult classic is because it’s anything but a simple slasher film. While many movies in the eighties were content with maybe just a movie about a hacking and slashing Santa, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” is memorable for being so insane. It’s a wacky, weird, mean spirited and demented horror movie with hints of dark comedy sprinkled in. The tonal inconsistencies and almost rapid fire highs and lows of the narrative make it such a horror oddity that you can’t help but love it. There are just about five movies in one, and all of them are pretty entertaining in their own right.
Hell, Linnea Quigley even appears for a moment because—the eighties…?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
What “The Shape of Water” ultimately amounts to is Guillermo Del Toro’s own adoration for monster and romance cinema. Del Toro constantly evokes shades of “The Creature Walks Among Us,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” while also channeling Woody Allen’s “Purple Rose of Cairo.” Much like the latter, “The Shape of Water” depicts a somewhat whimsical romance in a world filled with misery and darkness at every corner. Del Toro has a lot to say about the ugliness of humanity and the ideas of what monsters truly are in this world and others.
If you loved the out there nature of “WolfCop,” you’ll be happy to know that director Dean Lowell rewards fans for their long wait for a sequel with “Another WolfCop,” a sequel that is so far out there, it’s surreal at times. Director and writer Lowell channels a lot of classic films once again, centering on our vigilante WolfCop as he protects his small town in the most violent methods, all the while concocting a premise involving the furry vigilante that feels like an amalgam of “Halloween III,” “V,” and “Howling II,” if you can believe it. That’s not where the wheel stops spinning though, as director Lowell deals his furry crime fighter a new villain that is beyond anything he’s ever experienced.