I was first introduced to “The Simpsons” on December 17th, 1989 at the age of six, when I spent all day with my dad and brother visiting my grandparents for the Christmas season. After arriving in the evening to my aunt’s house, my dad ensured we’d be there a while and I sat down with my big cousin to watch “The Simpsons” special “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” Little did I know this simple yellow skinned family of underdogs and losers would become one of the biggest comedic and creative influences of my life. It’s a show that’s stuck with me well in to my thirties, and it all started “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”
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.
2017 will go down as a truly banner year for the horror community. We had great highs and massive lows. It was also the year of Stephen King where we celebrated genuinely brilliant adaptations like “It,” but bowed our heads in shame at the TV adaptations of “The Mist.” Good god that was terrible. I digress. We lost a ton of horror greats, and a good portion of horror hit makers spent a lot of time trying to convince the public that their films were not horror.
And who can forget the infamous “Post-Horror” crap? One of the bigger news headlines in the horror world that sent 2017 out with a bang has been the news that effective January 1st 2018, Chiller TV is shutting down.
Since we’re all slowly and inexorably heading into the last day of the month of October, I’ve gotten to thinking about the perfect film to watch on Halloween. The sort of film where, to properly experience it, you have to turn off all the lights in your living room and surround yourself with friends or family, put a huge bowl of freshly made popcorn on the table to get that smell of hot butter in the air, and then cower together to scream and laugh while lit only by the glow of the television. We’ve all done it at least once, and it’s always fun, but it can be unforgettable if you pick just the exact right thing to watch.
This, in turn, got me to thinking about John Carpenter. Because, as you all remember, he just happened to make a little obscure flick called “Halloween”. Which, coincidentally, is why my own personal recommendation for the perfect film to watch on Halloween is “The Fog.”
After the Satanic Panic of the seventies and eighties, witches became a shockingly more popular aspect of pop culture and were more generally accepted. It’s almost inexplicable how and why witches suddenly became so prevalent in pop culture, but the nineties were all about the mythical figure and all kinds of TV shows tackled the trend in one way or another. Along with shows capitalizing on the trend, there were also a myriad shows and movies that pretty much centered on the witches trend. Before America paralyzed itself with ideas that witchcraft and paganism were ideas meant to destroy Christianity, the ideas of witches were always more family friendly or sought to appeal to the horror fan base.
The story of Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is about as classic a tale and about as old a tale as most other movies in development. Whedon had a vision for a new take on a horror story and Hollywood didn’t get it and kind of fucked it up. Everyone by now knows the tale of 1992’s “Buffy,” and how Joss Whedon initially wanted to make something of a darker more stern take on the vampire hunter that minced a coming of age tale with a story of a young woman coming to maturity. When Whedon was given the chance to finally bring his film in to development he kind of lost control of his creation.
It’s tough to find someone like Elvira who can squeeze in so many double entendres in to only a half hour of comedy. “The Elvira Show” was essentially like the movie from the late eighties, but extended in to a sitcom setting. It was “Bewitched” meets “Sabrina” meets “Married with Children” with Elvira dominating the screen as always with her sexuality and sharp delivery of one liners. There are so many great sexual puns squeezed in to the opening scenes of the pilot from replying to hunky officer Chip “I bet you can’t eat just one,” to explaining that she and her family will be like the Cleavers, with she, of course, being “The Beaver.”
It’s no surprise that, rather than a most established performer and actress like Scarlett Johannson or Christina Hendricks, director Steven Soderbergh sought out Sasha Grey for the lead role in “The Girlfriend Experience.” Grey had spent years making millions off building the fantasies of her male (and female) audience with dozens of notable porn movies, as well as building a humongous line of sex toys that promote fantasy fulfillment for an audience that want every piece of her. Much like Grey, “The Girlfriend Experience” is about the fantasy and the reality that we may not realize isn’t always enticing.