“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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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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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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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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The Shape of Water (2017)

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.

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) [Blu-Ray/DVD]

What a lot of horror directors fail to understand about filmmaking is that sometimes what we don’t see can be more terrifying than what we can. That’s why Robert Wise’s “The Haunting” is still so impeccably terrifying, while the remake is such a lemon. There’s no room for imagination or perhaps the concept that what is menacing these characters is too horrendous for our minds to comprehend. The main reason why “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is so incredible is because director André Ovredal is brilliant about restraint and time and time again introduces us to a villain who remains a specter in our imagination. “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” genuinely spooked me, and that’s because director André Ovredal combines all the strongest elements of a horror tale and creates one of the most unlikely horror villains of all time.

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Dalida (2016)

Dalida tells the story of the Italian-Egyptian singer who made her life in France and was, and still is, hugely popular in French-speaking countries and other parts of the world. She was and still is a musical icon who became almost mythological after her suicide in 1987. For the unfamiliar, Dalida was and probably still is as big of an icon to some as Cher and Madonna are in the US.

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Misery (1990): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

It’s been a banner year for Stephen King fans everywhere, and Shout Factory sweetens the pot by giving Rob Reiner’s horror masterpiece “Misery” a collector’s edition. Based on the classic Stephen King novel, Rob Reiner who is no stranger to adapting King’s work, brings to screen a work of terror, dark comedy, and a demented commentary about the fans behind our work that also control our work. It’s a very volatile and sharp edged polemic about fandom when you get right down to it, and it’s never been more relevant than in the day and age where fandoms from all corners of the world have the loudest voices and sometimes can break the very thing they love.

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