For someone who understands the punk rock world so well, Alex Cox is very quick to tear the nostalgia shades off of the viewers to depict a meeting of two lovers that was so intense it resulted in an unfortunate murder. “Sid and Nancy” are often romanticized by music lovers even to this day, but Alex Cox who brought us the masterpiece “Repo Man,” looks behind the gloss, picturing two unbearable, but real individuals. Director Cox paints a brilliant picture of two people spiraling in to oblivion, with a remarkable drama that’s less a biopic and more a chronicle of two doomed lovers. Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen are a lot to drink in. From the moment we meet them, they’re loud, they’re parasitic and disgusting, but they form a relationship where they understand each other. In many ways they decided that they need each other to survive.
It’s apt that John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” would be granted a Criterion release, as it’s still one of the most riveting character studies ever released. While it’s often imitated, Hughes’ 1985 drama stands alone as a hallmark of simplicity, grabbing a cast at the top of their game in a decade, offering up truly remarkable performances in already seasoned careers. “The Breakfast Club” was basically “The Big Chill.” Except for a drama being about people in the middle of their lives, we’re able to sit down for ninety minutes with five young people at the beginning of their lives pondering on what they could become as adults, what they don’t want to become as adults, and what they fear they will become as adults.
Rian Johnson has created what is easily one of the most complete and well developed “Star Wars” cinematic installments since “Empire.” While it does have the occasional pitfall (Porgs), “The Last Jedi” is a masterstroke for the series so far. Johnson manages to skillfully build on this new universe while also answering a lot of the pressing questions that the fans had for “The Force Awakens.” This is the second film to usher in the new generation and ease out the originals, turning this in to a war where the underdogs are still the rebels and they’re filled with reverence for folks like Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa. Johnson focuses primarily on the “How,” and “Why” questions from “The Force Awakens,” allowing fans closure on a lot of the nagging questions that left them excited and or baffled.
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.
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.
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.
Nickelodeon’s “Hey Arnold!” was one of the banner animated series from the heyday of the 1990’s. It was a subtle, sweet, and often funny coming of age show with a lot of heart and some brilliantly memorable moments that evoked pure emotion from its audience. Despite ending in 2004, Nickelodeon gave the series a final send off in 2002 with a flimsy and absolutely wretched big screen film that did nothing to close the world we’d come to love. Most of all, it did nothing for the story arc of main character Arnold, who spent a majority of the series under the care of his elderly eccentric grandparents.
Mid-way through the series, we learned that Arnold’s parents were explorers who spent their days traveling, and the last they ever saw of him was before they left for one last adventure to help a village suffering from a mysterious illness.
I was not at all a fan of the original “Batman” animated movie, as I felt it was somewhat unfocused. Thankfully “Batman vs. Two Face” not only gets the idea more about the Batman series, but uses Two Face quite cleverly. As most fans know, the original Adam West Batman show wanted Clint Eastwood to play Two Face, but deemed the character too disturbing for viewers. Producers for this animated movie go back to re-cast Two Face for their show, but bring aboard another television icon to play the villain, William Shatner. Shatner is perfect for the role of the duplicitous deviant ne’er dowell known as Two Face, and what makes the pot even sweeter is that he’s turned in to an allegory for homosexuality.