Monday, December 18, 2017

52nd Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards

Get Out was the big winner for the Kansas City Film Critics Circle's 52nd Annual James Loutzenhiser Awards taking home the Vince Koehler Award for Best Sci-fi, Fantasy, or Horror Film along with Best Original Screenplay and the big prize of Best Picture. Call Me By Your Name also took home three awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and became the second winner of the Tom Poe Award for Best LGBTQ Film. You can find a list of all the winners inside.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Beauty and the Creature from the Black Lagoon

Guillermo del Toro puts his own spin on the Beauty and the Beast tale in The Shape of Water which stars Sally Hawkins as a mute janitor at the the Occam Aerospace Research Center who discovers just what the scientists and military men are studying. Doug Jones, who worked with del Toro before in the Hellboy films and Pan's Labyrinth, is transformed by practical and CGI effects into a creature who is part Abe Sapien and part the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Never given a name, nor able to speak (just like the woman who falls for him), the design of "the asset" is terrific.

The story is pretty standard. Girl meets boy from the wrong side of the tracks, they fall in love, and all hell breaks loose. The talent both in front and behind the camera elevates the words on the printed page into a magical fairy tale which is joyful to watch. The setting of the 1960s, Elisa's (Hawkins) inability to speak, Richard Jenkins as her confidant, and Michael Shannon as the brutal colonel in control of the experiment, all add interesting pieces to the puzzle making The Shape of Water more than the sum of its parts. Supporting performances from Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Lauren Lee Smith all bring something to add and help flesh out the world.

Wonder Wheel

Falling neither at the top nor bottom of the Woody Allen scale, the writer/director's latest fits somewhere in the middle. Set in Coney Island during the 1950s, Wonder Wheel tells the story of a distraught waitress (Kate Winslet) cheating on her husband (Jim Belushi) with a lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) with delusions of becoming a great writer. Matters are complicated by the arrival of her husband's daughter (Juno Temple) from a previous marriage, on-the-run from her gangster husband, who also catches the lifeguard's eye, and our waitress' arson-loving preteen son (Jack Gore) setting fire to everything he can find.

Winslet is the ensemble stand-out of the piece as a middle-aged woman determined that her affair lead her out of the mess her life has become. Other than the fact that he's the outsider to the family, Timberlake turns out to be an odd choice for narrator. Winslet, Temple, or even Belushi (who is almost too convincing as the prototypical bad drunk with a temper) would seem to offer a better insight into the story. In the end, Winslet's perfomance and the setting of a 50s Coney Island help make up for some of the film's shortcomings (including an opening act better suited to a stage performance).

Thursday, December 14, 2017


2017 wasn't the best year for animation. Although there are several solid films, including two from Disney/Pixar, there was no clear standout. Based on the 1938 children's story, Ferdinand is another solid animated feature which is surprisingly moving coming from Blue Sky Studios (best known for the more comedic Ice Age franchise) as the combination of six writers work to build out the simple story of a bull who would rather smell the flowers than fight, into a feature film. The result is a funny, but also unexpectedly clever (including the best possible bull in a China shop joke) and heartfelt, film.

The Librarians - The Dark Secret / The Steal of Fortune

The Librarians open up their Fourth Season by going back to the beginning, not the beginning of the series but the beginning of the franchise. News that one of the original cornerstones has been uncovered (which, if combined with the others, could be used to make the Library solid in this dimension once more) pauses preparation for the tethering ceremony to connect Flynn (Noah Wyle) and Eve (Rebecca Romijn) to the Library. Knowing the situation is dire, and the Librarians must stop the heretic Order of Shadows from recovering the remaining stones and destroying the Library, forces Jenkins (John Larroquette) to reveal the dark secret of who he's been keeping prisoner in the Library for a century - Flynn's original Guardian Nicole Noone (Sonya Walger).