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10 DEAR SANTA (IFC Films) and HOWARD (Disney+)


These precious, life-affirming documentaries will make a believer out of you. Dear Santa proves that the Christmas spirit is alive and well through the generosity of the U.S. Postal Service and various charitable individuals across the country. The long- awaited Howard shows how lyricist Howard Ashman (who died of AIDS complications in 1991) behind classic musicals film and stage musicals such as Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid and Alad- din remains an inspiration and cultural icon to this day.


HONORABLE MENTIONS


TROOP ZERO (Amazon Studios) and PALM SPRINGS (Neon/ Hulu). Here are the two funniest comedies I saw all year. Both provide clever, relevant observations on race, class, history and/or romance. Viola Davis and Allison Janney serve as great foils to one another as rival Girl Scout troop leaders in the former, whereas SNL vet Andy Samberg is a dramatic revelation in the lead role of the Groundhog Day-esque Palm Springs.


THE WORST MOVIES OF 2020, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER OF DISHONOR


ARTEMIS FOWL (Disney). Despite some impressive visual effects and a fun turn by Judi Dench as an owl-like law enforcer, this proved to be a dull and confusing franchise non-starter. And it was directed to no good effect by the oft-acclaimed Kenneth Branagh!


KILL THE MONSTERS (Against the Barrel Productions). Actor-


director Ryan Lonergan’s irritating depiction of an older gay couple going to various conflicted lengths as they try to save their younger “throuple” paramour, who is suffering from a vaguely-defined but life-threatening illness. The film is only 80 minutes long, but it took all the energy I could muster to get through it.


UNDERWATER (20th Century Studios). Yet another Alien knockoff, this time set at the bottom of the sea. Despite a strong lead perfor- mance by Kristen Stewart and some cool monster effects, it is a dull and predictable exercise in creature-feature futility.


COLOR OUT OF SPACE (RLJE Films). This latest attempt to adapt THE VAST OF NIGHT (Amazon Studios) is a haunting, intel-


ligent take on alien invasion movies set in rural, small-town 1950s America. Talented first-time director Andrew Patterson is definitely worth keeping an eye on.


H.P. Lovecraft’s classic sci-fi/horror tale confirms that filmmakers should probably stop trying. A truly impressive cast headed by Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson is unable to make logical or dramatic sense of the writer’s sometimes-grotesque machinations.


DOLITTLE (Universal). My favorite literary character of all time is


once again given a less-than-ideal movie treatment, with Robert Downey Jr. giving probably his worst performance to date as the veterinarian who can famously talk to the animals. It’s an expensive, over-produced debacle that takes too many liberties with its charm- ing source material.


Chris Carpenter has been writing about entertainment since 1996 and a member of Team Rage since 2012. He is a founding member and vice president emeritus of GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics.


24 ragemonthly.com | JANUARY 2021


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