Skip Violent Night, Bones and All is haunting, Lady Chatterley well-done

Violent Night only for the naughty

While suffering through the vile, humorless exercise that is Violent Night, I kept wondering, "Who is this movie intended for?" I guess there are folks who like seeing someone impaled on a large icicle or having an electric Christmas decoration shoved into someone's eye and turned on so that their head will catch on fire. I don't know anyone – at least, I hope not – that would think this is entertaining, but hey, to each their own.

The story is as simple as you would imagine. A group of mercenaries raids the Lightstone mansion, the home of a family of one-percenters, intent on stealing the millions they supposedly have on hand. While dropping off presents, Santa Claus is trapped by the ruthless killers. He goes on the rampage, savagely killing the heavily armed invaders who are, obviously, on the naughty list. As the malicious Santa, David Harbour does his best to instill a bit of humor, but there aren't enough clever comebacks for him to deliver, the actor reduced to grunting and yelling as he dispatches one generic bad guy after another. Violent Night left me dismayed that such a thing could be produced and appreciated by some. I'm sure if I were to rewatch it, it would just make me feel worse. In theaters.

Flawed Bones hard to shake

Perhaps the most terrifying thing about Luca Guadagnino's Bones and All is the matter-of-fact way its atrocities are committed. Set in the mid-1980s, Maren (Taylor Russell) is a young cannibal who hits the road to find the mother she never knew and hopefully get some answers as to why she craves human flesh. Along the way, she meets Lee (Timothee Chalamet), who is similarly afflicted. He advises her to only kill loners as well as how to steal to survive and keep on the run, covering their tracks by sticking to back roads and small towns. As these lessons continue, love blooms.

While Guadagnino strives to create something unique, the shadow of far too many other films hangs over it. Badlands, Dawn of the Dead, Raw and most any other teen romance you can think of come to mind, yet there's no denying that for its first hour, it's a brilliant exercise in horror. However, the script goes off track and depends too much on coincidence in its third act, undercutting its credibility. Still, Chalamet and Russell's passionate performances provide an emotional anchor that helps the film through its rough patches, while the final scene, though graphic in its violence, proves haunting. In theaters.

Lady Chatterley familiar but well-done

Groundbreaking when released to the public in 1932, D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover certainly wasn't the first novel concerning a woman trapped by societal constraints. However, the graphic description it contained of the sexual acts and obscene language made it a lightning rod for controversy. Perhaps its most radical notion was its warning that individuality was the victim of industrialization, that the modern world was on the brink of eliminating humanity's sense of self, as a whole and individually.

Unfortunately, the new adaptation by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre only touches briefly on Lawrence's greater concerns, focusing instead on the titular character's quest for sexual and romantic satisfaction. In other words, it focuses on the good parts. Thankfully, Emma Corrin as Connie Chatterley is very good, delivering a fierce performance, convincing in the character's moments of naivete as well as passion. Jack O'Connell as the groundskeeper Oliver, who the frustrated lady enters into a torrid affair with, is equally solid, making sure a bit of vulnerability is present in the character's stoic demeanor. To be sure, story-wise there's not much new here, but there's no denying it's done well, the commitment of the two leads making this adaptation worthwhile. Streaming on Netflix.

Chuck Koplinski

Writing for Illinois Times since 1998, Chuck Koplinski is a member of the Critic's Choice Association, the Chicago Film Critics Association and a contributor to Rotten Tomatoes. He appears on WCIA-TV twice a week to review current releases and, no matter what anyone says, thinks Tom Cruise's version of The Mummy...

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