December Staff Picks: Anime horror, giant lizards, romance movies, and more!

Nate Ragolia

If you’re into anime, comedy horror, and have a strong stomach for outlandish cartoon gore, Chainsaw Man, an anime series that’s based on the manga of the same name by Tatsuki Fujimoto, might just be for you. Currently available on Hulu, the anime adaptation stars Denji, a young man who’s in debt, and living his worst possible life working odd jobs, selling his organs, and hunting Devils—strange monsters that inhabit this world’s Japan—just to be too hungry to sleep at the end of the day. He and his companion Pochita, an adorable pup with a chainsaw in its face, will have to figure out a way to pay off the Yakuza if Denji has any hope of having a normal life.

It’s funny, outrageous, and incredibly bloody at times, but at its core, Chainsaw Man might just be about finding yourself, your found family, and grasping for the small comforts and dreams that are so often hard to reach in late-stage capitalism—shelter, good food, and rest. It’s a fun, surprising, and poignant ride… and there’s literally a Chainsaw Man in it.

Victoria Bruick

What astrology would people create if we had two moons? What if gender was assigned by the date you were born and not by your sex? What if we could communicate with GIANT LIZARDS? Avi Silver dives into these fantastical “what ifs” and more in Two Dark Moons, the first book of their Sãoni Cycle trilogy. After winning a copy of the novel on The StoryGraph (thank you, Sienna and Avi!), I settled into my couch to read a few chapters on a Friday night (the best kind of Friday night IMO). I was immediately taken by stubborn Sohmeng whose identity and birth story are wrapped in a secret. Her jungle encounter with the mysterious Hei and their reptilian family of sãoni leads her to question the ways of her mountain community and takes her on a journey that had me racing to the end of the novel. I particularly enjoyed Sohmeng and Hei’s budding relationship and trying to imagine how the sãoni language of clicks and chirps would sound. I’m looking forward to diving into book two… maybe this weekend.

Dominic Loise

The Willow television series on Disney+ is a continuation of the 1988 Ron Howard/George Lucas movie by the same name. The new series is queer friendly and builds on the fantasy world of the original film. Warwick Davis reprises his role as the title character, a wizard and protector of Elora Danon (Ellie Bamber), who will bring balance to the realm. Willow deals with the balance of magic, the light & dark sides of things, and what happens after you discover who you are. Two episodes in, the series is about Elora finding herself with the internal struggle of falling in line with a prophecy and the day-to-day hard work it takes to be someone who people can follow into battle and put their hopes behind. Elora wants to know who she is now since her life up to this point has been a false identity to keep her in hiding from those who wish her harm before she can fulfill the prophecy. Willow is also about the main character’s frustrations with himself. He has made enemies of past allies since the original movie over disagreements over what is best for Elora Danon. Now reunited with Elora, Willow feels the pressure to train her and quickly loses patience. By the end of the second episode, both Willow and Elora are looking inward before the quest moves forward.

Gina Gruss

It’s the holiday season, and cuffing season, apparently (I don’t think it exists in south Florida—too hot here). Romance is in the air! As a genre, romance generally doesn’t do much for me; I find it a challenge to connect with. Love comes before character development. However, this movie centralizes character first, and the romance comes out of it.

Renuka Jeyapalan’s Stay the Night is a fantastic romance. Is it reinventing the genre? No. But it is a simple one that feels cohesive, complete, and refreshing. I was struck by the silence that passed between the two main characters. There are many moments where nobody says anything, and they just sit. And watch. And that’s exciting.

The female main character, Grace, is quiet. She doesn’t branch out and has few meaningful relationships. Her “standoffishness” keeps her from rising in her job. On the other hand, Carter is an ice hockey star for the Tampa Bay Miners, and he’s getting demoted. They meet at a bar, antics ensue, and they spend the night with each other across the city.

The two main actors, Andrea Bang and Joe Scarpellino, are fantastic; they have chemistry, and are receptive to each other. One leans forward, the other leans back. They’re dancers, listening to each other’s movements. Their characters are clear and well-developed, and they learn from each other. The city (Toronto, I think?) is dreamy, well-lit; we get a glimpse of Chinatown, a restaurant, bar, ice rink, high-rise skyscraper, hotel room. The city’s dreamy; bokeh lit skyline, slow jazz, cozy cold. If you’re a fan of romance (or not!) and are looking for something quiet, I highly recommend this movie. May all of us find what we love, whatever it may be! A new friend, new inspiration, new family tradition, so on. Happy holidays!