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Inhuman, by Bob Connally

8 Oct

Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner has become one of the most debated films ever made. Film buffs debate which cut of the film is best and they debate whether or not Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a human or a replicant. Where viewers come down on the Deckard question can depend in large part on which version of the movie they prefer. Even the director and star have disagreed about it for decades with Scott insisting, “He is definitely a replicant,” while Ford played the role believing his character to be human. 35 years later and 10 years after the release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Ford is back as Deckard while the question still looms.

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Two-Toned, by Bob Connally

27 Sep

One of the more difficult things to pull off in a film is a successful shift in tone. It’s even more difficult when a filmmaker shifts back and forth between tones throughout a movie. Altered Spirits attempts to do this several times over the span of 90 minutes but unfortunately it just leaves the viewer repeatedly asking, “What does this movie want to be?”

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A Big Hit, by Bob Connally

24 Sep

Two of the more popular comedy subgenres of the past couple of decades have been mockumentaries and dark comedies about hitmen. With Killing Gunther (now available on demand and coming to theaters on October 20), writer and first-time director Taran Killam (Saturday Night Live) is combining the two with fantastic results. It’s a movie that wouldn’t work nearly as well in the hands of many filmmakers who might have concocted a similar premise. However, Killam displays a great understanding of tone and pacing throughout and perhaps most importantly of all, knows how to carry the idea all the way through to the end. As a result, an idea that sounds like it would work better as a short than a feature makes for a very funny 93 minute film.

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Mundane Obsession, by Bob Connally

28 Aug

Like its title character, Ingrid Goes West is a movie that will be dismissed and rejected by many. What many will understandably find difficult is that it defies easy categorization. Not content with simply being a dark comedy about a mentally and emotionally troubled young woman named Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), it’s a film that dares to turn its cell phone camera back at us and we may not like what we see. From early on it feels reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy in that we in the audience may recognize parts of Rupert Pupkin or Ingrid Thorburn in people we know or maybe, to our discomfort, in ourselves.

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Hillbilly Heist, by Bob Connally

20 Aug

There is a lot to like about Steven Soderbergh’s self-proclaimed, “anti-glam version of an Ocean’s movie.” The cast is terrific and manages to have fun with southern stereotypes without openly mocking southerners. The plot is cleverly constructed yet breezy in the right way and there’s an emotional weight to the story of the Logan family and their supposed “curse” that works well. But there is one fatal flaw that Logan Lucky cannot overcome. The film asks its audience to believe that Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) could orchestrate a heist worthy of Danny Ocean but it never earns that belief from us. While Jimmy may be a smarter guy than people realize, it remains too much of a leap to get from there to him being a criminal mastermind. It is unfortunate because as I said, there is a lot to like here.

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Something Great in the Neighborhood, by Bob Connally

15 Aug

When your job as a writer is to look at film objectively, it’s important to not get hung up on nostalgia. Thankfully, I do pretty well with that. I might have thought a movie was wonderful as a 9-year old but if it doesn’t work for me now I can’t trick myself into still loving it and I know that I shouldn’t try. If I’m watching a film I loved as a kid now for the 37th time it’s because it still works for me and it works for me in an entirely different way than when I first saw it. I feel that it’s important to be clear about this so you understand where I’m coming from when I say that 1984’s Ghostbusters – a movie I loved almost as much as life itself after I got it on VHS for my 6th birthday in 1988 – is my favorite movie of all-time. I hope that you’re ready to believe me.

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Secret Agent Woman, by Bob Connally

1 Aug

At the start of David Leitch’s new Cold War action-packed spy thriller we are told that in November of 1989 the Berlin Wall came down but that, “This is not that story.” Instead, Atomic Blonde deals with MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) and her efforts that same month to recover a microfilm which contains the identities of every active field agent in the Eastern Bloc. Lorraine is a stone cold killer paired with another MI6 agent in Berlin, David Percival (James McAvoy) to find the list and to kill a double agent known only as Satchel.

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Relentless, by Bob Connally

22 Jul

More than 70 years after its conclusion, films set during World War II are still produced by the handful year after year. Some are good, some are not, but it’s not often even amongst the good ones that a World War II movie truly sets itself apart from a filmmaking perspective. Christopher Nolan however has been setting himself apart as a filmmaker for the better part of two decades. With Dunkirk he has made his first war movie and it is an astonishing feat. Even more than that, it may be his best film yet.

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Art and Entertainment, by Bob Connally

1 Jul

“I’ve never really liked Steven Spielberg,” said my film studies professor. I had heard this before. Usually it was from people who were about the age I was at the time, 20. Their reasons why always seemed to boil down to his mainstream popularity. These were the same kids who would label any band that more than five people liked “sellouts.” So I wasn’t expecting anything new or profound to follow that statement. But his explanation surprised me. “It’s not that he isn’t a talented filmmaker. He most definitely is. It’s that the enemy is never from within in his films. It’s always from without.” I had liked or loved most of Spielberg’s work and this didn’t change my opinion of him one bit, but I knew my professor wasn’t wrong. It was the first time I had heard a reasoned, valid explanation for why a person did not like the world’s most famous living movie director. It was refreshing and he turned out to be far and away my favorite film studies teacher.

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Joy Ride, by Bob Connally

29 Jun

Edgar Wright’s excellent new film Baby Driver wastes no time pulling its audience in and sending us off on a thrilling ride. In one of the better scenes to open any movie in a very long time, we meet a young man named Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) as he sits behind the wheel of a car outside of an Atlanta bank. While his associates (Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, and Jon Bernthal) are inside pulling off a heist Baby waits in the car with his headphones on listening to the pulse pounding rock anthem Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. As the others pile back into the car the song serves as the soundtrack to his masterful getaway driving.

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