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Imaginary Fiend, by Bob Connally

4 Nov

After directing low-budget comedies in New Zealand such as What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi was given the keys to the Marvel kingdom with Thor: Ragnarok, which turned out to be one of the best loved movies in the MCU and one of the funnier comedies of the last few years. Clearly not interested in playing it safe between big budget Marvel films (Waititi is currently writing Thor: Love and Thunder), he decided his next film would be a comedy set in Nazi Germany about a 10-year old boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler, just as one would have expected.

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Misery Loves Company, by Bob Connally

28 Oct

In 2015, Robert Eggers established himself as a highly-talented filmmaker to watch with his debut, The Witch. Maybe the most notable aspect of that film is the incredible sense of atmosphere Eggers creates. The grimy, foggy sense of dread. That mastery of atmosphere is a strong component of his second feature, The Lighthouse, but in service of a more character-focused story.

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Big Dreams, by Bob Connally

27 Oct

There’s a scene early on in Tim Burton’s greatest film Ed Wood in which Ed (Johnny Depp) and his friends read scathing reviews of the new play he’s directed. Still, Ed looks for the positive, emphasizing that the theater critic stated that the costumes looked realistic. There’s a similar scene near the end of Craig Brewer’s Dolemite is My Name where Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) finds the positive in equally scathing reviews of his new film Dolemite. Both Ed Wood and Dolemite is My Name are written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski, and the writers have a clear affection for both Wood and Moore. There is a key difference between the two scenes and the two central characters however. While Ed continually struggles and never finds success, Rudy does find it and experiences genuine appreciation in his time from the audience he’d most hoped to connect with. This gives Dolemite is My Name a sense of triumph that makes it one of the more genuinely uplifting movies to come along in some time. The struggle to get there is what makes it relatable and makes the ultimate triumph feel earned.

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Return Visit, by Bob Connally

24 Sep

Three and a half years ago, when Downton Abbey’s final episode aired, series creator Julian Fellowes left all of his characters – yes, even Edith – in a good place in their lives. For the Crawley family, the year was 1926 and, as a longtime fan of the show, I wanted to leave everyone just as they were. I was quite apprehensive at the first mention of a movie, worried that Fellowes might be tempted to have Edith’s husband Bertie choke to death on a potato or that my favorite character Mrs. Hughes might be crushed to death by a bit of scaffolding. Downton Abbey was never Game of Thrones, but enough characters we knew and loved died tragically that there was reason for concern.

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Heartfelt, by Bob Connally

28 Jul

Extreme violence, lengthy conversations set at tables or in cars, movie references most people won’t even notice, perfectly crafted soundtracks, liberal usage of “colorful metaphors,” and so very many shots of feet are just a few of the surface level staples of the work of Quentin Tarantino. But if you’re really paying attention you see so much more revealed with each film and he can still surprise us after 27 years and either 9 or 10 movies, depending on how you count Kill Bill (for the record, Tarantino himself considers Volumes 1 & 2 a single film). For instance, the word “heartfelt” had never come to mind with any of his earlier films but it’s clear to me that Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is just that.

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Nonmedy, by Bob Connally

13 Jul

If you’re a baseball fan then you are familiar with what a fantasy camp is. People in their fifties with disposable income throw down an obscene amount of money to have baseball practice for a week with retired Major Leaguers from their favorite team. Yes, that sounds fun to me. But it also makes me wish that movie fantasy camps existed. I’m sure sci-fi and fantasy would be the most popular genres. Horror would have huge turnouts, especially if people got to kill and/or be zombies. That’s all well and good. What I really want is to go to buddy action comedy fantasy camp. You show up on a dingy looking police station set that hasn’t been used since 1993, you get paired up with a total stranger, and then you get assigned a case. You have “gun fights, car chases, proper action and,” whatnot. Along the way you cause property damage, eat about 17 street vendor hot dogs, and get trained in the art of delivering a perfect post-kill one-liner.

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We Delivered The Bomb, by Bob Connally

3 Jul

A deeply depressing thought occurred to me as I had my annual summer re-watch of Jaws. It came to me specifically when watching what is probably the film’s single best scene. Chances are that you probably already guessed that I’m referring to Quint (Robert Shaw) describing the terror of being in the water in 1945 as the U.S.S. Indianapolis sank and sharks picked off members of the crew one by one. Jaws is, believe it or not, now 44 years old. The movie remains one of the more perfectly paced and entertaining in the history of cinema. Quint’s tale of sheer horror is absorbing and still has the capacity to put viewers on the edge of their seats after multiple decades and viewings. So what depressed me so much? I imagined what would happen to this scene if this movie were to be made now. I don’t mean if someone were to remake Jaws (which shouldn’t happen ever) but if the original film hadn’t been made in 1975 and a brand new movie called Jaws with essentially the same story, characters, and time period were to be released freshly to audiences in 2019.

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Third Miracle, by Bob Connally

19 May

John Wick: Chapter 2 left us on a massive cliffhanger two years ago with John (Keanu Reeves) being declared “excommunicado” for a murder committed on the grounds of the New York Continental hotel. Due to a long standing friendship, the Continental’s owner and manager, Winston (Ian McShane) gave John a one hour head start before the $14 million bounty went into effect. John Wick: Chapter 3 picks up with the hour almost up for John and his dog. Every contract killer around the world is aware of what’s about to happen, which in Winston’s view means, “the odds are about even.”

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Just For Fun, by Bob Connally

7 Apr

It seems almost impossible to remember that there was a time – relatively recently – when superheroes were considered by the public at large to be for children. While there were always people who took issue with that assertion and there were movies that proved adults enjoyed a good superhero story too- the Superman films of the ‘70s and ’80s and the Batman movies of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which were outliers in their respective eras- the idea of superhero movies truly being geared towards adults is still a fairly recent one. From the darker DC films to even the more lighthearted Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings which have all earned their PG-13 ratings, and of course the R-rated Deadpool movies and Logan, superhero movies of the past two decades have become increasingly adult oriented. This makes the environment that Shazam is being released in an interesting one. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a true kids’ movie, it feels like a step in that direction. This is especially surprising when considering that it’s the latest entry in a cinematic universe that opened with Zack Snyder’s dour, miserable nightmare, Man of Steel.

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Death Punch, by Bob Connally

1 Apr

Usually when discussing what makes a good film work the focus is on what the filmmaker does that makes it work so well. But sometimes, it’s just as much- if not more- what a filmmaker doesn’t do that can make a movie great. Due to its very basic setup, Paddleton is a movie that could go in a lot of directions tonally and much of what makes it so wonderful is how it doesn’t go in any of the directions we might have expected.

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