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Oh, Hi! by Bob Connally

12 Dec

“Greetings, my friend. You are interested in the unknown. The mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now for the first time, we are bringing you the full story of what happened. We are giving you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the miserable souls who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, places… My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Can your heart stand the shocking facts of the true story of…” the making of The Room?

Leading up to the release of The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s comedic account of the making of the 21st century’s truest bona fide cult movie The Room, many have understandably drawn comparisons to Tim Burton’s masterpiece Ed Wood. Like Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist seems to say to us out of the gate, “Look, we know that you know it didn’t really happen like this, but this is how it should have happened, so let’s just have some fun” (though in many ways it would appear that the true story was even stranger than what we see here). Also just like Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist benefits greatly from this approach.

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Classics Through the Cracks: Real Life, by Bob Connally

27 Nov

Citizen Kane. Casablanca. Lawrence of Arabia. Dr. Strangelove. Films considered by virtually all movie buffs to be amongst the greatest ever made. Classics. But there are so many wonderful movies that for one reason or another have fallen through the cracks and don’t get the recognition they truly deserve. In this new series I will be writing about and hopefully encouraging people to discover the classics that they’ve been missing. Movies like Bad Day at Black Rock, Hud, and L.A. Story just to name a few. I’ll be looking at the film, the era in which it was released, and other popular movies released in that era. For the first entry I’m writing about one of my favorite movies ever made and one that makes me laugh no matter how many times I see it, Albert Brooks’ Real Life.

The 1999-2000 TV season introduced American audiences to two shows that would change television forever. While so called “reality television” was nothing new, shows like Fox’s Cops and MTV’s The Real World were outliers. Major networks would air re-runs of scripted dramas and sitcoms all summer long, with very little original programming running between the end of May and the beginning of September. But as one millennium gave way to another, ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (a game show but one that emphasized human drama more than something like Jeopardy!) and CBS’s Survivor broke through to become primetime smashes. This would prove to be anything but a fad with reality shows quickly becoming ubiquitous and remaining that way 18 years on. It would have only made sense for a comedian turned filmmaker to satirize the format around say, 2002. But why bother? Albert Brooks had already done it to perfection. In 1979.

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Fly Far, by Bob Connally

24 Nov

Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn) is desperate to get through her senior year of high school as it begins in the fall of 2002. She wants nothing more than to escape the boredom of being a teenager in Sacramento and to fly away to college in New York. Maybe that’s why she insists that people (including her own mother) call her “Lady Bird.” Written and directed by Greta Gerwig (an actress long favored by Noah Baumbach), Lady Bird is as much if not more an exploration of the complicated dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship as it is a coming-of-age tale. It was hardly surprising to learn that Gerwig’s original title for the film was Mothers and Daughters.

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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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