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High Spirits, by Bob Connally

8 May

For the past few years, Tyler has been kind enough to post my annual Bob Awards to this site. Every year there are a few key films that for one reason or another I am not able to see in time and when I finally get around to some of them, I regret not having seen them sooner. A past example of this was 2018’s Suspiria, particularly for the performance of Tilda Swinton. For obvious reasons, there were a few films in 2020 that I simply haven’t had the opportunity to see yet but there is one that was released on Hulu in plenty of time that I just didn’t get around to. Until now. It pains me because Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round is almost certainly the best movie of 2020 that I have now seen.

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Ethical Dilemmas, by Bob Connally

28 Apr

Science fiction stories inherently ask audiences to suspend their disbelief, but good sci-fi storytellers know that while they are allowed to ask us to accept an improbable or even impossible premise, that there must be a sense of reality to prop it all upon. Stowaway director Joe Penna and co-writer Ryan Morrison thankfully understands this. What they have crafted is a nicely realized sci-fi film that is far more interested in moral dilemmas and inviting the audience into the situation at hand than it is in heady abstract ideas.

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False Note, by Bob Connally

6 Apr

Will Hawkins (Kevin Quinn) is a troubled teen who has moved from home to home since the death of his parents. After A Week Away’s opening scene in which he is arrested for “stealing a police car,” which he isn’t driving at any point during said scene, we are given Will’s lengthy rap sheet as he is told the only option now for him is juvenile hall. Will’s officer (Ed Amatrudo) tells the audien – I mean, Will, that he’s a “great kid,” even though he’s just given us no evidence of that. It’s indicative of the many problems to come that between both the stolen police car and our protagonist’s personality, A Week Away jumps right into the, “Tell, Don’t Show,” school of screenwriting.

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Fireworks, by Bob Connally

5 Apr

A few years ago in my review of Kong: Skull Island, I wrote, “Sometimes we want to see a gigantic gorilla smash things.” Of course, while much has changed in our world since that time, that’s an eternal and universal truth. So as movie theaters gradually re-open across the country, the opportunity to see a gigantic gorilla and a gigantic lizard smash things and indeed, each other, has emerged and many people who have not ventured into a movie theater in over a year are taking that opportunity. Being that there are still many theaters that remain closed and because many are understandably averse to going into public for reasons other than buying groceries, Warner Bros. is offering Godzilla vs. Kong on its streaming service, HBO Max, at this same time. So is this monster brawl worth watching and if so, is it worth seeing in a theater?

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A Cold Warrior, by Bob Connally

29 Mar

Since the 1950s, the Cold War spy film has become such a staple that it could really be classified as its own genre and it’s been an incredibly popular one at that. Other than probably Sherlock Holmes, there may not be a more recognizable character name in the world than James Bond. In the wake of the wild success of the early Bond films of the ’60s, spy movies of all kinds flooded cinemas. Serious fare such as excellent The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was accompanied by the goofy fun of the Flint movies starring James Coburn. The now-legendary Michael Caine had his own spy franchise at that time starring as British agent Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, and Billion Dollar Brain. Some of Alfred Hitchcock’s later films such as Torn Curtain and Topaz directly told Cold War espionage stories. 

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Mystery Machine, by Bob Connally

14 Feb

At the age of 12, Abe Applebaum solved “The Case of the Missing Fundraiser Money.” This led to a career as a kid detective, solving mostly minor cases for his classmates in his small town of Willowbrook, becoming a local celebrity. His secretary, Gracie, “worked for soda pop.” When they were 14, Gracie was kidnapped and Abe felt the weight of expectation to bring her home. Nearly 20 years later, Abe (Adam Brody) is still a detective with his own office in Willowbrook. Sadly though, Abe sees himself as an utter failure for not finding Gracie and the people of the town are no longer impressed by his past achievements.

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Naughty and Nice, by Bob Connally

29 Nov

In 1987, Mel Gibson played Martin Riggs, a cop with a death wish in Lethal Weapon, which has become an untraditional Christmas classic. 33 years later, Gibson is back for more Christmastime violence – in the role of Santa, no less – in the gleefully inventive Fatman

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Hallmark Hall of Shame, by Bob Connally

5 Nov

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Dying – or drama – and comedy have one key thing in common. Both of them tend to work best when they are treated seriously. Even when the comedy is a very silly parody. Throughout the 1980’s, the team of David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams demonstrated how to do this right with Airplane!, the all-too-short-lived TV series Police Squad!, and that show’s much more successful spin-off film, The Naked Gun. They achieved this through brilliant writing and equally brilliant casting, emphasizing sincerity from the performances. Dramatic actors such as Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, and Leslie Nielsen delivered utterly ridiculous dialogue with complete seriousness in Airplane!, and that very simply is why it worked. If Nielsen had said, “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley,” pulling a goofy face, it would have killed the joke. The makers of Cup of Cheer would have done well to heed that lesson.

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Must Be the Season, by Bob Connally

24 Oct

Since its release in 1978, John Carpenter’s original Halloween has been one of the best-loved and most imitated horror movies ever made. Carpenter and his producing partner, Debra Hill felt that there was nowhere to take the characters or the story beyond the first film. However, with Universal clamoring for a sequel, they reluctantly wrote the screenplay for Halloween II. Released in 1981, Carpenter- who did not direct this time around- was deeply dissatisfied with the finished product, declaring it, “an abomination and a horrible movie.” The sequel received poor reviews but performed fairly well at the box office. The film ended with Michael Myers seemingly burned to death after an explosion, as though Carpenter and Hill were telling the audience, “He’s dead now, so it’s over.” Halloween III would be a new beginning and set up a viable and very creative franchise for years to come. That was the plan anyway.

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Into the Wild, by Bob Connally

1 Sep

Get Duked!, the feature film debut of music video director Ninian Doff wastes no time getting moving. We are introduced to three Scottish teens named Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) ignoring a decades-old video explaining the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Their teacher, Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris), further explains that the boys will be traversing the Scottish Highlands without the aid of technology as they try to earn their award. What it really is for them though is punishment after setting a fire. Once they arrive in the Highlands they meet Ian (Samuel Bottomley), a boy who’s very excited for their outdoor adventure. Unlike the others, he has chosen to be there in hopes of being able to add it to his university applications. With that, Mr. Carlyle quickly rattles off an explanation of the route the boys will need to take and that he’ll see them at the campsite, and away they go.

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