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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.


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.


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.


Don’t Let Them End, by Bob Connally

25 Jun

Whenever I see a top 10 list that has say… The Godfather at number 5 and The Godfather, Part II at 3 my face sort of involuntarily scrunches up. If they’re that close just put them together and free up a spot on your list. I also see this happen with Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and there was no way I was going to have an entry for the original film immediately followed by one for Empire. For me they’re right on top of each other, so coming in at number 3 on my top 10 favorite movies list I give you a twofer.


The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves, by Bob Connally

20 Jun

Of all the movies on my top ten favorites of all-time list I knew this would be the most difficult one to write about. Not because I have any less enthusiasm for it or anything less to say about it than the others, but because Network has been written about so thoroughly in the 41 years since it first arrived that it’s hard to find new things to say. We don’t need another article expounding upon how relevant the 1976 masterpiece is today. Seriously, just type “network 1976 relevant today” into Google and see what happens. Then after your computer has exploded go buy a new one and finish reading this article.

Instead of drawing parallels between the events of the film- which at the time were considered sensational and satirical- and the current landscape of television and online news, I’ll try to keep the focus on the movie itself.


For the Greater Good, by Bob Connally

11 Jun

As a film reviewer, being able to view movies as objectively as possible is important. I feel like I’m pretty good at that. I don’t really care what genre a movie is or who its target audience may be. A good movie is a good movie. But of course, like anyone else there are certain kinds of films that I gravitate towards and that just have a built in advantage for me. For some people it’s horror, for others it’s “hard” sci-fi. For me though, it’s cop movies, particularly buddy cop movies. The more packed with tropes the better.


Worth Fighting For, by Bob Connally

6 Jun

Ever since Warner Bros. started up the DC Extended Universe with 2013’s Man of Steel, they have been looked upon as lagging far behind Marvel and its own cinematic universe that had begun in 2008. While Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad all made plenty of money, none of them were considered artistic successes. Man of Steel was a joyless, clunky mess and Suicide Squad was an appalling trainwreck. I did not see Batman v Superman but outside of Ben Affleck’s Batman, the consensus was not favorable.

In terms of quality the DCEU was largely considered to be 0 for 3 and it’s seemed that there’s been no one at the wheel with a clue about how to properly run things. It can be easy to forget though that at this same point into the Marvel Cinematic Universe they had made Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2. Everybody loved Iron Man (a movie that holds up very well nine years later) but Iron Man 2 was nowhere near as well-received and even by that time, The Incredible Hulk had essentially been forgotten about. For a DC optimist, one could say that they were just an Iron Man away from righting the ship. But could they really do it? Specifically could Wonder Woman finally end the artistic losing streak?


Making the World a Better Place, by Bob Connally

3 Jun

When it premiered on FX in January of 2013, The Americans entered a TV landscape that already featured an embarrassment of quality riches. After 5 seasons and 65 episodes though, it has emerged as some of the most absorbing storytelling in any medium in a very long time.

As someone with a strong fascination with the Cold War, I had great excitement for the pilot episode which introduced us to Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) Jennings, two Soviet “illegals” in 1981 who had been living in the suburbs of Washington, DC for the better part of two decades. Having been placed in the United States by the KGB, Elizabeth and Philip have a cover marriage, cover jobs as travel agents with cover histories and even two cover children, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati), neither of whom have any idea of their parents’ true identities. Elizabeth and Philip’s real job involves honey traps and murders in the name of the Soviet cause. After all of these years and missions, the life is wearing on Philip and he has begun to question if America is really as bad as the Soviet government would have their people believe. Elizabeth meanwhile is as committed as ever, firmly believing that every life she takes is justifiable in the effort to “make the world a better place.”


Meeting Your Heroes, by Bob Connally

29 May

“Never meet your heroes.” It’s a phrase and a sentiment that we are all familiar with because there are some unfortunate souls who have met a celebrity or an inspirational figure and ended up gravely disappointed. Not many of us however have had that disappointment echo through history the way young Robert Ford’s did.


The Finest, by Bob Connally

21 May

“We want the finest wines available to humanity! We want them here and we want them now!” I had that put on a t-shirt at a specialty store once. It’s a quote that only a relatively small number of people will recognize (certainly in the United States). But I had to get it because it’s the definitive quote from one of the most quotable movies of all-time, Bruce Robinson’s cult comedy classic Withnail & I. It now comes in at number 7 on my list but at that time Robinson’s essentially autobiographical look back at 1969 Britain was my favorite movie. So why would a film about two out of work actors living in squalor and living to get drunk and high in late ‘60s London resonate with me so much? I don’t drink much- and not at all when I first saw it at age 20- I don’t take drugs, I’ve never been an out of work actor, and I’ve never been British in the ‘60s. Or in any other decade now that I think of it. But from the first time I saw it, Withnail & I spoke to me in a way few films ever have. I came for the quotes but I came away with so much more.