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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.

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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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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In Space, No One Can Hear You Shrug, by Bob Connally

20 May

In 2012, Ridley Scott returned to the world of Alien 33 years after directing the original film. Prometheus was a fairly entertaining but decidedly incoherent movie most notable for an outstanding supporting performance by Michael Fassbender as an android named David. Wisely, Scott and the rest of the creative team behind Alien: Covenant decided to bring Fassbender back but in terms of storytelling, we’re given a largely derivative mess. What’s maddening is not that the audience won’t be able to figure out what’s happening in the film. It’s that this is a movie that presents things in a needlessly complicated way in an attempt to make it appear deeper and more complex than it really is. After taking a slight step back and piecing it together, it’s very simple. There is nothing wrong with simplicity. But don’t try to trick us into thinking there’s more to it when there isn’t.

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Don’t Call It Stupid, by Bob Connally

1 May

I’ve usually found that, when it comes to the kind of comedies I enjoy, most fall into one of two categories. Some are well-constructed with strong characters and give me some solid chuckles throughout. Others make laughs their biggest priority and are only concerned with things like characters and story to a minimal extent. Just enough to have something to hang those laughs on. A Fish Called Wanda is that rare and wonderful movie that is the best of both worlds. It is brilliantly constructed, filled with richly drawn characters, and it is also laugh out loud funny the whole way through.

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Coming of Age, by Bob Connally

26 Apr

Wes Anderson’s films are often most memorable for the little moments. He can find the humor and the sadness in the smallest gestures and inflections. His detractors feel that his films tend to be too crafted and controlled. That he gets too caught up in set and costume design and loses focus on characters. While I feel that some of his films (this one, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel) are more effective than others (The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom), all eight of his features have ranged from pretty good to exceptional. A lot of little things add up in all of them. Still, 17 years after I first saw it (just weeks after I graduated high school), Rushmore stands as my favorite.

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Some Kind of Monster, by Bob Connally

24 Apr

As anyone who watches a lot of movies can attest, many of them feel like variations on movies we’ve seen several times before. I doubt anyone could say that about Colossal. It’s no wonder that the marketing for the movie sold it as more of a comedy than it really is. When the premise involves a woman realizing that her actions when standing in a certain place at a certain time of day (thank you, Dr. Jones) conjure up an enormous Godzilla-like creature in Seoul, South Korea, it’s hard to know how to sell that as a drama about the destructive nature of alcoholism.

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Best Served Cold, by Bob Connally

21 Apr

There has long been a debate about whether Trekkie or Trekker is the proper name to describe Star Trek fanatics. Whichever one it is, I can’t claim to be one. I’ve always been a casual Star Trek fan. I have seen every movie but only a handful of episodes from the original series and The Next Generation. So it may come as a surprise that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies of all-time.

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