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Real Heroism, by Tyler Smith

23 Oct


Clint Eastwood’s Sully is the director’s latest film about real life heroism. Starting with Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006, Eastwood has made several films based on inspirational true stories, though often from an odd angle (telling Nelson Mandela’s story as a function of the rugby World Cup, for example). With Sully, however, Eastwood – ever the deconstructionist – has decided to approach what could be a straightforward story and treat it as an opportunity to meditate on the very nature of heroism itself.


The Crowd Goes Wild, by Bob Connally

19 Oct


When This is Spinal Tap was released in 1984, the mockumentary was a relatively novel concept. One of the film’s leads, Christopher Guest, would return to it as a director and star in 1996’s Waiting for Guffman, reassembling much of Spinal Tap’s cast. The mockumentary format has become much more prevalent in the two decades since, both in Guest’s other films (Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) and on television (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Reno! 911, and Guest’s own Family Tree, just to name a few). However, at this point, comedy in general has been highly influenced – for better or worse – by the format. Improvisational comedy, which sees actors going on tangential riffs while the camera just rolls, has become so commonplace that it’s surprising anymore to see a comedy film or TV series that doesn’t rely on it, at least to some extent.


Doesn’t Quite Add Up, by Bob Connally

17 Oct


There’s something frustrating about a film that can’t quite decide what it wants to be. That isn’t to say that I did not enjoy Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant, but it would have done better to either commit to being a well-made, engrossing popcorn movie or a thoughtful character study about an autistic professional killer. Instead, The Accountant attempts to be both, the result being a pretty good – though decidedly flawed – movie that could have been great had the filmmakers chosen one path and fully committed to it.


The Real Heroes, by Jim Rohner

8 Oct


After Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four was released proceeding a wave of disastrous behind the scenes stories, everybody was looking for a villain to blame for the film’s critical and financial failure. Could it be blamed on Josh Trank, the young director that the blogosphere painted as rebellious and unprepared? Was it the fault of the studio, who was looking for someone to paint by their numbers and interfered too often? Perhaps it was a little from Column A and a little from Column B? Over a year after its release, it’s still not entirely clear who deserves the scorn for the doomed production.

Funnily enough, if you’ve paid attention to either comic books or movies in the last 20 years, then you’re aware that Trank’s Fantastic Four isn’t the first doomed attempt at bringing Reed Richards et. al. to the big screen (and, if we’re counting critical feedback, it’s not the second or even third disaster). Back in 1994, Roger Corman produced a low-budget adaptation that, depending on who you believe, was either never meant to be seen (just a $1-million-dollar exercise in contractual obligations) or had the plugged pulled on it at the last minute when the powers-to-be got wind of the machinations of a bunch of plucky underdogs.


Episode 173: Jim’s Top Ten

29 Sep


In this episode, Jim Rohner discusses his ten favorite films of all time.

A Brief Explanation, by Jim Rohner

26 Sep


So, a little while ago (checks calendar, shakes head in shame) Okay, so, two years ago I accepted Tyler’s invitation to take part in a project that would allow me to blog about the analytical and personal nuance of each film that made up my Top Ten Favorite Films. The distinction, if you remember, between what I was classifying as my Top Ten Favorites and not Top Ten Best was that the former was almost entirely informed by personal, emotionally, and chronologically subjectivity – what some would call “intangible factors” – whereas the latter was and is completely beyond my knowledge and exposure to even contemplate attempting. Titles on this list would not necessarily contain those to which the AFI or AMPAS would hand out awards, but would contain titles that I return to again and again no matter where I am in my life geographically or emotionally.

Thus, in November 2014 I began my list with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, a film widely considered a classic of its genre, albeit a genre that is largely still looked down upon in traditional critical circles. What followed was a partially completed list distributed sporadically across 11 months that took an indefinite hiatus after my seventh favorite film, John Carpenter’s The Thing. Where was the rest of the list? Why the delay? What happened?


A Step to the Block, by Esther O’Reilly

7 Sep


Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them. – T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

You can trace every wrinkle on her face. She speaks carefully, measuring each word. Every now and then, she strokes the necklace around her throat. Surrounded by nothing but the studio’s pitch blackness, she seems suspended timelessly in time and space. She looks ahead with now sightless eyes, her vision fixed on something we cannot see. Her words hang in the still air, unpunctuated by narration, music or sound effects. She is 105 years old. She is Brunhilde Pomsel, former stenographer for Dr. Joseph Goebbels.


One Thing of Beauty, by Esther O’Reilly

2 Sep


The Soloist is one of those movies that should have been Oscar-level big, yet somehow never cleared the bar with critics or fans. In the spirit of Rain Man, you had one big-name actor doing a single-note virtuoso savant impression (Jamie Foxx), while another big-name actor took the more nuanced role of the protagonist who grows and changes through his encounter with the savant (Robert Downey, Jr.). Plus, this too-good-to-be-true story of a homeless, schizophrenic Juilliard drop-out and the journalist who discovered him had the benefit of actually being true, albeit a little fictionalized. But Joe Wright’s jerky direction, coupled with a sometimes cryptic script that went out of its way to avoid hitting sentimental beats, left this would-be Oscar bait hanging without so much as a nomination. Yet, despite its flaws, it’s a movie that’s stuck with me ever since I first saw it.


The Sincerest Form of Flattery, by Bob Connally

24 Aug


We all had movie characters we wanted to be as children; adventures we wanted to live for ourselves and for many of us, it was the start of our lifelong love of film. Like so many other kids in the early 1980s, when Chris Strompolos of Mississippi first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, he wanted to be Indiana Jones. His friend Eric Zala loved the film with just as much enthusiasm, wanting to further understand the nuts and bolts of how it was made. What separated these 12-year old boys from the rest of us was the adventure they decided to embark on together. With storyboards Eric (who directed and played Belloq) created from memory and an audio tape smuggled in to a screening to record the film’s dialogue, the boys set out to shoot their version of Raiders over their summer vacation in 1982.


It’s Them or Us, by Bob Connally

14 Aug


It’s clear even before we see the faces of Toby and Tanner Howard- both wearing ski masks- that we are witnessing their first attempted bank robbery. While some of the action and dialogue that follows is funny, it’s plain that Hell or High Water isn’t a comedy. Without being told why, we know that there is something very much at stake here, conveyed by nothing more than Toby and Tanner’s eyes. The film retains that tone throughout most of its runtime, and when it changes it’s because things have changed for its characters; characters we have come to care about very much because the filmmakers do.