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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.

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Trilogy Anatomy: War for the Planet of the Apes, by Tober Corrigan

21 Jul

Upon being asked after the release of the Dark Knight if he had a third installment planned, Christopher Nolan replied with asking ironically how many good third movies there were. Of course, Nolan eventually did complete his trilogy, whether it being against his better judgment or not depending on who one talks to. Throughout movie history, the essential functions of the third film in a series have either been as a fitting and satisfactory end to a particular storyline (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), a disappointing but nevertheless conclusive entry (Godfather III), or a debacle so big as to necessitate a reset to the franchise (Superman III/Spiderman 3, etc., etc.). In anticipation of another highly-anticipated third film, War for the Planet of the Apes, this weekly series will cover famous third films, infamous third films and otherwise, exploring how trilogy-enders or other types of third films have functioned in relation to its series.

Rare is it for a film trilogy in the modern Hollywood tradition to satisfy its loyal audience and yet go beyond the expected. We’ve seen several high profile third films of recent (Spiderman 3 and The Dark Knight Rises come immediately to mind) not do this. They either leaned too greatly into what made their predecessors great, to the point of feeling like a retread, or they strayed far from the formula but with sloppy execution. Even the more successful ones, like Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, had their detractors, the common criticism often being that the narrative took too long, got too indulgent and exhausting in its attempt to be serious fare.

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Boys Will Be Boys, by Reed Lackey

19 Jul

Among the Living from directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julie Maury starts as what appears to be a coming-of-age nightmare, but takes a sharp left turn right around the last third. If you’ve read nearly anything by Stephen King, the premise of the film will feel familiar. Three boys from differing home lives decide to skip the last half of their last day of school to explore, rebel, and possibly get into a bit of mischief. They accomplish all three, unfortunately for them.

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Trilogy Anatomy: The World of Apu, by Tober Corrigan

15 Jul

Upon being asked after the release of the Dark Knight if he had a third installment planned, Christopher Nolan replied with asking ironically how many good third movies there were. Of course, Nolan eventually did complete his trilogy, whether it being against his better judgment or not depending on who one talks to. Throughout movie history, the essential functions of the third film in a series have either been as a fitting and satisfactory end to a particular storyline (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), a disappointing but nevertheless conclusive entry (Godfather III), or a debacle so big as to necessitate a reset to the franchise (Superman III/Spiderman 3, etc., etc.). In anticipation of another highly-anticipated third film, War for the Planet of the Apes, this weekly series will cover famous third films, infamous third films and otherwise, exploring how trilogy-enders or other types of third films have functioned in relation to its series.

If I have learned anything from this trilogy series, it is in how miraculously inevitable one or two sequels can feel to the overall story arc even if they were at one point never supposed to be made . Filmmaking is one of the more expensive (in money, time, and manpower) of the arts, requiring significant financial backing and public approval to get any one particular iteration of a character, let alone several.

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Small Delights, by Darrell Tuffs

14 Jul

There’s a lot to love in Dustin Guy Defa’s 2017 drama, Person to Person. Immediately apparent becomes the film’s love for its space, its atmosphere, its characters. Like the very best of New York based filmmakers such as Woody Allen and Spike Lee, Defa sets a sophisticated-yet-somewhat-grimy filmic tone of concrete urbanism; a vibrant cinematic space cramped full of bustle and kinetic movement, all captured within considered framing and a vintage celluloid aesthetic, one keenly intent on reflective observation.

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On Sex, Marriage, and the Movies, by Esther O’Reilly

3 Jul

When it comes to sexuality in the movies, many conservative Christians tend to err on the side of extreme caution. Some might use a service like VidAngel to filter out sexual content, while others prefer to skip a given film/show entirely. Rather than making case-by-case judgment calls based on the extent or context of specific scenes, they simply cut the Gordian knot: If it has something sexual in it, it can’t be good, end of story.

As a rule of thumb, this certainly has merit. Few films were ever improved by adding a sexual scene. Pick one at random, and you can safely bet it will be heavy on indulgence, light on edification. Hollywood’s track record in this department does not impress, to say the least.

But already, I know there are some people who would be uncomfortable with my wording just there. “Few? What do you mean? Why not just say ‘no’?” If I say Hollywood gets sex wrong more often than not, some may ask, “What would it mean to get it right?”

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Trilogy Anatomy: Before Midnight, by Tober Corrigan

2 Jul

Upon being asked after the release of the Dark Knight if he had a third installment planned, Christopher Nolan replied with asking ironically how many good third movies there were. Of course, Nolan eventually did complete his trilogy, whether it being against his better judgment or not depending on who one talks to. Throughout movie history, the essential functions of the third film in a series have either been as a fitting and satisfactory end to a particular storyline (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), a disappointing but nevertheless conclusive entry (Godfather III), or a debacle so big as to necessitate a reset to the franchise (Superman III/Spiderman 3, etc., etc.). In anticipation of another highly-anticipated third film, War for the Planet of the Apes, this weekly series will cover famous third films, infamous third films and otherwise, exploring how trilogy-enders or other types of third films have functioned in relation to its series.

Popularly referred to as the least financially successful movie series of all time, Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy has had a strange and intriguing history. Starting in 1995 on a modest budget (though, honestly, all three have had modest budgets), Linklater—along with stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, all co-writers for the three movies—told a simple but charming story of Jesse and Celine, who meet in Europe and spend the evening together along ancient streets and with idiosyncratic characters. Before Sunrise didn’t make much money, but the film resonated enough with the three main collaborators to result in a sequel nine years later, Before Sunset, no one saw coming. Just as watchable and unpredictable as the first one, plus some added poignancy by way of nostalgia, Sunset made similar amounts of money, but with a heap of critical acclaim. It was a touching end to the story of Jesse and Celine.

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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.

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Puppet Masters, by Reed Lackey

29 Jun

In the very specific niche realm of horror documentary, there are few voices as compelling or effective as Rodney Ascher. His previous documentaries, Room 237 and (especially) The Nightmare were innovative and compelling examinations of not only what frightens us, but why it frightens us.

His directorial voice was therefore a natural for Shudder’s new original series (its first original content) called Primal Screen. The series focuses on the early and elemental encounters viewing audiences have with horror cinema and how those encounters can dramatically influence their most basic fears and – perhaps – the very direction of their lives.

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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.

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