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Killing It, by Bob Connally

5 Dec

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is the beloved author of numerous murder mystery novels. He’s just celebrated his 85th birthday with his children and grandchildren. His housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) is making her morning rounds through his palace of a home… when she finds him dead, his throat slit. Her reaction to this discovery is a comical one. Thus the tone is set for Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.

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A Little Cold, by Barnabas Prontnicki

20 Nov

It’s fun to be back with all the familiar faces we met in Frozen, only this time, it’s not winter; it’s fall. And with a sequel comes new possibilities. While I respect that Frozen II tries to do something different and fresh from the original, it overall fails to match its predecessor.

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Fast Times, by Bob Connally

18 Nov

Ford v Ferrari, the new based-on-a-true-story/underdog vs. the world/sort of dual biopic is a movie that feels very familiar. The story beats and character dynamics are ones that audiences know well. Even if you don’t know the details of this particular story (as I did not), one more or less knows how things are going to turn out. There is nothing challenging about it and it is probably just what you are expecting it to be. Of course, there’s no reason a movie like that can’t be incredibly entertaining, and thankfully that’s what Ford v Ferrari is. Director James Mangold (Walk the Line, Logan) has delivered a movie that is involving, exhilarating, and makes you want to drive fast.

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On the Agenda, by Tyler Smith

10 Nov

Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell will be released in December and many people are questioning the timing, not only of its release, but of its general making. The story – about an ordinary man railroaded by the press into becoming a national joke – doesn’t exactly portray the mainstream media in the best light. With President Trump, and Republicans in general, regularly condemning the media as biased and craven, some have criticized Eastwood’s decision to make a film that would appear to give credence to that claim. They accuse the conservative Eastwood of making and releasing this film with a political agenda. 

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Imaginary Fiend, by Bob Connally

4 Nov

After directing low-budget comedies in New Zealand such as What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi was given the keys to the Marvel kingdom with Thor: Ragnarok, which turned out to be one of the best loved movies in the MCU and one of the funnier comedies of the last few years. Clearly not interested in playing it safe between big budget Marvel films (Waititi is currently writing Thor: Love and Thunder), he decided his next film would be a comedy set in Nazi Germany about a 10-year old boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler, just as one would have expected.

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Trite and True, by Barnabas Prontnicki

29 Oct

While Harriet serves as a great starting point from which to learn a part of American history, it does little to entertain or provoke.

Harriet tells the story of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and her subsequent missions to free other slaves south of the Mason-Dixon line. There are some strong performances from the likes of Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monae, and even country music star Jennifer Nettles shows off her acting chops. While a decent movie, you may want to spend your time watching other films this award season.

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Misery Loves Company, by Bob Connally

28 Oct

In 2015, Robert Eggers established himself as a highly-talented filmmaker to watch with his debut, The Witch. Maybe the most notable aspect of that film is the incredible sense of atmosphere Eggers creates. The grimy, foggy sense of dread. That mastery of atmosphere is a strong component of his second feature, The Lighthouse, but in service of a more character-focused story.

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Big Dreams, by Bob Connally

27 Oct

There’s a scene early on in Tim Burton’s greatest film Ed Wood in which Ed (Johnny Depp) and his friends read scathing reviews of the new play he’s directed. Still, Ed looks for the positive, emphasizing that the theater critic stated that the costumes looked realistic. There’s a similar scene near the end of Craig Brewer’s Dolemite is My Name where Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) finds the positive in equally scathing reviews of his new film Dolemite. Both Ed Wood and Dolemite is My Name are written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski, and the writers have a clear affection for both Wood and Moore. There is a key difference between the two scenes and the two central characters however. While Ed continually struggles and never finds success, Rudy does find it and experiences genuine appreciation in his time from the audience he’d most hoped to connect with. This gives Dolemite is My Name a sense of triumph that makes it one of the more genuinely uplifting movies to come along in some time. The struggle to get there is what makes it relatable and makes the ultimate triumph feel earned.

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Over Pressure, by Reed Lackey

22 Oct

In the realm of faith-based films, perhaps the least likely of sub-genres to encounter (second only to out-right horror) is the suspense thriller. The challenges in developing a compelling narrative while still making the film accessible to families are numerous. Tackling those challenges in his most recent film, Thy Neighbor, is director George A. Johnson, who has managed to craft a compelling and provocative suspense film, even if it does still succumb to some of the usual difficulties of both the suspense and faith-based genres.

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Abundance, by Tyler Smith

21 Oct

The best movies are those that would seem to somehow change a little bit with each viewing. Of course, we know that the films themselves haven’t changed at all. It’s the viewer. It’s us. We change over time, through new experiences, fresh insights, and engaging relationships, until the person watching a film for the fifth or sixth time could almost be considered completely different from the one that watched it the first.

At this point in my life, I’ve probably watched Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane around twenty times. It was hovering around ten, but then I became a film teacher, and the number skyrocketed. And the number will continue growing with each passing semester. My first time watching the film was as a teenager. I’d heard the film was great, but that didn’t begin to prepare me for the moral and artistic complexities contained in Welles’ masterpiece. After all these years of not merely watching the film, but studying both it and its creator, you’d think that the film had finally taught me everything that it was going to. 

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