Archive | movies RSS feed for this section

Over Pressure, by Reed Lackey

14 Jan

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.

[…]

The Uncurious Case of Adam McKay, by Tyler Smith

18 Dec

It may have helped his career and general pedigree, but it would seem that the worst thing for director Adam McKay’s artistic sensibilities was winning that Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2016 for The Big Short. In rewarding his comedically-anarchic approach to would-be dramatic material, the Academy essentially communicated to McKay that his throw-everything-at-the-wall instincts were much more of an asset than a liability. And while it can be refreshing to portray harrowing real life events in a humorous fashion – see Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin as a recent example – it can lead to an unevenness of tone and execution that amounts to a sort of thematic wheel-spinning; making a lot of noise, but ultimately going nowhere. This is most certainly true of McKay’s new film, Vice, which purports to portray what lay behind the actions of former Vice President Dick Cheney. The instincts that may have served McKay well with the event-centered Big Short fail him here, as his attempts to make an illuminating character study are undercut by his own incredulity. The final product is a film that is self satisfied, condescending, and – perhaps worst of all – exceedingly uncurious. 

[…]

Sharp Wit, by Bob Connally

12 Dec

There is a different version of The Favourite that could have been made. The traditional, staid period film that would have felt like so many others. Like anything else, this can be – and has been – done well. However, it can also be the kind of filmmaking that keeps the audience at a distance and that can make the past feel like a relic even to the people we’re watching live it. But screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara and director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) had something significantly more vibrant in mind. A film that despite its setting, costumes, and lack of modern technology feels as though it’s in the present. All the better because for its fascinating real life characters, it is.

[…]

Lookin’ for Adventure and Whatever Comes Our Way, by Josh Long

6 Dec

It’s always a bit strange to me that the “road movie” is even a genre. It’s a weirdly specific format and structure, and while I don’t have any problems with it, I always wonder what draws people to that particular type of story. Maybe it’s the wonder of seeing different places, maybe it’s the pressure cooker of people trapped together in a vehicle (a plane, train, or automobile, if you will) for long periods of time. Maybe it’s the unlikely connections between people, which has become a staple of the genre. Whatever it is, people are still making road movies and will continue to do so. While Hannah Fidell’s The Long Dumb Road may not bring anything strikingly new to the road movie, the wit and the performances make it a worthwhile watch.

[…]

Dwelling on the Past, by Bob Connally

17 Nov

Two years ago in my review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I wrote that, “It’s difficult not to be wary of films detailing the backstories of our favorite movies.” Thankfully that movie was a far cry from The Phantom Menace. Instead of being a direct prequel to the Harry Potter series that focuses on Dumbledore, it was a film with entirely new characters in a different time and place in the history of the Wizarding World. Its hero, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) was not your typical protagonist. Withdrawn, he isn’t yearning for adventure and he has no desire to do battle with anybody. He just wants to be left to take special care of the “fantastic beasts” he loves so much and to help the rest of the Wizarding World understand them as he does. Newt would likely be someone the hero would meet along the way in most movies. An odd but likable helper who might be there to lend a hand for a couple of scenes in the second act. Maybe he’d show up again at the end after the climactic action sequence. His being the lead gave Fantastic Beasts a unique feel.

[…]

Repair Work, by Reed Lackey

15 Nov

You’d expect a film with such a gimmicky title as Ralph Breaks the Internet to be little more than a sequence of pop culture sight gags and hopefully clever one-liners. You’d maybe expect an overwrought moral conclusion about the toxic dangers of how technology has irrevocably damaged our society. Perhaps you’d even expect a tidy little ending where our characters have all learned a valuable lesson but nothing has really changed very much.

What you probably wouldn’t expect – or at least I didn’t – is a strikingly thoughtful and often genuinely touching film about the both painful and hopeful nature of friendship and community. You certainly wouldn’t expect it to be one of the best sequels Disney has ever produced. I mean, come on… it’s called Ralph Breaks the Internet, for crying out loud.

[…]

The Importance of Awareness, by Bob Connally

26 Oct

“If society got its ideas about people with disabilities from TV,” states disabled actor Robert David Hall (CSI) at the beginning of CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion, “they would think that basically we’re either pathetic or superpeople.” It really only takes a cursory trip through our movie and TV memory banks to know that Hall is correct about that. Director Jenni Gold’s documentary is a thorough examination of why and how this idea has taken root. She goes back to the earliest depictions of the disabled on screen, beginning with Thomas Edison’s 1897 short, The Fake Beggar.

[…]

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places, by Bob Connally

15 Oct

Bad Times at the El Royale is a difficult film to review because everything we think we know at the start is revealed to be a lie before we’ve even had a chance to settle in. This is cleverly designed by writer-director Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) and is ultimately one of the movie’s two central themes. The other is about the various ways its characters relate to God.

[…]

The Hiding Place, by Reed Lackey

11 Oct

Horror stories in TV and film already come in multiple varieties: slashers, paranormal, creature-features, gore-fests, etc. But one variety of horror story that is rarely considered as such is the closer-to-reality ilk of true crime dramas such as CSI or even Law & Order. While it is true that the tone and intention behind these stories are often more dramatic in flavor, I’ve often speculated that the violence described in most episodes of criminal procedurals easily rivals the grisliest of gruesome activities of Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers.

I would submit for your consideration a new entry in that sub-category of “true-crime horror” a new film by Nick Searcy, his sophomore feature effort, called Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. The title implies a certain horrific conceit already, but the based-on-a-true-story trial in question was the trail of Kermit Gosnell, an abortion doctor who was discovered to live and operate in horrendously filthy and cluttered conditions, and who was responsible for the deaths of numerous infants and at least one adult woman through unlawful and unsanitary practices.

[…]

The Beauty is Just Skin Deep, by Josh Long

1 Oct

If you’re a horror fan, you eventually come across giallo films, and in doing so, you quickly find out about Dario Argento’s 1977 classic Suspiria. Set in a ballet studio where a coven of witches carry out dark rituals, the film is famous for its vibrant colors, eerie score, and gruesome deaths. Forty years later, Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) is trying his hand at this story, although he says it’s more of an “homage” than a “remake.”

[…]