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Just In Time, by Tyler Smith

28 Jan

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For several years, I’ve been making a joke about God’s will for my life. Having felt the call to become a film critic in 2008, I have often been frustrated by the lack of paid opportunities there have been for me. As a way of coping with this, I adopted a very caustic attitude and would frequently say, “God called me into film criticism just in time for it start dying.”

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Down to the Bone, by Reed Lackey

24 Jan

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Some stories are as old as storytelling itself. One of them is this: a damsel, pure and fair, has been captured by a dragon. It then falls to a group of upright knights, none of whom are fully sure they’re a match for the beast, to enter its lair and retrieve her.

If you substitute the knights for old west citizens and the dragon for a tribe of cannabilistic savages, you’ve summarized Bone Tomahawk, the directorial debut of S. Craig Zahler starring Kurt Russell. I cannot recall a movie like it in recent memory, yet it feels almost mythologically traditional. It manages to somehow be epic in its scope and simultaneously two-sentence-tiny in its premise. It is relentlessly brutal in its violence, yet restrained in how rarely that violence presents itself. It has a constant tone of dread while somehow managing to maintain an ember of hope glowing at its center.

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Minisode 77: The French Connection

7 Jan

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Tyler and Josh discuss William Friedkin’s The French Connection, winner of Best Picture for 1971.

Happy 2016!

1 Jan

As has become a yearly custom, I like to ring in the New Year by looking back on the films released a decade earlier. I don’t do this solely to make myself “feel old”, but rather to allow a moment of reflection. How has Hollywood changed in the last ten years? Which artists have come to prominence and respectability? Which ones have fallen away?

And, of course, an even more personal question. How has my own life changed since I first saw these movies? Has my outlook on film evolved in the last ten years? Has it devolved?

That’s why I enjoy doing this yearly post; it forces me to look back and reflect.

That said, the following movies are now ten years old:

CASINO ROYALE
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III
CARS
SUPERMAN RETURNS
THE DA VINCI CODE
THANK YOU FOR SMOKING
V FOR VENDETTA
LITTLE CHILDREN
INSIDE MAN
UNITED 93
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
THE DESCENT
TALLADEGA NIGHTS
IDIOCRACY
THE QUEEN
THE DEPARTED
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
MARIE ANTOINETTE
THE PRESTIGE
BABEL
BORAT
STRANGER THAN FICTION
THE FOUNTAIN
APOCALYPTO
BLOOD DIAMOND
DREAMGIRLS
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
ROCKY BALBOA
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM
CHILDREN OF MEN
NOTES ON A SCANDAL
PAN’S LABYRINTH
THE PROPOSITION

Eight Little Indians, by Darrell Tuffs

27 Dec

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While viewing Tarantino’s eagerly awaited 8th feature film, The Hateful Eight, two conflicting opinions were passionately arguing within my brain. The first was telling me, “This film is absolutely beautiful; a real cinematic treat!” Indeed, as one might expect from Tarantino, The Hateful Eight is a gorgeously crisp film. Shot on celluloid, and set within a blizzard-ridden Wyoming, the film presents the typical mountain range landscapes associated with classics of the Western genre, yet the film is able to subvert these geographical tropes somewhat by flattening and smoothing out the frame of the film with deep glistening snow. To effect, this flattening of the landscape highlights the individual features of the characters within the film, allowing them as personalities to stand out from the scope of their environment. As a cinematic technique, this creates wonderfully dramatic images of faces, figures, costumes and human expressions. The film is able to maintain this grand scope of beauty throughout, making great use of its grainy-yet-classic filmic style.

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Christmas with the Muppets, by Reed Lackey

21 Dec

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I took a poll recently among my friends to discover what was their favorite adaptation of Charles Dickens’s immortal classic short novel A Christmas Carol. The polling group was no more than twenty people, but the votes yielded a nearly unanimous result. The landslide winner was Brian Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol.

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In the Name of the Father, by Reed Lackey

17 Dec

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Film franchises are far from rare, but what is rare is for a film franchise to still have something relevant and noteworthy to say once it crosses the second or third installment. What is even rarer about Creed is that it is part of a franchise which is original to film, is not set within a typically franchised genre, and manages to somehow retell the first story in a fresh way while also elevating the stories which followed at the same time.

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A Merely Good Dinosaur, by Reed Lackey

25 Nov

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There’s a somewhat unfair quality that most audience members have when they see a film produced by a proven creative team. When a studio’s filmography includes entries which thrive on originality, subverting viewer expectations, and breaking through generational boundaries, films which are merely competent are often treated poorly by comparison. The Good Dinosaur, the latest entry in the canon from Pixar Animation Studios, suffers by being merely a good movie rather than a great one.

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The Same Old Scary Story, by Reed Lackey

21 Oct

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There’s nothing inherently inferior about choosing to tell a story that everyone’s heard before as long as they love the way you tell it. The same goes with film, where style and craft will always trump a lack of originality. The Inhabitants, a new low-budget indie frightener from the writing and directing team of the Rasmussen brothers, aims for this target specifically. It doesn’t pretend to tell you a story you’ve never heard before, it simply wants to retell a classic scenario as well as it can. The film offers a great deal of promise in its early moments on which it sadly never quite delivers.

A young couple decide to purchase a remote bed and breakfast inn called “The March Carriage”. As they begin to settle in and renovate the building, they encounter a sequence of eerie spectral occurrences which seem to indicate that they are not alone in the house. As I said before, this is nothing new.

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Throwing Down the Gauntlet, by Tyler Smith

20 Oct

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I walked into Andrew and Jon Erwin’s Woodlawn with my usual skepticism. Most Christian films leave a lot to be desired, both artistically and theologically. In an attempt to appeal to a neglected Evangelical audience, these films will oversimplify every element of their stories and themes, creating art meant to inspire its viewers, but that instead panders to them in the worst way. These films often fail at every artistic level, but are forgiven because their hearts are in the right place, as though a filmmaker’s intention is the only thing that matters.

And so when I was told that Woodlawn was the best Christian film in a while, I was understandably hesitant. A film that depicted faith amidst the trappings of a sports movie (a genre that often has pandering problems of its own) didn’t do much to inspire hope for me. But, while Woodlawn is far from perfect, it left me feeling engaged and entertained, which is more than can be said for any other faith-based film. For this reason alone, I consider Woodlawn to be the best Christian film I’ve ever seen.

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