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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Thrill Kill Cult, by Bob Connally

24 Sep

In the age of memes and video supercuts, Nicolas Cage having meltdowns and pulling freakish facial expressions has taken up roughly 40 percent of the Internet’s content. It’s a fact. You don’t have to look it up. What can get lost in that though is that when it’s in service of the right filmmaker, Nicolas Cage’s unparalleled ability to become unhinged onscreen can be so much more than an out of context joke. In the service of director Panos Cosmatos (2010’s Beyond the Black Rainbow) and his new film Mandy, Cage delivers a mesmerizing and thrilling performance as a man with a personal mission to destroy a local cult.

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Expendable, by Bob Connally

15 Sep

In the mid-‘80s, Shane Black was the Hollywood screenwriting wunderkind whose script for Lethal Weapon turned him into a hot property at the age of just 24. Around that same time Lethal Weapon’s producer Joel Silver cast Black in a small role in another film, Predator. Mainly Black was brought in to have a screenwriter on set to help punch up the film’s script mid-production. Physically he didn’t exactly fit in as a member of the military unit which featured the likes of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, and of course Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unsurprisingly his character, Hawkins, primarily serves as comic relief before he’s the first member of the team to be killed by the titular monster.

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The Towering Inferior, by Bob Connally

17 Jul

As I write this it is 30 years to the day since the release of the definitive shoot ‘em up action movie, Die Hard. Anyone who remembers the period between its release on July 15, 1988 and the arrival of The Matrix 11 years later is well aware of the effect that John McTiernan’s masterpiece (yes, I’m going to use that word) had on action cinema for the next decade. Seemingly every American action movie of the ‘90s was “Die Hard in/on a blank.” Even 1990’s Die Hard 2: Die Harder was a shameless knockoff of its predecessor, only set at an airport. Perhaps this is why putting Die Hard style movies on a plane was such a popular choice (Passenger 57, Executive Decision, Turbulence, Con Air, Air Force One, etc.). There was also a bus (Speed), a ship (Under Siege), a hockey arena (Sudden Death), and even Alcatraz (The Rock), and that doesn’t even come close to naming all of them. So pervasive was this trend that it gave birth to one of my favorite may or may not be true Hollywood stories. It is the tale of a man who sometime during the ‘90s pitched an action film premise as, “It’s like Die Hard…in a building!” Now 30 years later, long after the trend has died we get Skyscraper which is like Die Hard…in a building… A really tall building… thaaaat’s… on fire! Yeah, that’s it!

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Too Little, Too Late, by Tyler Smith

12 Jul

Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp is a pleasant enough diversion, with some clever sequences, but never really adds up to anything more than a placeholder within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Perhaps that’s okay, though. With the weight of everything that has been going on in the MCU, maybe a light, effects-heavy romp is just what the doctor ordered. Certainly, one of the interesting elements of this franchise is that we can have different tones from one film to another, with the Captain America films feeling notably different than the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, for example. However, ten years in and we’ve been trained to understand that everything affects everything else and that no hero, regardless of how isolated he may seem, is ever truly alone. So while Ant-Man and the Wasp is often a very amusing film – sometimes downright funny – it’s hard to reconcile it with the current tone of the larger franchise. And so the feel of the film is somewhat diminished and I found myself adopting a fatalistic mindset, wondering what the point of all this is, knowing what we do about the larger universe.

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“A Laugh Can Be a Very Powerful Thing”, by Bob Connally

22 Jun

On a Saturday afternoon during the summer between kindergarten and first grade, my dad took my brother and me to the Oak Tree Cinemas in north Seattle. Thirty years later I still remember sitting in a packed theater that afternoon, watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for the first time. Thirty years later I still love Robert Zemeckis’ groundbreaking film, for a few of the same reasons that I loved it then, but for many others as well. Almost all of us who love movies refer to the films we, “grew up on,” but the best movies that we love as children grow up with us. Few movies grow up as well as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

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A Year with Hitchcock: Waltzes from Vienna, by Reed Lackey

18 Jun

Hitchcock called this the low point of his career. He later called Champagne his least favorite of his films, but maintained that this movie represented an odd sort of crossroads and not an entirely pleasant one. Rich and Strange had been a good film but a commercial failure. Number Seventeen had represented a sloppiness in both style and substance, as if crafted by a hopelessly amateur filmmaker. Then, came Waltzes from Vienna, a film so utterly removed both by narrative and genre from the remainder of Hitchcock’s work as to seem ridiculously anomalous.

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A New Adventure, by Bob Connally

17 Jun

It seems hard to believe that 14 years have passed since Pixar released Brad Bird’s animated masterpiece The Incredibles. In fact, at least some showings of Incredibles 2 are preceded by a brief message from Bird and the main voice cast thanking the audience for their patience. It’s somewhat jarring then when the film picks up right where the first one left off, with the Parr family donning their costumes and masks to take on the Underminer (Pixar staple John Ratzenberger). Bird uses this immediate continuation of the story to his advantage giving this sequel a sense of instant momentum.

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