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Upside, by Reed Lackey

12 May


There is a very specific sub-genre of thriller set in a singular location, usually built around a countdown based life-or-death-stakes scenario. Notable entries in this field have been Phone Booth and Buried, but the latest one is an independent piece called Flipped (also known as Blood Rush), directed and co-written by Harris Demel.


Love and Horror, by Josh Long

11 May


From the first moments of The Lobster, we know the kind of disturbingly comical ride we’re in for. A woman drives through the rain in silence. She stops in a field of donkeys, gets out of her car, shoots one of the donkeys in the head, and returns to her car, all in one shot. We will not see this woman again, but her actions come to mean more as we are assimilated into the strange dystopian world of the film. As he did with 2009’s notorious Dogtooth, director Yorgos Lanthimos creates a singularly fascinating world, alternately filled with humor and dread.


Effortless, by Tyler Smith

5 May


At this point, the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are fairly easy to make. We know the characters and the world; we just need the new conflict explained efficiently and we’re off to the races. This is not a good thing. Movies should not be by-the-numbers, regardless of how deep into a specific series or franchise they are. In fact, with each new entry, we should see more effort put into the finished product, not less. Rather than simply give us a variation on what we’ve seen before, the filmmakers should at least attempt to present us with something new. By pitting its heroes against each other, Captain America: Civil War had the opportunity to show us something we hadn’t seen before. It could have divided our loyalties and made us question the motivations and philosophies of these characters that we’ve come to know and love over the years. And while it does tease us with that for a few minutes, the film mostly abandons that in order to give us more of the same.


An Unproductive Meeting, by Robert Hornak

18 Apr

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 3.19.10 PM

Elvis & Nixon, a stumbling fantasia based on a real meeting, the proof of which is a hand-shaking photograph that is famously the most-requested item from the National Archives, puts forth apocryphal assumptions of how and why Elvis Presley managed to maneuver past the wall of paranoia that was the Nixon White House, hoping to become a “Federal Agent-at-Large” in order to go undercover amongst his own celebrity circles – to “protect this country from sliding into anarchy.” The movie, as was the actual event, is set in December 1970, before Nixon had fully installed his now-infamous Oval Office recording system, so the reasons for the granting of the meeting and the content of the eventual conversation are left to the imagination of the screenwriters. Unfortunately for anyone who nurtures a real appreciation for the overwhelming richness of these idiosyncratic monoliths, the writers, who have a supreme opportunity to concoct some choice banter, play it instead as a quick, barely-scratched-surface intersection of awkward groping for common ground, neither one coming off as someone with actual secrets or legitimate motives, and the titular photo-op finally flops, neither funny nor especially interesting.


The Deep, Dark Woods, by Tyler Smith

14 Apr


With its wonderful 2015 retelling of Cinderella, Disney kicked off a new phase in their filmmaking that is at once exciting and daunting. By remaking their popular animated features as live-action films with a modern twist, the company must walk a fine line between paying appropriate homage to the classic films while still adding in enough new material (whether it be content, tone, or thematic elements) to justify them being remade. Cinderella did this beautifully, as director Kenneth Branagh tapped into his theatrical sensibilities to create an extravagant, fantastical world that still retained a complex humanity underneath. The simplistic characters we grew up with were allowed to have deeper emotions and desires, making the film seem like a more adult extension of the original, rather than an attempt to cash in on a well-known property. With their new reimagining of their classic The Jungle Book, Disney has crafted a film that is gorgeous and enveloping. Unfortunately, the new, darker story beats that are added are often negated by the obviously-obligatory incorporation of certain elements from the original that have no business being in this film.


Reed’s Top Ten of 2015

28 Feb


10. Room

It won’t surprise me if later years raise this on my list for me. There is an inherent metaphor present in the premise of a child who has only ever known a world between four walls that I find very compelling. I would spoil too much of what happens in the film to explain too deeply, but after the film was finished, I had so much rattling around in my head — about perspective, about being held captive from birth, and about the terror and hope of moving beyond what we know — that I was largely speechless.


Forgive Me, by Reed Lackey

27 Feb


I don’t know of a single person in my life that has not at one time or another been failed by the Church. Either through hypocrisy, condemnation, neglect, politicizing, or even outright abuse, I think everyone has or eventually will experience disappointment with the institution which claims to be the people of God on Earth. Some of these failings are matters of personal perspective, but some, like the ones I saw handled in the two films I’m about to discuss, are issues of deep violation and betrayal.


Escaping the Darkness, by Tyler Straessle

26 Feb


Many Christians will not see The Witch. Of the Christians who do see it, I expect that many will not enjoy it. It is an unsettling film. It is an intense film. It is hard to find any sort of redemptive message buried deep within its murky darkness, but I’ve managed to come away with a lesson in faith.


Dry and Arid, by Reed Lackey

12 Feb


Death in the Desert is an odd little movie. It had all the potential of a genuine cult indie thriller in the overall tone, visual style and musical score. But it is hindered by a multitude of sizable problems.

Supposedly based on the true story of the murder of a tycoon in the outskirts of Las Vegas, the movie tries very hard to establish an ominous quality to its narrative and for the most part, the tone is where it should be. But early promise never quite becomes anything more than that.


Just In Time, by Tyler Smith

28 Jan


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.”