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A Merely Good Dinosaur, by Reed Lackey

25 Nov


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.


The Same Old Scary Story, by Reed Lackey

21 Oct


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.


Throwing Down the Gauntlet, by Tyler Smith

20 Oct


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.


Viewer Discretion is Advised, by Reed Lackey

17 Oct


I can still remember the most blasphemous thing I ever said as an actor. My character believed in God, but had utterly rejected Jesus Christ. He was full of fury and bitterness and at a key point in the play, I had to look at the iconic image of Jesus, beaten and bloody for the sins of the world, pretending to be this angry man and yell, “If you are the Son of God, come down off of that cross and save yourself!”


Rugged Individualism, by Tyler Smith

16 Oct


Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is a very good- sometimes great- movie about the importance of seeing people as they are, rather than what they represent. That this is couched in a Cold War spy story makes this theme all the more resonant. For decades, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were engaged in a non-violent war of ideologies. This war often manifested itself as a constant scramble for information; about weapons, about technology, about pretty much anything. Paranoia was at an all-time high, with special attention paid to those that could be spies for the other side, infiltrating our ranks and selling our secrets.


“Good” and “Bad” Movies, by Reed Lackey

13 Oct

Before we dive into defining movies as “good” or “bad,” it might be valuable to use another more basic term which might be applied to any art in any medium, but which certainly applies to film. Before a film can be considered either good or bad, we first have to figure out whether or not a film “works”.


Crustaceous Humongous, by Reed Lackey

7 Sep

Let’s get right down to business. The movie is called Queen Crab. Its plot involves the daughter of a scientist studying growth chemicals in plant life feeding her father’s experiments to her pet crab, causing it to become gigantic. How could anything possibly go wrong?


The Stuff of Nightmares: A Tribute to Wes Craven, by Reed Lackey

31 Aug

I was up late one night while we were visiting family out of town. I was alone, flipping through channels to find a movie to watch, when I stumbled across a sequence of images of a person sharpening knives and hammering metal brackets. A haunting lullaby ominously underscored the project and once the contraption was complete, a hand spread its fingers and revealed a terrifying knife-fingered glove. The title card read A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was eight years old.


The Unknowable, by Tyler Smith

29 Jul


James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour is a fascinating and sensitive exploration into the inner life of an unknowable person. In an attempt to delve into the complicated world of David Foster Wallace, Ponsoldt goes so much deeper and uncovers truths that are at once specific to Wallace, yet universal to anybody that has ever attempted to express himself, creatively or otherwise. It is a dark and invigorating place, and Ponsoldt has captured it perfectly.


Little Hero, Big Problems, by Tyler Smith

16 Jul


Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man can certainly be commended for being different. As the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe get larger in their scope, Ant-Man appropriately scales things down to a much more manageable size. We don’t get galaxies hanging in the balance. Instead, it’s just a basic story of corporate greed and recklessness and a few plucky heroes out to stop it.