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Still Crazy After All These Years, by Bob Connally

27 Mar

In 1996, Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s wildly popular novel chronicling the lives of Scottish heroin addicts quickly became one of the highest grossing British films of all-time and an international hit. Trainspotting was accused by many who did not see it of glamorizing drug use. While it was incredibly entertaining and often very funny, its style unflinchingly showed the horrors of heroin addiction without taking a heavy-handed stance about it. If you can watch a character dig into the “worst toilet in Scotland” on his hands and knees, another wake up in a pile of his own excrement, and another dying in squalor of AIDS and come away from that film believing that being a heroin addict is an exciting and glamorous lifestyle then your critical thinking skills are almost certainly broken. While Boyle didn’t back away from the horrors he also didn’t back away from what it is about heroin that creates addicts in the first place. Still, I would imagine that for a teenager, watching Trainspotting would make a far more effective anti-drug teaching tool than anything he or she could learn from D.A.R.E.

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The Sacred and the Profane, by Reed Lackey

18 Mar

For decades, a notorious film by director Ken Russell provoked debate, controversy, and sometimes disgust in audiences who had the rare privilege to see it. Banned in several countries around the world, and lacking formal distribution in any others, The Devils was one of film connoisseurs’ most heavily sought lost treasures. Warner Brothers began a rocky distribution in the early 2000s, releasing the film in limited printings, with sub-par video quality, on DVD. It appeared on iTunes in 2010, only to be removed again without explanation after only 3 days. Even these few releases removed the more severely controversial moments of the film, and a complete version remains extremely elusive, if not entirely lost.

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Timeless, by Reed Lackey

14 Mar

On the short list of candidates for the proverbial title of “definitive fairy tale”, you might find Snow White, Cinderella, and – of course – Beauty and the Beast. For countless audiences, both young and old, this “tale as old as time” is framed almost exclusively around the images, the events, and the unforgettable songs of the 1991 Disney animated masterpiece. So, needless to say, a live action reimagining has some immense expectations to meet along with its baked-in good will.

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King of the Wild Frontier, by Bob Connally

12 Mar

As film lovers we watch different movies for different reasons. Sometimes we need to laugh, sometimes we want to be challenged intellectually; sometimes we’re looking for something with strong emotional resonance. And sometimes we want to see a gigantic gorilla smash things. If you like movies where gigantic gorillas smash things (and why on earth wouldn’t you?) then Kong: Skull Island delivers what you’re looking for in spades.

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Racial Tension, by Bob Connally

5 Mar

For five seasons, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key tackled any and all topics on their sketch comedy series Key & Peele. Over those 55 episodes, their love and encyclopedic knowledge of film- particularly horror movies- came through in several sketches, so it’s hardly surprising that Peele’s directorial debut is a horror film. What is surprising is that he displays a command and confidence that belies the fact that it is his directorial debut.

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Endless Possibilities, by Reed Lackey

25 Feb

The best science fiction operates on two levels: limitations and possibilities. Mostly the limitations are human ones while the possibilities are scientific ones. Coherence is a film that has a strong handle on both. It largely takes place in one room… sort of… and yet, seemingly points to nearly endless differences between reality and understanding.

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The Madness of Belief, by Reed Lackey

22 Feb

William Peter Blatty, the legendary author of The Exorcist, directed exactly two films. The most popular of those is The Exorcist III, but before that, he helmed the bizarre, reflective, often hysterical and often alarming oddity called “The Ninth Configuration”. Starring Stacy Keach and Scott Wilson, the story tells of an insane asylum which has just received a new director named Kane. What begins as an apparent adjustment period as director and patients get to know one another eventually shifts into unusually heavy and thought-provoking territory.

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The Danger of Trust, by Reed Lackey

18 Feb

I must confess that the style of the genre known as “mumblecore” is still something to which I’m adjusting. The sparse settings, the mostly improvised dialogue, and the naturalistic performances seem to be striving towards a deliberate reality, and as a result have their virtues and their detriments.

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Blistering, by Reed Lackey

15 Feb

In turbulent and uncertain times, heightened anxieties and tensions are often described by four metaphorical words: “Things are heating up.” Blind Sun, a recent French film from director Joyce Nashawati takes those words to heart and crafts a story around them that is challenging, reflective, and, at times, quite troubling.

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Going Nowhere Fast, by Bob Connally

12 Feb

In 2001, a relatively unknown 40-year old British comedian named Ricky Gervais burst onto the BBC. As David Brent, the hopelessly oblivious boss on The Office, the character describes himself as “a friend first, a boss second…probably an entertainer third.” Brent’s excruciating mugging, tone-deaf jokes, and attempts to be everybody’s friend, pained his employees and made the audience laugh and cringe in equal measure. Both in the lead role and as the co-writer and co-director of all 14 episodes (it was designed to be that short), Gervais managed to always walk a tightrope without falling off of it. Brent was almost a cartoon character but he remained just believable enough, as did the show, that viewers running across it unaware The Office was a mockumentary could have been forgiven for believing it was real.

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