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A Year with Hitchcock: Number Seventeen, by Reed Lackey

15 Jun

Hitchcock tackles another play, but this time, it’s a full-blown noir mystery thriller. Behind the scenes, the financial failure of Rich and Strange (aka East of Shanghai) had caused the production company to remove him from the project he really wanted to do and forced him to take on this one. As a result, his heart wasn’t in its creation and he later heavily derided it as one of his least favorable films (he called it a “disaster”).

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A Year with Hitchcock: Rich and Strange, by Reed Lackey

12 Jun

Hitchcock lightens things up this time with an entry that drifts away from the smaller, domestic dramas and from his adaptations of plays to present a far more comical story about the allure of wealth and opulence. The result is a rather pleasant farcical adventure that Hitchcock himself liked quite a bit, and which you are likely to enjoy as well.

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Recognition, by Bob Connally

3 Jun

“The brains of people are more interesting than the looks, I think.” – Hedy Lamarr, 1990

One of the fascinating aspects of loving movies from Hollywood’s “Golden Age” is noticing how certain stars of the past are widely remembered today while others go largely forgotten, even if they were huge in their time. Even people who have never seen a Katherine Hepburn movie could probably tell you she was a popular actress of the 20th century. It’s likely they’ll have at least heard of Bringing Up Baby or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Throughout the 1940s, Hedy Lamarr was considered by a great many people to be “the most beautiful woman in the world.” However, films such as Algiers, Boom Town, Ziegfeld Girl, and Dishonored Lady are really only known today by the most dedicated classic film aficionados. Lamarr herself is no longer widely known as a classic film star. But based on Alexandra Dean’s new documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, the Austrian woman born Hedwig Kiesler would probably be delighted to know that she is now remembered for something far bigger. Something for which she was denied recognition during her lifetime.

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By The Numbers, by Reed Lackey

25 May

Star Wars as a franchise seems to have a complicated relationship with telling the beginnings of stories. The highly divisive and frequently maligned prequels to the original trilogy remain the low bar by which all other entries in the franchise are measured. It’s even riskier, then, for the franchise to begin to tell even more “stories-before-the-stories” with their recent entry Rogue One, and the latest installment: Solo.

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Maximum Effort, by Bob Connally

22 May

Two years ago much was made about the surprisingly massive success of Deadpool. Many attributed it to the film being a highly irreverent and decidedly R-rated superhero comedy that subverted expectations. This somewhat reductive view made me concerned that we would begin to be inundated with knockoffs made by people who didn’t really understand just what it was that made Deadpool work. I could practically hear studio heads saying, “A superhero who swears a lot and makes pop culture references?! That’s gold, baby! We gotta get us one of those!”

On top of that, Deadpool wasn’t even the first highly irreverent, decidedly R-rated superhero comedy that subverted expectations. It wasn’t even the first this decade. Both Kick-Ass and Super (which was directed by a pre-Guardians of the Galaxy James Gunn) had gone that route relatively recently. What made Deadpool special and such a wildly funny and entertaining movie was the passion and personality that star Ryan Reynolds brought to it.

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At What Price Victory?, by John Viinalass

2 May

Woof.

I’m not one given to profanity, but at the end of Infinity War, I found an expletive to be the only concise way of reacting to the emotional gut-punch I had just experienced. As the first part of a climax to a decade-long cinematic journey, Avengers: Infinity War wields its dramatic heft with far greater grace than you would expect from a two-and-a-half-hour long long summer blockbuster.
Note: Spoilers after the jump.

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Total Commitment, by Tyler Smith

25 Apr

Six years ago, at the end of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, the Marvel Cinematic Universe promised to become even bigger than it already was. By briefly teasing the eventual appearance of cosmic villain Thanos, they alluded to one of the biggest events in comic book history, The Infinity Gauntlet. Remembering the tragic events of that series, I found myself wondering just how far the MCU was willing to go. With Avengers: Infinity War, I finally have my answer. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, this film is every bit as enjoyable, daring, and vital as any superhero movie in history. It needed to take the genre to a new level of hopelessness, committing to genuine life and death stakes. And, while it may not feature the mass death of the comic book series, its fatalistic tone is everything that I was hoping for.

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Next in Line, by Bob Connally

2 Apr

In March of 1953, the Soviet Union had been gripped by the Great Terror for two decades. With each new enemies list, Premier Joseph Stalin had more Soviet citizens exiled, arrested, or executed without trial. With even the most conservative estimates suggesting that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of 20 million people, there’s a sense that the opening sequence of Armando Iannucci’s new satire is not as outlandish as it may seem.

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Good Boy, by Bob Connally

1 Apr

I remember my excitement when I found out how much my little nephew loved 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Not only because it’s such a wonderfully fun and delightful movie but because it meant that I could say that my nephew and I were both Wes Anderson fans. Even if he was far too young to see- let alone understand- any of the director’s previous five films. I just assumed he would come to see and love those in due time.

It has been nine years since Anderson’s first stop motion animated film and with two more live action movies under his belt in that time- Moonrise Kingdom and my favorite film of 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel– he returns to a format that he is uniquely suited for amongst today’s auteur filmmakers. No one is expecting or needing Paul Thomas Anderson or Christopher Nolan to delve into stop motion. (Though I wouldn’t say no to one from the Coen Brothers now that I think about it.)

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Extra Life, by Bob Connally

30 Mar

In 2011, author Ernest Cline’s highly entertaining science fiction adventure novel, Ready Player One became a modern day pop culture sensation. The book’s popularity was due in large part to Cline’s affinity for the pop culture of the 1980s. The wave of movies and TV shows either set in or heavily influenced by the ‘80s had barely gotten going yet but seven years later the film adaptation of Cline’s novel joins what has become, for better or worse, a tidal wave. 

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