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All Good Things, by Reed Lackey

24 Apr

What Marvel Studios has done in cinema is unprecedented: 10 years, 22 films, and a shared universe that spans multiple franchises, each and all cross-linked and overlapped. This grand enterprise sees its culmination (for now) in Avengers: Endgame, a film which is a direct continuation of the events in Avengers: Infinity War, but also presumes to be the grand finale of the first movement of this expansive storytelling landscape. The sheer anticipation surrounding this film is staggering, and the expectations would be monumental for any film to meet in any context.

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Just as Rehearsed, by Reed Lackey

28 Mar

The recent emergence of classic Disney animated features remade into live action films has yielded varied, but mostly positive, results. One of the biggest hurdles the respective filmmakers face is how to retain what made the classic animated feature so beloved while still justifying the existence of a renewed feature. Perhaps of all the possible choices, the biggest opportunity for reimagining and refreshing was the 1941 classic, Dumbo, which finally sees a new vision come to life.

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Over Pressure, by Reed Lackey

14 Jan

In the realm of faith-based films, perhaps the least likely of sub-genres to encounter (second only to out-right horror) is the suspense thriller. The challenges in developing a compelling narrative while still making the film accessible to families are numerous. Tackling those challenges in his most recent film, Thy Neighbor, is director George A. Johnson, who has managed to craft a compelling and provocative suspense film, even if it does still succumb to some of the usual difficulties of both the suspense and faith-based genres.

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A Year with Hitchcock: The Manxman, by Reed Lackey

7 Feb

The last of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent films is also arguably the best (although The Lodger remains the most significant). With strong, well-defined characters, a poignant and emotional narrative, and sturdy, focused direction, The Manxman is a solid entry in the filmmaker’s early catalogue.

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A Year with Hitchcock: Champagne, by Reed Lackey

4 Feb

Sometimes films aren’t trying to be anything complex or deep or rich or thought-provoking. But they at least need to not be boring. Champagne isn’t trying to be anything but a silly farce. But when the director of said farce is Alfred Hitchcock (albeit while his legacy was still in its infancy) it’s nearly impossible to divorce the expectations from the end result.

Ultimately, Champagne doesn’t amount to much of anything. It’s silly. At times, it’s even chuckle-worthy. But mostly, from both a narrative and thematic standpoint, it’s little more than a hollow waste of time.

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A Year with Hitchcock: Easy Virtue, by Reed Lackey

1 Feb

There is a discrepancy with when Easy Virtue was made in Hitchcock’s filmography. Truffaut’s definitive study of Alfred Hitchcock places this film as directly preceding The Ring, while most other records has it two films later. Regardless of when it was made, this one is quite fascinating, even if it isn’t very good. It contains very few of Hitchcock’s reputational trademarks, and yet somehow still makes sense when considered among his other early films.

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A Year with Hitchcock: The Farmer’s Wife, by Reed Lackey

28 Jan

Of all the things you’d expect from an Alfred Hitchcock film, straight-forward comedy would probably be last on the list.

Enter this early little gem — which would never rank among the comedic greatness of Keaton, Chaplin, or Lloyd (or even the funniest of Hitch’s work) — but is disarmingly funny nonetheless. The premise is very simple: a widower farmer decides to seek a wife. He seeks out a new bride in an almost mathematical fashion, frequently with highly comedic rejections. I chuckled several times during this film as each new rejection increased in absurd over-dramatics. It doesn’t ever quite rise to the status of screwball gold, but there are genuinely humorous moments.

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A Year with Hitchcock: Downhill, by Reed Lackey

26 Jan

Downhill is another early Hitchcock film – released in the US as When Boys Leave Home, under which it is most easily located – that wouldn’t classify at all as suspense (although it does maintain a certain ominous tone).

It’s a small character piece about a man who takes the blame for his brother’s wrongdoing (and suffers a variety of societal troubles as a result). It stars Ivor Novello (who played the lead role in The Lodger and actually wrote the play upon which this film is based). The story takes his character through a variety of jobs, a few relationships, and even a stint as a homeless vagrant. However, for all of the travels the story takes our hero through, he frustratingly ends up very much where he began, with no characters including himself having learned terribly much about the experiences. As a narrative it’s pretty innocuous and as a technical achievement it’s rather pedestrian. There are a small handful of notable shots and, as previously mentioned, the tone is effectively ominous throughout the film. But ultimately, this film does not hold up well.

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A Year with Hitchcock: The Ring, by Reed Lackey

23 Jan

An outlier in the filmography of a man mostly dedicated to suspense stories, The Ring is a sports-centric, love-triangle drama, and one that is surprisingly effective, despite some obvious flaws.

There is some conflicting information surrounding the chronology of The Ring in Hitchcock’s filmography. Most sources place it as immediately following The Lodger (which is where I’ve chosen to include it). However, according to “Hitchcock Truffaut” by Francois Truffaut, this was actually Hitch’s sixth picture. I mention this trivial contradiction because regardless of whether it was his fourth or sixth film, Hitchcock himself regarded it as his second “true Hitchcock film.”

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A Year with Hitchcock: The Lodger, by Reed Lackey

20 Jan

Hitchcock, and most of his critics and fans, consider The Lodger to be the first “true” Hitchcock film, despite the couple of earlier entries in his catalogue. It is unquestionably the most noteworthy of all of his early silent films. The Lodger certainly feels like what you would expect from an early Hitchcock film. It contains nearly all of the suspense master’s trademark qualities: suspicion, intrigue, murder, and – of course – blondes.

It is also the first representation of his most common theme, although mentioning precisely what that is would certainly constitute as a spoiler, so I’ll save it for the end.

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