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The Ties That Bind, by Reed Lackey

8 Nov

Releasing this week on most VOD platforms is a strong and haunting story of a woman’s struggle to maintain her agency and her sanity as she wrestles with sudden grief and the apparent threat of indefinite captivity. Kindred is the debut feature from director and co-writer Joe Marcantonio and starring Tamara Lawrence, Fiona Shaw, and Jack Lowden. It owes an immediate and apparent debt to Rosemary’s Baby, but manages to forge its own unique path with some deliberate shifts in key elements.

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Hallmark Hall of Shame, by Bob Connally

5 Nov

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Dying – or drama – and comedy have one key thing in common. Both of them tend to work best when they are treated seriously. Even when the comedy is a very silly parody. Throughout the 1980’s, the team of David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams demonstrated how to do this right with Airplane!, the all-too-short-lived TV series Police Squad!, and that show’s much more successful spin-off film, The Naked Gun. They achieved this through brilliant writing and equally brilliant casting, emphasizing sincerity from the performances. Dramatic actors such as Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, and Leslie Nielsen delivered utterly ridiculous dialogue with complete seriousness in Airplane!, and that very simply is why it worked. If Nielsen had said, “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley,” pulling a goofy face, it would have killed the joke. The makers of Cup of Cheer would have done well to heed that lesson.

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International Incident, by Kevin McCreary

16 Sep

Infidel, the controversial political thriller, is actor Jim Caviezel’s second team-up with director Cyrus Nowrasteh. Going into this movie, I was far from sure what to expect. On one hand, Jim Caviezel has a keen eye for quality projects and has rarely steered me wrong. On the flip side, the film is executive produced by Dinesh D’Souza, the director of such politically-charged gems as Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party and Death of a Nation: Can We Save America a Second Time? I was eagerly informed by many friends on both sides of the political aisle that this meant “bad.” So, is this another Jim Caviezel-led Christian movie to add to your Jim Caviezel Christian movie VHS collection? Or are all my friends right?! Let’s discuss. 

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Into the Wild, by Bob Connally

1 Sep

Get Duked!, the feature film debut of music video director Ninian Doff wastes no time getting moving. We are introduced to three Scottish teens named Dean (Rian Gordon), Duncan (Lewis Gribben), and DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja) ignoring a decades-old video explaining the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Their teacher, Mr. Carlyle (Jonathan Aris), further explains that the boys will be traversing the Scottish Highlands without the aid of technology as they try to earn their award. What it really is for them though is punishment after setting a fire. Once they arrive in the Highlands they meet Ian (Samuel Bottomley), a boy who’s very excited for their outdoor adventure. Unlike the others, he has chosen to be there in hopes of being able to add it to his university applications. With that, Mr. Carlyle quickly rattles off an explanation of the route the boys will need to take and that he’ll see them at the campsite, and away they go.

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Most Triumphant, by Bob Connally

30 Aug

It would have been difficult to imagine saying this in 1988 as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure sat on a shelf, unlikely to be released in theaters, if at all. But 32 years later, we need Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) more than ever. We need their enthusiasm, we need their positivity, and in a year that has been, “Bogus. Heinous. Most non-triumphant,” we just need something to put a smile on our faces. Moviegoing as we know it has all but ceased to exist completely since March, but thanks to a video on demand release, Bill & Ted Face the Music is here just before the end of summer to give us all an escape from the never-ending nightmare we call 2020.

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Is That a Man? by Bob Connally

22 Aug

Upon seeing the 2-minute trailer for Disney+’s upcoming series adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book, The Right Stuff, I was struck by how unexciting it all looked. How do you make the story of the pioneer days of humanity’s greatest and most exciting endeavor appear so dull? Hopefully, the series – when it premieres on October 9 – will turn out to be the engrossing and thrilling show that the story deserves, but whether it is or not, the greatness of Philip Kaufman’s 1983 film adaptation stands the test to time.

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Trying Not to Come Back, by Bob Connally

16 Aug

It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have really started to embrace horror. I haven’t become a full-on gorehound, but I have developed an appreciation for horror movies and what they can deliver that is unique to any other genre. The biggest obstacle I had was the misconception that horror movies, by and large, did not care about their characters. While this may be true of many slasher films (the original Friday the 13thbored me to tears), it was an idea that had gotten into my head and it took a long time for me to realize I was wrong. The thing is, even slashers with little to no character development can be fun in their own ways if the filmmaker is inventive. After all, if I can love big, dumb action movies like Sudden Death and “The Greatest Movie Ever Made,” Commando, then I can enjoy a horror movie that delivers on the same level.

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What is Not Promised, by Reed Lackey

7 Aug

Bursting with unbridled creative boldness and fearlessly focused on the haunting questions it raises, She Dies Tomorrow – the new film by writer/director Amy Seimetz – is a film that will likely polarize audiences, confusing and frustrating some while inspiring and captivating others. It is a unique vision of anxiety and courage, carried almost exclusively by subtext and mood. It is somehow simultaneously as intimate as a shared secret and as relatable as a timeless myth. And it is entirely possible that when you finish it, you won’t quite know how to feel: which is a testament to its power.

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Warmed Over, by Barnabas Prontnicki

21 Jul

Over the weekend I made chicken sandwiches from a recipe entitled “Copycat Chic-Fil-A Sandwiches.” I also watched a movie where a discontented, immature male relived the same day over and over again and was only shaken from his mundane life by trying to win over a lady love interest. You may have heard of it, it’s called Groundhog, er, Palms Springs.

When I first saw a trailer for Palm Springs, I was excited. It looked funny, and while some are put off by Andy Samberg (who plays the lead, Nyles), I rather enjoy him. But my main question was, “Is this going to be any different from Groundhog Day?”

The answer: Not really.

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Strange Tides, by Reed Lackey

20 Jul

Strong horror stories thrive on the mysterious and the unknown. They are anchored in a sense of atmosphere and emotional evocation that, when most effective, connect with us on a visceral level. That effectiveness can often be undermined, however, by a listless sense of scope or underdeveloped elements. The Beach House, the debut feature film by Jeffrey A. Brown, walks a thin line between what works and what frustrates to create a film with several memorable sequences, even if the whole of the experience remains somewhat lacking.

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