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Imaginary Fiend, by Bob Connally

4 Nov

After directing low-budget comedies in New Zealand such as What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Taika Waititi was given the keys to the Marvel kingdom with Thor: Ragnarok, which turned out to be one of the best loved movies in the MCU and one of the funnier comedies of the last few years. Clearly not interested in playing it safe between big budget Marvel films (Waititi is currently writing Thor: Love and Thunder), he decided his next film would be a comedy set in Nazi Germany about a 10-year old boy whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler, just as one would have expected.

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Trite and True, by Barnabas Prontnicki

29 Oct

While Harriet serves as a great starting point from which to learn a part of American history, it does little to entertain or provoke.

Harriet tells the story of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and her subsequent missions to free other slaves south of the Mason-Dixon line. There are some strong performances from the likes of Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monae, and even country music star Jennifer Nettles shows off her acting chops. While a decent movie, you may want to spend your time watching other films this award season.

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Misery Loves Company, by Bob Connally

28 Oct

In 2015, Robert Eggers established himself as a highly-talented filmmaker to watch with his debut, The Witch. Maybe the most notable aspect of that film is the incredible sense of atmosphere Eggers creates. The grimy, foggy sense of dread. That mastery of atmosphere is a strong component of his second feature, The Lighthouse, but in service of a more character-focused story.

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Big Dreams, by Bob Connally

27 Oct

There’s a scene early on in Tim Burton’s greatest film Ed Wood in which Ed (Johnny Depp) and his friends read scathing reviews of the new play he’s directed. Still, Ed looks for the positive, emphasizing that the theater critic stated that the costumes looked realistic. There’s a similar scene near the end of Craig Brewer’s Dolemite is My Name where Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) finds the positive in equally scathing reviews of his new film Dolemite. Both Ed Wood and Dolemite is My Name are written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski, and the writers have a clear affection for both Wood and Moore. There is a key difference between the two scenes and the two central characters however. While Ed continually struggles and never finds success, Rudy does find it and experiences genuine appreciation in his time from the audience he’d most hoped to connect with. This gives Dolemite is My Name a sense of triumph that makes it one of the more genuinely uplifting movies to come along in some time. The struggle to get there is what makes it relatable and makes the ultimate triumph feel earned.

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Over Pressure, by Reed Lackey

22 Oct

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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Return Visit, by Bob Connally

24 Sep

Three and a half years ago, when Downton Abbey’s final episode aired, series creator Julian Fellowes left all of his characters – yes, even Edith – in a good place in their lives. For the Crawley family, the year was 1926 and, as a longtime fan of the show, I wanted to leave everyone just as they were. I was quite apprehensive at the first mention of a movie, worried that Fellowes might be tempted to have Edith’s husband Bertie choke to death on a potato or that my favorite character Mrs. Hughes might be crushed to death by a bit of scaffolding. Downton Abbey was never Game of Thrones, but enough characters we knew and loved died tragically that there was reason for concern.

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Heartfelt, by Bob Connally

28 Jul

Extreme violence, lengthy conversations set at tables or in cars, movie references most people won’t even notice, perfectly crafted soundtracks, liberal usage of “colorful metaphors,” and so very many shots of feet are just a few of the surface level staples of the work of Quentin Tarantino. But if you’re really paying attention you see so much more revealed with each film and he can still surprise us after 27 years and either 9 or 10 movies, depending on how you count Kill Bill (for the record, Tarantino himself considers Volumes 1 & 2 a single film). For instance, the word “heartfelt” had never come to mind with any of his earlier films but it’s clear to me that Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is just that.

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Nonmedy, by Bob Connally

13 Jul

If you’re a baseball fan then you are familiar with what a fantasy camp is. People in their fifties with disposable income throw down an obscene amount of money to have baseball practice for a week with retired Major Leaguers from their favorite team. Yes, that sounds fun to me. But it also makes me wish that movie fantasy camps existed. I’m sure sci-fi and fantasy would be the most popular genres. Horror would have huge turnouts, especially if people got to kill and/or be zombies. That’s all well and good. What I really want is to go to buddy action comedy fantasy camp. You show up on a dingy looking police station set that hasn’t been used since 1993, you get paired up with a total stranger, and then you get assigned a case. You have “gun fights, car chases, proper action and,” whatnot. Along the way you cause property damage, eat about 17 street vendor hot dogs, and get trained in the art of delivering a perfect post-kill one-liner.

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The Saga Continues, by Barnabas Prontnicki

19 Jun

Having ended on such a perfect note, I was wary of the Toy Story saga continuing with a fourth installment. After all, I grew up watching these toys, and was in college myself when Andy said goodbye to Woody and his friends as he left home. I still quote the original Toy Story all the time, mostly around my family. But rather than quoting something popular like “To Infinity and Beyond”, I instead think about Mr. Potato Head losing to Hamm in battleship, handing Hamm his nose and bartering, “How about three out of five?” Or Sid’s little sister looking desperately for her precious doll, until she steps on an intriguing Buzz Lightyear toy, playfully saying, “Nevermind.”

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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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