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It Stings! by Darrell Tuffs

17 Jun

Before watching Tsunambee, the latest directorial effort by Milko Davis, I really wanted to enjoy it; above all, I was looking for the film not to take itself too seriously, hoping for a ridiculous but fun journey through the pleasures of cheaply made B-movie horror. During isolated moments, the film came so close to providing this; its set-up sounds like a terrifyingly camp dream I once had, and its advertising material feels appropriately exaggerated for such an extravagantly high-concept narrative. Yet the film, for the most part, fails to deliver on these promises, instead resorting to exposition dialogue in place of visual energy, and a half-baked faith narrative so awkwardly shoved-in that it almost becomes insulting.

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What’s the Point? by Tim Acheson

16 Jun

Even as I would continually pause my viewing of Revelation Road: The Black Rider to listen to Indie music or watch a clip from Mad Max: Fury Road, keeping with the Bible’s command to only concern oneself with what is excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8), there is this much I can say not just for The Black Rider, but for the Revelation Road trilogy as a whole: I consider it a guilty pleasure. Not as offensive as the God’s Not Dead duology but, with its writing, acting, directing and special effects, nowhere near reaching the heights of post-apocalyptic fare like The Book of Eli, The Revelation Road films are, at their best, films to be laughed at in the company of friends, in the tradition of so-bad-it’s-good films like Birdemic: Shock and Terror.

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Authentic Romance, by Josh Long

14 Jun

Generally, I don’t enjoy romantic comedies. There are exceptions, of course, but many of them fall into regular traps; weak characters, predictable structures, pandering. So even when people that I love (Kumail Nanjiani and Michael Showalter) collaborate on a rom-com, I’m a little trepidatious.  Could it be a When Harry Met Sally, or is it going to succumb to the lower common denominators of the genre? Fortunately, The Big Sick has a big factor playing in its favor: authenticity.

The Big Sick is based on real life events. It’s the story of how Nanjiani (the co-writer and lead actor in the film) met and fell in love with his real life wife, Emily Gordon (the other co-writer). And it’s a great story – the kind every couple wishes they had when someone asks them “so how did you meet?” Gordon and Nanjiani met in a comedy club in Chicago, when she heckled him at a show (although I’m with her on this one – a “woo-hoo” isn’t necessarily a heckle).

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For the Greater Good, by Bob Connally

11 Jun

As a film reviewer, being able to view movies as objectively as possible is important. I feel like I’m pretty good at that. I don’t really care what genre a movie is or who its target audience may be. A good movie is a good movie. But of course, like anyone else there are certain kinds of films that I gravitate towards and that just have a built in advantage for me. For some people it’s horror, for others it’s “hard” sci-fi. For me though, it’s cop movies, particularly buddy cop movies. The more packed with tropes the better.

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Trilogy Anatomy: The Godfather III, by Tober Corrigan

10 Jun

Upon being asked after the release of the Dark Knight if he had a third installment planned, Christopher Nolan replied with asking ironically how many good third movies there were. Of course, Nolan eventually did complete his trilogy, whether it being against his better judgment or not depending on who one talks to. Throughout movie history, the essential functions of the third film in a series have either been as a fitting and satisfactory end to a particular storyline (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), a disappointing but nevertheless conclusive entry (Godfather III), or a debacle so big as to necessitate a reset to the franchise (Superman III/Spiderman 3, etc., etc.). In anticipation of another highly-anticipated third film, War for the Planet of the Apes, this weekly series will cover famous third films, infamous third films and otherwise, exploring how trilogy-enders or other types of third films have functioned in relation to its series.

The recent Tribeca-sponsored Godfather reunion of Francis Ford Coppola and remaining cast immediately followed screenings of Part 1 and Part 2. There was no trilogy to speak of. It’s rather culturally understood at this point to disregard the 1990 sequel to one of the most acclaimed series in film history, and yet it’s still surreal to see how quick those who made it are to dismiss it too.

Admiration for the film today can be found in theory though not necessarily in practice. Both the shock and the horror of Godfather III is in its brazen disregard for what came before. Perhaps this is a function of its infamous preproduction (Robert Duvall backing out, the role of Mary Corleone going to Sofia Coppola last minute), or it could be that we were seeing the start of late-period Coppola without even realizing it. Whatever the reason, one must be daring enough to watch the film more as experiment than canon entry for it to have any power. Only then can Godfather III live or die on its own terms. It still mostly dies, but the better question is perhaps if any film within the context of its trilogy should be intending to work on its own terms.

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Worth Fighting For, by Bob Connally

6 Jun

Ever since Warner Bros. started up the DC Extended Universe with 2013’s Man of Steel, they have been looked upon as lagging far behind Marvel and its own cinematic universe that had begun in 2008. While Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad all made plenty of money, none of them were considered artistic successes. Man of Steel was a joyless, clunky mess and Suicide Squad was an appalling trainwreck. I did not see Batman v Superman but outside of Ben Affleck’s Batman, the consensus was not favorable.

In terms of quality the DCEU was largely considered to be 0 for 3 and it’s seemed that there’s been no one at the wheel with a clue about how to properly run things. It can be easy to forget though that at this same point into the Marvel Cinematic Universe they had made Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2. Everybody loved Iron Man (a movie that holds up very well nine years later) but Iron Man 2 was nowhere near as well-received and even by that time, The Incredible Hulk had essentially been forgotten about. For a DC optimist, one could say that they were just an Iron Man away from righting the ship. But could they really do it? Specifically could Wonder Woman finally end the artistic losing streak?

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Making the World a Better Place, by Bob Connally

3 Jun

When it premiered on FX in January of 2013, The Americans entered a TV landscape that already featured an embarrassment of quality riches. After 5 seasons and 65 episodes though, it has emerged as some of the most absorbing storytelling in any medium in a very long time.

As someone with a strong fascination with the Cold War, I had great excitement for the pilot episode which introduced us to Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) Jennings, two Soviet “illegals” in 1981 who had been living in the suburbs of Washington, DC for the better part of two decades. Having been placed in the United States by the KGB, Elizabeth and Philip have a cover marriage, cover jobs as travel agents with cover histories and even two cover children, Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati), neither of whom have any idea of their parents’ true identities. Elizabeth and Philip’s real job involves honey traps and murders in the name of the Soviet cause. After all of these years and missions, the life is wearing on Philip and he has begun to question if America is really as bad as the Soviet government would have their people believe. Elizabeth meanwhile is as committed as ever, firmly believing that every life she takes is justifiable in the effort to “make the world a better place.”

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Trilogy Anatomy: Lady Vengeance, by Tober Corrigan

2 Jun

Upon being asked after the release of the Dark Knight if he had a third installment planned, Christopher Nolan replied with asking ironically how many good third movies there were. Of course, Nolan eventually did complete his trilogy, whether it being against his better judgment or not depending on who one talks to. Throughout movie history, the essential functions of the third film in a series have either been as a fitting and satisfactory end to a particular storyline (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King), a disappointing but nevertheless conclusive entry (Godfather III), or a debacle so big as to necessitate a reset to the franchise (Superman III/Spiderman 3, etc., etc.). In anticipation of another highly-anticipated third film, War for the Planet of the Apes, this weekly series will cover famous third films, infamous third films and otherwise, exploring how trilogy-enders or other types of third films have functioned in relation to its series.

Sometimes the best trilogies come in the strangest packages. This is certainly true for Park Chan-Wook’s self-proclaimed Vengeance Trilogy. Though not connected in any conventional narrative sense, the three films do contain enough cross-references, callbacks, and through lines to back the director’s claims. Principal actors in one film reappear in the next in a minor role, accentuated in ways meant to evoke their other screen selves within Chan-Wook’s universe. Certain visual tricks get re-introduced with each film, seemingly inconsequential objects in the first film become iconography by the third. What these connections mean in and of themselves are at first hard to read.

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Meeting Your Heroes, by Bob Connally

29 May

“Never meet your heroes.” It’s a phrase and a sentiment that we are all familiar with because there are some unfortunate souls who have met a celebrity or an inspirational figure and ended up gravely disappointed. Not many of us however have had that disappointment echo through history the way young Robert Ford’s did.

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At Home at the End of the World, by Tim Acheson

28 May

Watching The Sea of Glass and Fire, the second film in the Revelation Road trilogy, the best way that I know how to describe it is: It’s a raisin cookie. Ever take a bite of a cookie you thought was chocolate chip and think, “Ugh! Raisins!” but then just plow ahead and finish it because, hey, you already started it and raisin cookies aren’t half bad?

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