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Cinematic Panic, by Bob Connally

12 Jan

As a child, Sam Mendes was told the story of a messenger surviving through No Man’s Land during World War I. The story was told to him by his grandfather, Alfred Mendes who was in fact that messenger. In his autobiography, Alfred stated, “The snipers got wind of me and their individual bullets were soon seeking me out, until I came to the comforting conclusion that they were so nonplussed about seeing at seeing a lone man wandering circles in No Man’s Land, as must at times have been the case, that they decided, out of perhaps a secret admiration for my nonchalance, to dispatch their bullets safely out of my way.” Aside from being potentially the most dryly British sentence ever written, it serves as the inspiration for Sam Mendes’ new film, 1917, which presents a far more harrowing view of a trip into No Man’s Land.

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Sound and Fury, by Reed Lackey

10 Jan

For a film to effectively evoke 19th century gothic, literary horror, it must be unified visually and tonally. The Sonata, the debut feature film by director Andrew Desmond, also manages to evoke the narrative sensibilities and structure as well.

Rose Fisher, a prodigy violinist, successful but unfulfilled, inherits the estate of her late father, who was also a world-renowned musician. Her relation to the legendary composer had been intentionally kept a secret, even from her displaced and curious agent, until his passing prompts a reclusive retreat for her to spend time figuring out what she wants from her future. What she doesn’t know (at least at first) is that her father killed himself rather violently and that he left behind a strange sonata, which would surely ignite the composing world but may also bring about the literal antichrist.

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Saving the Universe, by Bob Connally

6 Jan

Three episodes into the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian, I wrote, “Given how divisive the films have become, Star Wars needs something that unites the fans in a positive way. Right now it looks like The Mandalorian could end up being just that.” Now that the first season of the series is complete and The Rise of Skywalker has been released, it appears that The Mandalorian is indeed the thing that has united the Star Wars fanbase more than anything else in this Disney era. There have been a few bumps here and there, but overall series creator Jon Favreau’s dive into the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe has focused on character while telling relatively small scale stories well. Compare that to the noisy, busy, and unfocused The Rise of Skywalker and it’s practically night and day. As much as J.J. Abrams’ film is an attempt to appeal to fans of the original trilogy, it’s Favreau who has made something that actually feels like those films in the ways that truly matter, which is in regards to character development, tone, and pacing.

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Good Choices, by Bob Connally

29 Dec

Twenty years ago, Adam Sandler was famous for playing a variation on the same character in virtually every movie he was in. Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy all existed as vehicles for Sandler to play a man who never matured past the age of 8 and who could be given to sudden bouts of unbridled rage. Even in movies such as The Wedding Singer or Big Daddy, the characters he played never strayed far from his comfort zone and the writers and directors who tailored those films to his style never challenged him. Enter Paul Thomas Anderson in 2002, coming off of his 3 hour, 8 minute operatic ensemble drama Magnolia

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No Risk, No Reward, by Tyler Smith

18 Dec

At this point in the Star Wars franchise, what started in 2015 as intense eagerness amongst the moviegoing public has slowly turned into a mild curiosity at best and a resentful obligation at worst. So many people, whether they enjoyed The Last Jedi or not, view the final film in the latest trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker, with exhausted trepidation; a weary desire to get some kind of closure. And it appears that director J.J. Abrams sensed this – not that it was particularly subtle – and has obliged by creating a film that is so focused on tying up loose ends that it often feels perfunctory. Through rushed scenes, last minute developments, and astonishingly-clumsy exposition, Abrams attempts to undo the perceived damage done to the mythology by the previous film while also giving every character as satisfying an arc as he can, all while trying to keep the events exciting and fresh. This many spinning plates would be difficult for even the best directors; Abrams, a reliable journeyman but hardly an engaging auteur, does his best, but mostly loses control of the juggernaut that The Rise of Skywalker was always destined to be. 

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Killing It, by Bob Connally

5 Dec

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is the beloved author of numerous murder mystery novels. He’s just celebrated his 85th birthday with his children and grandchildren. His housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) is making her morning rounds through his palace of a home… when she finds him dead, his throat slit. Her reaction to this discovery is a comical one. Thus the tone is set for Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.

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Bountiful Hunter, by Bob Connally

25 Nov

The first time the Star Wars universe extended to the world of television was in November of 1978. The Star Wars Holiday Special remains one of the most baffling TV programs ever produced. Between several minutes of Wookiee growling, the bizarre and misguided scene with Diahann Carroll, and, “Stir, whip, stir, whip, whip, whip, stir,” it’s like watching a train crash into an orphanage that was already on fire. There is, however, one part of the show that those of us who have subjected ourselves to it must admit isn’t entirely a disaster. While the cartoon short that introduced Boba Fett a year and a half prior to The Empire Strikes Back has strange and unpleasant looking animation – what’s with the chins? – it’s not a bad story. It gave fans their first look at the Mandalorian armor of the bounty hunter who would go on to capture Han Solo before dying in the most embarrassing way possible. (Yes, I know that according to the extended universe he climbed out of the Sarlacc pit but, to anyone watching Return of the Jedi in 1983, Boba Fett was dead. In the most embarrassing way possible.)

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A Little Cold, by Barnabas Prontnicki

20 Nov

It’s fun to be back with all the familiar faces we met in Frozen, only this time, it’s not winter; it’s fall. And with a sequel comes new possibilities. While I respect that Frozen II tries to do something different and fresh from the original, it overall fails to match its predecessor.

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Fast Times, by Bob Connally

18 Nov

Ford v Ferrari, the new based-on-a-true-story/underdog vs. the world/sort of dual biopic is a movie that feels very familiar. The story beats and character dynamics are ones that audiences know well. Even if you don’t know the details of this particular story (as I did not), one more or less knows how things are going to turn out. There is nothing challenging about it and it is probably just what you are expecting it to be. Of course, there’s no reason a movie like that can’t be incredibly entertaining, and thankfully that’s what Ford v Ferrari is. Director James Mangold (Walk the Line, Logan) has delivered a movie that is involving, exhilarating, and makes you want to drive fast.

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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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