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A Year with Hitchcock, by Reed Lackey

5 Jan

The phrase is this “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” What I think we mean when we use it (or its reverse that the whole is “lesser”) is a certain intangible quality that can’t quite be dissected or calculated. It reflects a sensibility that language is still struggling to define about why something “works” or doesn’t.

We consider this issue when discussing film constantly. Franchise installments are constantly being ranked in comparison with their sibling entries, which deepens and furthers the conversation on that particular franchise as a whole.

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The War Room, by Bob Connally

29 Dec

I have long had a fascination with and a deep admiration for Winston Churchill, the man who did more than any other one person to save the world from Hitler and the Axis powers. That fascination and admiration have been shared by a great many filmmakers. In recent years alone he has been portrayed by Bob Hoskins, Albert Finney, Brendan Gleeson, Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon, Brian Cox, and John Lithgow just to name a few. So when there is so much film and audio available of the man and so many portrayals by some of the most accomplished actors of our time how does a filmmaker separate himself with something exciting? Well, Joe Wright accomplished this by casting a living acting legend and arguably the most chameleonic actor alive today, Gary Oldman.

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Christmas Evil, by Reed Lackey

24 Dec

If you’re of the ever-growing variety of holiday movie-watcher who prefers sardonic wit and dark humor to sentiment and sap, or who prefers a bit of menace and violence to caroling or cookies, then top off the eggnog, because there’s a holiday treat in store.

Better Watch Out, a new film from director Chris Peckover (only his second feature), begins simply enough: responsible babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is set to watch over 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) on Christmas Eve while his parents attend a party. This will be one of, if not THE last time, that Ashley will watch over Luke before she goes away to college and Luke wants things to be special. Unfortunately, the night is not long underway before it appears that someone may be trying to get into their home… if they aren’t already in.

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Oh, Hi! by Bob Connally

12 Dec

“Greetings, my friend. You are interested in the unknown. The mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now for the first time, we are bringing you the full story of what happened. We are giving you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the miserable souls who survived this terrifying ordeal. The incidents, places… My friend, we cannot keep this a secret any longer. Can your heart stand the shocking facts of the true story of…” the making of The Room?

Leading up to the release of The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s comedic account of the making of the 21st century’s truest bona fide cult movie The Room, many have understandably drawn comparisons to Tim Burton’s masterpiece Ed Wood. Like Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist seems to say to us out of the gate, “Look, we know that you know it didn’t really happen like this, but this is how it should have happened, so let’s just have some fun” (though in many ways it would appear that the true story was even stranger than what we see here). Also just like Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist benefits greatly from this approach.

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Classics Through the Cracks: Real Life, by Bob Connally

27 Nov

Citizen Kane. Casablanca. Lawrence of Arabia. Dr. Strangelove. Films considered by virtually all movie buffs to be amongst the greatest ever made. Classics. But there are so many wonderful movies that for one reason or another have fallen through the cracks and don’t get the recognition they truly deserve. In this new series I will be writing about and hopefully encouraging people to discover the classics that they’ve been missing. Movies like Bad Day at Black Rock, Hud, and L.A. Story just to name a few. I’ll be looking at the film, the era in which it was released, and other popular movies released in that era. For the first entry I’m writing about one of my favorite movies ever made and one that makes me laugh no matter how many times I see it, Albert Brooks’ Real Life.

The 1999-2000 TV season introduced American audiences to two shows that would change television forever. While so called “reality television” was nothing new, shows like Fox’s Cops and MTV’s The Real World were outliers. Major networks would air re-runs of scripted dramas and sitcoms all summer long, with very little original programming running between the end of May and the beginning of September. But as one millennium gave way to another, ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (a game show but one that emphasized human drama more than something like Jeopardy!) and CBS’s Survivor broke through to become primetime smashes. This would prove to be anything but a fad with reality shows quickly becoming ubiquitous and remaining that way 18 years on. It would have only made sense for a comedian turned filmmaker to satirize the format around say, 2002. But why bother? Albert Brooks had already done it to perfection. In 1979.

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Fly Far, by Bob Connally

24 Nov

Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn) is desperate to get through her senior year of high school as it begins in the fall of 2002. She wants nothing more than to escape the boredom of being a teenager in Sacramento and to fly away to college in New York. Maybe that’s why she insists that people (including her own mother) call her “Lady Bird.” Written and directed by Greta Gerwig (an actress long favored by Noah Baumbach), Lady Bird is as much if not more an exploration of the complicated dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship as it is a coming-of-age tale. It was hardly surprising to learn that Gerwig’s original title for the film was Mothers and Daughters.

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You Must Remember This, by Reed Lackey

23 Nov

Stories about death, deferred dreams, broken families and old wounds don’t immediately resonate as fodder for children’s films. But Pixar’s latest entry, Coco, attempts to tackle these subjects and more. Stunningly, they not only manage to craft an accessible and entertaining fable, but they also express profound observations about legacy, familial heritage and the power of art to unite and to heal.

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Empty Passion, by Darrell Tuffs

10 Nov

What’s the one thing that could make or a break a bleak romantic drama focused on the unstoppable love of two despairing individuals? The answer… chemistry. Unfortunately for Gabe Kliger’s European art/indie feature Porto (2017), it had none.

It’s not that Porto is a bad film necessarily, indeed, I enjoy parts of its filmmaking very much. An inventive and considerate camera does its best to dissect the strangely incoherent and dreamscape world of the film. I even caught sight of a few early Truffaut/Godard style camera moves, shots that seemed to reminisce the film’s own appreciation for new wave works such as Jules and Jim (1962) or A Woman Is a Woman (1961). Technically, the film stands on its own, with just enough cinematic beauty and creativity to run its course. The problem is this… emotionally, Porto seemed to think I was way more invested in its character’s and narrative than I actually was.

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A Time to Laugh, by Reed Lackey

2 Nov


Superhero movies are supposed to be filled with action, suspense, and occasionally gravitas. Very few of them, if any, have ever been focused primarily on laughs. Sure, the occasional witty catch phrase or clever retort has always been a functional element of superhero stories (I’m looking at you Spidey). But rarely, if ever, has a legitimized superhero film attempted to be a straight-forward comedy.

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Inhuman, by Bob Connally

8 Oct

Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner has become one of the most debated films ever made. Film buffs debate which cut of the film is best and they debate whether or not Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a human or a replicant. Where viewers come down on the Deckard question can depend in large part on which version of the movie they prefer. Even the director and star have disagreed about it for decades with Scott insisting, “He is definitely a replicant,” while Ford played the role believing his character to be human. 35 years later and 10 years after the release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Ford is back as Deckard while the question still looms.

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