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Fireworks, by Bob Connally

5 Apr

A few years ago in my review of Kong: Skull Island, I wrote, “Sometimes we want to see a gigantic gorilla smash things.” Of course, while much has changed in our world since that time, that’s an eternal and universal truth. So as movie theaters gradually re-open across the country, the opportunity to see a gigantic gorilla and a gigantic lizard smash things and indeed, each other, has emerged and many people who have not ventured into a movie theater in over a year are taking that opportunity. Being that there are still many theaters that remain closed and because many are understandably averse to going into public for reasons other than buying groceries, Warner Bros. is offering Godzilla vs. Kong on its streaming service, HBO Max, at this same time. So is this monster brawl worth watching and if so, is it worth seeing in a theater?

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A Cold Warrior, by Bob Connally

29 Mar

Since the 1950s, the Cold War spy film has become such a staple that it could really be classified as its own genre and it’s been an incredibly popular one at that. Other than probably Sherlock Holmes, there may not be a more recognizable character name in the world than James Bond. In the wake of the wild success of the early Bond films of the ’60s, spy movies of all kinds flooded cinemas. Serious fare such as excellent The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was accompanied by the goofy fun of the Flint movies starring James Coburn. The now-legendary Michael Caine had his own spy franchise at that time starring as British agent Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, and Billion Dollar Brain. Some of Alfred Hitchcock’s later films such as Torn Curtain and Topaz directly told Cold War espionage stories. 

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Mystery Machine, by Bob Connally

14 Feb

At the age of 12, Abe Applebaum solved “The Case of the Missing Fundraiser Money.” This led to a career as a kid detective, solving mostly minor cases for his classmates in his small town of Willowbrook, becoming a local celebrity. His secretary, Gracie, “worked for soda pop.” When they were 14, Gracie was kidnapped and Abe felt the weight of expectation to bring her home. Nearly 20 years later, Abe (Adam Brody) is still a detective with his own office in Willowbrook. Sadly though, Abe sees himself as an utter failure for not finding Gracie and the people of the town are no longer impressed by his past achievements.

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Breaking the Sound and Sight Barrier, by Reed Lackey

18 Dec

It is a rare gift to stumble across a film about which you had heard and seen almost nothing and discovering a work of precision, artfulness, and profound emotional resonance. Silence & Darkness, the debut feature from writer and director Barak Barkan, is an intimate and deeply compelling work, inviting viewers into a hypnotic world between two sisters – one blind, the other deaf – and the terror and hope that is present in the life they share together.

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Naughty and Nice, by Bob Connally

29 Nov

In 1987, Mel Gibson played Martin Riggs, a cop with a death wish in Lethal Weapon, which has become an untraditional Christmas classic. 33 years later, Gibson is back for more Christmastime violence – in the role of Santa, no less – in the gleefully inventive Fatman

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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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