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Brutish Squad, by Bob Connally

12 Jul

The premise of The Old Guard sounds like a teenage boy saying, “What if Highlander but Furiosa is John Wick?!” The resulting film feels as though it was written by a teenage boy. Basing it upon his own graphic novel series of the same name, Greg Rucka’s screenplay is full of cringe-inducing dialogue delivered by actors who are either trying to hide their own embarrassment or whose weaknesses are only exposed by it. The only exception to this is Chiwetel Ejiofor who is giving it his all as a character potentially more interesting than the immortal leads of the film. In his relatively small role, he’s better than this movie deserves.

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Breathless, by Bob Connally

11 Jul

As the grandson of not one but two men who served in the United States Navy during the Second World War and the son of a naval officer who was in the Mediterranean the day I was born, it’s fair to say I have a connection to the world Greyhound takes place in. That being said, my only real experience with naval vessels has been from ship tours and of course, war movies. Greyhound feels a bit different from most seafaring war movies in that its brief 92 minutes are filled to the brim with almost nonstop action. In this sense, it’s a far cry from Das Boot, where it’s around the 90-minute mark of the full miniseries cut before any action even occurs. The resulting film is fast-paced and certainly holds one’s attention though it doesn’t have anywhere near the sense of tension of Das Boot and it’s unlikely to have the high rewatchability in years to come of The Hunt For Red October.

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Synthesized Terror, by Bob Connally

7 Jul

If you’ve been watching movies and TV for the past decade and a half, then you’ve certainly noticed ’80s nostalgia being a big part (sometimes too big a part) of our pop culture landscape. The most unabashed and probably the most famous example of this has been Stranger Things, the ’80s set kids adventure, sci-fi, horror series that is packed with references to the films and shows of that era. There are numerous ’80s pop hits on the soundtrack and the show’s original score is pure synthwave. 

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Faith-based Optimism, by Bob Connally

10 May

Why are Christian movies so terrible? That’s a question many of us have been asking now for decades. The answer is simple really. Low production values, inexperienced actors, inexperienced directors, but most of all, cringe-inducing screenplays that lead with their message. They become films designed to be sermons more than movies. In his new documentary, Reel Redemption: The Rise of Christian Cinema, Tyler Smith of course examines those aspects of Christian filmmaking but he also goes much deeper into the relationship between Christianity and Hollywood over the past century.

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Daddy Issues, by Bob Connally

24 Apr

David Zucker (one of the comedy geniuses behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun) stated in his “15 Rules of Comedy” that, “Two jokes at the same time cancel each other out. When an actor delivers a punchline, it should be done seriously. It dilutes the comedy to try to be funny on top of it. Likewise, if there is something silly going on in the background, the foreground action must be free of jokes and vice-versa.” There’s a scene about halfway through Man Camp where some of our characters find themselves in a bar fight that violates this very rule. The fight in the background is played for laughs as a couple other characters have a conversation that is also meant to be funny. It’s not that these are strict laws that must be adhered to, and if something works, then it works. But when you’re making your directorial debut with a broad comedy, you would do well to heed the advice of David Zucker. Unfortunately, first time director Nate Bakke did not.

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Into the Wilderness, by Tober Corrigan

9 Apr

“Then Jesus was led up by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, and when he had fasted forty days and forty night, afterward he was hungry.” – Matthew 4:1-2

Using the above as its narrative basis, Douglas James Vail’s 40: The Temptation of Christ takes on the task of explaining what exactly happened during those 40 days and nights. Aside from the three temptations of the devil, everything else that could have happened in the wilderness has been left to the imagination. Screenwriter Reed Lackey takes it from there, dancing a fine line between respect for the source material (all of Jesus’ dialogue comes from scripture) and using speculation to guide the film’s deeper emotional truths. 

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A Breath of New Life, by Reed Lackey

6 Mar

Filmmakers in the faith-based genre have rarely even attempted a thriller, let alone an overt horror film. However, making a noteworthy attempt to marry religious concepts with metaphorical monsters is the recent film from writer/director Matt Long called The Red Resurrection. The film cleverly layers its Christian metaphors into its plot while remaining remarkably even-handed, although it can’t quite overcome the obvious stylistic restraints of a limited budget and a first time filmmaker.

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Misfire, by Bob Connally

5 Mar

In the years since his final appearance as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe has made interesting and admirable career choices. Steering away from other big franchises, he’s taken chances with live theater as well as smaller films and television shows. In one of the more unique films of the past several years, Swiss Army Man, Radcliffe played a talking corpse who becomes a suicidal castaway’s new best friend. Radcliffe’s performance is truly wonderful and one of the better and more memorable film performances of the past decade. Now he stars in Guns Akimbo, a new film with a premise almost as bizarre as Swiss Army Man’s, though it sadly lacks that movie’s imagination.

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Classically Good, by Bob Connally

4 Mar

Some novels hold up as such classics that one adaptation just isn’t enough for film or television studios. Just a few months ago, Greta Gerwig’s wonderful big screen interpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women became a critical and box-office success, although there have been numerous adaptations- some in different languages- produced dating back to the silent era. Gerwig’s success was due largely to her finding a way to speak to modern audiences with material that was first published 150 years ago. Her Little Women doesn’t feel like it could have been made quite that way before now, which is what makes it such a deeply worthwhile venture in a world where so many other films and mini-series’ based on the novel already exist. Now, director Autumn de Wilde is delivering the seventh adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved Emma. (There are even more if you count Clueless and its Indian remake Aisha). So does it find a way to break through as strongly as Gerwig’s Little Women? Not quite, but it still has plenty to enjoy.

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The Old Familiar Magic, by Reed Lackey

3 Mar

After more than two decades of storytelling, Pixar’s formula is fairly well set in stone. Each of their films introduces a unique world and its characters, after which shortly follows a problem – or a need – which initiates a quest into an uncertain and uncharted landscape. Eventually revelations occur, most frequently of the relational variety, where our characters experience epiphanies about themselves and those closest to them before likely returning home with a renewed understanding or a refreshed sense of purpose.

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