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Effortless, by Tyler Smith

5 May

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At this point, the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are fairly easy to make. We know the characters and the world; we just need the new conflict explained efficiently and we’re off to the races. This is not a good thing. Movies should not be by-the-numbers, regardless of how deep into a specific series or franchise they are. In fact, with each new entry, we should see more effort put into the finished product, not less. Rather than simply give us a variation on what we’ve seen before, the filmmakers should at least attempt to present us with something new. By pitting its heroes against each other, Captain America: Civil War had the opportunity to show us something we hadn’t seen before. It could have divided our loyalties and made us question the motivations and philosophies of these characters that we’ve come to know and love over the years. And while it does tease us with that for a few minutes, the film mostly abandons that in order to give us more of the same.

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Throwing Down the Gauntlet, by Tyler Smith

20 Oct

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I walked into Andrew and Jon Erwin’s Woodlawn with my usual skepticism. Most Christian films leave a lot to be desired, both artistically and theologically. In an attempt to appeal to a neglected Evangelical audience, these films will oversimplify every element of their stories and themes, creating art meant to inspire its viewers, but that instead panders to them in the worst way. These films often fail at every artistic level, but are forgiven because their hearts are in the right place, as though a filmmaker’s intention is the only thing that matters.

And so when I was told that Woodlawn was the best Christian film in a while, I was understandably hesitant. A film that depicted faith amidst the trappings of a sports movie (a genre that often has pandering problems of its own) didn’t do much to inspire hope for me. But, while Woodlawn is far from perfect, it left me feeling engaged and entertained, which is more than can be said for any other faith-based film. For this reason alone, I consider Woodlawn to be the best Christian film I’ve ever seen.

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Rugged Individualism, by Tyler Smith

16 Oct

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Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is a very good- sometimes great- movie about the importance of seeing people as they are, rather than what they represent. That this is couched in a Cold War spy story makes this theme all the more resonant. For decades, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were engaged in a non-violent war of ideologies. This war often manifested itself as a constant scramble for information; about weapons, about technology, about pretty much anything. Paranoia was at an all-time high, with special attention paid to those that could be spies for the other side, infiltrating our ranks and selling our secrets.

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The Unknowable, by Tyler Smith

29 Jul

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James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour is a fascinating and sensitive exploration into the inner life of an unknowable person. In an attempt to delve into the complicated world of David Foster Wallace, Ponsoldt goes so much deeper and uncovers truths that are at once specific to Wallace, yet universal to anybody that has ever attempted to express himself, creatively or otherwise. It is a dark and invigorating place, and Ponsoldt has captured it perfectly.

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Little Hero, Big Problems, by Tyler Smith

16 Jul

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Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man can certainly be commended for being different. As the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe get larger in their scope, Ant-Man appropriately scales things down to a much more manageable size. We don’t get galaxies hanging in the balance. Instead, it’s just a basic story of corporate greed and recklessness and a few plucky heroes out to stop it.

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Togetherness, by Tyler Smith

30 Apr

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There is a moment early in Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron in which the superhero team contemplates how they could possibly fight against another onslaught of interstellar monsters. Captain America quietly states, “Together.” In the moment, it seems somehow sad, maybe even pathetic, to think that the only consolation about impending death is that they’ll die alongside one another. The moment has power, but not because it is inspirational.

The inspiration comes later, after the in-fighting and paranoia. After blame is thrown around and the characters are belittled by one another. Only after the team is at its lowest, with virtually no cohesion at all, do they finally come together to fight against an army of robots. Why does this happen? Because when you’re that low, you come to realize just how weak you are and how much you need other people. It is at that moment, after exposing one another’s flaws and fears and accepting them, that the Avengers truly comes together as a team.

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Home Movies, by Tyler Smith

19 Aug

CHANNEL NEWS (2010)
Written and Directed by: Jacob Kindberg
Starring: Jacob Kindberg, Sarah Kindberg, Joe Burger, Adam Lynch

Life is not without a sense of irony. When we’re kids, we spend all of our time wishing that we were adults. Then, when we take a look around at the mounting debt and missed opportunities that is adulthood, all we want to do is be children again. We realize too late that it was a simpler, more magical time in our lives. The future seemed like an endless expanse of possibilities. But, now, here we are, disgusted to find that our once-vast vision of the future extends no further than next week, when we have all that stuff we need to get done.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed, by Tyler Smith

10 Aug

MISSIONARY POSITIONS (2005)
Written and Directed by: Bill Day
Starring: Craig Gross, Mike Foster

Many already know about XXX Church, the Christian website dedicated to helping the millions of men (and women) dealing with porn addiction. The site and its founders, Craig Gross and Mike Foster, have become so high profile in the modern church, one would be hard pressed to find a Christian guy, age 18-30, that hasn’t heard of the site. The supportive environment offered by XXX Church, as well as the practical accountability software, allows Christians to be more open and honest about these struggles than ever before.

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But for the Grace of God, by Tyler Smith

2 Aug

JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961)
Directed by: Stanley Kramer
Written by: Abby Mann
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster

Is there anything more disturbing than when somebody tries to justify rape? Not that many people out there are doing that, but the fact that there are some men out there who blame it on the woman is both infuriating and just sad. One looks at this mindset and tries to figure out what exactly these people are thinking. How can they defend this? What is wrong with them?

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Accentuate The Positive, by Tyler Smith

1 Jun

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (2008)
Written and Directed by: Mike Leigh
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan

In these days of controversial warfare and economic downturn, who could possibly manage to be happy? This is the question posed over and over again in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky. The story is very simple. A young teacher named Poppy struggles to maintain her upbeat demeanor in the face of resentment, anger, and abuse. That may sound uninteresting to some, but Leigh approaches it as the central conflict of our time. And I think he just may be right.

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