2017 Summer Movie Review: Dunkirk

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Three British soldiers waiting to be rescued in Christoper Nolan’s Dunkirk. (Source: IMDb)

Who doesn’t love Christopher Nolan? He’s one of the most ambitious yet brilliant filmmakers working today, who has a very unique style relying on the practicality. He is widely known for rebooting the Batman franchise after the dismal Batman and Robin. He often transports the audience to another world in movies such as the mind-bending Inception and the disappointing and overrated Interstellar. His latest film, Dunkirk, is a different approach for Nolan. A film taking place in a historical setting; let alone, World War II. Is there anything he can’t do?

Dunkirk features three storylines set on land, at sea, and in the air, told in non-linear fashion (make sure you pay attention to what’s going on). During the evacuation on the beaches of France, Nazi Germany has surrounded 400,000 men from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France. Among those who are waiting to be rescued are Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (One Direction’s Harry Styles), both of whom are in the British Army. While on the pier, Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) and Col. Winnant (James D’Arcy, Agent Carter) are making sure the soldiers are settling on the ships safely.

Meanwhile, out at sea, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) is driving in his yacht with his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney). They rescue a wounded soldier (Cillian Murphy), whose U-boat got hit by a torpedo, while three Spitfire planes—one of them piloted by Farrier (Tom Hardy, who is in a mask again)—fly overhead to keep the Germans out.

It has been said a thousand times, but it’s a fact that every war is hell. Even every war movie depicts them as hell. This is no surprise for Dunkirk. Unlike the graphic nature of Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge, this movie is more of a survival story than anything (hence the PG-13 rating). Nolan takes this incredible story to full advantage with minimal dialogue and tension that never lets up until the end. Hans Zimmer’s outstanding score, like the rest of the movie, resembles a ticking time bomb.

What I appreciated about Dunkirk is the authenticity and realism of its depiction. As stated above, Nolan is known for using more practical effects than CGI, which is rare for a summer blockbuster. Not only is the movie filmed at the actual location of the evacuation, it also features real WWII-era carriers, planes and guns. The action sequences—set in all three locations—are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It makes the audience feel like they are actually there witnessing these events.

Being their acting debuts, Whitehead and Styles both bring forth such nuanced bravery into their performances as the two British soldiers risking their lives. Featuring such a tremendous cast, the audience sympathizes with the characters while it shifts between these three storylines. It’s an experience that I’ll definitely revisit time and again.

There has never been a movie that hit me harder all year than Dunkirk. This is a suspenseful, emotional roller-coaster ride. Even Peter Travers went as far as calling it “the greatest war film ever”, which is saying a lot. Dunkirk is definitely up there with some of the greats. I would be surprised if it receives little recognition at this year’s Oscars. It’s easily a front-runner for Best Picture. The question is: Will Christopher Nolan receive his first nomination as director? We’ll just have to wait and see.

4/4

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2017 Summer Movie Preview: July

Two months down, two months to go.

Sometimes, I forget to talk about movies that came out this past month. Case in point, The Hero, starring Sam Elliott. This is the role that he was born to play! An aging Western icon with a stellar voice who comes to terms with his life once he is diagnosed with cancer. Starring alongside Laura Prepon (That ‘70s Show, Orange is the New Black) and Nick Offerman, it might sound clichéd, but I have a feeling this is going to be delightful.

Without further ado, let’s talk about what has yet to come this July.

July 7

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Source: IMP Awards

Spider-Man Homecoming – Spider-Man made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. He might have been added in at the last minute, but he certainly deserved to be in it. It was a joy to watch an actual teenager—given Tom Holland was 19 at the time—tackle the web-slinging superhero that everyone knew and loved. Holland gave a much better performance than both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

Fresh from giving a powerful performance in The Lost City of Z, Holland returns to play the title character in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s surprising to see Michael Keaton play the villain this time. I guess it takes a hero to become the villain. I’m pretty certain we’ll keep seeing different interpretations of Spider-Man for years to come. Bring it on!

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Source: IMP Awards

A Ghost Story – Believe it or not, this is perhaps my most anticipated movie of the entire summer. A Ghost Story is far from a horror movie. This is a drama about a man’s ghost (in a white sheet with two holes for eyes) exploring the afterlife after dying in a car crash. Director David Lowery—of the sluggish yet decent tribute to Terrence Malick, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and the surprisingly exceptional Pete’s Dragon—reunites Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints to make another hit at this year’s Sundance. I’m hoping A Ghost Story will find an audience. Every shot is like a painting in motion. Totally looking forward to it!

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Source: The Film Stage

City of Ghosts – This is a documentary following a group of Syrian journalists risking their lives to stand up against ISIS. Documentaries and journalism are two of my biggest interests. Seeing a preview of City of Ghosts opened my eyes. Hearing about journalists and soldiers getting killed in the Middle East (particularly by ISIS) is downright devastating. It’s fascinating to hear about the lives of people living across the ocean.

July 14

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Source: IMP Awards

War for the Planet of the Apes – Hell yeah! The new Planet of the Apes trilogy is about to come to an end. While the 1968 film is a timeless sci-fi classic with one of the most iconic twists in film history (so iconic that it’s on the DVD cover), I actually prefer the new films. Rise was a marvelous build-up. And Matt Reeves brought the franchise to another level with Dawn, which is my personal favorite in the franchise. In War, the apes begin their civil war with a group of soldiers led by a vicious Colonel (Woody Harrelson). The reason why I prefer the new films over the original is not just because of the gorgeous visuals and motion capture being brought. But—rather the emotional appeal. The sequels of the original films are often dry and downright silly. It’s time for Reeves to end the trilogy on a high note.

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Source: IMP Awards

Wish Upon – *sigh* Another horror movie with a dumb premise? Next!

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Source: IMP Awards

Lady Macbeth – Whenever you see Lady Macbeth as the title of your movie, you might expect a prequel, of a sort, to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This is anything but. One review described Lady Macbeth as: “Wuthering Heights, as if it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock” (not the exact quote, but you get the idea). Seeing the preview before Manchester by the Sea (twice), I saw something that might be tense.

July 21

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Source: IMP Awards

Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan has directed some of the best films in existence—from The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. His last film, Interstellar, had the potential of being a wonderful space film, but faltered from a manipulative script and a syrupy final act. This time, Nolan goes back to the past to depict the Battle of Dunkirk, where 400,000 allied forces from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France are evacuated from the battle and are surrounded by the Germans. This movie doesn’t seem to follow the “war is hell” structure compared to most WWII films, which is a good thing. With a brilliant cast including Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, and One Direction’s Harry Styles (quite unususal, but hopefully, he’ll give a surprisingly good performance) This seems to be more of an intense war thriller than anything.  Please don’t disappoint me again, Christopher Nolan.

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Source: IMP Awards

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (try saying the title three times fast) – Known for directing Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, and Lucy, Luc Besson adapts a graphic novel, originally published in France (his home country). While I’m not familiar with comics, it doesn’t change my mind that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets looks horrible although visually stunning. I wouldn’t be surprised if it flops.

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Source: IMP Awards

Girls Trip – Yay…another black comedy. Moving on.

July 28

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Source: IMP Awards

The Emoji Movie – Another corporate sellout appealing to kids rather than adults? No, thank you.

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Source: IMP Awards

Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron continues her repertoire starring in action movies in which she plays a badass. Atomic Blonde is no exception. Teaming up with James McAvoy, this seems to be some brutal fun.

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Source: IMP Awards

Menashe – In the orthodox Jewish community of New York City, a widow is struggling to live his life after the passing of his wife. Mostly told in Yiddish, Menashe seems to be fascinating sociological outlook of a least-known culture. While this is the first PG-rated film by A24, this movie seems to be more for adults than children (I guarantee they will be bored to death). I don’t know if I’ll see it, but it might be pretty good.

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Source: IMP Awards

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – The 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth brought forth some deep discussion about the climate change in our world. Al Gore is back to talk about how the Earth’s climate change has evolved since then. It might be okay, but I’m not entirely interested.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Atomic Blonde, City of Ghosts, Dunkirk, A Ghost Story, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes

Least Anticipated: The Emoji Movie, Girls Trip, Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets, Wish Upon,

I hope you all enjoyed what my thoughts on upcoming movies for July are. Please feel free to leave comments on what you are looking forward to this July. Stay tuned at the end of this month as I give my thoughts on what has yet to come in the month of August. Take care.

2017 Summer Movie Review: Their Finest

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Katrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) makes propaganda history in Their Finest. (Source: IndieWire)

Movies set in World War II are always the most powerful. Movies about the movies are always the most entertaining. Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig brings forth a talented British cast to provide the right amount of wit and charisma set during the harshest time in history.

The year is 1940. World War II is under way across the Atlantic Ocean. The Nazis have devastated London by the Blitzkrieg. Katrin Cole (the lovely Gemma Arterton) is a happily married woman from Wales, who gets a job in the Ministry of Information as a screenwriter for propaganda films. Working alongside Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin), they both work on a script for a movie set during the Battle of Dunkirk. With an impressive crew and cast including the famous Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), they intend to move British audiences as well as American audiences.

Based on the book, Their Finest Hour and a Half, this is a delightful little film about a woman having what it takes to work in the field empowered by men. The old-fashioned style with wonderful sets, gorgeous British landscapes, old gadgets, and the gifted cast make it all worth watching. Arterton is simply marvelous as Katrin; providing enough inner strength to work on writing scripts. Her chemistry with Claflin is hard not to grin, especially when they begin to flirt while filming scenes on the coast of Devon. Nighy is a straight-up laugh riot. While the film might be a tad overlong and it would be better off without some redundant supporting characters, there is plenty to like in Their Finest.

3/4