Review: Dunkirk

The man who gave audiences Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, The Prestige and Interstellar returns to take audiences back in time to a small, but not insignificant chapter in the history of World War II.

Nazi Germany has enveloped 400,000 French and British soldiers to the beaches of Dunkirk and the possibility of escape is practically perilous in every direction. Pinned to just one location, the enemy takes their time picking off their forces and destroying whatever hope of escape in their wake. Land, sea and air, the Allied Forces are in a bind, and the British government at the order of Prime Minister Churchill has little alternative but to requisition and commandeer civilian water craft to travel across the channel and bring their boys home.

Christopher Nolan’s take on these accounts is segmented into three perspectives on this account of history. The Mole follows a young French and British soldier navigating the beaches trying to find someway back home; The Sea features a father and son and a friend in their sea vessel crossing the channel upon hearing the order to rescue as many men as they can; The Air follows two fighter pilots soaring through the skies above the madness, shooting down German fighter planes bent on sinking anything that floats. These three perspectives all tie together to illustrate the power of the human instinct of survival. These three perspectives are the crux of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

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Image by Warner Bros. and Syncopy

Nolan told this story in three parts; I will describe this movie in three words: elegant, explosive and unyielding.

Going into this movie, I was concerned that Nolan’s take on this war story would be too clean and that might hinder its appeal as a war movie when compared to a classic war dramas such as Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker or last year’s Oscar winning Hacksaw Ridge because those movies truly captured the essences of war; the gore, the graphic imagery, the bloodshed, the need to illustrate that war is hell upon seeing it unfold all around the characters for the audiences to witness themselves. Dunkirk was my boom or bust movie of the year and after seeing it, in IMAX which is the way it was intended to be seen, this movie went BOOM! A loud, resonating BOOM upon the senses that did not let up in the slightest!

My concerns going into this movie? Decimated as I watched it unfold before my eyes! Just because Nolan didn’t go excessive on bloodshed, doesn’t mean he hindered this movie; you don’t need blood or grandiose practical effects to illustrate the horrors of war! Every time a bullet fired, I jumped. Every time I saw a bomb go off or a missile or a torpedo down a ship, I was jolted. Every time a dogfight happened in the sky, I held my breath! Every time the situation became more and more dire in these three arcs, the tension just kept building and building and the suspense was as remorseless like the wind and rain in a hurricane! Nolan just brought his strengths as a filmmaker and storyteller to depict a “back against the wall” situation where individuals had to use whatever resources they could to see tomorrow and the need for bodily harm or horror was not necessary in the slightest to accomplish that.

What’s more impressive about Dunkirk is that the enemy’s presence is felt rather than seen. From the first frame, audiences see the little fliers floating from the sky onto the soldiers saying “We surround you!” you don’t see the enemy, but the presence of danger is felt every second and the tension of this film feeds off that tension for strength.

Nolan intended for Dunkirk to be seen as a story of survival and he wrote and executed this core aspect of the picture with extraordinary distinction! The focus of Dunkirk was never about winning, it was about bringing these soldiers home from extreme danger and knowing that in surviving, they were victorious! I had my doubts whether or not he could pull this off but with this powerful script, impeccable execution, the stunning cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema, the awesome music of Hans Zimmer giving this picture atmosphere where dialogue is scarce, the sound effects, Lee Smith’s editing which came together beautifully as the film went on, Nathan Crowley’s production design, Dunkirk is an outstanding achievement in filmmaking and should become the crown jewel in Christopher Nolan’s body of work so far.

This movie isn’t so much about the actors but what the actors do in the film, in these roles. The collection of Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles all do a solid job with the parts they have been given, but the true star of the show is the suspense and the tension that fills up the screen when all of the technical aspects behind the camera come together.

Dunkirk is elegant is how it is shown and heard on screen but the subject matter is brimming with explosive technical execution, resulting in an unyielding cinematic experience that should not be missed! It is the most phenomenal experience I have had this year at the movies!

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Movie of the Week: Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan has been one of my favorite filmmakers for years. Whether it is Memento, his prolific Dark Knight trilogy, the ingenious Inception or the spectacular Interstellar, his movies always incite discussion, excitement and fervor among fans, critics and students of cinema. This week, Nolan’s newest project Dunkirk arrives in theaters, attempting to live up to the legacy and adhere to the expectations Nolan has set for himself. In the throws of WWII, 400,000 soldiers are trapped on a beach in Great Britain and the enemy is closing in ready to finish them off. With no way out, there is only one path toward victory: surviving the ordeal before them.

Director and Writer: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Barry Keoghan, Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Damien Bonnard, Jack Lowden and James D’Arcy

What am I expecting to see?: It is true that I have been looking forward to Dunkirk, because I am a fan of Nolan’s films, but I believe this is the biggest boom or bust movie of the year because of a multitude of reasons. For starters, as far as war pictures go, this looks clean compared to a film such as Hacksaw Ridge, also I’m unfamiliar with the story of this battle or campaign and it’s significance in World War II. Nolan also claims that this is a survival story but the fact that it is set in war time with war iconography is something I cannot wrest away. I’m looking to be educated and surprised by Dunkirk; it has much to prove.

 

Review: Captain America: Civil War

There is nothing more disappointing than unjustified hype. Something is touted for so long before it arrives on the main stage, only to disappoint you upon arrival. Unjustified hype leaves a rancid taste in the mouth yet it also raises expectations for what follows.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a prime example of unjustified hype. We all know what a rancid taste it left in my mouth when I saw it a few weeks ago, yet it raised the bar for other films to follow. Films such as Captain America: Civil War.

The Russo Brothers return to direct the third and final installment of the solo Captain America franchise, thus launching Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Utilizing the concepts of the comic book counterpart, Civil War picks up where Age of Ultron left off, pitting the Avengers against an unprecedented and unexpected obstacle: the Sokovia Accords, a measure adopted by 117 countries represented in the United Nations designed to hold the Avengers in check and accountable for their actions which yield unnecessary collateral damage. Those who sign it are subjected to act under the authority of whichever governing power to face significant threats should they arise.

Tony Stark, feeling accountable for the actions of Ultron, is of the opinion that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes need oversight, while Captain Steven Rogers is of the opinion that these accords are unnecessary and the world can trust the Avengers to act in their best interests without it. Thus sides are taken within the Avengers ranks, while Captain Rogers’ old “friend” Bucky Barnes, alias Winter Solider, is causing havoc thus putting the Avengers in a more awkward spot while a mysterious figure named Helmut Zemo is acting in the shadows while heroes who disagree find the situation escalating into something more dangerous than they could ever imagine.

Image by Marvel

In taking measures to help and protect his old friend, Captain America takes up arms with Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Falcon, Ant-Man to protect the Winter Soldier and Iron Man, Black Panther, Black Widow, Vision, War Machine and Spider-Man stand in their way for Cap’s actions act against the Sokovia Accords; the Avengers come to blows and in the aftermath, the Avengers are left broken, scarred, damaged, displaced, vulnerable, all but destroyed.

Batman v. Superman left a horrid taste in my mouth, thus raising the expectations for Captain America: Civil War. After attending an early screening yesterday, I proclaim with full conviction and a cleansed and nourished palate that Captain America: Civil War is by far, the best superhero motion picture since The Dark Knight; I am talking a comic book movie at the crossroads of nirvana and perfection!

I’ve stated that superhero mythology is my favorite and this movie had it all! The writing courtesy of Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus was superb, the Russo Brothers left it all on the screen and justified the fact that they are worthy to helm the final Avengers films in a few years and they started Phase Three with a bang! This was a grounded story that was simple to follow and empathize with, flowed effortlessly between subplots, gave every major character their respective moment to shine, the action was non-stop, this was everything you could possibly ask for in the inaugural blockbuster of 2016.

Image by Collider

It was as if the Russo Brothers and the writing of McFeely and Markus went places where Joss Whedon could only dream and the result is a superhero movie fan’s dream come true! In fact, you could say that Captain America: Civil War hit all of the notes that Batman v. Superman failed to do and you could. Because it’s true.

I feel as though I’m practically gushing and I don’t feel ashamed doing it! Going into the film, I was Team Iron Man but in the end, it doesn’t matter whose side you were on, Captain America: Civil War is one hell of a ride and I felt that even though the end is tragic, it ends on the best terms imaginable for Captain America and Iron Man while also raising already high expectations for future Marvel films to come.

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, William Hurt you couldn’t ask for more from the already established galaxy of stars portraying these heroes while at the same time the new recruits including Chadwick Boseman, who KILLED it as Black Panther, Daniel Brühl who did an awesome job as the sinister Zemo and Tom Holland, who should make Tobey MacGuire and Andrew Garfield feel honored by his portrayal as Spider-Man, had their moments to shine as well.

Trent Opaloch’s cinematography was rock-solid, Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt’s editing was top-of-the-line, the production design by Owen Patterson was superb, Henry Jackson’s music was decent, Judianna Makovsky’s costumes were outstanding, this was a technically grounded film that allowed the story to take center stage and enhance the figures who are a part of it, unlike another certain film I’ve named.

I would see Captain America: Civil War multiple times if I had the opportunity because this movie lives up to its hype, its potential and audiences of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will be thrilled by this installment because it takes everything that has led to this point and cranks it up to 11!

Looking back, if I could comment on one regret it’s that Iron Man and Black Panther don’t really get a lot of screen time together and these two, in the comics, have much in common.

This movie is Marvel at the peak of its power and the scary part is this is only the beginning. The Phase Three lineup is ready to roll and my excitement can barely be contained. I loved every moment of Captain America: Civil War and I thoroughly encourage audiences to see this blockbuster, which seems destined to take over the world!

Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons Joins Justice League

Image by No Entiendo el Final

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is at the doorstep of every theater, ready for release in the next few weeks. The film is primed to jumpstart the DC Comics Expanded Universe, culminating in the assembly of the world’s finest heroes: Justice League. Today, a major coup was announced in the form of Oscar winning actor J.K. Simmons joining the film as one of Batman’s trusted allies, Commissioner Gordon.

The DC Comics character Commissioner James Gordon has been played by a slew of actors over the years, including Lyle Talbot in the 1949 series Batman and Robin, Neil Hamilton in the TV series Batman in the 1960s, Pat Hingle in the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher Batman movie franchise, and most recently, by Gary Oldman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight films

J.K. Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in one of my many personal favorites Whiplash in 2015. Like Oscar winner Ben Affleck, Simmons is an actor who made his mark under the Marvel film franchise banner. Like many, I believe his most memorable film role was his role as The Daily Bugle newspaper tycoon/President of the anti-Spider-Man fan club J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. All the same, I find this an exciting grab for Zack Snyder for Simmons is a terrific actor and I think he can bring the ideal demeanor for the grizzled leading officer for Gotham City’s finest. Justice League arrives in theaters on November 17, 2017 (Part One) & June 14, 2019 (Part Two). Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice arrives in theaters on March 25, 2015.

Movie of the week: Child 44

I think the lull is over. I finally found a movie that looks like it is worth seeing this week. Tom Hardy reunites with his Dark Knight Trilogy co-star Gary Oldman and his co-star from last year’s low-key crime thriller The Drop, Noomi Rapace in a new thriller set in Stalin-era Soviet Union. Based on the first installment of a series by Tom Rob Smith, Child 44 is a thriller, where Hardy plays a disgraced military police operative who takes up the challenge to investigate a rash of child-killings at the cost of his reputation and career. In this period of history, Stalin’s government believed the idea of a child serial-killer to be folly, but Leo Demidov, with the help of his wife Raisa, is determined to find the truth.

What am I expecting to see?: Truth be told, I want to see something gripping and this has the makings to tell a gripping story set in a time where the idea of the truth is censored, sort of. This feels like The Drop, moreso than The Dark Knight, but I found some appreciation when I saw The Drop a few months ago. Screenwriter Richard Price has an Oscar nomination to his name from The Color of Money and Daniel Espinosa has experience with films such as Safe House, so the tandem should have the competence to make this feature respectable, which would be a huge improvement over all of the films released thus far. I won’t go into Child 44 with high expectations, but I will be open minded.

Update: The review for this movie will have to be put on hold. It is currently not playing in a nearby area and I will have to relocate to find an available theater.

Meet the Suicide Squad

Jared Leto, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Tom Hardy, Cara Delevigne and Jai Courtney are Task Force X aka Suicide Squad

The crown jewel of the DC Cinematic Universe for the foreseeable future has to be Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice which will come to theaters by 2016, but right behind that movie which will unite five of DC’s most iconic heroes on screen is another notable team from the DC mythology. In August 2016, David Ayer will direct Suicide Squad. For those who don’t know much about this team, here’s the rundown according to the DC mythology:

The Suicide Squad are a team of extremely dangerous criminals tasked to perform black ops for the United States government in exchange for commuting their respective sentences. If any member(s) of the Squad don’t exactly play fair, they are immediately terminated via a surgically implanted explosive node at the base of their spines.

Anyway, the cast for the installment has been cast and finalized. There is speculation that Jesse Eisenberg will make an appearance as Lex Luthor, but for now, the cast includes the following.

Jared Leto – The Joker

Will Smith – Deadshot

Tom Hardy – Rick Flag

Margot Robbie – Harley Quinn

Jai Courtney – Boomerang

Cara Delevingne – Enchantress

This is impressive for a collection of reasons. For the first time since Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal in The Dark Knight, a performance that earned him a posthumous Oscar win, the Joker will be featured in a superhero movie. What’s more is that the Joker will be played by recent Academy Award winner Jared Leto. Also, Will Smith has a reputation of being an actor who doesn’t come cheap and him as the leader of the Squad, Deadshot, is a virtual slam dunk. Tom Hardy will get a second chance to play a DC villain; the first time he was cast in a superhero movie was in The Dark Knight Rises, where he played the menacing Bane. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was a foregone conclusion, Jai Courtney was attached to the film for some time now and Delevigne rounds out the remainder of the cast. Suicide Squad will arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016.

Movies of the week: Interstellar and Big Hero 6

The stars and superheroes are the central topics of this week’s featured films and two my most anticipated films of the year. First on deck is Disney’s latest animated adventure that will probably end up winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Big Hero 6, a joint venture between Disney and Marvel Comics, is the story of a young robotics prodigy and his inflatable robot who are thrust into a conflict between a mysterious adversary and the city of San Fransokyo and the two must work with a group of friends in order preserve the peace. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams and writers Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson and Jordan Roberts adapted the animated adventure from the comics written by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagel and features the voices of Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller, Ryan Potter, Damon Wayans, Maya Rudolph and Jamie Cheung,

What am I expecting to see?: Disney always owned the monopoly of animated adventures, but over the last few years, they continue to raise the bar with films like Frozen, Wreck-It-Ralph and Brave and it looks as if their legacy is going to continue with this action-adventure/comedy that looks as if it is the next coming of The Incredibles. I had no idea that there was a “Big Hero 6” comics series under the Marvel banner until Disney announced that they were adapting Baymax, Hiro Hamada and the rest of this colorful adventure into a animated motion picture. I expect Big Hero 6 to be nothing short of fun and the front-runner to win every animated award in a few months.

Christopher Nolan has established a reputation of being a visionary filmmaker and his latest project is considered to be his most ambitious project to date. The future of the planet Earth appears grim, with humanity’s exponential population growth, coupled with climate change and environmental decline, thus Earth’s ability’s to create natural resources is virtually exhausted, thus the future of humanity appears to trend towards extinction, however there appears to be a possible solution: exodus. A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole that could possibly lead to a new world(s) that could save humanity from its fate. Co-written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, and led by a cast including Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck, this is Interstellar.

What am I expecting to see?: I’m a fan of Christopher Nolan and I have been since Batman Begins, but Interstellar seems like it is a film that aims to follow in the footsteps of Life of Pi and Gravity, films that exercise a technical mastery of cinema in order to unfold the narrative and it is easy to see why Nolan is ambitious in this undertaking. Nolan appears to be emulating his admiration for the sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, while giving Matthew McConaughey another crack at the Best Actor category for awards season. I’m hoping that this is the movie that lands Christopher Nolan an Oscar nomination for Best Director, a distinction I feel that he should have earned by now with films such as Inception and The Dark Knight. This is supposed to be Nolan at his most ambitious. I go to Interstellar with high expectations.