Review: Dunkirk

Lives on the Line

Image via Warner Bros Pictures

Technically, the plot can’t be spoiled because it’s rooted in historical events, but its thrillingly unorthodox unfolding is something that should be experienced with little to no prior knowledge. As such, I want to post a SPOILER WARNING here for those who haven’t seen the film.

In Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, the director’s 70mm shooting format imbues moment after moment with tactile, immersive clarity and the booming sound design envelops totally, but these properties of Nolan’s “Virtual Reality Without the Headset” go toward telling a relatively small-scale story: a group of soldiers are stranded and need to be rescued. There’s no Dark Knight-esque globetrotting or Interstellar-style galaxy-hopping here, just men on a beach, a handful of civilians on a boat, and a couple fighter pilots in the sky. By scaling up the production values for a modestly sized story, Nolan makes a statement alongside the spectacle: every person’s life matters. Continue reading

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Review: Colossal

Larger Than Life?

Image via Neon/YouTube

If you are one of the lucky ones and haven’t the faintest inkling of what Colossal is about, please stop reading after this sentence and watch the movie, which will be more enjoyable if you go in cold. If you are reading this post aware of the central conceit of the film, I would still advise you to not read this review, because the story moves in powerfully unpredictable ways that extend beyond what can be inferred from the premise, some of which I spoil in the paragraphs below. In other words, this review is designed for people who a) have seen the film, b) don’t particularly care about spoilers, or c) know how the movie progresses but don’t know how it ends. If you fall into any of these last three categories—happy reading! Continue reading

Review: Southside With You

The “Southside” Part is Best

Southside with you

Watching Southside With You, I kept thinking, “Too soon!”

The film, which chronicles the courtship of a certain Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), has a lot going for it. I jived with the film’s energy, its celebration of black culture, its nod to Do the Right Thing that made me reexamine my own interpretation of that film’s ending. I enjoyed how it emulates Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy without parroting it outright, using the walk-and-talk narrative model to explore the idiosyncrasies of South Side Chicago. I liked the two lead actors, who deliver their lines with conviction even when the screenplay stumbles into sappiness or the musical cues feel miscalculated. Continue reading

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Playing Seriously

Apocalypse still

X-Men: Apocalypse works because it seems to take itself simultaneously very seriously and not very seriously at all. Whereas some movie are all grit and no grins and others take self-awareness to cloying extremes (think Deadpool, although that film saved itself with moments of genuine heart and humor that leaven an otherwise overly self-congratulatory air), Apocalypse manages to send up the genre it inhabits without losing faith in the seriousness of its characters’ psychological and moral struggles. Continue reading

Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Clash of the Titans

BVSimage

In light of the heavy fire Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been taking from critics, I will say upfront that the film is a narrative mess. The main plotline follows Batman’s increasing distrust of Superman, whose battle against General Zod in Man of Steel caused huge and lethal amounts of collateral damage. Superman returns the sentiment, believing that Batman’s brutal brand of justice is a menace to law-abiding society, which in turn observes these two heroes with simultaneous appreciation and wariness. Continue reading

Review: Zootopia

Welcome to the Jungle

Zootopia sloth

My first thought after finishing Zootopia was that I had just seen an adult-oriented film masquerading as a children’s movie, and I mean that as a compliment. For all its visual resemblances to the likes of Rio, Madagascar, and Ice Age—which, though not lacking in appeal for older viewers, primarily target younger crowds—this animated flick takes groovy detours into intelligent, screwball dialogue and film noir intrigue. In pursuit of the latter, the film peppers its screenplay with clever references to everything from The Godfather to Breaking Bad, except Zootopia is also genuinely engrossing in its own right, with moments of legitimate horror and heartbreak. Continue reading

Review: The Assassin

A Gorgeous Muddle

The Assassin stillVisually, The Assassin is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. Most movies have four, maybe five photogenic shots that, if extracted from the film, wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery. A small handful of motion “pictures” live up to their name by accruing praise like “painterly” or “pictorial” for delivering a sizable quantity of images that you would frame and hang on your living room wall if you could. The Assassin is made entirely of these images. Virtually if not literally every shot has been arranged and photographed to perfection. Continue reading