Before you can judge Dunkirk for everything that it is, you must acknowledge everything that it is not. Is it a great piece of cinematic work? Yes. Is it visually beautiful? Check. Does it know how to cause its audience the sweet annoyance of anticipation and fear? It does. But that does not mean it is perfect by any means of the imagination, and the most important thing you can know about this movie before you choose to sit down and watch it is that this is not a war movie by the most general definition. Christopher Nolan is an artistic director and one who thrives on the complexities in a story, not in the straightforward narrative, and he chose the Battle of Dunkirk specifically to reflect that. He tells the story the way an artist would, not the way a storyteller might, or even the way that someone present at the event itself might have. He took three different stories and wove them together to showcase the entirety of the battle in the best way he knew how, and while that makes for a great visual for all those who love film and its artistry, it might not always be the best way to tell the story of a battle we’re not always taught about in history class.
Extended universes seem to be the norm these days – in the nine years since Iron Man (2008), not only has the MCU grown by fifteen movies (including Spider-Man: Homecoming), but other universes have started to crop up in their wake. DC is attempting to make their own extended universe of superheroes, Universal is bringing together all of their old monsters to create the Dark Universe, and there are rumors abound that both King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) and Power Rangers (2017) are the first stepping stones to their own new universes (though neither movie did so well that I can’t imagine those universes have much of a chance). So, with all of these universes exploding, is it possible for the universe that started it all – the Marvel Universe – to still create movies that are something new, something fresh, and something worth watching when every other film in the world is starting to be just the same? Even when it throws the rest of the MCU into question (maybe even doubt), it seems to me that Spider-Man: Homecoming is trying to follow in the footsteps of its comedic predecessors – Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015) – and the MCU could be all the greater for it. Maybe it’s time to set aside the darkness of Civil War (2016) and let the audience have some fun with their heroes.
Like basically everyone else who heard the title Baby Driver, I went into this one not expecting very much at all. Sure, it was a movie about a getaway driver with a badass Jaime Foxx in the passenger seat, but the title was Baby Driver, how cool could it possibly be? And, just like everyone else, I completely underestimated Edgar Wright and everyone in this movie. Not only is it a fun story and a nice way to spend two hours, it is a great leap into a sensory style of film, pulling its audience into the feel of the moment, actually triggering their sight and touch, and making them part of the experience. With the music so perfectly placed and the actors so in sync with their sounds, as well as some fantastic exploding colors and a lack of CGI car chases (you heard me, Wright went on record saying no CGI or green screens were used for the car chase sequences, how badass is that?!), no audience member can avoid being completely enveloped in this story, no matter what they think of the actual dialogue and plot. Those are almost secondary details, and all we need is the experience of Baby behind the wheel.
Some films, particularly ones with an animal component, have a very easy job of getting their audience to connect to the story. Most of the time this connection seems effortless, as though the presence of the dog or horse or dolphin is such an automatic trigger to human emotion that the film itself doesn’t need to do any extra work to ensure that the audience feels exactly what they’re expected to feel at any given moment. With Megan Leavey, sure, there is a dog in a war scenario, but the dog in question is known to be a violent dog, one who has broken the hand of a formal trainer, and the title character isn’t exactly a ray of sunshine either. In order for the audience to care about this team, Megan Leavey has to work hard to draw the audience in, and the combination of Kate Mara’s quiet and strong acting, the tension-building of her overseas combat, and the surprising delicacy of the portrayal of a former soldier’s PTSD combine to create a narrative that tugs at the heart-strings. The love of a woman and her dog is just an added bonus to squeeze out a few more tears. Continue reading
Why is it that we love monster movies so much? Back when most of them were introduced, it was that they were genuinely frightening – these creatures were something fantastical and horrifying to us, creatures so unlike us that we had to be in awe of them and fear them at the same time. As the years have gone on, characters were put into their movies for us as an audience to relate to, like Brendan Fraser’s Rick O’Connell in the 1999 Mummy film. It is not enough for us to connect to the human protagonists anymore, apparently, since it seems to be the aim of the new Dark Universe of Universal Studios to create monsters that are relatable and the saviors of the human race, rather than just being the enemy of humanity. In 2017’s The Mummy, sure there is a mummy (and honestly it’s the best mummy we’ve had), but we’re supposed to root for Tom Cruise and his band of humans until the moment they find the dark monster to defeat the other dark monster, turning these fearful creatures into the Avengers because everyone loves a connected universe.
*Warning: Potential Spoilers*
This is it, people. This is the end of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, after three good films and (now) two mediocre ones, it is time for the ship to dock permanently. We have been asked to swallow a lot for this series – including the six-year wait between the fourth film and this one – but I think it’s time we all agreed that the quality of these movies has been dropping since the first one, and maybe it’s time to just throw in the towel. Actually, not even maybe. It’s time. It’s long-past time. We all know and love Jack Sparrow (sorry, CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow), but even he seems to be leaving the series, whether or not Johnny Depp shows up on set, and the longer the series goes on the less it feels magical and fun but rather ridiculous and worthy of all the face-palms you can give. While the trailers announced Dead Men Tell No Tales as the final film in the franchise by saying “the final adventure”, it has already been announced that one more film will follow to create a second trilogy. The only condition is that Depp returns to the cast, and I am begging him, please, say no. Captain Jack’s time really is up.
*Warning: Potential Spoilers*
Wonder Woman is not the perfect film, let’s just get that out there first. There are so many great things about it, it is one of the best superhero films ever made, but it is not perfect. The thing is, though, it doesn’t have to be. There was so much pressure on the film as time wore on to be perfect for so many reasons – it was going to be the ultimate film in feminism, it was the last chance for the DCEU to prove themselves, it was the first female-driven superhero film and would therefore change the way superhero films were made forever – but it didn’t NEED to be, because no other superhero film has been asked to be perfect. So when you judge Wonder Woman by the stands of any other superhero film, no, it is not perfect. There are continuity errors, misuses of characters, and a trip and fall of a villain. But all of these issues do not mean that Wonder Woman is any less than the male-driven leads who have gone before her – she may still be greater than all of them, even if she is not perfect.