Archive for the 'Reviews' Category
Spray Painted, Neon Action
Action movies—particularly the R-rated ones—have been going through something of a transition recently. While the past decade was dominated by the shaky camera work and rapid editing popularized by the Jason Bourne movies, movies like 2011’s The Raid: Redemption and 2014’s John Wick have returned action movies to a time when the camera followed the action, rather than took part in it. While looking back, these films have also moved the genre forward by adding a definite, almost balletic style to the action and a smoothness to the images presented on screen. The latest example to hit theaters is Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron, shortly after she completely stole Mad Max: Fury Road from its title character.
A Whole New World
In a box-office world dominated by sequels, reboots, and cinematic universes, it is refreshing to get a movie that strives to be something completely new, at least from a visual standpoint. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is just that, as director Luc Besson returns to the sci-fi fantasy genre he previously succeeded in with 1997’s The Fifth Element. Unlike that movie, though, the ambitions of the story cannot quite match the ambitions of the visuals in Valerian, but the visuals alone are certainly worth checking out.
A Time Puzzle of a War Drama
Director Christopher Nolan has made some bulky movies in his career, with the last two—Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises—clocking in at closer to three hours than two hours. So it was a bit of a surprise to find out that his new World War II drama Dunkirk had a runtime of only 106 minutes. That runtime makes Dunkirk the second shortest of all Nolan’s features, longer only than his debut Following, which clocked in at a brief 96 minutes. The movie also has a PG-13 rating, a rarity among recent war films. But Nolan’s purpose with Dunkirk is not to tell a bloated drama graphically depicting the horrors of war, but rather to tell the true-life heroic story of survival in the time needed to tell the story. For the most part, Nolan succeeds with Dunkirk, but time factors into the film more than just its runtime.
Return of the Webslinger
The character of Spider-Man is a huge part of the Marvel universe in the comics, but because his film rights were held by Sony and not Marvel Studios, he could not be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe shared by the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. But after Sony’s last two Spider-Man films performed poorly, the studio executives there decided to make a deal with Marvel to share the character. This latest version of the character, now played by actor Tom Holland, made his MCU debut to great acclaim in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. Now the rebooted Spider-Man is back to make his solo debut in this summer’s delightful Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Summer’s Most Genuine Comedy
The summer movie season is typically filled with big-budget action spectacles, animated kids movies, and broad comedies. But every good summer movie season also usually has at least one breakout independent movie that serves as counter-programming to the blockbusters. Typically, these movies become big hits in their own right thanks mostly to good word of mouth and The Big Sick has been getting good word of mouth ever since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Car Chase Karaoke
A year before his breakout hit Shaun of the Dead was released in 2004, Edgar Wright directed a music video for the group Mint Royale and their song “Blue Song.” The video featured a getaway driver lip-synching and dancing along with the tunes in his car while waiting for his crew to rob a bank. With his new film Baby Driver, Wright has taken that brief concept—reenacted in the movie’s opening scene—and turned it into a hip thrill ride of a motion picture that should pump some gas into the summer movie season.
Follow the Plan
Director Colin Trevorrow followed up his delightful, shoestring-budgeted 2012 debut Safety Not Guaranteed with the slightly bigger budgeted Jurassic World in 2015. That blockbuster shattered box-office records on its way to becoming the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time. Following that success, Trevorrow surely could have lived in the blockbuster franchise realm—he will return to that stratosphere with 2019’s Star Wars: Episode IX—but instead he returned to less extravagant fare for his next film with The Book of Henry, a story of a single mother and her two young boys.
Evil Has Arrived
A few weeks ago, the new film version of The Mummy was just another Tom Cruise action movie that did not seem to be generating much interest. Then Universal announced that the movie would actually be the first in what they are calling the “Dark Universe,” a Marvel-like movie universe that would be shared by some of their most iconic movie monsters, including the likes of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and The Invisible Man. Depending on who you are, this announcement either meant nothing or it generated a whole new level of interest in the movie. For me, it was the latter; maybe not an increased level of excitement, but it certainly made the film that much more intriguing. Shared film universes are tricky, but when they work, they add an entirely new layer to the movie-going experience.
Falls Just Shy of Wonderful
There has never been a better time for female action stars in Hollywood than right now. Each of the last two Star Wars movies featured a female protagonist, Charlize Theron stole Mad Max: Fury Road right out from under Tom Hardy, and although she has always been a supporting character, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow continues to be a major player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It all adds up to a perfect moment in film history for DC Comics to bring out the big guns with a big-budget cinematic adaptation of one of their most treasured properties: Wonder Woman.
Ironically, a Movie that Needs to Trim the Fat
If the current Hollywood motto is not officially “everything old is new again,” then it probably should be. Having already essentially exhausted the available television shows and movies from the 1980s, Hollywood is now looking to the 1990s to find material ripe for a remake, update, or long-overdue sequel. The most recent example is Baywatch, a hard R adaptation of the 1990s series best known for its pretty people in swimsuits running on the beach in slow-motion.
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