Film Reviews: Dunkirk, Atomic Blonde, and Spiderman: Homecoming

We’re almost at the end of summer and before you know it, certain things are going to happen.  They’re going to yank my favorite beer, Sam Adams Summer Ale off the shelves by the second week of August and replace it with GARBAGE Octoberfest.  A full month and a half before the actual Octoberfest and no one, repeat NO ONE, likes this beer.  It will also be time for me to take the annual trip for me to go Vegas for week 1 of the NFL.  And of course, it’s going to be soon enough when Hollywood drops a plate of continuous garbage into the theaters until November.  I did catch a few new films and I’m more than happy to tell you about them.

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Let’s be honest, it’s John Williams (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws) and then everyone else for film scoring.  But Hans Zimmer (Batman trilogy, Inception, Lion King) is a SOLID number 2.  I went to see Hans Zimmer at Radio City last week.  He played for 3 hours and all of the hits.  If you don’t know him, he’ll be on the Mt Rushmore of cinematic composers.   Being Zimmer is Nolan’s go-to guy for film score, he also does the latest Nolan joint.     As I’ve said before, no one bats 1.000, not even Babe Ruth. But Hans Zimmer is perfect in previous attempts and this is no exception.  Zimmer does such a job that it will be a bigger fix than the 1919 Black Sox if he doesn’t get the Oscar this year.  The score AND sound make will send shivers up your b-hole and if doesn’t, you ain’t alive.  

Now let’s talk about the actual film.  Nolan tells 4 different stories at the same time with some familiar faces from previous Nolan films, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy.   The story of Dunkirk is the Brits and French (further perpetuating stereotypes) have been pushed to the shores by the Nazis (pre-USA intervention) and are looking to retreat via the sea.  But those pesky Krauts drop bombs and send torpedoes (actual torpedoes, not Sofia Vergara’s luscious cans) on the British naval ships that attempt to bring the soldiers back.  Harry Styles (of One Direction fame; note that not one of their songs is on my phone.  Not even as a guilty pleasure) plays the son of a former British soldier that takes his boys toward Dunkirk toward the rescue effort.  

There are problems with this film.  One, with the exception of Styles, his brother, and father off to help the stranded; there aren’t any characters that you feel any relationship with.  Cillian plays a pilot that is shot down and rescued by Styles’s father but you don’t get a feel for his character.  Same goes for fellow flyboy Tom Hardy.  Another group of soldiers that are holed up in a ship are another group you feel nothing for.  Secondly, there is no need for the roundabout fashion in which Nolan tells the story.  Some people complained that it was difficult to follow; I didn’t feel like it was but there were a few moments where you have to mentally jump back and forth.  Lastly, this film is 110 minutes but I felt it DRAGGED at times.  My friend Ryan made a great point about not having any relationship with the characters; being that this films was simply about survival and didn’t need to be a nationalistic film with sentimentality.  Fair points but this film didn’t grab me.

I just didn’t feel that invested in the story nor the characters.  However, it is beautifully shot and as I previously said, the score adds fantastic gravitas to the moments.  The dogfight scenes are amazing.   And this is also EXACTLY what I said about Nolan’s previous film, Interstellar.  Is Dunkirk as bad as I thought Interstellar was?  No, but it’s also not much better.  I think this is the film that may get Oscar noms when virtually every other Nolan film should have been honored.  Why?  Because it deals with history and we all know that as well as social issues are cheese in the mouse trap to get nominations.  Here’s something else about Interstellar that applies here: If you have any desire to see this, make sure you see it in the theater.  Because seeing it at home won’t give you the experience and you’ll dislike it even more if you’re watching on anything less than a big screen and 4dx sound.

I give it a 5.5 out of 10

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Atomic Blonde has been garnering comparisons to John Wick.  Yes, the fight scenes were choreographed by the same guy.  But it’s definitely not 2 hours of ass kicking, gun-fu.     There’s a story line here, much more involved than a guy hunting down the Russian mafia who killed his wife and dog.  And I loved John Wick and liked John Wick 2.  But this is deeper.  

Let’s go back to November 1989, a few days before the Berlin Wall comes down.  Charlize Theron (never on anyone’s top 10 hot list but she should be) is an MI-6 operative who is sent to Berlin to find out why her fellow compatriot was gunned down by a Russian assassin while hiding a list of agent code names as well as their real names.  And the game is afoot the second she touches down in Berlin; as she uses her stiletto shoe to thwart attackers in a moving car.  James McAvoy (Professor X in the recent X-Men films as well as the schizophrenic in that AWFUL film, Split) is a man who can get his hands on anything on the black market and his especially interested in getting that list or the man who memorized that list.  

The action scenes aren’t as many as Wick but they’re really good.  There’s one scene where Theron fights off 4 attackers in a continuous shot.  The camera work is amazing, you get a “Bourne Ultimatum” feel with some of these sequences.  And as an added bonus, you also get some quick shots of Charlize Theron’s boobs when she submerges in ice baths.  There’s even a lesbian sex scene with her and a French spy.  An enthusiastic thumbs up from this reviewer.  Lastly, you’ll totally dig the 80’s soundtrack playing throughout the film as well as footage from news organizations covering the events leading up to and the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

This film was a pleasant surprise on many levels and it’s a little more than just a typical summer action blockbuster.  It didn’t make big money on opening weekend but doesn’t that mean the audiences guessed right by passing on it.  It’s quite enjoyable with a few nice twists and Theron proves that women can kick ass without it being a forced feminism agenda.  You hear me, female Ghostbusters reboot?

I give it a 7/10

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Last and certainly not last, I saw Spiderman: Homecoming a few weeks ago but was lazy and never wrote the review.  This is the best Spiderman film of all time.  Tom Holland crushes it as Peter Parker, he gives the role a lot more fun as well as that nerdy aspect to it. It also doesn’t hurt having Downey Jr in it a few times, reprising his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man who gives Parker an upgraded suit.  And let’s not forget Michael Keaton who is having a resurgence for the ages.  I liked Birdman, LOVED the Founder, and he’s fantastic as the Vulture.  This film doesn’t miss on any aspect and has a fantastic twist in the third act with one of Peter’s classmates.  I eagerly anticipate anything Spiderman in the future as Holland did a great job of erasing any memory of Andrew Garfield and also nicely scrubbed Spiderman 3 from my cerebellum.  

I give this an 8.5/10

Film review: Fate of the Furious (Fast and the Furious 8)

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I always say, give credit where credit is due.  So give it up to Vin Diesel.  He single-handedly resurrected a nearly dead franchise and made it into one of the top franchises of all time.  He has milked the shit out of this and almost made us forget “The Last Witch Hunter” or “The Pacifier”…almost.  

A quick timeline: 

2001: Fast and the Furious.  Budget 38 million, domestic 144 million.  Interesting take on street racers and an undercover cop’s attempt to stop highway robberies.

2003: 2 Fast 2 Furious: Budget 76 mil, domestic 127 mil.  This is where Tyrese Gibson busted out those kneepads and took care of a few people to begin his Cinderella Story career.  Vin Diesel not present in this film, therefore the main characters’ dialogue not grumbled for 2 hours, critics rejoice.  

2006: Tokyo Drift: Budget 85 mil, domestic 62.  By far, the worst installment of the series. It starred the kid from Home Improvement and I don’t even care enough to google his name. Vin Diesel makes a late cameo.  Not many lines to growl out when you appear right before credits.  

2009: Fast and Furious: Budget 85, domestic 155.  I didn’t give a shit to see the last 2 in the theaters and I kept the streak alive for this one.  Michelle Rodriguez dies in this one, immediately digs up as much blackmail material as she can on Vin Diesel to ensure a return to the series.

2011: Fast 5: Budget 125, domestic 209.  The crew ends up in Brazil, robbing the guy who screwed them in part 4.  Also didn’t see this one in the theater but was pleasantly surprised when I watched on Netflix.  Plot lines starting to get a liiiiiitle hard to conceive but still more palatable than Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dancing around Hollywood.  The Rock first appears as a, “take no prisoners” government agent tracking down the crew.  Casting agent who made that decision hailed as a genius and innovator.  Backslaps and high fives run amuck.  

2013: Fast and Furious 6: Budget 160, domestic 238.  Broke the streak and saw this in the theater because of the good will that part 5 brought.  Michelle Rodriguez finally compiles enough blackmail material or sets up a vicious kiddie porn sting and Vin Diesel falls right into it (completely not true) as her character, Leti, is brought back into the foray.  Jason Statham brings English cockney dialogue to the table as the bad guy.  Spoiler note: cars take down a military plane. Slackjawed fans of the show, “Ridiculousness” fantasize about emulating this in backyards across flyover states in this great nation.

2015: Furious 7.  Budget 190, domestic 351.  Also saw this in the theater.  Note: My doppleganger (said by several drunken women at bars), Paul Walker, died while filming.  They used his brother and CGI to finish up his scenes.  Nothing puts asses in the seats like an actor dying in the line of fire (pun intended).  See: Brandon Lee in the Crow.  See not: John Candy in Wagons East.  Plot lines continue to soar past ridiculousness and straight into when 2 cars drive consecutively through 3 skyscrapers.  Audiences wonder aloud,  “a 5th grader come up with these stunts, right?”  Dialogue is as monosyllabic as humanly possible.  

2017: Fate of the Furious.  Budget 250 million, domestic opening weekend 136 and worldwide 674.  Biggest worldwide opening ever.  

Notably absent: Paul Walker (death) and Jordana Brewster (recruited into MENSA and becoming a top 5 Pinterest contributor…just kidding) Vin Diesel turns against his crew as newcomer villain Charlize Theron makes him do things he doesn’t want to do; like take an acting class or properly enunciate.  All kidding aside, Toretto goes rogue after a job after Cypher (Theron) shows his something that shakes him to the core.  Out goes loyalty and Toretto’s favorite word, “family.”  This film takes the cake when it comes to absurdity. First of all, the crew races through Times Square at least 50 miles an hour.  Not even cop cars on a high speed chase through that area reach that speed.  There’s a chase scene with zombie cars (hacked by Cypher) blocking for Toretto and creating havoc down Manhattan streets.  Cars are literally falling from the sky from parking garages.  And the scene we’ve all scene in the previews; a nuclear sub chasing down cars on a sheet of ice.  There’s “suspending disbelief” for the sake of the art and then there’s the, “Enough is fucking enough.”  And that’s where I am.  I yearn again for the days of simple street racers trying to rob truckers of their goods with an attempt of a twist.  

And the dialogue, wow.  It’s like some poor intern was tasked with going through the annals of action film dialogue and had to pick out every cliche ever uttered.  Then, the cliches were placed into a “Mad-Libs” format into the dialogue.  Jesus Christ, I could barely find 25 lines which were original thoughts.  If you really want to partake in a drinking game, do a shot every time some utters something from an action film in the last 30 years.  If there was an acting coach for this film, I dub that the EASIEST job ever.  “You!  Just be give me an eye roll when a snarky comment is made.  And you! Give me a semi-surpised look when a nuclear sub shoots onto a frozen lake!”  I get it, none of these characters are in danger of being recruited to sit in on ways to combat global warming.  But goddamn, these lines are so recycled, you would’ve smelled compost heaps throughout the film while sitting in the theater.

I’m done paying to see this franchise, again.  They screwed it up again after part 5 levitated it from the ashes and just made it dumber than any Michael Bay sequel.  Action is great and I’ll never stop seeing action films.  But when it’s dragged down by awful dialogue and beyond unreasonable stunts to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, this is where I unbuckle my seatbelt and jump out of a moving car on the Autobahn.

5/10.