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 reviews: “Arrival”, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”, and “Jason Bourne”

The main 2 rules of gambling are: 1) Go with your gut and 2) Don’t be a hero, just win money. 

arrivalposterToday’s reviews are going to focus on rule 1.  When I saw the preview for “Arrival,” I said aloud, “Who gives a shit?  This is Jodie Foster’s Contact 2.0.”  And the reviews started to come in: Rotten Tomatoes loved it, some of my friends loved it, Amy Adams is going to win the Academy Award….you get the idea.  I figured since I was wrong about “Dr. Strange,” I decided to give it a go.  

So I did give it a shot.  I even saw it in the theater as other reviewers said you MUST see it in its purest form.  Amy Adams plays a master linguist who is called to service and communicate when alien spaceships land in many different countries.  Forest Whittaker and his lazy eye play an Army officer who recruits her for the position.  Tiny Jeremy Renner plays a scientist that goes with Adams to facilitate the communication betweens the aliens and Adams. And director Denis Villeneuve (did Sicario and LOVED it) is at the helm.

This film is better than Contact was but I have to admit, I was underwhelmed.  The ending was different than expected but not enough for me to pull a 180 on this film.  Just like Seinfeld, a lot of people found this to be fantastic and I’m just not with it.  You’ve seen the same plot before: aliens land on Earth, humans attempt to make contact, humans make headway, another nation wants to attack the aliens because they don’t want to wait for first strike, conflict arises, will the aliens destroy humanity or do we take them out first?

This film is alright, save your 15 bucks and watch at home.  6/10

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Trivia question: What do you a comedy that isn’t funny?  Answer: a Wes Anderson film.  BOOM!  Taking no prisoners, that’s for goddamn sure!  “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is loosely based on the true story of 2 brothers who were told by their parents to bring wedding dates to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii after countless family gathering were ruined by the boys.  Zac Efron stars as one of the brothers who needs to make sure his shirt is off in at least 73% of the scene.  Anna Kendrick co-stars as a scorned bride who was left at the alter who makes it her life’s work to get on that free trip to Hawaii.  I did notice Stephanie Faracy (the mom in Great Outdoors) plays the boys’ mom and between plastic surgery and aging, Father Time has given her a vicious right uppercut to her work calendar.

When this preview came out, I said, “This COULD be that summer R-rated comedy of the year.”  And I wasn’t enamored by the preview and the reviews were as kind as a 24″ inch waist is to Rebel Wilson.  So, I watched it for free with the free (cable company which doesn’t sponsor me) points I’ve accrued.  You know a film is bad when you turn it off after 45 minutes AND YOU GOT IT FOR FREE.  I think I semi-chuckled twice, which is double the times I laughed at “Napoleon Dynamite” or any other Jack Black comedy.  Nothing gets me like a solid R-rated comedy but when the punchlines are softer than any Drake song, you lost me.  This film is dogshit and I was SHOCKED that it actually turned a profit. Anna Kendrick has a weird face and it’s funny to see her attempting to be sexy.  She’s perfect as Clooney’s protege in, “Up in the Air” and from what I saw while changing the channel, good in those, “Pitch Perfect” films.  Raunchy comedy, not her bag.  

I’d rather watch teens play in a video game tournament that finish watching this film.  2/10

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The first Jason Bourne film, solid.  The second, not so much.  The third, fantastic rebound and my favorite of the trilogy.  So when I read that Paul Greengrass (director of the 1st and 3rd films) was coming back to do the 4th Bourne and this time, I penciled this in to see in the theater.  Matt Damon reprises his title role, and we can wipe our memory banks clean of Jeremy Renner?  Cool, I’m in.  What scenes do you see over and over in the preview?  Damon dropping a dude with one punch and then yet another insane chase scene, this time on the Vegas strip.  Again, I’m in.

And then the reviews came in: nothing positive and pretty much all of them saying this was a hybrid of all 3 Damon films with no real original aspects of it.  So I didn’t see this in the theater as most of my friends confirmed these reviews.  I was going to see this and Suicide Squad in the same day and I’m glad I laid this hand down.  It’s the same recipe as all of the other films.  Hell, I think I can direct the next Bourne film.  Have an older white guy in a communications room, barking out orders to SWAT teams who are trying to locate Bourne for about 60% of the film.  The next 30% would be chase scenes mixed with a few hand-hand combat scenes.  The last 10% would be him trying yet again, to unearth even more backstory about how and why he was recruited to be an assassin. Give me 5 million bucks and the catalog rights to Moby’s, “Extreme Ways” so I can do the 234235th remix of that song and I’ll see you next summer with a 2 hour film that hopefully makes its money back.  

I again, used points from (cable company not paying to advertise with me) and didn’t pay a dollar for this film.  I wasn’t thrilled at all but hey, at least I made it all the way, unlike “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.” The Vegas chase scene does carry on a little too long.  The plot is murky and we’re again trying to figure out his character’s as well as his dad’s history with the Treadstone.  You end up not caring about this story about 20 minutes it.  “Bourne Ultimatum” did a fantastic job of wrapping up loose ends and answering all questions.  Greengrass should’ve ended on that high note cause this note cracks and falls flat. 

I’d rather watch all of the trailers for Rogue 1 (review next week) on an endless loop than watch this again.  4.5/10

Star Trek: Beyond

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the theater because this summer has consistently dropped stinkers upon the masses and I’m glad to say that the public isn’t buying into the garbage.  The latest Star Trek film was just released yesterday and this was one I circled as a “must see” but I admit, when I saw the previews, I wasn’t impressed.  First off, I’m not a Trekkie so let’s not get up in arms if I miss a minor detail here.  No JJ Abrams, he was too busy doing a fantastic job with “Star Wars The Force Unleashed.”  In the director’s chair for this installment is Justin Lin who is most noted for the “Fast and the Furious” films.  Also, Simon Pegg (plays Scotty in the recent films) wrote this film.  Gone are Kurtzman and Orci who penned the first 2.  And believe me, you notice.

The film starts out with Kirk pondering his place in Starfleet and in life, same with Spock.  Then, we get right into it as the Enterprise follows up on a distress call and away we go.  Idris Elba plays the villain but you would never know as he’s layered in makeup.  The film cruises till about the 2/3 point when we learn why Krall (Elba) has a bug up his ass with the Federation.  At this point, I was holding in copious amounts of urine and I wasn’t completely focused but I’m a little fuzzy why Krall did what he was doing.  It kind of felt like they forgot late in the film, “oh yeah, we need to hurry up and get a few more plot points in between the final action scenes.”

Speaking of action scenes, that’s what Justin Lin is known for in the FnF franchise.  In this film, we don’t see anything close to Vin Diesel growl out monosyllabic phrases while his car does a 720 in between 2 high rise buildings.  However, there’s a scene where Kirk is on a motorcycle that reminded me, “Yep, this makes sense because Lin is directing.”  And if we can get away from playing, “Sabotage” in future films, I’d be happy with that.  It worked in the first one just fine, no need to keep flogging that horse.
And there was a little buzz about Sulu coming out as gay in this installment.  Calm down homophobes, it isn’t that bad.  Just only when Kirk bends him over the captain’s chair and has his way with him while yelling out in Klingon.  Just kidding.

I thought this film was fine.  Definitely the weakest of the bunch but not bad.  Would I drop 15 bucks on it?  Maybe but don’t think you’re getting as good of a film as the first 2.  I felt there were moments like it was a mad libs where they had “insert character trait/emotion here”to check the boxes.  I didn’t get much of an apathy or any other emotion for Elba’s villain.  The final action sequence felt too much like the ending of the other 2 films.

I give it a 6 out of 10.

The Hateful 8

Yet another winner from Quentin Tarantino.  The trailers didn’t grab me but neither did the trailer for Django Unchained and I also loved that film. The man knows how to write an enrapturing story; complete with original characters and no one better at dialogue than Tarantino.  This film doesn’t lag at all.  It keeps up with his usual gory scenes but for those of you who winced every time you heard the N-word in Django.  Don’t worry, it’s only used around 100 times which is the same amount Barbara Bush uses it on MLK’s birthday.

In the last 30 years, I put him, Spielberg, and Christopher Nolan as the best in the business.  I don’t give a shit about his views on the cops; he will get my 15 bucks every time without fail.  He continues to deliver hit after hit and this is no exception.  I did hear him say on Howard Stern that he started making films with the goal of stopping after he made his 10th.  Let’s hope that’s the case.  I give this film a solid 8.5/10; this and Star Wars have been a great 1-2 punch to end the year.

Here’s my ranking of Tarantino’s body of work.

10. Jackie Brown-the only blemish on his otherwise stellar track record.  This film is boring, awful, and forgetful.

9. Death Proof-Part of the Grindhouse film.  Liked it but when you have as many gems as Tarantino has created, decent films are toward the bottom.

8. Inglorious Basterds-Felt this one is highly overrated.  Sans the opening scene where Waltz finds the Jewish family in France and the bar scene where the major sniffs out Fassbender, this films wasn’t that special. Not enough time focused on Brad Pitt’s unit and I felt that was an opportunity for him to create some unique characters.  Besides Bear Jew, I couldn’t tell you about anyone else.

7. Kill Bill volume 2-Fantastic choreography and fight scenes.  Loved the duels between Madsen and Hannah.

6. Kill Bill volume 1-Same as above. Uma Thurman is a hot badass, not much more you can ask for.

5. True Romance-yes, I know he didn’t direct this but he wrote it and this is what got him on the map.  Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper crush it in this film.

4. Hateful Eight-see above

3. Django Unchained-Great take he did with the view of a slave turned bounty hunter and Chrisoph Waltz as his German mentor is one of my favorite Tarantino characters of all time.  Loved Di Caprio as Calvin Candy, also quite memorable and enjoyed hating him.

2. Reservoir Dogs-First story that I can think of off the top of my head with the plot told in a circular fashion.  A gutty crime drama that opened my eyes and thought this was the best crime film since Goodfellas.

1. Pulp Fiction-  Travolta rises from the ashes from the land of washed up actors.  SLJ as the spiritual yet but not to be fucked with Jules?  Game, set, match.  Keitel as Winston Wolf, a character that fans ALWAYS quote.  Without question, Tarantino’s greatest film.  The dialogue in this film needs to be put into any film textbook as the gold standard.  The story zigs and zags and then comes together with a big red bow on top at the end.