Monday, August 7, 2017

Dunkirk + 17 Movie Ratings from 2017

Well, it's been a LONG time.  2017 has flown by and work has got in the way.  Therefore I have TOTALLY slacked on my reviews.  I've seen a lot this year and I really think the quality of movies in 2017 is much better than 2016.  I've given 4 perfect ratings thus far.  I'll give a quick review on one of those perfect films (Dunkirk) and then give ratings for the rest of the movies I missed covering on this blog.


Christopher Nolan is head and shoulders above the rest of the directors of his generation.  Following 2014's remarkable sci-fi Interstellar, his recent track record of excellence continues with Dunkirk, an experimental, immersive film that is light on both dialogue and plot, but original and rewarding in so many ways.

Oscar-winner Mark Rylance, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh as well as Nolan stalwarts Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy head up the cast of soldiers, commanders and townsfolk that all band together in an attempt to evacuate 300,000+ infantry from the beaches of Dunkirk, France back to safety in England during WWII before America's involvement.  All of the actors in this film do an admirable job, but this movie is certainly not a showcase for acting skills.  The heart and soul of Dunkirk is war-immersion.  From the opening sequence when gunshots ring out in a French village to the dogfight battles in the air, we are there with these young men.  Fast-paced and nearly all action, Dunkirk bring so much authenticity to the big screen.  Without a doubt this seems like the most realistic war film ever made and one that it is able to do so without the gore that brings with it an "R" rating.

This movie is so unique on many levels for a war movie and I feel that audiences will either love it or hate it.  My wife hated it.  She wanted more exposition, more story, more of what we get in recent war films like Hacksaw Ridge and Saving Private Ryan where we learn the back story of each key character.  This just doesn't happen in Dunkirk.  Nolan picks us up and drops us directly into the war.  The limited exposition in plot only accentuates how alone these young men are and Nolan allows us to experience these elements of survival first-hand. The large-format (IMAX 70mm) screen that Nolan prefers helps draw the audience in even further.  There is no escape for us.  In addition to the in-your-face visuals, Nolan also experiments in this film with the narrative, directing three acts (land, air, sea) and intertwining all three scopes throughout the film.

I was thoroughly engrossed in this movie from start to finish.  Dunkirk is a fine example of a master craftsman at the top of his craft.  Nolan uses different angles, practical effects, huge, epic, vastly-scoped sequences that are tailor-maid for the over-sized screen.  Huge ships sink, authentic planes tattoo each other with bullets, mass amounts of infantry scramble for safety as enemy bombers swoop in.  All of this is expertly accentuated with Hans Zimmer's pounding score.  Zimmer just completely gets his director's vision in this the sixth on-screen collaboration between the two.

If you haven't seen Dunkirk, go out and catch it in IMAX (I saw it at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum) before it's too late.  Don't go in expecting a story, just go in pretending that you are riding along with these young brave soldiers who are all acting on instinct.  The best takeaway I can give you after seeing this film is that Christopher Nolan was able to make bomber planes look so menacing in the skies that on the drive home from the movie I had actual tension when I saw a commuter jet flying my way.  Nolan allows you to experience WWII first-hand and leaves you existing the theater shell-shocked. 5 JRs for the best film of 2017 so-far and yet another gleaming gem in the crown of the most skilled director working today.

Side Note:  It's really interesting to notice the quirks in Tom Hardy's movie career.  In half of his last 8 films, Hardy has had his face obscured by some sort of mask/obstruction for part of the film (Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant *beard* and now with his airman mask in Dunkirk).  Hardy spends most of this film in a cockpit which hearkens back to his similar role as a man driving a car through the entire duration of Locke.

So many movies, so much work, so little time to write my reviews... What follows are my quick hit reviews and JR ratings for each one in chronological order of viewing:

Split - 3.5 JRs - Night is back with a satisfying twist for fans of his films.

A Dog's Purpose - 3 JRs - Good family film.

The Lego Batman Movie - 5 JRs - So much fun from start to finish.  Mass amounts of creativity.

Logan - 5 JRs - Best comic book movie I've seen.  Gritty, hardcore R and super entertaining.

Get Out - 5 JRs - Surprise of the year.  Wildly inventive and entertaining.

Kong Skull Island - 2.5 JRs - Great FX but the plot is messy.

The Belko Experiment - 3 JRs - Interesting concept, but feels like cheaply made.

Life - 2.5 JRs - Forgettable science fiction film.

The Fate of the Furious - 3 JRs - Just not feeling this franchise much anymore.

Alien: Covenant - 4.5 JRs - On par with Prometheus for me.  Not Ridley's best, but still very good sci-fi.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 4 JRs - Funny, but not as good as #1.

All Eyez on Me - 4 JRs - I really enjoyed this as a Tupac fan.  Not for everyone though.

Cars 3 - 3.5 JRs - Better than #2 but not nearly as good or original as #1   I think this franchise is done.

Baby Driver - 4.5 JRs - Edgar Wright's opus.  A amazingly choreographed action movie with a spot-on soundtrack.  Ansel Eggort is great along with Foxx and Spacey.

The Beguiled - 3.5 JRs - Coppola's creepy take on feminism during the Civil War.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - 4.5 JRs - Nearly perfect.  Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man to-date.

War for the Planet of the Apes - 4.5 JRs - Epic battles and amazing special effects keep this franchise churning in a positive direction.

Hopefully I'll get more on track with reviewing films right after I see them.  I can't promise anything, but I'll do my best:)  As always, thanks for reading!


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