Film Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Release Date: July 13th, 2017 (Odeon Leicester Square premiere)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

Syncopy Inc., Warner Bros., 106 Minutes

Review:

“Where’s the bloody air force?” – Irate Soldier

At one point, Christopher Nolan was my favorite modern director. Interstellar left a bad taste in my mouth, Inception was cool but tedious and I’ve always thought that Memento was a bit overrated. However, The Prestige and The Dark Knight Trilogy are some of the best examples of filmmaking in the last decade or so. When it comes to Nolan, I always remember the positives and I will always give his films the opportunity to captivate me.

Dunkirk is not a perfect motion picture, many films rarely are. However, it is solid, strong and a true return to form for the British auteur.

War movies have run their course for me. Many of them are just more of the same. They’ve become incredibly derivative and they all just sort of blur together. That is, until one that is unique or exceptional comes along. I wouldn’t quite label Dunkirk as exceptional but I would say that it is unique.

The film picks up right in the action and never lets up. It is pretty relentless but not so much so that you are forced into a stressful and intense two hour action sequence. There is enough story and character building to make you care about the people in the film, even if you really just get to peek into these men’s lives for a day or so.

The acting is incredible and the cinematography is beautiful and immensely breathtaking. The scenes with the fighter pilots are a real treat and the true highlight of the film. Especially with Tom Hardy just owning every scene he is in, even if he doesn’t have a lot of dialogue throughout most of the movie.

The scenes featuring Cillian Murphy are fabulous. He plays a soldier rescued at sea who is shellshocked by the attacks he’s survived. His character creates some major problems for others in the film but you can’t feel anything but sadness for him, despite the consequences of his actions. Frankly, Murphy proves time and time again that he is one of the best actors of the modern era but I don’t see him in enough films.

James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh command the screen when they are present. Branagh always has this sort of effect but it is great seeing D’Arcy really shine and get to sink his teeth into something meaty.

The only real negative about this film is that the multiple characters and their missions are all edited quickly together and the film jumps back and forth between them all. The issue, is that the timelines for each set of characters doesn’t line up. So when the boat scenes cut to the fighter jet scenes, we’re not seeing the same passage of time, yet they are edited together for dramatic effect. Honestly, I would have preferred the film to just sort of happen chronologically, as it would have been easier to follow. I don’t know if this was done to come off as more of an artistic approach or if it was just to make the action sequences flow a bit better but I had to keep reminding myself that certain things were happening from a different point-of-view that I had already seen earlier.

Dunkirk is still pretty incredible and it shows that Nolan has still got it. It also shows that war films don’t have to tread the same path or tell another version of the same story we’ve seen countless times. It’s also nice seeing a major World War II film that has nothing to do with America. Besides, the Dunkirk incident is an incredible story and it deserved to be told on the big screen, which hasn’t been done since the mostly forgotten 1958 film of the same name.

Rating: 7.75/10

 

Film Review: Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)

Also known as: Piranha II: The Flying Killers
Release Date: December 1981 (Italy)
Directed by: James Cameron, Ovidio G. Assonitis
Written by: Ovidio G. Assonitis, James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee (all credited as H.A. Milton)
Music by: Stelvio Cipriani (credited as Steve Powder)
Cast: Tricia O’Neil, Steve Marachuk, Lance Henriksen

Brouwersgracht Investments, Chako Film Comapny, Columbia Pictures, 84 Minutes (theatrical), 95 Minutes (Extended Version)

piranha_iiReview:

The original Piranha was a cool and inventive movie that was both a parody of Jaws and a political commentary that analyzed the mistrust of the American military following the Vietnam War. Piranha II is none of those things.

The only notable things about this picture, is that it is the directorial debut of James Cameroon. Also, it takes such a bizarre and goofy twist, in an effort to top its predecessor, that it is hard to believe that the idea got off of the ground.

In the first movie, you had genetically altered piranha that could survive in any water system. They were created by the military in an effort to win the Vietnam War. The first film’s piranha must stay in water and can theoretically be contained. In Piranha II, the killer fish were genetically altered so that they can fly. Even the mad scientists of the fictional U.S. Military must’ve known that this was an incredibly stupid idea. But seriously, flying piranha! It’s an idea so ridiculous that it made me want to give the film a watch.

It is safe to say that this was not James Cameron’s best work. But somehow, he managed to bounce back from this movie and went on to direct some of the most successful films of all-time. Plus, Lance Henriksen is always awesome and I can watch him in just about anything.

The one gift that this movie gave to the film industry is experience for James Cameron. The film has a lot of underwater scenes, which would go on to be a prevalent thing in Cameron’s future films. Also, the use of the piranha animatronics helped Cameron develop the facehuggers for Aliens.

The special effects are far from great but they aren’t awful. There are some mistakes, like seeing one of the attacking piranha attached to a rod. Also, they are mostly obscured to hide their flaws. While that is understandable, to a point, it just hurts the film.

Piranha II: The Spawning isn’t nearly as awful as you might expect. While it has a 3.2 on IMDb and a 7 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is interesting to fans of filmmaking, if only to see the origins of James Cameron’s work. It is also worth mentioning that he was incredibly micromanaged on the film and the flaws might not entirely be his fault. Either way, without Piranha II, we might not have gotten The TerminatorAliensThe Abyss or his other movies.

Rating: 3.75/10

Film Review: Red Sonja (1985)

Release Date: July 3rd, 1985
Directed by: Richard Fleischer
Written by: Clive Exton, George MacDonald Fraser
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Brigitte Nielsen, Sandahl Bergman, Paul L. Smith, Ronald Lacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ernie Reyes Jr., Pat Roach

Dino De Laurentiis Company, MGM/UA Entertainment Company, 89 Minutes

red_sonjaReview:

Arnold Schwarzenegger once referred to this film as the worst of his career. He’s wrong. In fact, I can name many of his films that are worse than this picture and if you don’t think that Jingle All the Way isn’t a complete abomination, than you have no taste.

Is this as good as Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian? Well, no. It is, however, better than the lackluster Conan the Destroyer.

Red Sonja introduced the world to the talent of Brigitte Nielsen. Now that isn’t too exciting but she had a very short run of appearances in mid-80s action films. She went on to be featured in Rocky IV, Beverly Hills Cop II and the often panned Cobra. I like friggin’ love Cobra.

This film also featured little martial arts bad ass Ernie Reyes Jr. who is most famous for playing Keno in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, as well as starring in Surf Ninjas and having smaller roles in Rush Hour 2, The Rundown and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Ronald Lacey, who most famously played the evil Toht in Raiders of the Lost Ark, shows up to play the evil queen’s top henchman. The evil queen is played by Sandahl Bergman, who was Conan’s love interest in Conan the Barbarian.

The cast was good enough, the film was straightforward and most importantly, it was action-packed. This film follows the well-established sword and sorcery genre pretty solidly. It felt like an extension of the Conan world and its mythos, which was already well-known at the time this came out.

Red Sonja is often times trashed. I don’t see why though. People don’t watch these movies for acting prowess or to be pristine works of art. Films like these are made to be fun escapism and this one does a great job of that. It runs short at around 90 minutes and that is the perfect amount of time to jump in, like a few characters and enjoy the sweet battles and even sweeter decapitations. Yes, this film has some sweet decapitations.

The effects are decent for the mid-80s and the sets are pretty well-made. Also, they somehow got the legendary Ennio Morricone to score this picture. There really isn’t a lot to dislike about Red Sonja unless you go into it expecting The Return of the King.

Is this movie a great fantasy epic? Not really. What it is though, is a shit load of fun. And it has sweet decapitations. And Arnold.

Rating: 6.5/10