On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 19, 2018

Dunkirk is a horror movie. Make no mistake about it. You never see the villains. There is no physical trace of the German military anywhere in the film until one of the final frames. And yet, the presence of these antagonists looms over every scene. It is so inescapable in fact it is nearly suffocating. There is, in essence, no relief from the situation at hand and much like a horror movie more steeped in that genre's conventions you know only one thing is certain: bad things will happen and people will die. That doesn't mean one can look past the horror by not getting as accustomed with the characters, the people, experiencing these situations though, but rather Christopher Nolan has slyly and only crafted his characters to the extent that one largely puts themselves in the shoes of these individuals. As with any good scary movie there is an allure to the uncertainty that could not necessarily be labeled as enjoyable, but is engaging nonetheless and that essentially describes the emotions one will likely feel throughout the entirety of Dunkirk. From the opening, breathtaking scene in which one of our young protagonists flees the gunfire of unseen enemy forces to moments in which civilians on their personal boats navigate the rough seas as they cross the channel in hopes of nothing more than saving a few lives-Nolan ratchets up the tension and holds it as tight as he possibly can for an hour and forty-five minutes. Unlike most Nolan pictures, there is a brevity to Dunkirk that is key in sustaining the tension and keeping it at as intense a level as possible throughout, but like most Nolan films this is still very much an experience more than it is just another trip to the theater; it is immersive in a way that is difficult to put into words necessarily, but Dunkirk was always going to be something different as it sees one of the greatest filmmakers of our current generation crafting his version of a World War II film and to that extent this is a lean and intense piece of filmmaking that is rather exceptional. Lifting from the horror genre in terms of approach is only the beginning of what makes Dunkirk haunting, but much of what has to do with the accomplishment the film turns out to be is the way in which each of the elements Nolan uses to craft his movie congeal in such a natural way. Whether it be the structure that is used to differentiate between the timing and perspective of the tales from the air, land, and sea or the pounding score from longtime Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer that more or less makes up for dialogue in the film to the face of Kenneth Branagh in general. Dunkirk is a work in which it would seem there was nothing easy about creating what we see on the big screen, but that comes together in such an effortless fashion it feels as if there was no other way in which the movie might have ultimately turned out. In short, it's a reality where it seems the filmmaker's ambition has genuinely been met. Full review here. A-

Well, the time has come, but admittedly, it came a little quicker than I thought it might. The LEGO Movie brand has seemingly run out of gas in what is no doubt only its first act. Though it was just in February of this year that it seemed it was the LEGO brand, behind Marvel of course, that was having the most success in carving their own path out of a recognizable brand things have quickly changed with the rise of Wonder Woman and the misstep that is The LEGO Ninjago Movie. After blowing all expectations out of the water with The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 & 22 Jump Street) set not only a precedent for any sequels and spin-offs that might come in the wake of their success, but they also set a very specific tone that has now served as the signature trait of that initial film, The LEGO Batman Movie from earlier this year, and now Ninjago as it attempts to be just as irreverent as its predecessors. Ninjago is different though in that, while the first film had the brand as a whole to market and LEGO Batman obviously had Batman as a marketing tool, Ninjago is a specific line of toys from the Lego brand that has made its way into a television show and now a feature film. The point being that, because it has narrowed the brand down into such a specific line of toys it has narrowed the appeal as well. That isn't to say that just because Ninjago isn't as immediately recognizable or notable as the brand's previous outings that it immediately carries less weight, but rather that it has more to prove to more people. The LEGO Movie itself had a lot to prove, but surprised everyone when it was able to balance its great sense of humor with real heart while Ninjago more or less seems to be piggybacking off that style rather than coming up with a unique voice of its own through which to convey its movie. It was always going to be curious how Warner Bros. Animation went forward with the Lego universe in terms of each of the films sharing a similar tone or if they would divert according to the toy line and/or type of story they were telling, but with Batman and now Ninjago it is pretty clear each "LEGO Movie" will follow suit in the self-aware and spoof-like nature of that original outing. While this isn't the worst thing in the world it already feels somewhat tired three films in and though the movie's trio of directors who have plenty of experience between them have done well to follow the precedent set by other Lego pictures they have done little to help Ninjago stand enough apart from them for it to be memorable. Full review here. C-

On the surface, Stronger is a movie that looks as if it is trying desperately to be little more than an awards-contender. True Story? Check. Tragedy? Check. Severe disability? Check. Indie darling director? Check. Jake Gyllenhaal being intense? Check. Taking the main factors into consideration it's not hard to see why this would seemingly be anything more than an attempt at scoring Gyllenhaal an Oscar and maybe, to some degree, the hope is that might work out in the end, but it's not Stronger's main objective and it certainly isn't where the intent of the film lies as Stronger is easily one of the most genuine movies I've seen all year. Genuine in that it never cops to sensationalizing anything that would be an easy target given the subject matter. No, Stronger is a human story, a story about a relationship more than it is the Boston Marathon bombing and within that the film goes to places where it is able to cut deeper emotionally than it would had the film simply resorted to recreating the horror of that day. Director David Gordon Green, who came to prominence on the back of indies such as George Washington and All the Real Girls only to go on to helm big budget comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness, has, in recent years, found a kind of middle ground between these two wide-ranging genres where mid-budgeted, character driven stories featuring big names have become something of the filmmaker's forte. Green only continues to hone this kind of movie-making in Stronger. Combining his knack for naturalistic and improvised moments with that of his major studio experience in staging a recreation of the bombing as well as shooting at both Boston hockey and baseball games. Green has, in many ways, culminated all of his past experiences with Stronger and the result is a film that is deceptively simple, deceptively easy to misread and/or label as one thing, but is so much more than it initially appears to be. Stronger is a movie that delves into one man coming to terms with a new way of life, a new status among his peers, and a relationship he isn't sure is destined to work out all while recovering from the most traumatic day of his life. Stronger doesn't resonate due to big, dramatic moments, but more for the ones that aren't; the quite moments where one can't verbalize why they're significant, but feel that they are. Stronger is somehow able to tap into these unspoken moments and is all the more authentic because of that. Full review here. B

mother! is one of those films where it is easy to appreciate the intent without being able to necessarily enjoy it at all. That is to say, while there is much to discuss in the latest from auteur Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Black Swan), there isn't much of it that is enjoyable. That isn't to say every movie-going experience has to be enjoyable as mother! still offers an escape in one form or another, but while Aronofsky is very clearly trying to make a statement here it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly he is trying to say. For further proof as to why mother! is simultaneously admirable and bewildering is the fact it is also one of those films where each scene is a puzzle piece the viewer is supposed to put in place to slowly realize the bigger picture. mother! is deliberately confusing in that it wants you to try and figure out what is going on and what the metaphor is that's at work, but while this coyness may at first seem to be both crafty and a product of Aronofsky's knack for crafting visuals to pair with what are otherwise ephemeral concepts it is by the time the film reaches its third act and things begin to fall into place that mother! is neither surprising nor unsettling enough given this buildup. It is also very easy to see how many people will disagree on this point and either find it wholly fascinating and become enamored with discussing the film or not understand what the writer/director was aiming for and thus dismiss it as a symptom of confusion. While I can't say I fall into either of those extreme categories it is almost more disappointing that I don't as what is most evident after walking out of mother! is that Aronofsky was looking to evoke a reaction from his audience-whether it be fascination or disdain. Rather, mother! is a film that gets points for being something different, for taking on the challenge of making this huge metaphor work for what it is, but that it never transcends the correlation between what is being presented and what they represent so as to bring something new and insightful to the table is disappointing. mother! is a film where nothing seems to quite make sense and everyone around the protagonist seems to know what it going on while the main character and audience surrogate is left in the dark. Because of these kinds of set-ups where the audience is unsure of what is happening and why people are acting the way they are the movie becomes increasingly frustrating to the point the third act really needs to deliver on the purpose of having executed the majority of the film in this fashion, but while mother! could be interpreted as many things one thing it is not, but certainly seems to hope it will be, is groundbreaking. Full review here. C

Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena) directs this seemingly harmless, but predictable period piece starring Judi Dench and Ali Fazal (Furious 7) as an Indian clerk named Abdul who arrives in England to participate in Queen Victoria's golden jubilee. Victoria & Abdul chronicles how the young clerk is surprised to find favor with the queen herself as Victoria questions the constrictions of her long-held position. Naturally, the two forge an unlikely and devoted alliance that Victoria's household and inner circle then try to destroy. One of those, "If you've seen the trailer, you've seen the movie" movies.

It's origin story time for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series as Leatherface follows a violent teen and three others who kidnap a young nurse while escaping from a Texas mental institution. Pursued by a vengeful sheriff, the disturbed young man embarks on a murderous rampage that shapes him into a legendary killer known as Leather face.

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