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Dunkirk (2017)

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Jack Lowden, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan

REVIEW:

With Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan has switched gears into a genre he’s never explored before, the war film, with a docudrama depiction of the Dunkirk evacuation (named after the French town where it took place), where 300,000 British soldiers with their backs against the sea were rescued by an armada of civilian volunteers, including fishing boats and private yachts, in what became known as “the miracle of Dunkirk” (despite being a retreat, the mass rescue was so unlikely that Winston Churchill himself cautioned the celebratory mood by stating that “wars are not won by evacuations”).   Perhaps partly because it focuses on an Allied retreat, perhaps partly because no Americans were involved (Dunkirk took place over a year before the United States entered the war), the Dunkirk evacuation hasn’t gotten much Hollywood attention; the only high-profile film I can recall even touching on it is Atonement, and that only in one sequence.  For the venerable writer-director, Dunkirk showcases his often-cited greatest strengths and weaknesses perhaps more starkly than ever before; a technically virtuoso filmmaking accomplishment but emotionally cold.  Dunkirk may strongly appeal to WWII buffs, but its appeal to mainstream audiences is in doubt. Continue reading

Legend (2015)

Legend (2015)DIRECTOR: Brian Helgeland

CAST: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri, Taron Egerton, Paul Anderson, Paul Bettany, Kevin McNally, Sam Spruell

REVIEW:

My opinion of Legend is much the same as that of another true crime docudrama, Black Massa few months earlier; a tour de force lead performance(s) and some memorable individual scenes doing too little to enliven an otherwise dull and generic gangster flick.  If you’re a big enough fan of the gangster movie genre, or of Tom Hardy, Legend may be worth a look, but “legendary” it is not.  Those hoping for a gangster epic conveying the true story of 1960s London’s notorious Kray twins will be left wanting.  For writer/director Brian Helgeland, who made a name for himself with 1997’s LA Confidential (and also wrote and directed 1999’s deliciously hard-boiled crime caper Payback), this is a disappointingly uninspired and generic effort that like Black Mass comes across as “Scorsese-lite” and fails to make the true story of the Krays as riveting as one senses it should have been.  LA Confidential won Helgeland an Oscar, but while a case could easily be made for a nomination for Tom Hardy, the rest of Legend is far from Oscar material.   Continue reading

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015)

kingsmanDIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn

CAST: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sophia Cookson, Sofia Boutella, Edward Holcroft, Mark Hamill, Jack Davenport

REVIEW: 

With Kingsman, Matthew Vaughn has done for the ‘60s British spy genre what he previously did for the comic book superhero genre with Kick-Ass: part tongue-in-cheek, part affectionate homage.  Like Kick-Ass, Kingsman won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but fans of the over-the-top action and cheeky humor of Roger Moore’s 007 outings might find much to appreciate here, even as it pokes fun at the conventions of the genre without going so far as to completely mock its obvious inspirations. Continue reading

The Imitation Game (2014)

DIRECTOR: Morten Tyldum

imitation gameCAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, Charles Dance

REVIEW:

Does the name Alan Turing mean anything to you?  Chances are it doesn’t, despite him being credited with shortening WWII by as much as two years, saving an estimated 14 million lives, as well as giving birth to the prototype of the computer.  Director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore, working off Andrew Hodges’ Turing biography, is a belated attempt to bring some deserved recognition both to Alan Turing’s accomplishments and the disgrace of what eventually happened to one of the most unsung war heroes of WWII. Continue reading

Locke (2013)

2F3A9835.jpgDIRECTOR: Steven Knight

CAST: Tom Hardy, voices of Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland, Bill Milner

REVIEW:

So, how engaging can a movie be centering entirely on 90 minutes of a man driving in a car and talking on the phone, with the other characters only present via their voices?  As it turns out, Locke is often surprisingly absorbing in the moment, even if it’s ultimately unable to withstand the onset of monotony.  A small, low-key, low-budget indie movie initially opening at independent film festivals in the UK, Locke moved on to a limited theatrical release in the US amid positive critical reviews  and a much-praised performance by Tom Hardy, but the prospect of spending an hour and a half watching a film in which nothing happens but a man driving in a car dealing with a series of personal crises on the phone is not a premise to draw mainstream crowds.  Locke may be a critical darling, but it’s strictly indie art-house fare, and while an intriguing cinematic experiment, its gimmicky premise ultimately wears thin. Continue reading

28 Weeks Later (2007)

DIRECTOR: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

CAST: Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Mackintosh Muggleton, Imogen Poots, Harold Perrineau, Idris Elba

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL DISCUSS ELEMENTS OF THE FILM’S PLOT

Another day in the film industry, another superfluous and uninspired sequel…28 Days Later was one of the most frightening movies of 2003 (or any other year), but while tension-packed and involving, it wasn’t a movie that especially cried out for a sequel, and like most unessential sequels, 28 Weeks Later fails to justify its existence, regurgitating more generic retreads of the first movie’s chills and action while lacking its strengths. Continue reading

Green Street Hooligans (2005)

DIRECTOR: Lexi Alexander

CAST:

Elijah Wood, Charlie Hunnam, Claire Forlani, Marc Warren, Leo Gregory, Geoff Bell, Henry Goodman, Terence Jay

REVIEW:

‘Football Hooliganism’ dates back to the late 1800s, with gangs of overzealous football (soccer to us Yanks) club supporters- who came in Britain to be known as firms- intimidating or attacking rival players and clashing with opposing firms. Continue reading

Love Actually (2003)

DIRECTOR: Richard Curtis

CAST:

Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney,Bill Nighy, Keira Knightley, Kris Marshall, Heike Makatsch, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page,Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Martine McCutcheon, Thomas Sangster, Lúcia Moniz, Rodrigo Santoro, Rowan Atkinson, Billy Bob Thornton

REVIEW:

Love Actually is taglined as ‘the ultimate romantic comedy’, and while I wouldn’t go that far, it might be the most ambitious. Continue reading

28 Days Later (2003)

140804165912-01-infectious-movies-horizontal-large-galleryDIRECTOR: Danny Boyle

CAST:

Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston, Noah Huntley

REVIEW:

Hailed as one of the most frightening movies ever made, 28 Days Later is one in a long series of films addressing mankind’s fear of and fascination with the end- a catastrophic apocalypse that nearly wipes out the human race, but in a different vein than most. Continue reading

About a Boy (2002)

DIRECTOR: Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz

CAST:

Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz

REVIEW:

Based on the book by Nick Hornby, produced by the producers of Bridget Jones’ Diary, and directed by the team of brothers who brought us American Pie, About A Boy is a prime example of how an approach heavy on irreverent wit and keeping the cloying sentimentality to a restrained minimum can inject enough freshness into a generic stock premise to make what could have been a bore a breezy and enjoyable viewing experience. Continue reading

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