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war

The King’s Man (2021)

The King's Man - IGN

DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn

CAST: Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson, Gemma Arterton, Djimon Hounsou, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Daniel Brühl, Charles Dance, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci

REVIEW:

While The King’s Man is a bit of a redundant movie, it’s at least redundant in a slightly different way: instead of a dime-a-dozen unnecessary sequel, this one is an unnecessary prequel. 2014’s Kingsman was a fun campy romp, but 2017’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle proved that trying to draw a franchise out of it might have been overkill, and The King’s Man, reaching back to WWI to show the “origins” of the titular secret society of gentlemen spies and modern-day knights, has not changed that opinion. With an episodic structure that veers between a campy action/spy romp to a grim WWI war drama and eventually comes back round again, The King’s Man tries to be two clashing things at once and doesn’t fully succeed in any direction. It’s moderately enjoyable, but doesn’t recapture the entertainment value of the original installment.

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Cherry (2021)

https://www.slashfilm.com/wp/wp-content/images/cherry-first-look.jpg

DIRECTOR: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

CAST: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo

REVIEW:

After becoming two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s primary recurring directors, helming Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, The Avengers: Infinity War, and The Avengers: Endgame, the sibling directing duo of Anthony and Joe Russo have switched gears to something completely different, taking a lower-profile more indie movie detour from CGI-heavy star-studded special effects and action extravaganzas. To this end, they’ve brought along their sister Angela Russo, who gets a screenwriting credit, and reunited with Marvel star Tom Holland, going far away from Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Nico Walker, Cherry is a bit of a mess whose social commentary tries to tackle too many societal ills and is sometimes lost amid the Russos’ excessive directorial flourishes, but it’s still an engaging and compelling docudrama that has something to say.

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Mulan (2020)

How to Watch Mulan 2020 on Disney+ - How to Stream the Mulan Live Action

DIRECTOR: Niki Caro

CAST: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li, Jet Li, Tzi Ma, Yoson An, Rosalind Chao

REVIEW:

After such titles as Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast, Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin, and Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, Niki Caro’s Mulan finally does something a little different. Partly the filmmakers had a little more wiggle room because the 1998 animated musical original is not as iconic as the above titles, and was never considered among Disney top tier, but avoiding a scene-by-scene regurgitation helps Mulan avoid the feeling of an expensive cosplay that befell the previous live-action remakes. Mulan overall feels fresher and stands on its own as an engaging adventure.

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1917 (2019)

DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

CAST: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman

REVIEW:

Despite being the original so-called “War to End All Wars” (only to be surpassed for both global scale and body count by WWII a mere twenty years later), WWI hasn’t gotten much attention from the movies. Apart from All Quiet on the Western Front all the way back in 1930, and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, there aren’t many notable films, or even films period, centering on the 1914-1919 conflict. With 1917, Sam Mendes has added at least one worthy entry to the slim ranks of WWI films. Filmed in seemingly one continuous unbroken take, 1917 is a visceral, immersive experience that takes us along with its two protagonists on a harrowing odyssey. It’s not the most “feel good” viewing (though nor is it as unremittingly bleak and hopeless as All Quiet on the Western Front), but it is by turns harrowing, heart-tugging, exhausting, heroic, and satisfying. All Quiet on the Western Front is its only real rival for the best WWI film ever made—not that there’s much other competition for that title—and for one of the last films of the year, it also stakes a worthy claim to being one of the most technically impressive and most powerful.

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Midway (2019)

DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich

CAST: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Keean Johnson, Luke Kleintank, Darren Criss, Tadanobu Asano, Etsushi Toyokawa

REVIEW:

One goes into “a film by Roland Emmerich” with tempered expectations. I wasn’t expecting the next great war epic, but I had—I thought—reasonable expectations of something along the lines of Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor; some big-scale war action intermixed with corny human drama. Alas, even for those modest expectations, Midway fails to deliver, once again begging the question of why such a hack as Emmerich continues to have his relentless mediocrity rewarded with gigs directing big-budget disaster/war movies. In fact, while I’m no Michael Bay fan, one could say that at least Bay knows he makes big, dumb action flicks where lots of stuff blows up real good. Emmerich occasionally displays pretensions of helming historical epics, and here (as usual) his reach exceeds his grasp.

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Outlaw King (2018)

Trying to Do Too Much: Netflix's Outlaw King – Concerning History

DIRECTOR: David Mackenzie

CAST: Chris Pine, Florence Pugh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Howle, Tony Curran, Sam Spruell, Stephen Dillane, James Cosmo

REVIEW:

Outlaw King, co-writer/producer/director David Mackenzie’s chronicle of the rebellious activities of Scottish national hero Robert the Bruce, could be seen as a sort of indirect follow-up to Braveheart (to be clear, this is not a “sequel” to Braveheart, merely dealing with a couple of the same characters around the same time period), and while it lacks the scope and compulsive narrative drive of Mel Gibson’s epic, it serves as an interesting, if lesser, companion piece.

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12 Strong (2018)

DIRECTOR: Nicolai Fuglsig

CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Trevante Rhodes, Navid Negahban, William Fichtner

REVIEW:

In some ways, 12 Strong is a bit of a throwback to war flicks of the ’50s and ’60s, rollicking adventures with more emphasis on creating a testosterone-fueled adrenaline rush than going into graphic details of the horrors of war (this slightly “old school” vibe is accentuated by the fact that our heroes spend much of the movie, including the climactic battle, on horseback).  To that end, it is strongly successful.  12 Strong doesn’t completely ignore or brush aside the grim realities of war, but it’s an action movie first and foremost and a substantially less downbeat experience than darker war films such as Platoon or Fury, and for fans of this kind of war flick, it represents an invigorating, solidly engaging couple of hours. Continue reading

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

Wonder Woman (2017)

DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins

CAST: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock, Elena Anaya, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

REVIEW: 

For the troubled “DC Expanded Universe”, Wonder Woman is a sign that all may not be lost after the near-trainwrecks of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, but I’m not prepared to join the chorus singing its praises, and while it’s not a bad movie, I can’t help but wonder if the excitement is subconsciously influenced by how good it looks in comparison to its immediate predecessors.  As far as “origin stories” go, this falls somewhere in the middle; it’s easily a more competently-crafted film than BvS or Suicide Squad, but isn’t as memorable or innovative as the best of what either DC or Marvel has offered in recent years. Continue reading

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

hacksawDIRECTOR: Mel Gibson

CAST: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Luke Bracey

REVIEW:

The true story of Desmond Doss, the first Conscientious Objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving seventy-five men without firing a shot during the bloody Battle of Okinawa in WWII, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge (called the troubled actor-director’s “comeback project” in some circles) is a curious but overall effective blend of sappy cliches and graphic war violence, a film which initially threatens to come across like a generic “uplifting” story but—mostly when our pacifist protagonist finally goes to war around the halfway point—ultimately takes a turn to something far less sanitized but ultimately powerful and inspirational.   Continue reading

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