REVIEW: Dunkirk’s Imperfections Add to its Brilliance

It took me a while to figure out what bothered me about Dunkirk. All those five-star reviews were right: Breathtaking scenes, daring structure and emotional payoff. It was all there, at a scale seldom seen before.

Then it hit me: There isn’t a single original narrative in the film. Portraits of down-to-earth heroism have been done before and Dunkirk doesn’t break any new ground. Furthermore, writer/director Christopher Nolan’s favorite trick, messing with chronology for maximum effect, is more distractive than anything and I have serious doubts there was need for it.

That said, Dunkirk hits such highs, any shortcoming dwarves by comparison.

The film unfolds in three setup entwined together, but not necessarily concurrent. The first is the beach of Dunkirk, France, where 400,000 Allied soldiers wait for evacuation, surrounded by Nazi forces and intermittently attacked from above. We witness the havoc through the eyes of Tommy (newcomer Fionn Whitehead), a young private initially without other calling than coming out of this alive. Continue reading “REVIEW: Dunkirk’s Imperfections Add to its Brilliance”

Sunday Matinee: Unearthly Stranger

Today’s Sunday Matinee is a quiet little British sci-fi thriller from 1963 called Unearthly Stranger.

Shot on a low budget with practically no special effects the story follows a scientist, Dr. Mark Davidson (John Neville) narrates the story as a flashback. Fearing for his life he tells how he got to this point.
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REVIEW: From the Land of the Moon (or Sexy Kidney Stones)

As roles of ingénue begin to dry up in Hollywood, Marion Cotillard seems to be favouring French-speaking parts. She is practically a Cannes mainstay thanks to her collaborations with the Dardenne brothers, Jacques Audiard and Xavier Dolan.

One of Cotillard’s lesser known Cannes entries arrives to SK this week: From the Land of the Moon (the French title, Mal de Pierres, is so much better). Set in France in the 50’s, the film tells the story of Gabrielle, a liberated/unsociable (your pick) woman stuck in an arranged marriage. Even though her husband José (Alex Brenemühl) is remarkably tolerant to all her unpleasantness, Gabrielle sulks and mops non-stop.

A sexy case of kidney stones sends Gabrielle to a health spa, where she meets the handsomely crumbling Lt. Sauvage (Louis Garrel, The Dreamers). Gabrielle falls in love with him (or the romantic ideal he represents), a passion that leads to further estrangement from her husband. Continue reading “REVIEW: From the Land of the Moon (or Sexy Kidney Stones)”

Sunday Matinee: Tron

35 years ago today Disney released a movie into theatres that they would consider to be another box office failure for them (in the ’80s Disney wasn’t doing too good). The movie would eventually become a cult classic and 28 years later Disney would eventually make a sequel.

Tron was the brain child of writer/director Steven Lisberger who had previously made the animated movie Animalympics. Lisberger originally wanted Tron to be a completely animated movie but released that it wasn’t possible at the time. He opted for live action with a mix of backlit animation and computer animation. Tron was not the first film to use computer animation but it was one of the first to use extensive computer animation. 15 full minutes of computer animation including the legendary light-cycle scene.
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Sunday Matinee: The 39 Steps

Hope everyone had a good Canada day! Today’s Sunday Matinee is Alfred Hitchcock’s brilliant masterpiece from 1935 The 39 Steps.

The movie sets up and features several themes that Hitchcock would use through many of his movies to come. The macguffin, the wrong man falsely accussed on the run, the blonde love interest and much more.
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Sunday Matinee: Saboteur

It may be one of the lesser Alfred Hitchcocks but it’s still pretty entertaining and it manages to turn 75 years old this year, today’s Sunday Matinee is 1942’s Saboteur.

Hitchcock was under contract to David O. Selznick but Selznick wasn’t interested in the story so Universal picked up the movie and produced it. Hitchcock didn’t get the cast that he wanted but Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings and Norman Lloyd do a pretty decent job.
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REVIEW: Okja Makes a Case for Vegetarianism

Okja and Mija.

One of the most notable filmmakers currently at work in South Korea, Bong Joon-Ho has a knack to mix dissimilar genres to startling results. In The Host, Bong changed monster cinema by combining it with realistic family drama. In his first film in English, Snowpiercer, the writer/director did a remarkable job by coating a social-issues movie with stylish action set-pieces.

Okja, Bong’s first movie to open in competition at Cannes, fits nicely in his filmography and it’s likely to transcend the art-circuit that has championed the filmmaker for nearly a decade: The movie will bypass theatres to open directly on Netflix.

Okja is both a coming-of-age adventure and a fierce indictment of capitalism and mass-produced food. It’s the kind of film for which the ubiquitous “viewer’s discretion advised” was invented. Continue reading “REVIEW: Okja Makes a Case for Vegetarianism”

Sunday Matinee: Predator

Filming has just wrapped up on the latest edition of the Predator franchise, The Predator which is actually only the fourth film. The original though first hit screens 30 years ago on June 12. Today’s Sunday Matinee takes a look at the classic first movie.

Back in 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger was king of the action films. He had two big hits in theatres in 1987. The Running Man and this mix of action and sci-fi horror.
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REVIEW: Cars 3 Goes Back to Basics

Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramírez burning rubber.

Less hyped but more profitable than other Pixar productions, Cars is the most kid-friendly saga out of the Disney subsidiary. Each film is awfully similar at playing with toy cars, a joy a franchise like Transformers completely misses.

Cars 3 is a nice rebound from the overstuffed and Mater-heavy Cars 2 (Mater is best in spaced out, small doses). A good portion of the film takes place away from the big city, precisely one of the charms of the first film. As a good Pixar film, it carries a positive, timely message (being different is not an obstacle to achieve your goals), although is less high-concept than, say, Inside Out.

We reencounter Lightning McQueen (voiced with increasing ease by Owen Wilson) as his career is taking a tumble. Newer, faster cars are joining the track and McQueen is having trouble keeping up, let alone winning. The next-gen champ, the slick, patronizing Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), is too passive-aggressive to be a proper villain. McQueen is basically his own worst enemy.

Following a fierce accident, Lightning reevaluates his career and comes to the conclusion he needs to change strategy. Backed by a new owner, McQueen ends up in hands of Cruz Ramírez (Cristela Alonso), a trainer whose unusual methods don’t sit well with Lightning.

Cars 3 unfolds smoothly. It provides a hearty dose of comedy and nostalgia, while at surface level. Cruz Ramírez is probably the best character the series has introduced outside Lightning and Paul Newman’s Doc Hudson. Tentatively, Cars 3 ventures outside race circuits and folksy little towns and into a makeshift monster-trucks arena. It’s the kind of risks the franchise could take more often.

Cars 3 offers a rare twist ending for a Pixar movie, one I failed to see coming. I guess old cars can learn new tricks. Three planets.

Cars 3 opens this Friday the 16th, everywhere.

Sunday Matinee: Spotlight On A Murderer

I love Arrow Films. Not only do they bring old cult favourites to blu-ray but they can dig up some lost classics that people may never have heard of. For example this 1961 mystery from French director Georges Franju.

Georges Franju is best remembered for his second feature film, the brilliant and excellent Eyes Without a Face. Another of his movies was the 1963 remake Judex. But before he made Judex he made this 1961 mystery Spotlight on a Murderer.
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