Dunkirk Review

 ‘With Dunkirk, Nolan has finally hit the heights of Kubrick’ proclaimed The Guardian. Which caused me to raise an eyebrow in surprise. Because yes, Nolan can frame a shot and use music like a master as well as juggle multiple character arcs, motives and timelines like no one else working in cinema today.

But last I checked, he didn’t spend two days and 127 takes getting the perfect take of a highly complicated scene in which someone gets up, walks across a room opens a door and then closes it again. And, i’m pretty sure that Kubricks characters actually talked like human being with lives and dreams and actually did things like romance and had what we humans call ‘a sense of humor.’

Yeah, the one thing that’s holding me back from joining every other critic in worshiping at the altar of Nolan is the fact that his characters don’t talk to each other, they make speeches and spout exposition dialogue but they don’t talk.

Happily though, Nolan had gotten around this eternal sticking point by making Dunkirk an almost silent movie. To my mind he could have made it completely silent and the film wouldn’t have suffered in any way, shape or form. Would I have missed any of Tom Hardy (naturally with half his face covered) 10 lines? Nope.

But back to Dunkirk,  which until the Fall of Singapore in 1942  was widely viewed as the worst defeat in British military history. And it’s a relatively simple story. 400’000 British troops are trapped on a beach at Dunkirk like fish in a barrel until they are rescued by a flotilla of more than 850 fishing boats, allegedly summoned by Sir Francis Drakes drum which according to legend it can be heard to beat at times when England is at war or significant national events take place. (Insert Brexit joke here) the boats worked for a solid week to carry troops back to safety in England.

It’s a very simple story, told from three points of view with three different timelines. The army story (starring Harry Styles who’s actually kind of awesome) is set over a week on the beaches of Dunkirk. Mark Rylance is sailing towards Dunkirk on his small boat to save as many soldiers as he can over the course of a day and Tom Hardy is flying a Spitfire with seemingly unlimited ammunition trying to provide what cover he can with an ever dwindling amount of fuel.

And if it seems like if forgotten a few nationalities, I haven’t. Their simply not in the film the Germans are never seen because the troops on the beach wouldn’t have seen them and well, Le Monde critic Jacques Mandelbaum has accused the director of being “witheringly impolite” and “indifferent” toward the role the French played in the evacuation of Allied troops, writing: “No one can deny a director’s right to focus his point of view on what he sees fit, as long as it does not deny the reality of which it claims to represent.

“Where in the film are the 120,000 French soldiers who were also evacuated from Dunkirk? Where are the 40,000 who sacrificed themselves to defend the city against a superior enemy in weaponry and numbers?”

Finally, he asks “where is Dunkirk itself?”, Nolan having chosen to set the film almost entirely on the beaches and ocean.

But even leaving that aside, this is a seriously tense film with the soundtrack seemingly consisting of a clock endlessly ticking away, ratcheting up the tension as the ever un-seen Germans strike, and strike and strike again.

But this is a tense masterpiece telling a story that hasn’t been on the big screen since 1958 and whilst I would say this is a good telling of the tale, I was more affecting by the single 5 minute tracking shot in Downton Abbey style Rom-com Atonement than I was by this 106 minute 150 million dollar film. That show showed officers shooting horses, and destroying jeeps troops trying to scrape some enjoyment out of a hopeless situation, people getting drunk and a few preparing for the hopeless last siege. None of which was in Dunkirk. 

It’s too clean, held back by it’s 12a rating when a 15 would have allowed for a greater examination of the human cost at Dunkirk. This film is three short stories dancing together which is fine, it works and has some tense moments. And I get why the characters are pretty interchangeable and mostly nameless and it does work on so many levels but it’s just missing that certain something.

I would have scrapped the air force storyline- it’s pretty pointless anyway and kept the focus on the land and sea, made the film a 15 and really shown what it was like at Dunkirk. Instead, this feels somewhat sanitized.

This is not a bad film, Nolan doesn’t make bad films. Disappointing ones every now and then *coughTheDarkKnightRisescugh* but never bad. And this is a good film that captures a lot of the tension and desperation of 400’000 men who are less than 30 miles from safety but may as well be a million.

With stirring performances, Nolan’s eternal dedication to practical effects and some amazing performances Dunkirk is the best war film I’ve seen since Fury.

But Kubrick levels of good?

Not yet.

My Score- See It 

Beauty and the Beast Review

And so, in the year 2017, in the most expensive musical ever made with a budget of 160 million dollars, starring Emma Watson and… some guy off of Downtown Abbey,  all the debate surrounding the classic tale of a young girl coming to grips with her inner furry via the time honored medium of Stockholm Syndrome has been about the character of LeFou who is the first ever officially gay character in a Disney film.

And I do mean all the debate, In Russia,Duma member Vitaly Milonov (who has previously compared homosexuality to bestiality) agitated the culture minister for banning of the film, but instead it was given a 16+ rating (children under the age of 16 can only be admitted to see it in theaters with accompanying adults). Additionally, a theater in Henagar, Alabama will not screen the film because of the subplot In Malaysia, the Film Censorship Board insisted the “gay moment” scene be cut, prompting an indefinite postponement of its release by Disney, followed by their decision to withdraw it completely if it could not be released uncensored. The studio moved the release date to March 30, to allow more time for Malaysia’s censor board to make a decision on whether or not to release the film without changes and will be released on the said date with a PG-13 rating but with no cuts. In the end, the Malaysian Censorship Board decided not to ban the film.

But what shocked me the most though, was that China who usually have a ‘no gays ever, under any circumstances’  policy on films . And that’s probably because there’s not really anything there. I mean I wasn’t exactly expecting him to stomp around the set waving a rainbow flag and I did find him a bit too Smithers’y for my taste but there was no line or moment that I haven’t seen before in a Disney film. The charterer of Hades from Hercules comes to mind.

But in a way i’m glad for this pointless controversy because what else is there to say? Have you seen the original? Good, stop there and save yourself the hassle because you have seen this film. And the singing is better. And it’s a mere 81 minutes instead of a bloated 129 minutes and the servants actually look kind of cute instead of horrifying nightmare fuel.

I did like that a plot aspect from the Broadway show – that the servants are becoming more mechanical with every petal that falls, the songs that apparently come with it? Not so much. Just because a song works within the limitations of a stage doesn’t mean it’s going to work in a film adaptation!

Beauty and the Beast is the latest in the baffling live-action adaptation faze that Disney seems to be going through. It passed the time well enough but it’s bland, forgettable and in dire need of the editors scissors.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

Why Is Jeepers Creepers 3 So Controversial?

Jeepers Creepers was a 2001 horror film/ Terminator knock off featuring a brother and sister being chased by an unstoppable monster that had marked one of them as lunch. It cost 10 million, made 60 broke the record for the highest ever Labor Day opening weekend four-day gross, holding the record until the 2003 release of its sequel, Jeepers Creepers 2. Not bad for a film with a mere 45% on Rotten Tomatoes. I caught it and found it to have an excellent first half before inevitably descending into silliness in the third act.

As stated, it was followed by a sequel, imaginatively titled Jeepers Creepers 2 which had a higher budget of 17 million dollars but made only 63.1 million. It has a mere 22% on Rotten Tomatoes and a generic plot in which a bus full of high school stereotypes are picked off by the same creature. Again, I caught this in cinemas but can’t bring myself to recommend it.

Now, there were rumors of a third installment for years but the film entered development hell and I figured that was where it would stay. The series has some cult following and online presence but the films were made so long ago and  so it was with some surprise that I learned a third film was being shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Although at time of writing I have no idea if this is going to receive a cinematic release or going straight to DVD and I cant find any information on it’s budget, nor can I find anything resembling a release date. I can confirm that Horror Icon Adrienne Barbeau dropped out after allegedly being cast as to play a character named Gaylen Brandon. Posting onto Facebook she stated that “Contrary to what has been reported, I will not be joining the cast of Jeepers Creepers 3. It’s a great script and if you liked the first two, you’ll love this one.”

The film was originally supposed to to begin filming in April 2016 until production was halted when Victor Salva was boycotted from filming in Canada for his criminal past. And here’s where things get awkward.

The director of all three Jeepers Creepers films Victor Salva,  was convicted of sexual misconduct with one of  his directorial debuts underage stars – a 12-year-old boy – including videotaping one of the encounters. Commercial videotapes and magazines containing child pornography were also found at his home. Salva pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious conduct, oral sex with a person under 14, and procuring a child for pornography.He was sentenced to three years in state prison, of which he served 15 months.He completed his parole in 1992.

A point I wish to make very, very clear is that unlike Roman Polanski who fled the United States having committed a similar crime rather than face prison, Salva served his time. Inevitably, there have been a number of online petitions and protests against the sequel happening at all. And the call to cancel the movie has only grown since it went into production. There is some heavily speculation that Barbeau learned of Salva’s sordid past and decided she couldn’t be a part of the movie any longer. This has not been confirmed by anyone directly involved with the movie, and is only speculation at this point. There is a petition at change.org that is catching some fire. It states the following.

Jeepers Creepers 3 is currently in production. The director and creator of this franchise, Victor Salva, used his position to rape a 12 year old boy in 1988 during the filming of the movie Clownhouse. He was convicted and served a measly 15 months in prison. As the three largest movie theater chains in the US, I urge you to not show this movie at your theaters. The profits from Jeepers Creepers 3 line the pockets of a pedophile. Monsters belong on the screen, not behind the camera. I also urge other members of the horror movie community to take a stance. Spread the word and don’t watch this film!”

There were similar incidents preceding the first two Jeepers Creepers films but thanks to the internet, this information is now far more available than in previous years. One particular point of concern about Jeepers Creepers 3 came after Salva issued a casting call for the part of a young girl called Addison who flees her abusive grandfather. In its circular to local talent agents, the Union of British Columbia Performers noted Salva’s 1988 conviction for molesting a 12-year-old boy, Nathan Forrest Winters, who had acted in two of his films. Stating:

“It has recently come to our attention that a casting breakdown has gone out for a feature film entitled Jeepers Creepers III, and that the director of the film, Victor Salva, was convicted of sexual misconduct in 1988,” read the circular. “The conviction allegedly resulted from misconduct involving a minor whom Mr Salva was directing at the time. At this time we would like to remind our members and their agents that, under Article A2702 (Safety & Welfare of a Minor) of the BC Master Production Agreement, a performer has the right to refuse work if they believe that the nature of the work is unsafe.”

Deadline reported that the casting notice, published on the Breakdown Services website, called for an 18-year-old actor to play Addison. The site nevertheless removed the message

In 2006 the film-maker made a public plea for forgiveness while promoting the independent film Peaceful Warrior. “I pled guilty to a terrible crime, and I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to make up for it,” he told the LA Times. “For almost 20 years, I’ve been involved with helping others, I’ve been in therapy, and I’ve made movies. But I paid my debt to society and apologised to the young man. And all I can hope is that people will give me a chance to redeem myself.”

Whether he deserves redemption or the right to make films again is not in my hands. According to the law, he has paid the legal penalty for his crimes  and is therefore free to pursue his chosen career as long as he is capable of finding work.

But the question as to whether or not he should be in the directors chair again is a different matter entirely. Salva mostly directs films that he has written but there is no legal imperative for him to be allowed to do so and as I have stated, neither Jeepers Creepers film has done anything particularly unique or inventive. I am still baffled as to why a third is film is being made at all outside of the directors past.

But what do you think? Should Salve still be able to work in Hollywood making films? Should there even be a Jeepers Creeprs 3?

Comment below, let me know.

IMDB Message Boards

Like countless movie fans my Mecca is the Internet Movie Database (or IMDB as it’s commonly known) Pretty much any fact that I want to know about pretty much any movie in history ranging from what is La La Lands budget? To, did they really make a film with the tagline Unwittingly He Trained a Dolphin to Kill the President of the United States? (They did, it’s called The Day of the Dolphin and it was somehow nominated for 2 Oscars.)

And like many others, I’ve made a habit of checking the boards after viewing a film, reading up on the fan theories and narrative deconstructions or just checking to see if other people have similar opinions or why their opinions are different from mine and therefore completely wrong and irrelevant.

But as of the 20th of February I won’t be able to do that any more. Because from that date IMDB will be shutting down it;s message boards, claiming that it had “concluded that IMDb’s message boards are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide”, and that the decision was “based on data and traffic”.

Essentially, they belive that the discussion has moved from the notice boards to social media.  And some outlets claim that IMDb’s assertion that the site no longer provides a “positive, useful experience” refers to those trolling the boards. US entertainment website the Wrap highlighted the recent example of Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro being hit with a slew of negative and one-star reviews before its official release date as a tipping point. And you don’t have to wade far into the films’ boards to find them riddled with racist, ignorant and posturingly obtuse comments.

“IMDb say that the boards have been overtaken by trolls, but they could easily make it harder for people to troll, by hindering them creating multiple accounts.” User Dan L began an online petition to save the boards, currently at just under 10,000 signatures. He suspects the invocation of trolls is little more than a smokescreen. He believes the real reason is a combination of much lower user numbers than IMDb is publicising, and the way in which the boards and ratings are being exploited.

“They make bold claims such as 250 million monthly users worldwide. If IMDb really had 250 million users how come the movie with the most ratings, Shawshank Redemption, only has 1.7m votes? I don’t see how they can have 3.3% of the world’s population regularly using the site.”

And sadly, if shutting down the boards was an attempt to remove trolls then it’s failed miserably. Researching Patriots Day, I found that the user reviews are still up, and for every review of Patriots Day that was a genuine review of the film, I found three one-star reviews about how the bombings were an inside job. The swamp hasn’t drained, it’s just migrated.

I’m not going to pretend that IMDB’s message boards were completely perfect, there were threads that were sexist, racist and demeaning, and maybe they were getting quieter (which I don’t believe) but they were also a community of people who loved a particular film or actor as much as you did,or people who could explain why something that I was bumping my head on wasn’t a plot hole but instead just poorly explained.

But I’m going to miss them, troll infested and probably horrifically expensive to run as they are, they were a valuable resource and good source of knowledge.

But what do you guys think?

Escape From John Carpenter!

French director Luc Besson thinks that he is “one of France’s great talents of all time”. I think he’s a second rate hack who deludes himself that because he made The Fifth Element, Leon:The Professional  and whatever the hell Lucy was we’ll ignore the fact that he was responsible for Taken 2, Taken 3, Transporter 2, and From Paris With Love among others.

Actual film legend John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween, The Fog…) and his lawyers things that he’s a plagiarist, and shockingly Besson’s lawyers think he would never stoop so low.

The judge agreed with Carpenter.

Backstory.

In 2012, Besson write a film called Lockout ( 32.2 million on a 20 million dollar budget 38% on Rotten Tomatoes) which pretty much every critic going called a half-assed remake of Escape From New York (25.2 million on a 6 million dollar budget 85% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Carpenter agreed, launching a case for plagiarism.

Besson and his EuropaCorp production banner, along with the films directors/ Co-writers Stephen St. Leger and James Mather  lost the first round and was ordered to pay $95’000 or 85’000 Euros. He appealed and must now pay Carpenter half a million dollars. Which is still less than the 2.4 million that Carpenter originally wanted.

Besson and his lawyers have always maintained that he would never intentionally (emphasis mine) plagiarize such a famous movie . And besides, Escape From New York itself owed much to classic Western Rio Bravo and Mad Max. 

But the judges said there many similarities between the films. The heroes of both “got into the prison by flying in a glider/space shuttle, had to confront inmates led by a chief with a strange right arm, found hugely important briefcases and meet a former sidekick who then dies,” they ruled.

“And at the end [of both films, the heroes] keep secret documents recovered during their mission,” the judgement added.

But really, if anyone should be suing Besson for this film it should be the people who made the Sci-Fi Classic Fortress 2 Re-Entry (Budget 11 million, takings unknown 21% Rotten Tomatoes) of which Lockout is a virtual clone.

Now I’m not disputing that both films are incredibly similar but if you subscribe to the theory that there are only 7 stories (Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rebirth) then inevitably there will be some overlap. hell, ‘Anti-Hero faces impossible odds to get back the McGuffin’ seems to be the plot of half the movies I treasure from my childhood. Will Mr. Carpenter be suing them too? Or what about Hideo Kojima who has admitted that the main character of his legenday Metal Gear Solid series  Solid Snake is partially influenced by Snake Plissken. Hell, In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Snake actually uses the alias “Pliskin” to hide his real identity during most of the game!

Look at what happened in music, After Blurred Lines was sued by Marvin Gayes estate not for crimes against music but for infringing the copyright of ‘Got to Give It Up’ for which Robin Thicke, T.I, and Pharrell Williams were forced to pay 7.4 million dollars, although they have claimed that they will appeal the verdict. As a result, music has become a lot blander, with people afraid of releasing songs that were based upon their favorites for fear of being sued. I mean, how many great songs haven’t been written/released for fear of the lawsuit? How can you claim that your film or song which was influenced by exhibit A, isn’t a direct copy or plagiarism of said exhibit?

If this sets a precedent then what will films do? Make ever blander, safer, remakes like the type I’ve had to suffer through this summer or will they take a chance on smaller, independent films which could be sued at any second? What for example is stopping the owners of the copyright of Fight Club from suing the people behind Traders other than the fact we don’t talk about Fight Club?

I love film, I love films and I really do love it when an old tale is told in a new and refreshing way, but what do you guys think?

N.B. The Copyright on this article is owned by Miles Teller/ Jai Courtney (probably) so please don’t sue me.

Ghostbusters Review

 

To say that the new Ghsotbusters film has had a rough ride would be a complete understatement.

Not only is it a reboot of one of the most beloved films of all time, it’s suffered from the most disliked trainer in the history of YouTube, one of the worst soundtrack songs I think I’ve ever heard and rumors of studio interference that hasn’t been seen since ‘Fan4stic’ and ‘Pixels.’

And now its here, and having seen it I can conclusively state that  the worst thing to bear the ‘Ghostbusters’ name is…still the 1975 version with the monkey. This? It’s OK. Nothing special.

The plots pretty much a carbon copy of it’s infinitely superior predecessor, but this one does have some pretty funny lines and genuinely scary moments in it’s first half before it realizes that it’s 144 million dollar budget won’t spend itself and it devolves into yet another bunch of actors waving props around with the directer clearly saying I’ll make it look cool later.

I did like this film, and it does have some pretty cool ideas. But for every idea and moment that works there’s three that don’t. No film (not even a James Bond film) needs three weapons montages.

And the editing is slightly off as well. The film feels like it’s slightly too long (the original cut was allegedly 4 hours long) and as a result it feels like some scenes are missing, making the film feel unfinished somehow. Also, scenes have a tendency to run about 20 seconds too long and some feel like they either needed to be re-shot or removed completely.

The Ghostbusters themselves are fine, although it seems that McCarthy is perfectly happy to play the exact same character in every single film and certainly isn’t going to be trying anything new in this one. The rest are pretty one note, with the cast neither distinguishing nor humiliating themselves. Although for my money Hemsworth was the only one that was having any fun as a receptionist with an IQ lower than his desk.

The special effects are good, although a running joke involving a main character continually getting oozed needed to be removed and burned.

This film could have been better, but it could have so much worse. As it is?

My Score- If Nothing Else

Pokemon Go and the Holocaust

 

For those of you that have been living under a rock for the past week, Pokemon Go is a VR game that encourages you to go out into the real world to catch the eternally popular pocket monsters.

The game has been released in the UK,which is a relief because if the pound keeps falling at this rate, going outside to catch animals might be the only way I ‘ll be able to feed my family in about three/six months.

Now, the game has already been responsible for broken bones, the discovery of a dead body and numerous accounts of trespassing in the aid of ‘catching them all.’

There’s even reports of a Pokegym in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, home to snipers, mines, artillery and the worlds best preserved rain-forest (see above as for why)

And yet, the worst story to come out of this noble attempt to deal with the worlds obesity crisis involves the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

The problem is simple. The museum is a ‘Pokestop’, a location where players can acquire free in game items, and there are 3 such stops in the museum. There’s even reports that a Koffing- a poison type pokemon that emits clouds of poisonous gas has been appearing next to an auditorium that shows the testimonials of Jews who survived the gas chambers.

Now, the museum has requested that it is removed from the game as according to  Andrew Hollinger, the museum’s communications director “Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism,”

And I cant help but agree. There is a place for Pokemon Go- anything that gets people up, active and exploring outside of their usual routines can only be a good thing in my book, but this is one thing that I cannot condone. Especially as people have been coming to the museum specifically to catch Pokemon- barely throwing the exhibitions a glance.

What do you guys think?