All posts by Zach A.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: DUNKIRK

DUNKIRK is  the best film of the year so far (yes, beating John Wick 2 for me) and one of the most emotionally satisfying war films I have ever seen. It is mesmerizing, perfect in almost every way. It is as tense as getting a rectal exam but then hearing good news that everything is okay. If you don’t see this in a theater, wait…scratch that, if you don’t see it in 70 mm IMAX, you don’t know what you are missing. But if a real IMAX theater isn’t near you or showing it near you, try to do a 35 mm theater or a regular 70mm theater. The quality is amazing, the shots are exquisite, the colors are vibrant, and you won’t be able to get the visuals out of your head. It is just that good.

If you don’t know your history, the Dunkirk evacuation was of Allied soldiers from the beach and the harbour of Dunkirk between a couple of weeks in May and June 1940. Their ultimate rescue was hailed as a miracle. What Christopher Nolan’s film does is just brilliant. It doesn’t worry about the politics of the evacuation. It doesn’t go to places far away to show Winston Churchill commenting on the events, it doesn’t show what America or other countries were thinking/doing/fighting at the time, it doesn’t even show one bloody German in this film. The movie start with action the moment the movie starts and does not let you go thru the very nice and perfect 106 minute run time until the credits roll. We stay around Dunkirk. We show a story on land with three allied young soldiers just trying to escape the harbour, we show a story at sea with a father, his son and a friend taking a civilian boat to try and get to the beaches to rescue the allied soldiers, and we show a couple of allied pilots trying to pick off German planes before they shoot the Allied shoulders on the beach like fish in a barrel.

The movie also very delicately and masterfully plays with time, with these three stories being shown in non-linear time only to finally meet up and converge near the end of the film. It is all also beautifully scored by what is arguably one of Hans Zimmer’s best. He brings this ticking clock themed score that will literally have you leaning forward in your seat and then breathing out in relief when the music ends and the resolution of that certain scene it was used for. There is very little dialogue in the film, and you don’t know any of the backstories to these characters at all, yet the movie makes you care for them, because of the incredible acting in the dire situations that they are put in. I can’t believe Harry Stiles from One Direction plays one of the three boys, because he is incredible here. But the two who really steal every scene they are in is Mark Rylance is the father trying to rescue soldiers on a civilian boat, and Tom Hardy as one of the pilots trying to pick off German planes.

Mark Rylance gives as great of a performance as he did in Bridge of Spies here with him making calculated moves to try and not only rescue soldiers but while trying to stay alive himself in the process. And Tom Hardy is one of the only actors I know that can bring a full performance when his face is mostly completely behind a mask (the other being Karl Urban). The aerial scenes with him in the plane are the best in the film, and you can see Hardy’s torment and determination just by his eyes and facial movements. I am just glad he didn’t have the Bane voice with this one. The aerial scenes are some of the tensest and realistic, with the audience digging his/her nails into the cushion just hoping that each shot that the Allied soldiers make take out a German. I also loved the fact that they didn’t show the German’s in this. It made their presence more haunting and lethal than any main villain in a movie could’ve given us. It is always scary when the unseen and unknown is targeting you.

All the visuals here are incredible, especially when unfortunate boats gets blown up and start sinking. If anything here was CGI, I couldn’t tell in the slightest. The whole movie is just non stop enveloping tension. Entertainment and film making at the highest order. Christopher Nolan is definitely one of the best writers and directors living and when he passes on (hopefully a long time from now) he’ll be one of those cemented in history, like Hitchcock, to be one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live.

This movie is perfect. Go see it. If it doesn’t when every Oscar nomination it is nominated for it will be a shame. If it doesn’t take home cinematography, I’m done watching the Oscar’s. My only small complaint about this film would be that some of the sound is so tremendous in it that you can barely at times make out what people are saying. There was that same problem with Interstellar, so I might go see it again in 35 mm at Alamo just to take it all in again. It is definitely worth seeing multiple times in the theater. I still can’t believe how utterly great it is at running at only 106 minutes. Usually war films are wayyyy over two hours. This was refreshing. Dunkirk will probably be in the number 1 or 2 spot (we’ll see with Last Jedi) on my top ten list by the end of the year. This is precise film making at its finest. An A+ masterpiece.


VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS would have been a fantastic epic sci-fi masterpiece of a movie, close to the greatness of Luc Besson’s sci-fi masterpiece classic The Fifth Element…if only the two leads were recast. Because of the terrible shitty wooden acting and chemistry between stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delenginvue, the movie is only pretty good. I am still recommending it, don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to love about this movie, but if your leads don’t work, it is going to hinder your final product. Which is a shame because Dane DeHaan is usually a really really good actor. I have never liked Cara Delenwhatsherface’s acting (she should stick to her modeling day job) so I wasn’t surprised by her lack of being believable, but DeHaan was very frustrating, but I’m going to go ahead and blame it mostly that he didn’t have a great co-star riding along with him on the adventure.

Some are also going to complain about where the plot finally takes you (with a cover up story line we’ve seen all before) but the adventure is so fantastic beyond that I think those complaints will be overlooked. Without ruining anything, the story starts where we see this alien civilization on a planet filled with beauty and these pearls that they worship, and then ships suddenly come crashing down and their whole planet is destroyed. Valerian (played by DeHaan) suddenly wakes up and we realize this his is dream, and his ship tells him that it is a memory belonging to someone else sent to him. Along with his work partner/romantic love interest Laureline (played by Cara), they are on a mission sent by their commander (played by Clive Owen), to get this certain artifact back, and of course Valerian’s dream ties into all this.

Can’t say anymore or I’ll give too much away. The first half of the movie is masterful and exquisite. It shies away from being predictable, where you have no clue what is going to happen next. I still really much enjoyed the second half even though after all that is revealed the movie becomes very formula heavy and even has some of the same beats of the Fifth Element. In the first half Valerian and Laureline go to this planet that has several dimensions within it to get back this artifact that they are looking for. The action that takes place within all these dimensions is unique, fun, and precise. Loved it. There is also a thrilling run/space chase half way thru the film after that, that was a lot of fun. And although I have many, many a complaint about Dane DeHaan and Cara, all the supporting players did fine acting jobs. Clive Owen was fine as the commander, but the two standouts had to be Ethan Hawke as a pimp, and Rihanna as Bubbles, this shape shifting type prostitute. I also really liked this other general played by Sam Spruell.

But the two leads are awful. Some of the worst acting and chemistry I’ve seen all year. And when I walked out of the theater, all I heard was the same thing from everyone’s mouth. Good movie, would’ve been great if someone else played Valerian and Laureline. So it wasn’t just me. But despite all this, I still really did like the movie. The visuals are absolutely amazing and I recommend seeing this in a theater with good 3D projection and sound. A lot of the set pieces were wonderfully beautiful and soft on the eyes. And while the second half of the film goes a little cliche, I still had a fun time at the movies.

Which isn’t that why we go in the first place? I have a feeling though this movie will do very poorly at the box office, but then might become something of a cult classic on blu-ray. If you want to compare this to something, compare it to Disney’s John Carter, a movie which no one saw, but then they saw it on video and everyone that I have talked to that has seen it has only said good things. But if they ever do make a sequel to this film, I don’t care if you have to pull a Katie Holmes/Maggie Gyllenhaul, recast the two leads, other wise their acting might make you cringe like a teeth pulling sensation when you visit the dentist…

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: A GHOST STORY

Sometimes I just don’t get movies. And that’s just me. I do appreciate all different types of genres and never shy away from terrible looking films. And sometimes I am too harsh on films. In fact, I need to take back several things I have said about what I like to call “avante garde artsy-fartsy films.” I have once called Paul Thomas Anderson a hack, and I need to take that back. He’s not, a hack would be director Uwe Boll. I guess I just don’t understand or appreciate Paul Thomas Anderson films how I’m supposed to. I really only half way like three of his films (Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, Boogey Nights), but a lot of his other stuff, like The Master, Inherent Vice, and Magnolia, I just don’t get. They are very well made films, I have also called them beautiful garbage, which I would like to take back as well. I also can’t stand Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life or anything he has made after that. But he isn’t a hack either. He makes beautiful films that I just don’t care for but they are very, very beautiful. And I know take back what I said about Sofia Coppola several weeks ago with The Beguiled as well. She isn’t a hack either, just a well made, beautiful film I didn’t care for.  I do appreciate the occasional weird film, like Lost In Translation. But in retrospect, I think the “avante garde artsy-fartsy films” is my least favorite genre. So from here on out if I don’t like one of this films, I am not going to rip on it, or rip on the writer/director, because they almost all are beautiful pieces of work. But I am certainly going to tell you I didn’t care for it.

And I didn’t care for A GHOST STORY. It is a beautiful film, with a fantastic score, and a deep meaningful message. I was just bored, thought that other films have done this message better, and thought that whole film could’ve been used a bit more substance. I get why there is a 8-9 minute scene of Rooney Mara grief eating thru a chocolate pie because she is upset her husband just died. But I really didn’t want to watch it. I was bored, waiting for her to get up and go to the bathroom to vomit it all out. The scene just didn’t seem necessary. There is hardly any dialogue in this film, and there are a bunch of very long, very slow takes, a lot of them making me wonder why the take was so long when I got the message being conveyed in 10 seconds or less. One of the long take scenes that actually almost make me give the film a sort of recommendation was a long dialogue scene performed by Will Oldham where he talks about humanity’s legacy on Earth. It was a deep, rich dialogue, that I wish the film had more of.

If you don’t know what the film is about it’s basically Casey Affleck until a white sheet with two holes as a ghost (and honestly, was Casey under that sheet the whole time? I could argue that he probably wasn’t) as he looks upon his widow played by Rooney Mara after he dies and past that into the future and other peoples lives, not being able to move on. Out of an hour and 30 minutes, the film maybe has 10 minutes or less of dialogue. The rest is long takes, emotion filled faces, a breathtaking haunting score, and a couple of subtitles. To like this film, you have to love those really weird artsy-fartsy films, and you have to have a lot of patience.

I will admit that the film picks up about halfway through, starting with the dialogue by Will Oldham, and it almost picked up enough for me to give it a small recommendation. But after leaving the theater, I asked myself if I would ever watch it again, and the answer was a resounding “no.” It’s not a terrible film, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Just like the beautiful films of Sofia Coppola, Terrence Malik, and Paul Thomas Anderson, it’s a film I don’t get, don’t want to take the time to get, and will probably never revisit again. If you like those films, you are sure to probably love this one too. Acting wise, I’d say Rooney Mara (even though she isn’t in it that much) is the better of the two here, as Casey Affleck kind of mumbles the lines he does have and just moves around under the sheet (which I feel might not have been him at times).

That dialogue though by Will Oldham, if they could cut out that scene and put it on YouTube, just like the beginning of the news room with Jeff Daniels proving how America isn’t the greatest country in the world anymore, that shit will get a ton of views and a lot of philisophical discussion. In fact, maybe just rent the movie and skip to that part, because it is fantastic. But the rest of the movie is just ho-hum meh for me. But it is beautiful ho-hum meh, and will be appreciated by people probably much more into film and into that type of stuff than I am. Also, don’t go into this thinking it is a horror film by the poster alone, someone at the theater did and was shocked but what it was about, and looked like a dumbass. Do some research.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Never in my life has a film franchise (well, I guess in this case it would be rebooted but I digress) had a good first film, an even better second film, and a third film been an absolute cinematic masterpiece. I don’t count Lord of the Rings either because I always liked Fellowship of the Ring more than The Two Towers (so sue me). Improving upon a previous feature is a very hard feat, unless you are in your 25th picture like the 007 franchise. But somehow, these new Planet of the Apes movies have improve upon themselves. And not improved by tiny steps either, giant massive Mammoth size steps. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is not only a cinematic masterpiece, but it is one of the year’s best films (just like Dawn was a couple of years ago) and one of the best special effects films I have seen that don’t sacrifice story or tone to achieve it either.

If you haven’t seen RISE or DAWN yet…what in the fuck are you doing? Go watch them now and then go see this in theaters. Everything about it is precise filmmaking to a tee. Andy Serkis deserves some kind of supporting nomination or maybe a lifetime achievement award for all that he has done for motion capture performances. This is his best. Easily. He gives Caesar humanity and grace in motion capture that a lot of actors that can’t act worth shit could ever hope to achieve playing human beings. The special effects in this are absolutely seamless and at some points I really thought that Caesar and his family could be real.

To ruin any of this film would be a felony. The trailers do such a great job to thwart expectations and I only hope that future TV spots can do the same. All that the trailers let on is that a Colonel played by Woody Harrelson is after Caesar and his fellow apes. But there is so much more to the story. In fact, there are several twists and interesting story telling devices that kept me guessing while also trying its best to connect to the original Planet of the Apes films with Charlton Heston. Very interesting. And while some people like my friend Josh (you dummy if you are reading this) will think there is going to be an all out endless 30 minute War at the end of the film (honestly, that would be boring, like the Transformers film) the climax is actually smart, unexpected, thought provoking, and righteous. The whole film is amazing, from beginning to end. Not one single scene needed to be left out.

And Woody Harrelson makes one of the most interesting villains I have seen in cinema in awhile. He is ruthless, and merciless, while completely believe he is doing the right thing without any doubt in his mind. He doesn’t think he’s evil and doesn’t think he’s a monster, and he plays it absolutely convincingly. The movie doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, Caesar speaks, but most of the apes still use the sign language. I like that. If I had to complain about one thing in the film it’s on one scene where the apes seem like they are following Harrelson’s army way too close and it’s hard to believe they didn’t see them. Seems like that logic was sacrificed for a cool beach sun setting scene. But whatever, it was forgiven in a second.

I don’t want to talk much more about this film. Other than to say I liked Steve Zahn’s “Bad Ape” and he brought a lot of comic relief much needed in this sense of dread. It’s an amazing film, and if you don’t see it, you don’t know the power of an astonishing cinematic experience. Michael Giacchino provides one of his best scores. I’m still humming it at this moment. The cinematography is perfect. Everything is perfect. I don’t know where to rank it on my list, but it will be near the top. I can’t ape to watch it again. I’m in love with this picture.