Tuesday, 25 July 2017

'Dunkirk' (2017) Review: The Greatest Story Never Told

Big Screen Watch: A technical marvel, truly excellent filmmaking.

'Dunkirk' is a movie about the 400,000 British and French soldiers trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, beset on all sides by German opposition. Any attempt to escape is not treated kindly. Even standing still can be a precarious option, as any given moment could be met with a fatal encounter with the enemy. Trapped in a small location with an enemy that controls the land, sea, and skies. Sounds too incredible to be true, which is why it's the subject of Christopher Nolan's latest picture, 'Dunkirk'.

Although set in World War II, 'Dunkirk' is a war film that doesn't adhere to the cliches and tropes that plague movies of this type. Typically, you expect to follow one character in particular, perhaps with a wife and child waiting at home, and watch as he and his companions struggle for survival. That method is fine and all, but after being done so many times, it feels very old hat. Here, there are characters in the film, but the focus is on the event itself, not their individual stories.

Despite what the internet might tell you.

For doing away with such cliches, I praise the movie. However, there's a reason those cliches exist. It's a shorthand for the audience to have a genuine connection with what happens on screen. 'Dunkirk's biggest flaw is that it can be difficult to connect with the faces that react to the horrors of war. You get the general sense of despair, but there's a disconnect when it comes time to root for a particular character's survival.

Basically, 'Dunkirk' tells its story from 3 different perspectives. The fighter in the sky played by Tom Hardy, the civilian rescuer on the way, played by Mark Rylance, and the soldiers waiting hopelessly, with the most noticeable face being One Direction's Harry Styles. You don't get a sense of their characters. Leaving the cinema, you'll be hard pressed to remember even their names. I suspect though the point of the movie was not to delve into the characters within the story, but rather the story itself. With a story as incredible as this, pulling back from sensationalism was the best option, as it made the impossible story feel as realistic as possible.

It doesn't sound real, but 'Dunkirk' makes it feel that way.

The way that story unfolds is clever in its own right. The different perspectives jump through time. You'll see Tom Hardy's character shoot down a plane, in one scene, and then see it from another character's point of view 5 scenes later. Although it feels slightly gimmicky at first, the technique gave way to some truly flooring moments. It was a spectacular way to showcase how context frames perception.

It helps that there's are tremendous performances all throughout 'Dunkirk'. Everyone from Cillian Murphy as the soldier suffering the beginnings of PTSD, to the young men reconciling their short lives coming to an end. Each role in 'Dunkirk' is demanding, but the actors never lose the sense of drama necessary to make the movie work. Everything has such weight to it, which combined with the superbly executed and tense action scenes, makes 'Dunkirk' an exhausting movie. But in a good way.

The universal reaction of the 'Dunkirk' audience.

Any flaws the movie has are entirely minor. Christopher Nolan is a visionary director as seen in his works 'The Dark Knight', 'Memento' and 'Inception'. With 'Dunkirk', the director pulls away from fantasy and science fiction and makes a truly mesmerizing war film. The film is absolutely captivating from beginning to end and masterfully shot. Nolan's reliance on practical effects gave the movie a sense of authenticity, which is always a plus when dealing with true stories. For the sheer technical prowess alone, 'Dunkirk' deserves to be seen on the big screen.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Monday, 24 July 2017

Movie Money Comic Con Spectacular!

Well, this is quite a weekend! Two huge openings for the new releases this week. 'Dunkirk' the latest from Christopher Nolan came out strong with a $50m opening. The WWII survival story cost $150m to make, but it's already made $100m worldwide. Continuing in the win column, sleeper hit 'Girls Trip' came up to $31m for its opening weekend, way surpassing its budget of $19m. With the phenomenal successes of 'Hidden Figures', 'Get Out' and now this, hopefully, studios realize the importance of diversity in film. People are hungry for stories that give representation to the world we live in. Not just the same narrative time and time again.

Want proof? 'Rough Night' made only $21.8m. In its entirety. 

It wasn't all great this weekend for the newcomers. In fact, for one newcomer, it was a complete disaster. I thought for sure 'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' would be the biggest box office bomb of the year, but it seems that title will go to 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets'. A $17m opening for a budget of somewhere between $177m-$229m (Conflicting reports as to the budget), is a tremendously bad opening. Luc Besson's return to Sci-Fi was seemingly a failure but hey, 'Fifth Element' was a bomb too and it's now a beloved film.

As for the rest of the top 5, 'Spider-Man Homecoming' dropped down to #3 from the #2 spot last week. The wall crawlers Marvel Cinematic Universe debut is experiencing a nice steady decline, as it's come to a $251m cume domestically, bringing its worldwide gross to $571m. Sadly, the stiff competition this summer is taking a toll on 'War for the Planet of the Apes', as it had a massive drop to #4 in just its second week. $20.8m this weekend brought its domestic total to $98m, and although it's passed its budget worldwide with a worldwide total of $175m, it definitely won't make the same numbers as its predecessor, 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes', which ended its run with $710m worldwide.

No wonder he's so damn angry. 

That's all for the top 5 this week. To hear our podcast discussion, here's the episode with me and Shawna Kay Green. We discuss not just the top 5 but give our mini reviews of Apes, Spider-Man and Dunkirk. It was also the show just after Comic Con so best believe we spoke about all the movie news to come out of San Diego.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Take 4 Newscast: (14.07.17)

Well today was D23, the incredible Disney expo which had huge announcements like 'Incredibles 2' in 2018! Taraji P Henson in 'Wreck it Ralph 2'! So many interesting stories that demand commentary and opinions!

Well too bad. The Take 4 Newscast is recorded on Thursday, so we didn't know about any of that. Instead, here's a show that talks about Matt Reeves starting from scratch on Batman, the difficulty in casting Jasmine in the live action Aladdin remake, and what was supposed to be the biggest news story this week, the 2017 Emmy nominations! Thanks for listening

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

'War for the Planet of the Apes': In a League of its Own

Big Screen Watch: The fact that these movies continue to be this good is astounding to me.

Despite being prequels to a well-known movie franchise, the recent Planet of the Apes films have had unprecedented success. Both critically and commercially. The third film chronicling the beginning of the saga 'War for the Planet of the Apes', takes place 5 years after the events of its predecessor, 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'. After being forced into conflict, Caesar and his people are struggling. In order to survive, and for the ape revolution to succeed, these smart apes must be smarter than ever, as the war for the planet wages on.

To be frank, 'War for the Planet of the Apes' is exactly what most have come to expect. The visuals throughout the movie are mindblowing. The attention to detail given to the apes & the environment is remarkable. The series continues to be one of the best-looking franchises of its time. The performances by Andy Serkis and company behind each ape are nothing short of breathtaking. Having the technology to capture said performances is extremely gratifying, as 'War for the Planet of the Apes' gives a legitimacy to a season otherwise known for less intelligent films.

Sigh. Yeah, this still hurts.

Having said that, the movie did not entirely thrill me. I spent most of the first half feeling underwhelmed by the film as it went on. I felt as though there were one too many moments that were either entirely predictable or simply uninspired. At certain points, it felt like the movie was taking the easy way out. I would see the film set up something conventional, hope for it to surprise me, only to be treated to a moment that feels cheap, rather than evoking a genuine emotional response.

While it wasn't without its disappointments, the movie did have an overall sense of inventiveness to it. The world continues to have new and interesting things that help it feel fleshed out. Caesar's ape society has a design to it and so many ideas that are not drawn attention to. 'War for the Planet of the Apes' follows in the footsteps of the best post-apocalyptic movies and simply lets the audience come to know the world as it is, rather than being spoonfed the updates.

"And here is where the Apes decided on a banana based economy."

It's also worth mentioning that this is a very dark film. Both in its lighting and its tone. There are images in the movie that are extremely uncomfortable to watch and have a significant amount of edge to them. The series has never shied away from brutality before, but here, the notion of "war" is not handled lightly. Much of the movie is spent showing the immense difficulty Caesar himself has as the leader in a war he never wanted to fight. To that end, there was a solemness to 'War for the Planet of the Apes', that was a reminder of why this series has such a special place in my heart.

Even at it's worst, 'War for the Planet of the Apes' is still leaps and bounds over its competition. Despite my qualms with the first half, the second half of the movie did deliver wholeheartedly. Even those issues I had I suspect will be less disdainful upon rewatching the film. On the whole, the movie is a well made, contemplative, and extraordinarily impressive picture. Although I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I wished to, it still very much deserves your attention at the cinema.

Rating: Big Screen Watch.

Here's the audio review for the movie, where we got into some of the movie's characters, and a perspective from Kyle Howard:

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Take 4 Episode 59: Spider-Man Movies.

A new Spider-Man movie is definitely a cause for celebration. It's also a cause for a new episode of the Take 4 podcast. Everyone from jumps in on this episode that chronicles every Spider-Man movie since 2002. Tobey Maguire and his dumb face, Andrew Garfield and his ridiculous hair. We also talked the villains of the franchise and why Kyle doesn't ever remember anything. Thanks for listening!

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

'Losing Patience' (2017) Review: Staying Sane In An Insane World

Some days life just doesn't go your way. Your boss gives you a hard time, you go on a bad date. For Renee Patience, that seems to be the rule, rather than the exception. That's the takeaway from miniseries 'Losing Patience'. A short, yet potent inside look at the life of a young woman, trying to navigate life and it's unnecessary difficulties. Each episode puts Patience at the heart of frustrating situations, each testing her resolve. Sometimes she handles it with tact, letting cooler heads prevail. Other times, 'Losing Patience' allows its audience to see our fantasies fulfilled as Renee decides there are some things she just won't put up with.

Sometimes you just have to take a stand.

Instantly, the thing which stands out about 'Losing Patience' is its stunning cinematography. Nothing about the series feels as though it was made for television. The skill shown is something often only found on a venture to the cinema. The same goes for the story being told. While the content put together is under 25 minutes, I could easily see the potential for more. The grasp on the characters is so strong, that in such a short time, I felt I knew Renee Patience. At least as much as she would allow.

That's entirely due to the director, writer, and editor Teeqs. The driving force behind the production. Watching 'Losing Patience' was only as rewarding an experience because of the focused and well thought out vision of its creator. The vessel of that vision, is none other than music artist Sevana, giving her debut acting performance. You'd be hard pressed to think that though. Sevana makes it seem like she's been acting her entire life, as she effortlessly shows masterful control of her expressions.

The part she was born to play.

Everything in 'Losing Patience' is a celebration of subtlety. The entire cast shines even when they're given little to no dialogue. The scenes are filled with ambient noise, adding to the sense of realism making the stories more relatable. To that point, 'Losing Patience' is only awkward when it wants to be. It's smoothly paced and feels like every scene has a purpose. It's a series that reflects the everyday struggles of so many people, just trying to stay sane. It's thoughtful, while not being too heavy, and it's a laugh riot, without being too ridiculous. 'Losing Patience' is a well-balanced series that definitely deserves your attention.

Rating: Big Screen Watch (Or in this case Catch it on Vimeo Right Away)

'Losing Patience' is out now and available for streaming on Vimeo here.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

'Spider-Man' Homecoming (2017) Review: Spider-Man Has Finally Arrived

Big Screen Watch: Easily one of the best Marvel films.

Picking up right after his debut in 'Captain America: Civil War', 'Spider-Man Homecoming' opens with a Peter in conflict. He's had a taste of an amazing fantasy, and suddenly, regular old high school life just doesn't do it anymore. Seeing Captain America on an exercise video just doesn't match up to stealing his shield. While he dreams of joining The Avengers in their world-saving quests, he's stuck stopping bike robberies and helping old ladies cross the street.

That personal conflict is an incredibly entertaining part of the film. Peter Parker is reflective of every teenager too rebellious for their own good. Eager to start the next phase of their life. As Peter awkwardly fumbles his way between his double life, it no doubt provides the laughs, but only because it's so relatable. Every situation Peter gets in has about as much tension as the life or death moments.

Sometimes worse than battling a supervillain.

Those moments are thanks to the villain of the picture Adrian Toomes, aka, The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. Keaton is one of the more memorable villains of the superhero genre and is almost as relatable as Peter Parker himself. He plays a disgruntled salvage operator who makes his living building and selling weaponry forged from the superhero battles waged in this universe over the years. Clearly, the movie puts function over fashion, as the Vulture has traded in his traditional feathers for giant winged blades of death.

Spider-Man himself, on the other hand, gets to have his cake and eat it too. His look is very much his classic trademarked style, but he's also been granted with a few bells and whistles not previously seen in a Spider-Man film. For some, this might seem like an unwelcome new addition, but I found it to be an incredibly inventive spin on a character who had become a little old hat at this point. How many more times could we see Peter Parker's spider sense slow down time as he leaps out of the way of danger, only to react with his best Keanu Reeve's "Woah".

Close enough.

There's a logic to much of 'Spider-Man Homecoming' that gives it a sense of realism. That realism though helps the movie stay grounded, following the themes the movie sets for itself. It perfectly allows the action to have more of an impact, no matter how wildly creative it gets. 'Spider-Man Homecoming' is the type of superhero film that has a message, is wildly entertaining, and feels incredibly well thought out.

The film is also a true homage to the John Hughes era of the 80s. Where better to draw inspiration for a film set in high school? That was present mostly in the characters that make up Peter's social circle. The classic drama that you get from high school shenanigans. Little things like the pressure of looking cool, getting good grades, and figuring out what to do with his life are definitely going to cause viewers think back to their own high school days. It's a good thing then that the whole cast, from each of Peter's teachers, to his best friend, to the girl out of his league are always on point.

Throughout my life, there have been quite a few Spider-Man films. Some of them have been bad, most of them have been good. Few have been great. The only superhero who get more chances at the movies is Batman. That's because as much as a Spider-Man film may disappoint, something about the character draws people in. The films may not meet our standards, but we're more than willing to try again the next time. Thankfully, 'Spider-Man Homecoming' is definitely worth a try, and is easily the greatest Spider-Man film to date.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Here's the latest episode of the Take 4 Podcast where we talked about the other Spider-Man movies

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Monday, 3 July 2017

Movie Money: Episode 21 (July 03, 2017)

The 2017 box office is definitely a telling one. Every week another juggernaut of the movies takes a blow domestically, doing numbers that aren't even close to what they used to do on a bad weekend. 'Transformers: The Last Knight' hit the $100m mark this weekend, with a weekend take of $17m. Considering the last 'Transformers' film made that on its opening weekend, it's safe to say US audiences aren't feeling the Cybertron civil war all that much.

Newcomer this week, 'Despicable Me 3' didn't do too bad. A $75m weekend is not the series best. 'The Minions' holds that privilege with $115m, followed by 'Despicable Me 2' at $83.5m. The series still has some legs, since the threequel at least made more than the first film, which opened with $56m. 'Despicable Me 3' took away a lot of the audience for 'Cars 3',  as the Pixar film dropped all the way down to #5 in its 3rd week. 'Cars 3' was beaten by 'Wonder Woman' which continues its incredible run, coming in at #4 this week with $16m, to the $9.5m by 'Cars 3'. 'Cars 3' almost missed the top 5 spot, with 'The House' right on its heels, with a $9m weekend.

Not a lot got made with this one.

Despite the decline of huge franchises like 'Transformers' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean', the lay of the land shows that domestic box office failure means next to nothing these days since international markets play such a large part in a movie's success. 'Transformers: The Last Knight' may have made only $104m in its second weekend, but its global cume is $431m. It's not the billion the franchise is used to, but the film is likely to take in a comfortable $500m. If the thought that even if these franchises fail, they still end up succeeding is depressing to you, then allow me to cheer you up by saying 'Baby Driver' made $36m worldwide this weekend, surpassing its $34m budget. It's far and above Edgar Wright's most successful movie. May it make over a billion dollars.

That's the report for this week and of course, here's the podcast:

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Sunday, 2 July 2017

Take 4 Newscast: 01/07/2017

One day late, but that just gave us more time to get access to more news! Thing is, outside of a few stories, this was a slow news week. 'The Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' trailer was dropped, right along with the 'Marvel's Inhumans' trailer. Along with that, we got some more confusing clarification on the Sony Spider-Man universe, and we talked about the rumoured Fantastic Four reboot. Exciting times? You be the judge. Here's the podcast.

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