Dunkirk

July 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception”)

As one of the most highly regarded filmmakers of the modern era, director Christopher Nolan’s ambition is both his biggest strength and his greatest weakness. With his ambition, Nolan conceptualized “Inception,” which explored the world of dreams and consciousness, creating an entire universe filled with painstakingly detailed ideas and a dazzling visual landscape to match. His ambition has also occasionally stifled him, such as with “Interstellar,” a generally good movie that gets far too bogged down with a convoluted third act to make any lasting impact. With his latest film, “Dunkirk,” Nolan has taken historical subject matter and while staying ambitious in certain ways, created his most restrained film yet. The results, like most of Nolan’s work, are spectacular.

Telling the story of the largest retreat in military history from allied forces in World War II, the film unfolds with a trio of timelines, one taking place by land over a week span, one by sea over a day span, and one by air over an hour span. It is the most noticeable narrative quality, evoking Nolan’s non-linear storytelling from “Memento,” though not nearly as radical. The results of this narrative structure pay off immensely. Through this device, Nolan is not only able to shift in and out between different perspectives, but he is able to create an immense amount of tension. Nail-biting moments may begin over one timeline and the audience not see a resolution until the timelines intersect. It’s the type of higher level thinking that Nolan has made his signature and really allows him to put a new perspective on a war movie.

While none may stand out, every one of the timelines are solid in their own right and serve their purpose. The land segments, bolstered by unknown actor Fionn Whitehead as Tommy are really able to show the desperation of the soldiers trapped at Dunkirk. Even as he tries to sneak his way just to survive, the soldiers seem to be foiled at every turn as sitting ducks to the enemy. With the sea segments, Nolan is able to use fantastic actor Mark Rylance to display the courage of a regular citizen insisting on taking his own boat rather than having it be commandeered to rescue troops. Finally, with the air segments, Nolan utilizes the films most notable actor, Tom Hardy, to display the heroism from fighter pilots who were some of the only protection the soldiers had.

From a visual standpoint, Nolan has created another masterpiece. The air segments feature impressive aerial shots, especially from cameras mounted on planes that feature the vast oceans below. Even on regular screens (the film did not screen for critics on the much lauded 70mm IMAX), the scope of “Dunkirk” is massive. But beyond just visual marvels and beautiful constructed shots, the audio of “Dunkirk” is wildly immersive. Gunshots in the opening segment and the unexpected ones throughout the film are jolting, creating visceral intensity and tension. There is also an unsettlingly taut score from Hans Zimmer, doing his best work in years. Make no mistake, “Dunkirk” is loud, but with the chaos going on around, it feels like a necessity.

Perhaps as a result of the timeline jumps, leaving characters in one place and picking up with others, the only thing that “Dunkirk” truly feels like its missing is stronger emotional ties to its characters. Still, it can’t help but feel like a nitpick when the movie, despite having traditional heroes to really latch onto, still generates plenty of emotion. With “Dunkirk,” Nolan has created nothing less than a cinematic marvel. It’s visually breathtaking, ambitious and stirring. In other words, it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Christopher Nolan.

Ep. 66 – Bridge of Spies, Beasts of No Nation, Manson Family Vacation, Crimson Peak, Goosebumps, bonus episode recaps, our Tucker & Dale screening at Drafthouse, and Christopher Nolan talks more pretentious nonsense about shooting on film

October 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Podcast, Uncategorized

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In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys give their takes on “Bridge of Spies,” “Beasts of No Nation,” and “Manson Family Vacation,” along with quick reviews of “Crimson Peak” and “Goosebumps.” They also recap bonus episodes 8 and 9 of the podcast, featuring comedian Jerry Rocha and actor/author Greg Sestero, respectively, tease their “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” screening at Alamo Drafthouse, and discuss the latest pretentious comments made by director Christopher Nolan about the movie-going experience and how it relates to shooting on film.

[0:00-25:33] Intro, Jerry Rocha and Greg Sestero episode teases, Tucker & Dale screening info
[25:33-48:09] Christopher Nolan has more pretentious stuff to say about film and the movie-going experience
[48:09-58:03] Bridge of Spies
[58:03-1:10:53] Beasts of No Nation
[1:10:53-1:17:52] Manson Family Vacation
[1:17:52-1:20:48] Quick hit: Crimson Peak
[1:20:48-1:24:28] Quick hit: Goosebumps
[1:24:28-1:30:20] Wrap up/tease for next week

Click here to download the episode!

Interstellar

November 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception,” “The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) and Jonathan Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)

While the critical community may scoff, director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) really does turn out truly smart blockbusters aimed at adults. Sure, the landscape of tentpole filmmaking is changing somewhat, with Marvel Studios leading the pack with their well-planed barrage of interconnected films that cross generational lines, but by and large the movie-going public sees big giant releases as fare for kids and teenagers. These movies aren’t made for grown-ups. But a Nolan film is different. Playing with the house money that the box office success of the mostly masterful “Dark Knight” lined his pockets with, Nolan has chosen to create massive science fiction-tinged event movies for adults after every adventure in Gotham City, from “The Prestige” to “Inception” and finally to his latest film, the impressive, mind-bending, heart-tugging—and sometimes frustrating—space and time epic “Interstellar.”

Decades after some unspoken of devastation overtook the people and governments of Earth, the planet begins dropping not-so-subtle hints that man’s time is nearing an end. Blight is destroying crops all over globe, with only corn resisting the destruction. Mankind has transitioned into survival mode, forcing natural explorers like Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot, to live life as a reluctant farmer. The same itch has been passed to his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), who struggles at school in the face of a curriculum that has retconned the moon landing as a tool to bankrupt the Soviet Union. When strange things begin happening in Murph’s room, such as books falling off the shelf in a pattern, she blames the events on a ghost. Initially dismissive, Coop takes interest when he notices the pattern Murph found is binary code containing coordinates. Coop and Murph take a drive to investigate and end up finding what’s left of NASA, and they need Coop to lead a deep space mission to save mankind.

Much has been said about Nolan’s tendency to have his characters’ dialogue filled with loads of exposition dumps, and “Interstellar” is no different. Tons of science—what to the average ear sounds at once authoritative and full of mumbo jumbo—is slung between Coop and his crew (including Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley and a wonderfully wry robot named TARS, voiced by Bill Irwin) in order to explain what’s going on to the audience time after time. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter. The vast majority of “Interstellar” is captivating, with the high water mark coming on a planet covered in waves where a nearby black hole warps the passage of time. Less successful is a long sequence on a remote planet featuring an unbilled guest star who’s twist can be seen coming light years away. By the time the movie powers through its “2001”-inspired climax, you’ll realize Nolan has done it again: created a near-masterpiece that will have you thinking about it for weeks to come.

The Dark Knight Rises

July 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) and Jonathan Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)

In full scope, “The Dark Knight Rises,” the third and final installment of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, feels epic. From its majestic production value to its incredible IMAX-worthy set pieces, Gotham City has never looked so grandiose. Look beyond the technical and artistic achievements of this inevitable summer blockbuster and there are flaws. Despite the narrative’s overall maturation over the last seven years, Nolan has lost sight of just how 2005’s “Batman Begins” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight” successfully redefined the comic-book movie through intelligent design. Here, the bloated 165-minute superhero marathon is frustrating, especially with a script embracing a diluted story about the current financial crisis instead of actually entertaining moviegoers.

Picking up eight years after the last film ended, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has gone into exile after the death of Harvey Dent. Wayne’s retirement, however, is only temporary and Batman reemerges when a hulky mercenary known as Bane (Tom Hardy) marches into Gotham with plans to sever the city’s economic lifeline, thus causing civil unrest. As Bane, Hardy joins the cast with big clown shoes to fill after Heath Ledger won an Oscar posthumously for his role as the rageful Joker. Sadly, Bane is better suited for a pro-wrestling ring than as a substantial villain with real purpose. New to the franchise are Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, although the name never comes up), a saucy jewel thief who fights alongside the caped crusader, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays rookie cop John Blake, the most interesting character of the DC Comics lot.

Where the Batman franchise goes post-Nolan remains to be seen, but whoever takes the reigns has a tough act to follow — even if this final chapter doesn’t necessarily reach its full potential.

Inception

July 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (‘The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (‘The Dark Knight”)

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan is known for the complex worlds he creates, but nothing can prepare you for the trippy and surreal adventure he guides us through with “Inception,” the seventh feature film from the London-born director whose narratives sometimes feel like the cinematic equivalent of mathematical proof theories.

Unlike filmmaker David Lynch (“Blue Velvet”) who can become nonsensical at times, Nolan provides us with all the answers. While there is some wiggle room for interpretation, Nolan’s approach is more forthright. Still, if his other films like “Memento” and “The Prestige” required a couple of viewings before everything really added up, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone if mainstream moviegoers walk out of his latest intricate offering with looks of bewilderment. It might be as frustrating as it is awe-inspiring, but there’s no doubt once you stitch the pieces together it’s remarkable.

In “Inception,” dreams and reality become limitless in the hands of Nolan who introduces some lofty ideas into this espionage mind thriller. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a man whose job it is to enter the dreams of individuals and steal their ideas and secrets. When a wealthy industrialist Saito (Ken Watanabe) confronts Cobb and asks him to enter the dreams of a business competitor (Cillian Murphy) and plant an idea in his mind (a technique known as inception) Cobb takes the challenge, although his right-hand man Arthur (Joseph Grdon-Levitt) is sure it can’t be done.

Also entering the dreamscape with Dom and Arthur is Ariadne (Ellen Page), an intelligent college student who is brought onto the team as the architect of the dreamy scenarios they will enter. Ariadne is also the only one on the team who knows that despite Cobb’s masterful talent, their work can all be destroyed if he allows the memories of his dead wife (Marion Cotillard) to affect him while he is navigating around in someone’s subconscious.

It would be pointless to explain any more about “Inception” other than these basic points. It’s a film to be experienced not clarified. It’s unfortunate there will probably be plenty of people that will dismiss the narrative as too confusing to fully enjoy, but the originality of “Inception” carries it through to the end even when some of its more emotional aspects end up being a bit underwhelming.

The Dark Knight

July 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“Batman Begins”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“Memento”), Jonathan Nolan (“The Prestige”)

Is it possible for a film so saturated in hype to be blinding even to the most objective of viewers? With “The Dark Knight” sure to break a few box office records this weekend, it’s no surprise that a visionary director like Christopher Nolan can create such an immensely dim and entertaining crime drama masked as a superhero movie. It’s easily the best comic-book movie of the summer, but to call it more than that is the overstatement of the year.

The accolades, of course, start with the late Heath Ledger’s fiendish and amazing performance at Batman’s nemesis the Joker. Ledger is right on cue as the soulless clown who robs banks alongside his gang of criminals. It’s a completely different portrayal than that of Jack Nicholson from the 1989 version. It’s not better or worse, but it is distinctive and memorable.

Christian Bale returns to form as the most ruthless Batman of any that came before him. Torn between his responsibility as a vigilante crime fighter in Gotham City and settling down with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is now more interested the newly elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, who is later burned to become Two-Face) than billionaire businessman Bruce Wayne.

As in “Batman Begins,” Nolan has recreated the denseness of a city on the brink of chaos in “The Dark Knight” and it permeates through the entire film. It’s a real-world story with comic-book tendencies and Nolan is the one that is able to mold the two genres together to produce a sort of hybrid crime thriller.

There are moments in “The Dark Knight” where the screenplay has some opportunities to really sideswipe the audience, but chooses some easy way outs of a few intense situations. Where the film could have ended up becoming macabre and transformed the Joker into an incarnate of evil, it bows out and leaves him on a level of likability.

Overall, “The Dark Knight” wowed, but didn’t have a lasting effect despite it’s full-package delivery. That’s usually what happens with summer blockbusters, even when there as impressive as this.