Dunkirk

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Christopher Nolan is back once more, this time with World War 2 drama Dunkirk. But is it worth all the hype and Oscar talk it’s been getting?

As British soldiers prepare to evacuate from Dunkirk in 1940 we follow three stories; one with the troops on the beach, one with a civilian boat on its way to Dunkirk and another from the perspective of the Spitfire pilots in the air.

I’ve long been a fan of Nolan’s work, even Interstellar which I wasn’t as enamoured with still had Nolan’s great direction, so I’m pleased to say Dunkirk is another triumph for the visionary director.  Splitting the three narratives in slightly different time frames can sometimes be confusing but for the most part the three stories are smoothly interwoven. Luckily all three narratives are gripping so you never feel you’re missing out by going back and forth between the stories.

Having seen the film in IMAX helped the feeling of immersion into the action. Whether it’s the thrilling chase in the clouds or the overwhelming struggle for survival on the ground you feel in the thick of the battle.

As we are dropped into the characters viewpoint there is little time to get to know much about these people we’re following. While it is a little disappointed we don’t know much about them on the other hand it would appear that Nolan’s intention is to give you a small bit of what the soldiers are feeling. There’s no time for back story when everyone is just trying to make it out alive. One of the strongest elements of the movie is that it allows you to emphasise with the complete desperation that the soldiers are feeling. That need to survive is something that comes across all the soldiers. They don’t feel brave or proud, they just want to make it home. For this reason Nolan’s film is one of the best to deal with that desperation and the dark places it can take you to. The soldiers here are not categorized as bad or good, just men on the edge who have seen too much too young and want to get out.

Dunkirk is not a war film about victory in a traditional sense. It’s victory is in how many people managed to survive in what was considered at the time a hopeless situation. There’s a few scenes which discuss cowardly behaviour but Nolan reverses these issues back at us asking would you really be any different in this situation?

Rating 4/5 powerful and compelling, this is Nolan’s best shot at an Oscar yet and a worthy one at that

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1: Dragonstone

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After what seemed like several winters ago Game of Thrones has returned to our screens and all the players are getting ready for a final showdown for the crown. Except Arya who is just exacting vengeance upon all her enemies which includes killing all the Frays! I was really confused in the opening scene when Walder Frey was addressing his family until my sister said it was probably Arya- and she was right! With her taking the form of her enemies to get her revenge one has to wonder what form she’ll take if she ever gets to Cersei. Will she put on Jamie’s face or Joffrey? It would be a twisted end if Cersei did meet her end seeing the face of one of her beloved before she dies.

Over in the North, Bran reaches the Wall which should be great moment, but I’m still annoyed at Bran for basically being the reason Hordor died (Hordor!) Still it is a step closer to bringing the Starks together. Not that Jon and Sansa are acting as one at the moment. With their arguing over tactics in front of others they aren’t presenting much of a united front. I’m hoping this is just showing Sansa’s development from naive girl into a forthright woman but with Littlefinger hanging around Sansa like a bad smell I hope she won’t betray Jon.

Meanwhile Cersei is preparing for a war. Unfortunately as Jamie points out she has no allies which leads to Cersei being on the verge of teaming up with Euron Greyjoy who promises he’ll win her round with his actions. With even loyal Jamie questioning Cersei’s decisions could we see Jamie turn around and betray Cersei? Maybe give her a quick death before she is defeated by her enemies who would want her to have a painful demise?

Then we get to see how Sam, Gilly and little Sam are doing. While I’m glad we get to see Sam  I’m not too amused that we had to see a montage of Sam clearing up shit. Thanks GoT for that! But we did get to meet Jim Broadbent’s character and witness Sam stealing restricted books from the library (go Sam!). From these books we see Dragonstone is going to be a key area for defeating the White Walkers. Is this another foreshadowing of a Jon and Daenerys alliance? Maybe she’ll give him the dragonglass in exchange for supporting her claim to the throne and keeping Jon as the King of the North? After all Jon is one of the few people who don’t seem at all interested in power so he won’t necessarily want a claim on the throne. Then again he has no idea of his true heritage so who knows if this might change.

As we catch up with the Hound we see he’s still with the Brotherhood Without Banners where it seems that the Hound is now seeing visions in the fire himself, and it doesn’t look good. We also see the Hound burying the bodies of a father and child who they find in an abandoned house. I’m not sure if it’s the same family that the Hound and Arya stole from back in season 4 or if it just reminds the Hound of others he has condemned to death. Either way we see remorse from the Hound which is an interesting character moment and I wonder if we’ll see any more compassion from him in the future.

So after six seasons Daenerys finally crosses the sea and reaches land. OK its Dragonstone and not King’s Landing but its close enough. But after five minutes of walking, and walking and walking, she reaches the castle and says…”Let’s begin”. End credits. A part of me was like is that it? Maybe it’s the bloodthirsty side GoT brings out in me but I was ready for some fighting and dragons kicking ass. But I’m sure there’s plenty of that to come.

My feeling is that Cersei will die this season and the battle for the Iron Throne will be settled before the final season sees everyone having to battle together against the White Walkers. But what do I know? NOTHING!! As per usual.

What did you think of the season premiere? Was it a tantalizing start? Who do you think will meet their maker this season and who will be left to fight the white walkers? Let me know in the comments below.

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Jodie Whittaker to be the 13th Doctor

Jodie Whittaker

So it’s finally happened, after months of speculation Doctor Who has announced its 13th Doctor will be Jodie Whittaker. That’s right Doctor Who is getting its first female Doctor.

It’s certainly a risk with some corners of the internet crying out that its political correctness gone mad and threatening to stop watching the show altogether. Personally, while I’m not sure if Whittaker is quirky enough to be the Doctor, she is a good actress as her work on Broadchurch showed (which was created by Doctor Who’s new show runner Chris Chibnall). It’s also a good sign that Chibnall is not going to play it safe with the new series. Doctor Who has always been about regeneration so why not completely revamp the show and try something different? At least the good thing about this show is if something doesn’t work then the Doctor can just regenerate again in a few years time anyway.

For me I will try to hold off judgement on Whittaker until I’ve seen her first full episode. Hat’s off to Whittaker she’s got a tough year ahead of her with her critics wanting to see her fail before she’s even begun. I’m going to keep a positive attitude and hope this heralds an exciting and innovative new time for Doctor Who.

What do you think? Is a female Doctor Who a good thing? Are you a fan of Jodie Whittaker? Or is Doctor Who just for massive geeks and you couldn’t care less about who the next Doctor is? Let me know in the comments below.

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Rapid Review: Baby Driver

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Baby Driver tells the story of a getaway driver called er, Baby (Ansel Elgort) who constantly listens to music to drown out the severe tinnitus he got after a car crash in his childhood. After he meets a pretty waitress named Debora (Lily James) Baby  is determined to leave the life of crime behind him once his debt is paid. However it’s not going to be that easy.

I wasn’t sure from the trailer if this was going to be my type of film but I was actually pleasantly surprised how much I liked it. Yes it is mostly style over substance but for the most part it’s a good style. Director Edgar Wright breaks away from his usual comedies and it’s good to see Wright is taking risks as a director. Baby’s music provides the soundtrack for the film and provides some great moments including the great car chase/getaway scenes.

As the lead character Baby, Elgort has bundles of geeky charm that elevates a character that could come across as annoying in the wrong hands. The rest of the supporting cast are good although the two main females are underwritten (however James’ effortlessly chemistry with Elgort does a lot to cover up how undeveloped the role is). It’s just a shame that some of goodwill the movie built up is then lost with an ending that goes on for about 20 minutes too long.

Rating 3.5/5 – a cool, humourous movie that’s destined to have a cult following

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Baywatch

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In this reboot of the popular 90’s TV series Baywatch a team of lifeguards led by Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) attempt to foil a drugs plot while also dealing with cocky new recruit Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Can they catch they catch the bad guy and keep their beach safe?

As a kid I loved Baywatch from the opening theme song (“Some people stand in the darkness…”) and the ridiculousness of the slow running lifeguards. I was hoping that the reboot would be fresh and funny like the 21 Jump Street movie managed to be. Unfortunately while I think they were trying to reach that level Baywatch falls far short. The majority of jokes are just not funny, revolving around crude body humour and relying on swearing as punch lines. It doesn’t help that the female characters are criminally underserved given the thinnest of characterisation and sidelined for the most of the heroics, yet Mitch, Brody and the dorky Ronnie (Jon Bass, whose given a number of unfunny moments in the film) all perform heroics in the big climax while the women are left on the sidelines. After the amazing heroics of Wonder Woman this is a cold reminder that Hollywood still sees females as beautiful bystanders.

It’s not all bad news though there are flashes of good jokes that find their way through. As usual Johnson retains his charm and star charisma while Zac Efron does his best with the material and at least has a character arc throughout the film. As head villain duties Priyanka Chopra (star of the great TV series Quantico) oozes charisma and glamour though she’s underused like the rest of the female cast.

Rating 2/5 – unfunny and unoriginal, this reboot sinks on arrival

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Wonder Woman

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One of DC’s most iconic superhero finally gets her big screen début after 75 years. Here to rescue DC films from mediocrity (although I quite liked Man of Steel) Diana Prince and director Patty Jenkins have a lot of expectations on their shoulders. Can they rise to the challenge?

Raised amongst the Amazons on the island of Themyscira Diana (Gal Gadot) trains and fights whilst never leaving the island. When Captain Steve Tanner (Chris Pine) crashes onto the island Diana finds herself leaving the safety of her home for the horrors of the First World War.

Breathe a sigh of relief because the good news is that Wonder Woman first film is actually good! As one of the best things about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice  Wonder Woman now gets a solo film that does her justice. Early scenes show Diana being trained by the Amazon’s on their island, a bright and peaceful paradise which nicely contrasts with the cold and less colourful scenes off island. We also gets to see a glorious sight of Amazon’s vs soldiers which is cool and its great to see actresses like Robin Wright and Connie Neilson kicking ass. As we follow Diana to London and beyond the film turns into part origin story/part fish out of water/part coming of age for Diana as she navigates the world of men. The setting feels fresh and for an origin story it doesn’t get too bogged down by having to explain everything.

Director Patty Jenkins manages to balance the different story elements well and the action scenes look great with Wonder Woman looking powerful and full of strength as she faces her foes. Gadot does a lovely mix of strength, vulnerability and charm. She also displays Diana’s journey from naïve optimist to more world-weary but still hopeful warrior that we saw in Dawn of Justice.

As her love interest Chris Pine is a likeable presence and interestingly in a reversal of the male gaze we get a whole lot of female gaze with a practically naked Pine featured in one scene.the scene is played for laughs and Pine gamely plays along. The fact that Tanner is portrayed as almost as heroic as Diana did make me worry that Wonder Woman was going to be overshadowed in her own movie. Was it just that they wanted to give Diana a worthy love interest or were studio bosses nervous about having a woman doing all the heroics? Ultimately though Wonder Woman is the main hero here and it’s her journey that we are invested in.

Perhaps all too aware of the criticisms of the previous DC movies Wonder Woman looks brighter and has more humour. Like the other movies the film is still too long in the last act and has underwhelming villains. However Wonder Woman is a serious step forward for the DC extended universe. Let’s just hope the upward trend continues and Wonder Woman is at the forefront of the Justice League movie.

Rating 4/5 – a wonderful (sorry!) solo effort for an iconic DC character

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Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

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Its predecessor was an action packed, laugh a minute, wonderful surprise that threw Marvel universe into space. Of course a sequel was inevitable and hopes are high with director James Gunn returning to oversee the madness. But can lightening strike twice?

Set two months after the events of the last movie, we catch up with the Guardians who have managed to upset the Sovereign race due to Rocket’s thieving impulses. Their escape eventually leads them to an unexpected reunion between Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his father, a living planet called Ego (Kurt Russell). However it’s not long before the Guardians find themselves in trouble again and have to fight to keep the gang together.

It was always going to be an uphill battle to match the same rebellious, unexpected spirit that Guardians of the Galaxy gave us. While Volume 2 doesn’t quite hit those highs dues to the lack of element of surprised it’s still a rollercoaster of fun and laughter. Humour was a strong part of the first movie’s success and Volume 2 delivers on many funny one liners and great sight gags.

The Guardians themselves are still a loveable ragtag group of misfits with Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) often being a scene stealer. We also gets more development on the sisterly rivalry between Gimora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) which more often than not spills into violence. New characters Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is also introduced and fits in seamlessly with the other Guardians and has a funny odd couple friendship with the blunt and tactless Drax (Dave Bautisa).

The film’s excitable energy does starts to waver towards its last act and while Michael Rooker is great as returning character Yondu (“I’m Mary Poppins”– it makes sense in context), I didn’t quite buy his redemptive arch or the film trying to make out he was a good guy all along. Didn’t he still beat Peter as a kid? However these quibbles aside Volume 2 shows that there’s still life in these loveable rogues yet and there encounter with the more professional Avengers in next years Infinity Wars movie should make for an entertaining encounter.

(As an aside note this film rivals the last Fast and Furious Movie with the amount of time the word ‘family’ is mentioned. Does Vin Diesel have some kind of contract where the word must always be referenced?)

Rating 4/5 – a less surprising but still a riveting ride with Marvel’s funniest heroes

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