Things I Saw in July

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1. Baby Driver (2017): Edgar Wright’s latest is a brilliant conceit of a car chase movie acting as a musical. The film is fused with a cool soundtrack and some very creative car chase choreography. In the end I was inspired to get in my car and hit the open road. However the film is not without its flaws, the entire third act runs into some over the top trouble that seems out of place, also overlong and convoluted. The film’s lead Ansel Elgort is rather bland compared to the outstanding supporting cast surrounding him, and to be honest this just isn’t as cinematic as some of Wright’s better efforts. That being said, this is a pretty good time at the movies. 3 stars out of 4

2. Spiderman Homecoming (2017): This is now the sixth big screen version of everyone’s favorite webslinger and the first now run by the juggernaut known as Marvel Studios. There hasn’t been a Spiderman movie I haven’t liked just a little bit, I would even defend some parts in “The Amazing Spiderman 2” which had me sobbing in the end. However this Spiderman is very fun and amusing, light on its feet and never getting dogged down with too much emotion. Tom Holland is very fun with his iteration of the character, and the supporting cast including Michael Keaton as the villain and an underused Marisa Tomei as Aunt Mae make it even more fun. This is the best Marvel film in a long time which had me ready to cheer. 3.5 stars out of 4

3. Moana (2016): This Disney film released last year about a young Polynesian Princess with the power of the Ocean on a quest to restore the heart of the ocean with the help of a wisecracking demagogue is quaint at best. The animation is rather impressive but the story as a whole doesn’t add up to much and the songs which were written by Lin Manuel Miranda are kinda forgettable. Despite one inspiring sequence involving a sinister crab (voiced by Jermaine Clement) this felt like a misfire. 2 stars out of 4

4. Dunkirk (2017): Christopher Nolan’s telling of the famous World War 2 story of British soldiers fleeing the beaches of Dunkirk is perhaps his most visually stunning film to date. The story remains lean and somewhat small concentrating on events happening on land, sea, and air. All of this culminates with an impressive finale. A lot of the imagery remains poetic and restrained, Nolan never tries to shock us with the usual violence shown in war movies which makes it unique. However the film left me cold for some reason. However Kudos to Nolan for bringing poetry to his imagery some of which are truly breathtaking. Perhaps I’ll feel differently about this film in time, like some of Nolan’s work it might grow on me. 3.5 stars out of 4

5. Valarian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Director Luc Besson is a polaraizing director, however I found his last film “Lucy” to be visually vibrant and stunning. “Valarian” finds him in the sci-fi mode yet again however this one is far more space operay. For those who think “Star Wars” has the monopoly on space opera, think again. “Valarian” is not a perfect film by any means, the main plot is rather meaningless but rather it’s a mcguffin to explore the visual feast that is in this film., and the final act becomes too predictable with too much exposition. More often it mostly focuses on the misadventures of Valarian (Dane DeHann) and his partner Lauraline (Cara Delevingne), as the two seem to keep on saving eachother from one mishap to another. Judging how the film has fared at the box office, chances are slim we’ll see another adventure from Valarian and Lauraline anytime soon and that’s a shame. This is fun, eccentric popcorn entertainment that doesn’t feel homogenized quite yet in studio sameness. 3.5 stars out of 4

6. The Beguiled (2017) Easily the best film I saw this month is Sophia Coppola’s stunning “The Beguiled” a civil war chamber piece where women from an all girls school take in a wounded yankee soldier. The tension starts off small and begins getting more and more disturbing as the young ladies start taking more of a liking to the soldier until the unthinkable happens. Coppola fuses the film in white light and soft focuses to make it feel dreamlike, no wonder there have been comparisons to her first feature “Virgin Suicides”. But this is more genre like than we have seen from her before and it is a treat to the senses along with great performances from Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst. 4 stars out of 4

7. It Came From Outer Space (1953) Classic sci-fi film from the 50s from a story by Ray Bradbury finds a small town at odds with an alien spaceship which crash lands in the desert. Soon the alien beings take on the likeness of the people in the town even though their motives remain unclear. This is a rather optimistic view of  the aliens from another planet approach where most of these films contained certain social issues of the time, the aliens here feel more belevolent figures than mostly seen at the time. The film is fun for sci-fi/classic movie buffs such as myself. 3.5 stars out of 4