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Thumbnails Aug 17

by Tony Medley

Dunkirk (8/10): Writer/Director Christopher Nolan interweaves three fictional stories, cutting back and forth among them, so that each lasts for the entire film to reveal the true story of the evacuation of 338,682 Allied soldiers who were stranded between the ocean and the Nazi army on a beach in Dunkirk in 1940 by an armada of 933 ships, approximately 700 of which were “small” private vessels. As readers know, I’m a stickler for accuracy when movies try to tell an historical story. But Nolan has done a terrific job of capturing what happened by fictionalizing three plot lines to represent what actually happened. My only criticism is that he should have put the facts I have in this thumbnail in a crawl at the end of the movie.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (8/10): I dislike fantasies consisting of impossible characters who could never exist anywhere, dominated by visual effects. However, in this case the visual effects (Scott Stokdyk) are stunning and should be a big Oscar® contender. So, given that bias, it should be meaningful for me to state that this was a highly viewable adventure, despite a disagreeable performance by Cara Delevingne. It has tolerable pace despite the length. But unlike other films of its ilk, this has an adequate script and an understandable story that makes sense (for sci fi).

Lady Macbeth (8/10): Dealing with themes like the subordination of women, life in the outskirts of society, and illicit sex, this Dostoyevsky novella was adapted into a Russian opera by Shostakovich in the ‘30s. It was immediately banned by Stalin for being “too subversive.” I haven’t read the novella and certainly haven’t seen the opera, but the movie is well done with good performances and some fine twists.

War for the Planet of the Apes (8/10): These movies have all been pretty good, starting with the first one with Charlton Heston. The story has changed over the years and now the apes are the good guys, facing their Armageddon. As usual, the motion capture technology presents the apes as believable intelligent creatures, although Caesar (Andy Serkis) is the only one who can speak English. Even though it’s very long, it is entertaining.

Midnight Return (8/10): This is a fascinating documentary about the making and veracity of Midnight Express (1978), a film that supposedly told the true story of Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) and how he was arrested at a Turkish Airport accused of smuggling what were alleged to be small amounts of dope into Turkey. In this film we meet the real Billy Hayes, not the Hollywood actor (which Billy himself tried to be after becoming famous) who played him in the film. Through interviews with lots of the people involved in the film (like Producer Peter Gruber, Hayes, Oliver Stone, Ahmet Ertegun, and others) and showing Hayes going back to the prison and the places in Turkey that he visited, it is as much an indictment of Hayes himself as it is of Turkey.

Atomic Blonde (7/10): Teeming with action and twists and brutal fights, this convoluted tale is a much more admirable film to provide women with their own action heroine than the imbecilic “Wonder Woman.” That, and looking at Charlize Theron and her amazing, constantly changing wardrobe for almost two hours, who’s to complain?

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press (0/10): Instead of a good documentary based upon the trial of Hulk Hogan v. Gawker, the defamation suit arising out of Gawker publishing a sex tape exposing Hogan, this is a prejudiced, partisan, ham-fisted polemic, so biased it would embarrass Pravda. It’s not only a one-sided attack on Hogan, it’s an obsequious, fawning paean to the sleaze merchant who ran Gawker, before suddenly segueing into an attack on Donald Trump. This is a blatantly hypocritical disgrace to documentary filmmaking in general and to journalism in particular. Netflix.