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One of Stephen King's best screen adaptations is somewhat soured by tonal missteps.
From the moment the iconic opening sequence ended, (book readers and fans of the miniseries know exactly what sequence I'm talking about) I felt something was off. This same feeling persisted through most of the film, but I couldn't quite place what was off about IT. 

During the third act, I finally understood what had been bothering me. Pennywise just wasn't scary.

Like many of Stephen King's screen adaptations, IT squanders much of it's potential. Not to say this is a bad film. In fact, this is one of the best King screen adaptions to date. But at the end of the day, IT is a horror film. Horror films are made to be scary. Is this scary. Well...

Not really. This brings us back to my original point of Pennywise not being truly frightening. For a character that is supposedly draped in mystery, the film chooses to lift the veil on the iconic clown far too early. Much of the effective scenes are built off the implication of It and not the actual bucktoothed, erratic, borderline humorous clown. Only when we get quick glimpses or partial views of Pennywise does the film really shine in it's horror aspects. 

Where the film truly succeeds is it's cast of characters that aren't dressed as clowns. Since the film chooses to focus solely on the childhood portion of the original IT novel, we follow a cast of preteen children. This could have gone horribly wrong.

Inexperienced director? Child actors? Horror film? IT averts this recipe for disaster with strong performances by it's young leads—with some help from an excellent script. Finn Wolfhard (who you might recognize from Stranger Things) is the obvious standout here as he provides some hilarious comic relief. Jaeden Lieberher is just as impressive in his performance as Bill Denbrough, the film's stuttering protagonist. Surprisingly, there is a fair amount of emotional moments in the film, and most of these moments hinge on Liebrher's performance. 

The comedy between the kids works, Wolfhard is undeniably funny in nearly every scene he is in. But, the good comes with the bad (as with nearly everything in this film). The constant comic relief actually deflates much of the tension built in the film. After every scare we are immediately hit with jokes or situational humor. The shifts in tone are glaring here, something that definitely took me out of the film.

I enjoyed IT. While my expectations weren't met on the horror aspects of the film, I was surprised by the character depth and the performances from the young actors. While IT is ultimately disappointing, it delivers a genuine coming-of-age story with a few good scares.

The Dark Tower

Hollywood turns Stephen King's magnum opus into something painfully average.
Well at least it's not The Emoji Movie?

The Dark Tower had all the potential in the world. I mean what can go wrong with a screenplay based on Stephen King's most notable book series, two amazing lead actors in Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, and a decent budget? Right...right? This is a film I had been truly looking forward to, despite the negative buzz that it had been generating.

Unfortunately, this is just another example of King's outstanding novels being absolutely mangled by Hollywood. The Dark Tower ends up being just another generic sci-fi film, despite it's unique source material.

Elba and McConaughey try their best here. The pair's performances as the Gunslinger and the Man in Black are honestly the only thing holding this film up. Even Tom Taylor, the young star of this film, tries his best with the cliché filled role he is given. All of these actors are simply better than this.

The script is largely responsible for this film's failings. True, it is always hard to please book fans when you adapt a popular novel to film. Most books just don't translate one-to-one to film. But even if you put the source material aside, this is one of the most bland, uninspired scripts put to film so far this year. Nothing about this film feels original, and everything about this film feels rushed.

The Dark Tower also makes the bizarre narrative choice to focus on it's least interesting character. Instead of giving the spotlight on the far more compelling characters of the Gunslinger and the Man in Black, we instead get a film largely about an uninteresting child protagonist. This is obviously just another attempt at capitalizing on the young adult film trend. Please let this trend die Hollywood. Please.

If you read the books, don't even bother seeing this. If you haven't read the books, you'd be better off waiting until this film makes it to Netflix. This isn't necessarily a bad movie, just painfully average. With that said, there are far better films in theaters. Don't waste your time with this.


A vivid, brutal retelling of true events that are still relevant 50 years later.
Art is not always easy to swallow. However, some art is essential. This is a story that needed to be told.

Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow has knocked it out of the park once again with Detroit. Once again, Bigelow takes on delicate subject matter with the expertise of a great filmmaker. The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty are good films in their own right, but this is far more affecting and heart-wrenching than either of those films.

Detroit is filmed wholly hand-held, and the shakiness that comes along with that direction choice is extremely effective. Before the riots even start in the film, you will be set on edge by the shakiness of the camera and jarring cuts. This alone creates tension that is only ratcheted up little by little as the film progresses. There are many scenes, that because of the tension created with the camera-work, along with the terrifying nature of the situation, feel like something out of a horror film.

Every actor here gives a near flawless performance. While John Boyega is being marketed as the star of the film (which, duh, he was in Star Wars), this is actually a film without a standard Hollywood- style star. These actors—even the bigger names—are treated as equally important details in a larger event. In fact, despite the presence of Boyega, Anthony Mackie, and Jason Mitchell, I was blown away most by the lesser-known Algee Smith. The performances here are emotional, powerful, but most of all, real. None of these actors feel like they are acting for an Academy Award, instead each actor embodies the real life people that lived through these events.

The shocking nature of this film is all thanks to the film's subject matter. But I'm not here to critique subject matter. Detroit, from a purely narrative standpoint, is brilliantly written—jumping from characters and timelines until all roads meet at the film's crescendo. Instead of the route Dunkirk chose—throwing you right into the fire with characters you don't know—Detroit instead gives each character scenes that let you get to know them as people, allowing you to genuinely care about them.

While this is a great film, it is a hard watch. This is an emotionally grueling film in the same way 12 Years a Slave and Fruitvale Station are. With that being said, the two and a half hour run time of this film is exhausting. There is not much that could be cut out of this film, but the length is something that can really work against this film.

Detroit is a poignant film, not only due to the masterful direction and performances, but because of it's relevance in the world we live in today. This is an unflinching, timely achievement—and may be Kathryn Bigelow's magnum opus.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Horrendously acted, incoherently written, waste of time.
Jeez. This movie. I loathe nearly everything about this film, but let's go ahead and knock out these positives. 

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is visually stunning— sometimes. There is a great deal of imagination that went into the art design here, and this definitely separates this film from the overly saturated sci-fi sub genre. The ambition showed in the world building of this universe is commendable, director Luc Besson really goes for it here. The vast majority of this film is completely CGI- rendered, and for the most part, the CGI is well done. The opening sequence that kicks this film off is breathtaking, and while it shares similarities to James Cameron's Avatar, there is an uniqueness to it that really draws the audience in.

As soon as our two human protagonists come on screen—which mind you, is immediately after the impressive opening sequence—the film screeches to a halt, losing every speck of momentum garnered in the first twenty minutes.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne portray cardboard cutouts—oh, I mean special government agents tasked with some of the universe's most important tasks. I wish there was something good I could say about the performances from these two. But, nearly every time DeHaan opened his mouth to speak all, I could do was sigh. This is clearly a role meant for a charismatic actor, the likes of someone like Chris Pratt, Tom Cruise, or Will Smith. Instead, this film has DeHaan, who gives such an extremely wooden performance that it is borderline painful. The chemistry between DeHaan and Delevingne is nonexistent. The romantic relationship between these two characters maybe could have been believable with a different pair of actors. With these two brick walls though? Nah. The film screeches to a halt far too many times to give focus to unbearable romantic moments between the two—many of which hurt me physically. 

What really rose my blood pressure here was the script. Dare I say, I prefer the dialogue and narrative from the Transformers: The Last Knight over what is present in this film's monstrosity of a screenplay. This film thinks it is hilarious and charming, just like Transformers did. This film is immensely unfunny and repulsive, just like Transformers is. The attempts at quips and back-and-forth jokes are insufferable, getting less funny and more amateurish as the film goes on. DeHaan and Delevingne definitely deserve some of the blame for this, but the godawful writing doesn't provide them much room to be anything more than annoying. 

The plot manages to be more jumbled than anything I have seen all year. There are whole sections of this film that have nothing to do with the narrative set up in the opening act. This is a 2 hour and 20 minute film that has no business being anything over 90 minutes. A whole third of this film could be cut out, (specifically the detour that features singer/songwriter Rihanna) and nothing about the ending would change. I should have walked out of this movie somewhere near that 90 minute mark, but, like Transformers, I hoped the final act would be this film's saving grace. It wasn't.

If you spent money your hard-earned money on this film this weekend, I truly apologize. While this is not the cinematic cancer that the Transformers franchise continues to be—Valerian is a horrendously acted, incoherently written, waste of time.

Annabelle: Creation

A prequel of a prequel has no business being this good.
A prequel of Annabelle, which was the prequel of The Conjuring. Absolutely nobody asked for this. Nobody wanted this. No one. But, thankfully (surprising, right?) we got it. 

Annabelle: Creation has no business being this good. Funny enough, the same can be said about 2016's Ouija: Origins of Evil. It is strange that these two bizarrely similar films were released within a year of each other. Both follow up on terrible first films. Both are prequels of those terrible first films. Both shouldn't have been made. Both are extremely effective horror films. Oh, and both star the excellent child-actor Lulu Wilson. The similarities don't even end there. 

After the film ended and I saw who directed this, everything made more sense. David F. Sandberg has the reins here–who you might remember from directing Lights Out, another surprisingly great 2016 horror flick. The work done in that movie with the use of lighting and repetition is just as suspenseful here (if not more so, in some scenes). Sandberg thankfully stamps what could have been run-of-the- mill horror scenes with his signature creativity. Horror largely relies on the talent of the director, and this is a case of the direction only elevating the film. 

While Lulu Wilson is a definitely a standout in her second straight horror movie role, her counterpart Talitha Bateman also gives a great performance. As in most horror movies, most of the scares are seen through the eyes of the children in the film. Luckily, the two youngest actresses here–Wilson and Bateman–practically act circles around the rest of the cast. In fact, there were quite a few moments when I felt as though these two actresses deserved a better script. The pair definitely do the best they can with what they are given however, adding a great deal of character to this film. 

The bar is low when it comes to horror film scripts. Even the best of the genre still have the occasional cringe-worthy line or plot hole (The Conjuring 2, I'm looking at you). All this to say, I'm going to go easy on the faults of Annabelle: Creation's script. The writing here is not bad by any means. There are cringy lines here and there, but that is to be expected. The characters make extremely poor choices, but even that is to be expected. The problem rests almost solely in the dull first 30 minutes of this film.

Look, I'm all for slow burn horror movies. But when the star of your horror film is an inanimate object, you just can't afford to have a slow opening act. However, once this film starts picking up with the scares in the latter half of the film, much of that first act can be forgiven. The film goes in some unexpected directions towards the end of the film which adds some surprising creativity.

No spoilers of course, but the way the first Annabelle is tied in to this film is outstanding. So outstanding that it almost makes up for the 90 minutes I wasted sitting through the garbage that was that first film. Almost. 

Credit to director David F. Sandberg for rescuing this franchise from a tedious first film. Annabelle: Creation is legitimately scary, which is all you can really ask for from a horror film.

It Comes at Night

A disturbing, excellently filmed post-apocalyptic drama.
It Comes At Night is a disturbing, excellently shot post-apocalyptic drama. Joel Edgerton delivers a masterful performance as a father who is desperately trying to balance protecting his family and preserving his own humanity. The small cast around Edgerton are similarly excellent, specifically Kelvin Harrison Jr. who plays Edgerton's son. Harrison Jr.'s portrayal of an awkward young man immersed in a tragic world is truly eye-opening; he is definitely one to watch out for in future films.

The cinematography is truly excellent throughout, with a great number of hand-held shots that add to the realistic feel. Tension is heavy and present from the first frame of the film to the last frame of the film. Credit to director Trey Edward Schults, another talented name to look out for in the future.

One negative, if you could even call it that, is that the film is so tense and somber throughout that some viewers won't find this to be an enjoyable watch. In this way, it is reminiscent of 2004 post- apocalyptic drama The Road. Also, It Comes At Night is being marketed as a horror film, which it is not. While the film is scary at points, it does not fit the traditional conventions of a horror movie.

Be forewarned; this movie isn't for the faint of heart. But, if you are prepared to embark on a grim exploration of humanity, with some scares along the way, this one is for you.

Transformers: The Last Knight

Please stop making these films.
Transformers: The Last Knight fails in every aspect, proving to be an awful example of lazy film making. 

Please stop making these films. 

The writing here is appalling. Like every Transformers movie, the plot is needlessly convoluted. There are long scenes of exposition throughout this film, adding to the already bloated run time (we'll get to that later). I don't understand why the writers behind this franchise can't help themselves from over complicating a story line about fighting, talking robots. Every one of these films have convoluted plot lines, but The Last Knight triples down: giving a grand total of three convoluted plot lines. 

Transformers is not a high grossing franchise because of it's plot, but because of the spectacle of giant robots fighting each other. With a budget of $260 million, it shouldn't be too hard to deliver on spectacle…right? Wrong. Director Michael Bay finds a way to ruin the spectacle as well.

Action is sparse towards the first two acts of this film. In its place are long, painful scenes of dialogue (we'll also get to that later). When we are given action scenes in the first two acts, they are poorly done ripoffs of other movies, that focus on Mark Wahlberg and the other human characters. The action in this is unimaginative, poorly edited, and simply anticlimactic. This is not what gets advertised, this is not what sells tickets, but this is what Bay subjects us to for the majority of this film.

This film is inexcusably terrible in nearly every technical facet. The editing throughout is atrocious, with quick, sloppy cuts in nearly every scene. Even the CGI is laughable at points. The aspect ratios switch, not just from scene to scene, but during scenes. There is no reason for such a high budget film in 2017 to be this lazily executed.

There are a lot of poor aspects about this film, but they all pale in comparison to the dialogue. These actors are constantly spewing failed attempts at humor. Seemingly every other line is a swing and a miss, making these scenes truly painful. Even legendary actor Anthony Hopkins cannot save this dialogue. The script is written so poorly that it brings Hopkins down to it's level, making the scenes in which he is present infuriating. 

Many big budget blockbusters are poorly written, but still end up being entertaining. Just a few weeks ago a prime example of this was released: The Mummy. The difference here is duration. The Mummy narrowly avoided overstaying it's welcome with a run time a little over 1 hour and 45 minutes. Clocking in at a cruel 2 hours and 30 minutes, The Last Knight steals precious time out of your life. There are so many better ways to spend your two and a half hours. Life is too short. Go spend some time with your family. Read a book. Exercise. Anything but going to see this movie.

The sad part is, none of this is anything new. Almost every major flaw (and there are too many to name) can be said about any of the other Transformers movies. The one thing that sets this one apart however, is the lack of payoff. At least the other films in this franchise had the decency to include spectacular actions scenes throughout. The Last Knight instead opts to fill this film with overly complex exposition and long stretches of dialogue. 

Please stop making these films.

Baby Driver

A stylish, technical marvel that is remarkably entertaining.
Baby Driver is a stylish, technical marvel that is remarkably entertaining. From the opening sequence, director Edgar Wright stamps his work with his signature uniqueness. Wright puts the spotlight on getaway driver Baby, portrayed by The Fault in Our Star's Ansel Elgort, as he rocks out in his car, while Elgort's co-stars conduct a well-rehearsed bank heist off screen. Immediately, from this one direction choice, you know this won't be a run-of-the-mill heist film.

What follows is anything but your run-of-the-mill heist film. Music is beautifully integrated into nearly every scene, adding to the unconventionality of Wright's approach to action. The sound editing perfectly blends the actions scenes with the accompanying music. There have been plenty of getaway car chases in film, most notably in the Fast and Furious franchise, but the flair that Wright adds with his own personal touch make Baby Driver's car sequences some of the best put to film.

The colors in this film are consistently bright and vibrant, matching the similarly colorful performances by the cast. Jamie Foxx is a standout here, playing the borderline cartoonish gangster, Bats. Jon Hamm and and Eiza Gonzalez portray a similarly over-the-top Bonnie and Clyde duo. Kevin Spacey is (naturally) excellent as the boss that pulls this mishmash of stereotypes together with his cold efficiency. Though most of these characters are written to be caricatures of familiar character archetypes, each and every member of this star- studded cast is able to pull it off.  The charisma that each of these actors bring to the film are one of Baby Driver's greatest assets.

It's easy to heap praise upon this film's supporting cast, but Elgort is truly commendable in his first proper leading role. He is given a lot to do in his film, as his character Baby's personality differs greatly depending on who is present in the scene. Elgort's performance ranges from stoic in the presence of his heist crew, slickly charismatic around his love interest, and energetic to an almost child-like level when he is by himself.

When it comes to the script, there is a perfect synergy with every other the aspect of the film. The dialogue is often over the top, the characters are exaggerated, the plot is almost fantasy-like. The 80s action movie esque direction taken by writer/director Edgar Wright excuses some of the film's flaws. This isn't a hyper realistic, super serious action film. This is borderline fantasy at points.

The flaws of this film are largely based on personal preference. The second act of the film slows down a bit to focus on Baby's relationship with his love interest, Debbie. If you were expecting non-stop action throughout the film, this may bother you. These scenes are well done however, and just as unique and stylized as the action scenes. Also, if you don't take well to the over-the-top, fantasy-like characters and plot, you might see it as a flaw, instead of an asset of the film.

While a movie that I love, 2011's Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, was criticized for being largely style over substance. There are definitely similarities between Drive and Baby Driver; especially with both film's emphasis on style. While I don't think Baby Driver will be quite as polarizing, if Drive is a movie that you did not enjoy, you will find similar flaws here.

Baby Driver is loud, over-the-top, and unrealistic. But these aren't necessarily flaws, as all of these aspects add to the charm of this film. This is my favorite work from Edgar Wright so far, and one of my favorite films of the year.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man finally (kinda) comes home to Marvel Studios... and oh, is it glorious.
Welcome home Spider-Man, we missed ya.

Alright, I have to be transparent here, I'm completely biased on this one. I grew up with this character; from the 2002 classic Spider-Man, to the 2004 classic Spider-Man 2, to the 2007 not-so-classic Spider- Man 3. I genuinely love all three of the original Sam Raimi directed films.

When the two Marc Webb directed films The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively, I did a bit of brain gymnastics to convince myself that these movies were just as great as the original trilogy. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the two Marc Webb films do not compare (specifically The Amazing Spider-Man 2; that film is a mess).

All this to say that maybe I love this character too much to be objective.

But even from an objective viewpoint, this film is outstanding. Spider Man: Homecoming has the difficult task of rebooting the iconic franchise once again. Everyone knows Peter Parker was bitten by a spider, everyone knows Peter Parker's parents are dead, and everyone knows Uncle Ben was murdered. Thankfully, Homecoming wastes no time dwelling on aspects that were explained in the last 5 films. Instead, we get to focus on a story of a childish, inexperienced Spider-Man that truly does not know what he is doing.

Tom Holland is excellent in and out of the Spidey suit, and it isn't too much of a stretch to say this is the most accurate on-screen adaption of Peter Parker. Holland has the infectious energy of an excited child throughout, something that is missing in all the other Spider-Man films.

This is a packed cast, and everyone here delivers, specifically Michael Keaton as Vulture, who surprisingly might be one of the best MCU villains to date. This is a character that could have easily been a throwaway that just came off as corny, but Keaton's acting ability definitely adds a lot to this role.

One of the best additions to this film is Robert Downey Jr, who comes in and out of the film as Iron Man. Jaded veteran Tony Stark's acts as a perfect foil and mentor to the innocent amateur in Peter Parker. The contrast between these two result in some hilarious scenes, as well as some sincere father-son moments. 

With five standalone Spider-Man movies preceding Homecoming, originality is going to be hard to come by; especially when it comes to the action scenes. Thankfully, the action set pieces here are diverse and set a original, entertaining stage for Spider-Man to shine. From the Washington monument in D.C, to a ferry in Staten Island, to the bottom of a plane, all of the action scenes feel extremely fresh.

Where Homecoming really shines is it's comedy. This is the funniest film I've seen all year, even including "comedy" films (I'm looking at you, The House). This is a great example of how you make comedy organic in an action film (I'm looking at you, Transformers). Nearly every actor in the film has some comedic dialogue to deliver on, and nearly every joke hits. A standout here is Zendaya, who is hilarious in every scene she's in. Even singer/actor/rapper/comedian/??? Donald Glover makes a brief but hilarious appearance halfway through the film.

Some might not like the more lighthearted approach to Spider-Man, as this is definitely more cheerful than any of the Sam Raimi or Marc Webb films. But if you were looking for a ultra-serious superhero story… why would you watch a Spider-Man film?

Director Jon Watts, this entire cast, and every single one of the 8 credited screenwriters should be commended here as they deliver an original take on a familiar franchise. Spider-Man: Homecoming is easily one of the best films to come out this year, and you should go see this on the biggest screen possible.

Wish Upon

I don't even know how to review this film. First things first though, this movie is awful. This is poor filmmaking in every possible facet. Writing, acting, editing, you name it. Terrible. Every bit of it. 

...or is it?

Every once in a while a horror film comes out that is so poorly made that it crosses the line into comedy. This is one of those rare, heralded (at least in my household) gems. I would say I expect nothing less from a PG-13 horror movie, but Insidious proved back in 2010 that horror can be extremely effective without a R-rating.

What we get in Wish Upon is an amalgamation of Lifetime Channel level writing and Disney Channel level acting. The premise, in itself, is a trope. Protagonist finds magical item, magical item significantly improves protagonist's life, magical item then proceeds to ruin protagonist's life. Every beat of the plot can be seen from miles away, which honestly, is to be expected. The dialogue here is stunningly terrible for a wide-released motion picture. I rolled my eyes at least once every scene, and nearly everyone in the theater I watched this in groaned, sighed, and laughed hysterically throughout the film. 

The acting here would be sub par even for a Disney Channel original. Lead actress Joey King possibly gives the worst lead performance of the year, and she is constantly one-upped (downed?) by her awful co- stars. Which leads me to my theory. 

What if the director, screenwriters, and actors were intentionally trying to make a bad movie? What if this is all a Scream-esque piece of satire? What if terrible was what the cast and crew were actually going for? This is the only explanation for Wish Upon's across-the- board awfulness. It is unimaginable that screenwriter Barbara Marshall sat down and earnestly put a pen to pad to write some of the lines delivered in this film. I hope this was all done tongue-in- cheek, because if it wasn't, nobody involved should ever get work in the film industry again.

All things considered, I enjoyed watching this film. True, there is absolutely nothing even remotely scary in this "horror" film. But, I laughed constantly at the lows of this film because I had no expectation of any highs.

Oddly enough, the single redeeming feature of this mess is simply how bad it is. Do I ever want to see this again? Of course not. But, there is something to be said for the entertainment level that comes with an almost intentionally terrible film.

I can't, in good conscience, give this dumpster fire a positive rating. But take my stars (or lack thereof) with a grain of salt. If you are looking forward to a great-bad film, you will get plenty of laughs out of this one.

The House

A passable comedy that is buoyed by solid performances from Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler.
The House is a passable comedy that is buoyed by solid performances from Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler.

Comedies are often the hardest genre of film to critique because they are largely preference based. Whose to say what is funny and what isn't funny? With that being said, there are only a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments in The House. The problem is that most of these jokes coming in the last two thirds of the run time. The first 35 minutes of the movie not only seems like tedious set-up, it also falls flat when it comes to jokes.

The premise here definitely is promising. A movie about two suburban parents starting a underground casino to fund their daughter's college tuition is a funny enough base for a R-rated comedy. Add experienced Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler into the mix and The House sounds, on paper, like a great comedy.

The film's is strengthened by the expertise of Ferrell and Poehler's timing and chemistry, so the cast certainly isn't the problem. The duo pulls off subtle dry humor at points, ridiculous but straight faced humor, as well as physical humor. Amy Poehler is playing it straight for most of the film, which gives balance to the sincere absurdity that Will Ferrell has built a career off of. The two comedians give performances that are without a doubt the best part of The House. 

If then premise isn't the problem, and the cast isn't the problem, what makes The House so disappointing? All signs point to the writing here. You can easily predict the plot beat by beat; there are few, if any surprises at all. The jokes, as earlier mentioned, don't begin to hit until nearly halfway through the film. 

I laughed quite a bit towards the end of this film, but the staleness of the first third is hard to forgive. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler save the movie from being your average comedy, but can't make up enough for the inconsistency of the script.

War for the Planet of the Apes

A moving culmination of our generation's greatest trilogy.
Man, I can always tell if a series is great if I get that empty feeling when it comes to a close.

With that being said—this is one of the most gripping, emotional films I've seen all year, serving as a fitting bookend for Mark Reeves' outstanding series of Apes movies.

This is a bit of an unorthodox ending to a trilogy. Instead of aiming for the overblown action spectacle that usually close these things out, War for delivers a deeply moving, character driven story. That might turn some viewers off from the film, especially because the marketing behind this movie—and even the title—creates certain expectations. While this could be disappointing, the film is so effective on an emotional level that you can forgive it for it's lack of constant action.

War for definitely benefits from the two previous films when it comes to character development, specifically the development of protagonist Caesar. Caesar is, in my opinion, one of the greatest characters ever put to film. We have seen him go from orphaned infant, to budding revolutionary, to thoughtful leader, and now; extremely weary general. This slow buildup of character depth makes the completion of his arc truly captivating. When tragedy strikes, you care. When good favor comes his way, you care.

If we talk about Caesar, we have to talk about the man behind the ape. Andy Serkis has done a marvelous job portraying every stage of Caesar's life through motion capture in these films, and his performance is just as amazing here. It would be a tragedy if Serkis doesn't at the very least get a Oscar nomination for his performance here. The emotion that is conveyed through the eyes and voice of Serkis' performance is far superior than most "real human" acting performances this year.

If Serkis deserves an Oscar for his performance, than the visual effects team definitely deserves one as well. The CGI of the apes is simply flawless. Director Matt Reeves makes a point of shooting the apes close up, really putting the outstanding work this effects team did on showcase.

Not only is this the most visually polished film of the trilogy, this is the most beautifully shot film I've seen all year. From beginning to end, Reeves puts together poignant sequences that rely almost exclusively on visuals. There are many historic visual allusions here, ranging from shots reminiscent of the Trail of Tears to Holocaust symbolism. The allegory presented combined with the emotional investment in these characters, creates some truly heart- wrenching moments.

One element that I thought didn't work as well in the previous movies were the human characters. Woody Harrelson flips this trend on it's head with an excellent performance here as the Colonel. Not only is the Colonel the most villainous human character of the series, he is the most complex human character of this trilogy.

I can talk on and on about how much I love this movie, but instead I'll let the stars speak for themselves. Just go see this.

War for the Planet of the Apes pulls absolutely no punches, delivering a powerful conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies ever made. All aboard the Andy Serkis Oscar train.


A technical masterpiece that is nearly devoid of palpable emotion and compelling characters.
Might as well get right to it, then. At the risk of sounding like a contrarian, I did not love this film. Do I love elements of this? Yes. Is this a 5-star masterpiece? Unfortunately, no.

The cinematography here at least, is masterful. Director Christopher Nolan has, without a doubt, reached the pinnacle of on-screen spectacle here. The feats of practical effects in this film are breathtaking. The casting of nearly 6,000 extras, authentic WWII vehicles, and shooting on location in Dunkirk, France contribute to a great sense of scale here. There is ongoing trend of action films in recent years of relying on CGI, and thankfully Nolan bucks that trend.

Similar to War for the Planet of the Apes, much of the film plays out without much dialogue, leaning on just the score and sound design in most scenes. It almost goes without saying that Hans Zimmer delivers with another incredible score. The sound design is also extremely well crafted, which, paired with Nolan's great work behind the camera, truly transports you to the Battle of Dunkirk. The wailing of planes passing above, the drone of gunfire, and the roar of explosions all contribute to the complete immersion into the world these characters are trapped in. This results in some of the most immersive wartime action scenes since Saving Private Ryan.

This film has and will continue to be compared to World War II classic Saving Private Ryan. Both films are beautifully filmed WWII period pieces with casts that deliver great performances. The similarities end there. Whereas Saving Private Ryan was engrossing as a narrative due to it's characters with depth and arcs, Dunkirk instead leans on it's subject matter and spectacle.

And while the subject matter of Dunkirk is fascinating, as a film it lacks emotional firepower due to the absence of a strongly written protagonist. This is strangely uncharacteristic of a director of Nolan's caliber, especially when you recall the complex character work in his most acclaimed films: The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige. Instead of focusing on a single character or single group of characters, the focus is spread across three protagonists in completely different situations. Showing the Dunkirk Evacuation through the three different perspectives of those on the beach, the sea, and the air is only an interesting proposition on paper. The narrative, due to this writing choice, is spread far too thin, with few characters getting enough screen time to develop even the mildest emotional connection.

While the characters in this film aren't written to even remotely be compelling, the great work from this cast is not to be overlooked. Harry Styles, known for being a member of English boy band One Direction, is surprisingly excellent here in his acting debut. Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, and Fionn Whitehead also all give standout performances despite the limited screen time they are given.

I should love this film. Historical drama? WWII setting? My favorite director Christopher Nolan? Amazing cinematography? Superb performances from an ensemble cast? All of these elements made me sure I would love this going in. But, Dunkirk's lack of emotional connection severely detracts from the awe-inspiring scope and technical prowess displayed.

If I reviewed based on visuals alone, this is a slam-dunk, walk-off home run of a 5-star film. While a focus on grandeur and situation over character depth and emotion may work for some (it obviously worked for 98% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes), it did not work for this critic.

This is without a doubt a cinematic achievement, but without an emotional core, it's impossible for this film not to feel cold and empty. Despite being a technical masterpiece, this is Christopher Nolan's most disappointing film yet.

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