Justice League – Bloated and Tonally Schizophrenic

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Justice League has problems. That’s a statement that will surprise no one. If you’ve seen DC’s previous offerings, or basically any film by Zack Snyder, then you probably knew before you even sat down in the theater that the movie you were about to see would have problems. To it’s credit, Justice League is a shade better than Dawn of Justice. It is somewhat lighter in tone, has a sense of fun to it, and is even periodically entertaining. However, like its predecessors, this is a bloated film overstuffed with characters and overburdened with too many plotlines and backstories. It is watchable, but ultimately unsatisfying because it fails to live up to its full potential.

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Thor: Ragnarok – Guardians of the Galaxy Starring Thor

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Every time I talk about Marvel I can’t help but mention the dramatic tonal shift that the MCU has undergone since its inception. When you consider that 2008’s Iron Man firmly positioned it’s lead character within the modern day sociopolitical landscape of terrorism and arms dealing, it seems almost inconceivable that a film in the same world could feature a Norse god punching the Hulk in the face. But that’s the world we live in. I’ve often imagined that it would be fun to binge the whole MCU and watch this evolution unfold, but at this point there are so many movies that it would take about 47 years to get through them all. Thankfully, the Thor films are here to save us some time.

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Blade Runner 2049 – A Worthy Successor

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My nerd cred is generally quite good when it comes to seeing films widely considered to be part of Sci-Fi canon, but I must admit that the original Blade Runner managed to slip by me for most of my life. Thank goodness Blade Runner 2049 came along and gave me a good jolt of motivation to watch the 1992 director’s cut of the original Sci-Fi/Noir genre bender. It’s a good thing too, because unlike most fraudulent sequels that come out 35 years after the original, Blade Runner 2049 actually has the guts to be a sequel. Not a remake. Not a soft reboot. A sequel. And a mighty good one too.

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Valerian – The Most Dazzling Film Since Avatar

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a visual delight held back by a needlessly convoluted plot and periodic lapses in internal logic. The sheer volume of creativity on display in this film makes me desperately want to forgive its narrative shortcomings. After all, plenty of creatively bankrupt films get made every year and still earn tons of money. Why should I needlessly condemn Valerian when the film, flaws and all, is consistently fun and entertaining? Valerian is a film where I was acutely aware of its issues while I was watching it, but discovered, to my amused delight, that I didn’t particularly care. I was having a good time.

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Dunkirk – Austere and Intense

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Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors. I love the way his films are never straight-forward narratives. He writes puzzles that slowly solve themselves before your eyes, allowing you to wonder how the pieces fit together as he guides you towards epiphany. When he announced his last film, Interstellar, I was tremendously excited because his approach seemed like an ideal fit for a sci-fi space epic. But when Dunkirk, a historical war film, was announced, I wasn’t so much excited as I was intrigued. This did not seem like an ideal fit. How can the film be a puzzle with complex narrative structures if it must be bound by factual events? Can Nolan bring his signature style to this subject matter? Read on to find out.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming – Marvel at Their Best

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There’s something to be said for the experience of a Thursday night screening. There’s the last minute scramble to get decent seats and the delicious sense of breaking the rules that comes with getting to see something before it technically comes out. But the best part is the theater being packed with fans. Sharing that instant sense of community with a group of total strangers is part of the magic of the cinema. You are among your tribe – people who understand the film they’re about to see, it’s source material, and the industry that surrounds it. The greatest moment of my theater going experience came when Sony’s logo appeared on screen and was loudly booed by someone a few rows behind me. The whole theater burst out laughing. We, the fans, like the titular hero, have all of us come home to Marvel.

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Wonder Woman – Entertaining, but Forgettable

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I’m starting to think that DC’s business model this entire time was just to churn out enough duds that we’d be happy when they finally made something mediocre. Now the rest of the franchise can just maintain the same baseline level of acceptability and we’ll all say, “Well, at least it isn’t Suicide Squad.” For all the talk about smashing boundaries and box office records, Wonder Woman is a solid B grade at best. This is the standard superhero origin story that we’ve seen time and again. Though it is competently made and lacks the structural and tonal issues of its predecessors, it suffers from a deficit of creativity that makes the film feel tired and familiar.

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