Kicking the Tweets

Dunkirk (2017)

I can’t recall another war film as uniquely effective as Dunkirk. Writer/director Christopher Nolan takes us on an unrelenting tour of hell that makes Saving Private Ryan look like In the Army Now--without spilling a quart of blood or writing more than thirty minutes of dialogue. Centered on an early World War II skirmish that saw British soldiers trapped between advancing Nazis and the Atlantic Ocean, Nolan time-hops between three narratives as they converge, further driving home the oppressive disorientation of conflict. Dunkirk may be a monster-budget, mainstream summer movie headed up by smoldering hunks (Tom Hardy, Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh) and a pop sensation (Harry Styles), but it is not escapism. This is subjective confrontism at its finest, a reminder that war reduces everyday life to unending, awful choices in the service of mere survival. I imagine multiplexes replacing those obnoxious 3D glasses receptacles this weekend with trauma-blanket kiosks.

Check out Kicking the Seat Podcast #242 to hear Ian head for the shoreline with Erik Childress of the Movie Madness Podcast!


The Little Hours (2017)

I didn’t fully appreciate The Little Hours until I saw it a second time, in a completely different setting than the first. This 14th century sex comedy about a runaway slave (Dave Franco) who pretends to be a deaf mute while seeking refuge in a convent full of aggressively horny misfit nuns (including Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza) is a crowd-pleaser for sure, but writer-director Jeff Baena’s raunchy spin on Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron addresses societal and religious oppression with a tenderness that is, oddly, best absorbed in solitude (it’s the difference between praying in church and meditating at home). Goofy supporting players Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, and John C. Reilly contribute to debauched lunacy that is as sure to offend anyone who holds traditional religious sensibilities as The Satanic Bible. But look beyond the witchcraft jokes and sitcom setups, and you’ll find a beautiful little movie about self-discovery.


Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #241 to hear Ian get schooled on "nunsploitation" by writer/director Jeff Baena!


A Ghost Story (2017)

My love for A Ghost Story was hard won, and it’s a tricky film to recommend. David Lowery front-loads his love-from-beyond-the-grave story with Terence Malick’s worst habits (yes, you really have to watch blank-eyed Rooney Mara eat pie for five minutes), and mainstream moviegoers who reach the half-way point are right to expect a medal (and coffee). Watch out for the party scene, though, which blows up the narrative like 2001’s “star gate” sequence did. From here, Lowery forces us to question everything, including his film’s very presentation: shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio with fuzzy, rounded edges, cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo’s secretly grand compositions at once evoke slide-show nostalgia and the predicament of Lowery’s titular, sheet-draped spirit (Casey Affleck), who is confined by shifting but eternal walls of regret—or, as we see them, vertical black bars. This movie will never leave you, as long as you don’t leave it.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #239 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie conjur up some thoughts on A Ghost Story!


Wish Upon (2017)

A friend asked how I could recommend seeing a garbage movie like Wish Upon in theatres—as opposed to waiting for VOD, cable, or piracy. My advocacy of John R. Leonetti’s cursed-antique thriller comes with a list of caveats longer than the film's 90-minute run-time. So here are three: First, it’s fun to watch the charismatic cast, who’ve shined in other projects, make lemonade from a script soaked in that other yellow liquid. Second, the premise (an evil music box grants a teen's wishes, to disastrous effect) lends itself to vicious supporting characters who side with the audience in calling out our alleged protagonist’s silly, selfish actions. Lastly, the experience of collectively watching big ideas, complicated emotions, and gruesome deaths get teased and discarded in favor of watery, PG-13 mall horror makes Wish Upon feel like a raucous college course in half-measure filmmaking. Group laughter is more gratifying than solitary tears.


Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #240 to hear Ian and Emmanuel Noisette of Eman's Movie Reviews wish for some alternate universes of their own!


Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

The third time isn’t just the charm with Marvel’s big-screen take on Spider-Man, it’s the “Aha!” moment moviegoers didn’t know they needed. As teased in last summer’s Captain America: Civil War, the team behind Spidey’s latest incarnation wields great power in simply presenting us with a smart, goofily charming, and forthright teen (played here by Tom Holland) whose high school troubles are on par with the threat posed by wannabe supervillains. Miraculously, the six credited screenwriters don’t shirk their responsibility to the audience, foregoing another tired origin-story movie in favor of straight-to-the-point adventure and complex character dynamics that dazzle the brain as much as the web-slinging, monuments-crumbling effects assault the eyes. This reboot swings high above its predecessors as a relative model of restraint, and a signal to comic book movie fans that some franchises just need to percolate (yes, even for fifteen years) before they’re ready to suit up.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #237 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie sling their views on Spider-Man: Homecoming!