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When it comes to telling a story about war, the filmmaking game has been hitting many of the same strides for a couple of decades now. Ever since 1998’s Saving Private Ryan and the opening scene set on Omaha Beach, war movies, especially those set during World War II, have been satisfied retreading that same water, rolling with similar tides, giving us much of what we’ve already seen before. It takes a true craftsman in the game to deliver something fresh but still maintain a sense of scope, compassion, and intensity. That craftsman, apparently, is Christopher Nolan, who has been reshaping genres and defying expectations since his 2000 thriller, Memento, floored audiences with its disjointed structure. Nolan is the craftsman, and Dunkirk, a WWII movie unlike any seen or experienced before, is the stunning result of his craft. Told over the course of one week in the extremely early days of the Second World War, the film quickly brushes over the …

Written and directed by Luc Besson (of Léon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita, and Lucy), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on the Valérian and Laureline graphic novel series by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. First published in 1967 in the French comics magazine, Pilote, the seminal science fiction series paved the way for Heavy Metal, and informed George Lucas’ Star Wars and Besson’s 1997 film, The Fifth Element, for which Mézières contributed concept art. The live-action adaptation, independently crowd-sourced and personally funded by Besson, is supposedly now the most expensive independent film ever made, but does it live up to its influential source material? Set in the year 2740, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets follows Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan, A Cure for Wellness) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne, Suicide Squad), special operatives tasked with upholding the law throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense (Herbie Hancock), the …

The Planet of the Apes series is as inevitable to the world of science fiction film as laws of nature are to the actual world. There will always be a continuation to the franchise that began in 1968 and instantly turned sci-fi on its ear. So, too, is the inevitability of the new trilogy of films that serves as precursor to that original franchise, first in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and again in 2014 with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Completing this trilogy is War for the Planet of the Apes, a film that delivers on all aspects to that title with absolute precision and then some. Under direction by Dawn director Matt Reeves and aided by a stunning, motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis, War is an emotionally charged and impressively executed culmination of this reboot that will likely go down as memorably as that original, sci-fi classic. Once again Serkis fills the role …

There are film festivals that take place in big cities, with screenings at huge performance venues, and lines that go down the block. Then there’s festivals that take place in tiny towns, where dedicated cinephiles go to discover amazing films big and small. The Karlovy Vary Film Festival is one of these outstanding little festivals that takes place in a small spa town in the Czech Republic Czechia. This was my first year attending Karlovy Vary, which I had heard great things about from many colleagues for years, and it lives up to the hype. It’s an excellent festival in a beautiful town nestled in the hills, and they show tons of stellar films. Coincidentally, I’d already seen many of their big centerpieces (A Ghost Story, Wind River, The Big Sick, Columbus) at other festivals but was still happy to stop by for a week of catching up with other great films. Back in 2010, I wrote an editorial about how …

Meet Dalibor. He’s an industrial painter from the Czech Republic, still living with his mom even though he’s almost 40 years old. Dalibor is a neo-Nazi, who doesn’t believe that concentration camps were used to kill anyone. He spends his free time drinking with a friend, playing video games, and making weird YouTube videos with cheesy voice distortion and cheap video filters. The White World According to Daliborek is a documentary that follows Dalibor (he’s called Daliborek in the English title) as he shows us around his world. While at first it seems like no one is challenging him, slowly but surely he is confronted by the truth. I’ve never come across anything like this documentary before, it’s utterly fascinating and impressively calm. Directed by Czech filmmaker Vít Klusák, The White World According to Daliborek is shockingly incredible in so many ways. I don’t know how Klusák convinced Dalibor to let him document his life, and let him use his own …

What is like to grow up as a teen without any limits in modern Berlin? Axolotl Overkill shows us exactly what that life is like, and it’s as wild and crazy and totally nonchalant as you might expect. Adapted from a book by Helene Hegemann, Axolotl Overkill follows 16-year-old Mifti around Berlin, as she goes to clubs and parties, drinking and smoking and doing drugs, sleeping wherever, and whenever, with whomever she wants. The film is written and directed by Helene Hegemann, adapting her own novel, and stars German native Jasna Fritzi Bauer as the carefree teen. As aimless as the film is, I couldn’t help find it thoroughly engaging and impressively entertaining. Not all of it makes sense, but then again, neither does life anyway. Axolotl Overkill is about Mifti, who is self-diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the death of her mother, with whom she was very close to. She surrounds herself with a very weird, but colorful mix …

Created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, Spider-Man first appeared in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15, an anthology series published by Marvel Comics. The character’s origin story goes something like this: Midtown High’s only professional wallflower, Peter Parker, becomes a web-slinging “wall-crawler” when he is bitten by a radioactive spider and acquires the proportionate strength and agility of an arachnid. 55 years later, Spider-Man has become one of the most popular superheroes ever, inspiring countless comics, cartoons, video games, and not one but two film franchises: Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (2002-2007) and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man series (2012-2014). Those movies, produced and distributed by Sony, have their moments, but ultimately fail to deliver a definitive take on the character. Enter the appropriately titled Spider-Man: Homecoming, a new film co-produced by Marvel Studios proving third time’s the charm. After making his spectacular debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man (Tom Holland) joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in its sixteenth entry. …

There are plenty of great films in recent years about finding yourself and staying true to who you are deep down. Freak Show is another one of these films, but it has a refreshingly optimistic feel to it that makes it stand out. I’m not sure how this film got lost in the mix – it first premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, but hasn’t played at any other festivals in America yet. I caught it at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and it’s an entertaining, enjoyable, optimistic story about personal identity and fighting back against bullies (not with violence, but with pride and courage). Alex Lawther stars a young, gay high school student named Billy Bloom who dresses up lavishly every day (think: Lady Gaga) yet the film isn’t so much about homosexuality as it is about being totally yourself, and finding a way to survive even if you don’t fit in with everyone else. Lawther’s performance as Billy Bloom …

The British writer-director behind the “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy – consisting of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013) – and also the director behind 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Edgar Wright, is known for his unique, kinetic, energetic cinematic style. Unlike most comedy directors working today, Wright finds humor in the filmmaking, utilizing framing, lighting, mise-en-scène, camera movement, editing, and sound to pull as much comedy out of a scene as possible. With his latest film, Baby Driver, Wright has not only improved upon his signature style, but matured with it. Like David Fincher, Wright is honing his craft with every film he makes, relying less on his style and more on imbuing the style with substance. If his early works are similar to those of Fincher’s (Se7en, The Game, Fight Club), then Baby Driver is his Zodiac — a disciplined and elegantly orchestrated thriller that feels both effortless and impossibly intricate. It …

In less than 20 years, and with five feature films under her belt, filmmaker Sofia Coppola has amassed a rather small but powerful slate of motion pictures. Small though it is, her filmography is a charged batch of feminist expression that tells the world she isn’t ready to unleash her next expression until she is good and ready. So it is that we come to her sixth feature, The Beguiled, a remake of the 1971, Don Siegel-directed, Clint Eastwood-starring thriller about the dangers of misogyny in the days of the American Civil War. As with her previous works, it’s an immaculately crafted and powerful drama of human interaction and survival in this male-dominated world, and, once again just like her previous efforts, The Beguiled is a phenomenal film, an early candidate as one of the best films the year will offer. Based on the 1966 novel written by Thomas P. Cullinan, the film tells the story of John McBurney (Colin Farrell), …