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“Dunkirk”: Three Short Films About a Big Busy Beach

Dunkirk!

Probably the closest we’ll ever get to a Bane solo movie.

Before we begin our usual movie discussion format, I present to you a historic milestone here on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our first guest movie reviewer! Reprinted here in its entirety is the full summation of Christopher Nolan’s latest Best Picture nominee Dunkirk as presented to me by my wife Anne, a lifelong World War II student/expert who can deliver literally hours’ worth of speeches on numerous aspects of it without using a single note card. It’s extremely rare for Anne to write or co-write anything here on MCC because she thinks of this site as my thing and prefers to read my creative takes on our experiences. She’s contributed to maybe three or four past entries, tops, but now we can add our Dunkirk entry to her official MCC bibliography.

Take it away, Anne:

“THEY TOOK THE MIRACLE AT DUNKIRK AND MADE IT BORING!

…ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for Anne, won’t you?

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“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”: Big in China!

Valerian!

The Green Goblin and the Enchantress compare notes on the misery of comic-book movies gone horribly wrong.

One of the biggest flops at the American box office this summer may have itself a happy ending after all. Despite US receipts of $40 million against a reported budget of $177 million, the nearly forgotten sci-fi hodgepodge Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is now finding more receptive audiences overseas, where their audiences apparently have different popcorn-flick standards from ours. Or maybe their trailers were cooler. Or maybe their voices were dubbed into other languages by superior actors. Maybe you haven’t really seen director Luc Besson’s eye-popping fiasco unless you’ve watched it in Cantonese bombastically recited by Hong Kong’s greatest Shakespearean thespians.

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Nostalgia for “War for the Planet of the Apes”

War for the Planet of the Apes!

The Expendables IV: The Opposables.

While Hollywood executives and pundits rush to brainstorm excuses for this summer’s weak performance at the U.S. box office and blame anyone but themselves, too many debaters are forgetting not all the output was mediocre…which brings us at long last to War for the Planet of the Apes, a movie I liked so much that I had trouble finding anything remotely cogent to express about it beyond “It’s really good and Andy Serkis is awesome!”

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Thoughts on Netflix’s Marvel’s “The Defenders”

Defenders!

That magical moment when Our Heroes meet but aren’t sure they can take orders from the Stupendous Scarfman.

Let the record show The Defenders is an exceedingly rare event, by which I mean it’s a Netflix series I finished watching within a week of release. Normally it takes me six to eight weeks to catch up with the cool kids. Don’t ask which of my work days suffered most from accomplishing that.

It helps that season 1 is only eight episodes, much more tightly edited, averaging 45-50 minutes each — a more concise spectacle than the padding and plodding that frequently dragged the other series to the 60- to 65-minute mark for indulgent purposes. I hadn’t planned to bulldoze my way through like this, but we have a convention this weekend where we know fans will be chatting about this brand new show to pass the time in the long lines. I’d rather not have to keep cutting them off with yelps of “AHHH! SPOILERS!” while stuffing my head into my carryall so I can’t hear them.

Additional motivation struck me when episode 3 — the one where all four main characters have their first rendezvous — turned out to be such an addictive, headlong rush of comic-book excitement in the mighty Marvel manner, despite the mandatory but middling Hallway Fight. Differently impressive was part 4, directed by ace TV veteran Phil Abraham (The Sopranos, Mad Men), basically a bottle episode in which Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist finally share moments, snipe, posture, threaten to walk, connect, and subtly weave all the threads and tones from their respective, disparate corners of the Marvel Netflix Universe into a coherent tapestry over a sumptuous if mostly ignored Chinese dinner. The characters’ flaws were laid bare with self-aware candor, the overlaps between their shows were extricated, dumplings were shared, and both humor and personal drama each found their entry points.

Results after those episodes were, uh, a bit more varied. The short version: generally a wild ride, but not without its sudden bumps and occasional missing pieces of track.

Fair warning: major spoilers lie beyond not only for The Defenders but for the preceding shows as well. If you haven’t watched those other five seasons first, parts of this show will be incomprehensible. That’s a disappointment to anyone who prefers self-contained stories to these interlocking continuities that marketing departments love to pieces nowadays, but that’s how the super-hero game is played on screens nowadays, for better or worse.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During AND After the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” End Credits

Spider-Man Homecoming!

Window painting at our local theater. Yes, it has been a while.

If Marvel had simply decided twenty years sooner that Spider-Man films should be made once every three years, and that a different young British actor should play him every time, perhaps fans wouldn’t have fussed about Spider-Man: Homecoming coming so soon after Amazing Spider-Man 2. We’d be used to the rotating lead spot by now. Granted, this would’ve caused seismic shifts in our entertainment timeline — imagine if Spidey had been played years ago by a younger Daniel Radcliffe and left a weird hole in the Harry Potter franchise. Ah, what might have been.

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Technically There’s a Message After the “Baby Driver” End Credits

Baby Driver!

Spoiler photo from the Young Han Solo set, where so little budget is left for reshoots that actors have to share earbuds while being prompted with their hastily rewritten lines.

Now that Baby Driver mania has stopped taking the internet by storm, is it safe to come out of hiding and confess I didn’t think it was Edgar Wright’s Best Film Ever? It had its strong points and it’s certainly better than The World’s End, which didn’t click with me at all…

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