Dunkirk Trailer Thoughts

I may be one of the biggest critics of Christopher Nolan right now. I found “Interstellar” to be a complete waste of time that did nothing to break new ground in the sci-fi genre that “2001: A Space Odyssey” didn’t already do before and ten times better. “The Dark Knight Rises” was too muddled and convenient at times to be a suitable ending to the Batman trilogy. “The Prestige” also gets caught up in its own desires to be something fancier than it is by simple tricks of non-linear storytelling. And while I did like “Inception” I think it’s far from perfect and certainly has issues that could have been addressed by a director that isn’t living in such a fantasyland built by his own hype.

Nolan has the potential to make some great films and there’s no denying his ambition and continuous attempts at originality, but for every good film he makes like “The Dark Knight” or “Insomnia” there are equally bad films that try so hard to be special that they end up getting lost in achieving that goal before it can even focus on just being good. Nolan is at his best when he ignores the hype. “Insomnia” came when he was still relatively unknown except for fans of “Memento” and “The Dark Knight” followed “Batman Begins,” which was a good first film in the trilogy but nothing close to the level of “The Dark Knight” that catapulted him to stardom.

Yes, “The Dark Knight” is one of the premier mainstream films of this century no doubt, but most of that is due in large part to Heath Ledger’s stellar performance. The writing is still impeccable in this film and it would still be great without Ledger, but it certainly wouldn’t be the classic that it’s regarded today.

Enter: “Dunkirk.” I can never fault Nolan for his ability to be versatile in his directing endeavors. He can blend between genres with relative ease and I’m excited to see what he does with a war film. Are we going to see the pompous and obnoxious Nolan, or the humble and driven Nolan that’s created some great modern works? It’s tough to tell from the trailer.

The trailer from “Dunkirk” is certainly engaging, presents some of the morality themes of war that Nolan wants to address, but it still keeps much to be desired, as a good trailer should. The set pieces look lovely at first look with a good mix of prominent actors and potential newcomers. The film is set up to allow for naval, aerial and land battle sequences to give some variety to the war sequences (this makes me think it’ll be a long film and this use of different military divisions will allow for changes of pace throughout).

Overall the trailer is fine but I have one major concern going in. Christopher Nolan loves filming complex ideas and concepts like in “Inception” and “Interstellar.” Both these films suffer because they care more about explaining the complex storyline rather than focusing on the characters that should be humanizing the film. As Nolan’s budgets and ambitions grow bigger, his characters become more of a formality.

“Saving Private Ryan” is my favorite World War II film and while the battle sequences are fantastic, what makes it a classic is the connection to the soldiers that Spielberg instills in between each sequence of war. We care about Private Ryan and all the soldiers in the company and that’s what makes it stand out above the rest. I don’t see Christopher Nolan being able to do that in this film. The lovely set pieces and varying battlegrounds have so much attention in the trailer that I’m concerned they’ll take away from the humanizing elements of the film, which above all else are most important in the war genre. Maybe I’m wrong and he’ll make a classic, but I’m not convinced at this point.

 

“Dunkirk” comes out to theater on July 21st, 2017.

“DAMN.” Review

Over the past few years, Kendrick Lamar has arguably given the strongest case for best rapper currently making music. His amazing storytelling, brilliant lyrical play, keen ear for beats, and creative nature for themes in his albums have separated him from the rest of the pack in many areas. While I think he doesn’t quite reach the creative heights that Kanye reaches, I think his rapping ability and storytelling do manage to be better than Mr. West on most occasions, with “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” being the main exception. Nonetheless, since the release of “Section.80,” Kendrick has given us not only some of the best hip-hop albums, but some of the best concept albums of recent years.

But despite creating such acclaimed works, he never really reached the superstar status that some artists have. He certainly has no problems with albums sales, but his numbers have always paled when compared to the Drake’s of the world, despite Drake being a much worse artist. But all that changed with “DAMN.” When he announced his new album would be coming out, all fans of hip-hop went into a frenzy unlike any I had seen since the lead up to “Life of Pablo.” Kendrick has finally reached superstar heights, so was he going to release a superstar album?

As I’ve come to expect with any new Kendrick album, it sounds like nothing he’s ever recorded. His versatility over his career is continuously astonishing, and this album’s diversity is no different. He manages to have a variety of tones and atmospheres on this album that keep it interesting even after multiple listens. Yet these different sounds come together in a pleasant way that still manage to sound coherent and work as an overall free-flowing project.

I do like “DAMN.” I think it’s one of the better hip-hop albums I’ve heard this year and Kendrick has some amazing songs here. Tracks like “DNA” and “HUMBLE” are undeniably addictive and braggadocios but still have multiple layers to them and songs like “FEAR” and “ELEMENT” help us into the mind of a truly troubled artist struggling to find answers to some incredibly philosophical questions. “LOYALTY” sounds like a quality, light-hearted summer song and “LOVE” shows Kendrick can take Drake’s music formula and create a track that’s better than anything off of “More Life.”

But unlike some of Kendrick’s other albums, there are a few tracks on here that I found to be really uninspiring. I didn’t think much of the song “GOD” and whatever Kendrick was doing with his vocal inflections. “YAW” was another track that seemed rather lackluster and didn’t contribute a lot to the album sonically. Those two tracks are the only two I skip when going through the album now, but that’s a rare phenomenon for me when listening to previous Kendrick albums.

I’ve always had my favorites on albums like “Good Kid, M.a.a.d. City” but I’ve never felt the desire to skip a track when going through the entire album. While “DAMN” is undeniably good, it’s just not quite as good as Kendrick’s previous works such as “Good Kid” or “To Pimp a Butterfly.” I like his level of confidence being displayed here and applaud him for deciding that he just wants to rap rather than create another layered concept album, but this album feels too safe, too mundane at times when compared to what we know he is capable of producing. It’s by far my least favorite Kendrick Lamar album out of his major studio releases, but at the end of the day, most artists would love to have their worst album be as good as “DAMN” is because it’s still better than any album we’ve heard from Drake or J. Cole. It only helps his case for the best rapper of all time and he absolutely has to be in that discussion after providing another piece of quality hip-hop.