Summer movie round-up — Part 1

JULY 22 — You know you’re right in the middle of the summer movie season when you’re bombarded with so many big movies in just one weekend! 

And it’ll take at least three or four trips to your local cinema to catch up with the new stuff that’s been playing in the last two weeks. 

It’s even crazier when you take into account non-Hollywood movies that are also worth checking out, which makes this particular week a very dizzy one as we’re truly spoilt for choice with Dunkirk, Baby Driver, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, local film Kerja Kahwin and Hong Kong legend Ann Hui’s latest film Our Time Will Come all opening on the same day this week.

I’ve only managed to catch Dunkirk so far, so the remaining four (or three, depending on how much I will get to see later this week) of the new releases will have to wait for next week’s column, but combined with two other new films which opened last week, I think a summer movie round-up is in order.

War For The Planet Of The Apes

The trailer easily made this one of my most anticipated blockbuster films of the year; its operatic tone and the promise of excellence from the impressively consistent Matt Reeves (who helmed the previous entry Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes) raising pretty high hopes that this one might just turn out to be a modern masterpiece. 

Despite the barrage of rave reviews for this instalment in the Apes saga, I humbly think that if I had to rate the trilogy in order of preference, it would have to go like this — Dawn, Rise and War.

This is not to say that War is a bad film. As far as summer movies go, it clearly ranks as one of the best ones in recent memory but there’s just something obvious about the ways it plays for our emotions (and boy is this one emotional or what?) that makes you feel that the whole film is striving too hard for importance. 

Like a child who tries too hard to be taken seriously and you kind of wish that he or she would take it down a notch, that’s what it felt like for me during the more important parts of the film. It’s good, but don’t believe the hype.


How funny is it that we actually get two movies that revolve around the Dunkirk defeat (or evacuation, or whatever you want to call it) this year? This, which is everyone’s favourite genius auteur Christopher Nolan’s latest film, is of course the more prominent of the two, the other one being Lone Scherfig’s sly little feminist comedy of manners Their Finest.

Despite the obviously much bigger budget, with stunts aplenty and even real (and not CGI) extras, what really makes Nolan’s movie special is how intimate and small it still feels, which makes it the perfect companion piece to the much smaller and of course intimate Their Finest (or the other way around).

Both films more or less make it their raison d’etre to celebrate the bravery of the civilians who used their own boats to pick up the British soldiers retreating from Dunkirk, but what Nolan does here almost feels like Hitchcock doing a Nolan film — a breathless thriller (Hitchcock) that deftly plays with non-linear storytelling (a Nolan trademark), in which all the characters are linked together in very satisfying ways that will never once confuse the audience (credit must go to editor Lee Smith for effortlessly stitching all the narrative strands together). 

Already touted as an Oscar contender, Nolan has crafted a film that’s both big and small. At only 1 hour and 46 minutes, it can even count brevity as one of its many virtues, and who’d have thought that was possible from a post-Memento Nolan film?

Jagga Jasoos

A few years back, I got quite unreasonably excited about a little Hindi film called Barfi! I thought it felt like a wondrous love child of Wes Anderson and Charlie Chaplin and I made it clear to anyone who’d listen how much of a must-see the film was and still is. 

Finally writer-director Anurag Basu’s long awaited follow-up film Jagga Jasoos arrives, after quite a few reported delays even after a release date has been scheduled. 

Having seen the movie, I can probably see why there’s been a delay — they’ve either run out of money to properly shoot everything or there’s some sort of forced ending or inadequate reshoots involved that made the film’s climax a jumpy and jumbled mess.

But even after taking into account the chaotic and terrible way the film ended, there’s no denying the spectacular amount of ideas and visual invention crammed into the first 2/3 of the film (it might be even a bigger portion actually — more like 4/5 or 5/6 of the film). 

Like Indiana Jones, Sherlock Holmes and Tin-Tin all rolled into one, Basu’s tale of a stuttering young man’s search for his missing father is a musical (because Jagga has to sing in order to get over his stutter) adventure film unlike anything you’ve seen before.

It’s got a theatrical framing device that’s never fully explained, plenty of silent comedy-inspired set-pieces (including one with a payoff that cleverly references Buster Keaton’s most legendary gag in Steamboat Bill Jr.) and whole sequences where every line of dialogue is sung, which makes it a very memorable watch indeed. 

Both problematic and ambitious, this film is worth watching just for the thrill of watching a film-maker going for broke alone.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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