Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Six Studio Films Past, Present & Future

I’ve been away on a vacation these last couple of weeks so the indie factor has gotten a tad harder to keep up with (nobody does smaller films in volume like LA!), but I have seen some studio fare and wanted to share some cinematical views.  For this particular article I’m delving into big budget flicks from recent past, present and even future to cover more of the movie spectrum and get back up to date.  Offbeat rom-coms, new spidey stories, more apes adventures, sprawling space sagas, 70mm war flicks and a little ass-kicking female action all get covered via the Encapsulated Movie Reviews that follow.  Check out the critical skinny on The Big Sick, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War For The Planet Of The Apes, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, Dunkirk and Atomic Blonde below.


(Lionsgate/Amazon Studios)

Based on a true story, this comedic rom-com actually works best when the funny is turned off.  Meaning the wry humor of lead man Kumail Nanjiani is both hit and miss, but he and everyone else are at their movie most when deep drama is required.  (That goes double for funnyman Ray Romano playing a disheveled dad!)  It’s actually not that surprising what works given the somber story scenario (a girl Nanjiani recently broke up with goes into a coma!) and the film does bring forth sincere viewer tears for sure, just wish with Judd Apatow’s name attached the punchlines were equally as powerful and plentiful.


Any spidey outing would be a step up from the horrible Andrew Garfield era of web slinger stories, but thankfully Marvel knows how to do the teen tale right.  With just the right amount of adolescent angst (Tom Holland covers the Peter Parker geek factor!), a relatable villain (a decent Michael Keaton!) and a pinch of Iron Man, Homecoming is definitely entertaining.  Though with Sam Raimi all but setting the superhero bar for matching story with signature style la Spider-Man 2, this one via Clown and Cop Car helmer Jon Watts feels alternately generic and altogether without any strong  sense of visual identity.  In a movie world where an auteur puts his artistic ass on the line, Watts is a big studios safe bet.

(20th Century Fox)

This third helping in the Apes trilogy is definitely well shot, well-acted and well executed.  It also unfortunately covers utterly familiar story ground from the first two films and as a result War begs the basic question to be asked – what’s new here?  We get the angst of Caesar trying to become a strong yet thoughtful leader, know the moral play involving humans vs. apes and have been beaten over the head about what it means to be responsible and not lose sight of who you are.  The only new item besides Steve Zahn’s quirky new Bad Ape (very Steve Zahn!) is Woody Harrelson’s lead which is a lame take on Brando’s Col. Kurtz – even in characters War repeats what’s already been done.


(STX Entertainment)

While a film fluff fest with thin side characters, story holes galore and a less-than-effective chemistry between its two leads, I confess I dug the hell out of Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets.  Like The Fifth Element on nitroglycerin, Luc Besson steps up the visual savvy here and the result is a flick that has a serious wonder to watch factor.  Whether it’s seeing alternate realities in a tourist trade market (a fantastically fun sequence!) or being witness to the shape shifting charms of alien dancer Bubble (the captivating Rihanna!), Besson gets the most out of every frame of Valerian for an experience that all but requires big screen viewing.  Wish that the mundane and miscast Dane DeHaan as Valerian had come up to the charisma level of the divine Cara Delevingne as Laureline, but no matter.  Leaps and bounds above the lackluster Lucy, though not as well executed as character rich as La Femme Nikita, Besson’s entertaining movie gamble pays off big time.

(Warner Bros.)

The good news here is exactly what one would expect from a Chris Nolan film – Dunkirk looks and sounds fantastic.  From the massive grandiose beach scenes to the smallest close-up of an actor’s face everything here is in crystal clear picture quality and the sound uses a pulsating tone mixed with Hans Zimmer’s score to maximum effect.  (And yes, I saw it in 70mm IMAX and it was worth every penny!)  Bad news is that with the short running time the story is thrown to the backburner and given little time to grow, with the characters equally thin thus making viewer investment hard to accomplish.  (Tom Hardy’s airman being the single notable exception!)  Plus Nolan also plays with time lines here harkening back to his work in Memento (not backwards of course!), but with a straight forward tale like Dunkirk it proves to be more of a distraction than a clever creative choice.  Looking and sounding good but with little internal life to show, Dunkirk is Nolan at his studio summer fare best.


(Focus Features)

With a kick-ass trailer that mixed stylistic visuals and hard hitting action, I had very high expectations going into Charlize Theron’s action follow up to her five-star turn as Fury Road’s Furiosa.  And while there are some riveting raw action set pieces and a ton of on-screen eye-candy to boot, Atomic Blonde is a film never quite lives up to its full potential.  Much like his uncredited work on the first John Wick, David Leitch has a strong handle on certain scenes, but his delivery of a single cohesive film is seriously lacking.  Not to mention that unlike the distinctively female-centric Furiosa, Theron here essentially takes on role written for a man, seemingly just so the viewer can get a little extra heat during female-on-female sex scenes.  The one five-star element the film does get right is the complete 80’s homage soundtrack that screams retro LP release – it’s a toe-tapping musical masterclass I’d put it up against Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver selections any day of the week.




I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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