Pictures at a (Movie) Exposition

Visuals are the story in this week’s new movie releases, including Dunkirk and Lady Macbeth

Dunkirk: You. Are. There. Well, not really. But it gets at the feeling.
  • Dunkirk: You. Are. There. Well, not really. But it gets at the feeling.

Director Christopher Nolan wants to remind folks why they go to movie theaters — instead of, you know, watching a movie on a telephone. In this critic’s humble opinion, he succeeds admirably in that effort with his retreat-as-victory war movie Dunkirk. (The link takes you to showtimes for the regular release, but I highly recommend seeking out the biggest format — IMAX, 70mm, the broad side of a barn, what have you — you can find.) The poster might as well have a You. Are. There. tagline. It’s good, is what I’m saying.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets 1.0

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Visuals also rule the day in Luc Besson’s sci-fi romp Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. As in, the visuals are just about the only thing that’s interesting or engaging. In happy contrast to that is the fine debut drama Lady Macbeth, which keeps its words to a minimum and lets the pictures (and facial expressions) do much of the talking. (Coda for the unreviewed: The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography is also big on pictures, as the title may have indicated.)

Of course, sometimes the most powerful pictures are the ones that never show up on screen. Case in point: Kôji Fukada’s Harmonium. As Scott notes in his review: “There are moments when you’ll feel inclined to look away, but don’t; what Fukada shows is nothing compared to the pictures his sly visual foreshadowing has already planted in your head.” And other times, there are pictures — indeed, whole scenes — that we would be better off not seeing. Case in point: Oliver Hirschbiegel’s botched-Hitler-assassination story 13 Minutes. As he notes in his review: “It puts one in the mind to make a meme: Hitler reacts to Oliver Hirschbiegel’s prosaic flashback transitions.”

Also opening but unreviewed: ladies’ Big Easy road-trip comedy Girls Trip and art-imitates-life-imitates-art Shakespeare riff Hermia and Helena.

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