Atomic Blonde

We’ve seen twisty Cold War Berlin action/spy thrillers before, but none with Charlize Theron as an uber-competent agent kicking ass to an ’80s soundtrack. You may get lost in the twists (drawing in James McAvoy, John Goodman, and Sofia Boutella) along the way—indeed, it may not all add up—but it doesn’t matter; the action sequences pack the visceral punch of a punk rock mosh pit. Dive in. —YSM

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

In the candy-colored, interstellar future of VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS, bug-eyed primitives long to doll you up in pretty dresses, Rihanna pole dances with quick-change dexterity, and muppet-faced toddler aliens play shoot-’em-up with whatever species drops in. None of it has anything to do with anything, but these lightweight, meandering misadventures at least flaunt the visual creativity that a movie derived from a sci-fi comic book series ought to have. Sadly, that can’t distract from the core plot, whose themes were hackneyed even before Avatar beat  them into the Pandoran ground. (The wronged aliens even look a bit like the Na’vi and share their granola-munching nature-centric ways, to the point that one expects their princess, who greets the morning with arm-waving sincerity, to shoot rainbows out of her ass. Oh wait. She does it from her forehead.) Worse, director Luc Besson gives us zero reason to care about the heroes, human galactic federal agents Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and Laureline (Clara Delevingne), and even less about their chemistry-free will-they-or-won’t-they banter, which only they never seem to tire of. Yawn. –YSM

 

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Dunkirk

Gripping from its first seconds, Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK–he wrote, directed, and produced this immersive experience of a crucial moment in WWII–focuses strictly on the 400,000 British soldiers stranded on a beach in France, and the seamen (Kenneth Branagh), airmen (Tom Hardy), and ultimately civilians (Mark Rylance) who try to rescue them. (The face of the enemy who has them hemmed in, stalking them at every turn, is never seen.) Its slightly fractured telling of time and sometimes inconvenient cuts between different theaters of action can’t undermine the inherent power of the tale or the visual sweep of Nolan’s conception. But this is as much composer Hans Zimmer’s movie, as nearly every minute is scored–usually a poor choice, but in this case it sets the grinding mood that’s key to sustaining the tension. Mercifully we can’t relive these young soldiers’ ordeal, but DUNKIRK lands as close as anyone is likely to get. –YSM

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Wish Upon

Stepping behind the scythe the Final Destination series left behind, WISH UPON gets right down to bloody business, wasting not a millisecond on niceties like character development or carefully crafted, evocative visuals; this is a pure pastiche of horror movie tropes. But WISH UPON mines them with such gleeful shamelessness that it achieves the level of mind-numbing stupidfun: It’s never a question of whether someone will die, but which one, and how, with the telegraphed answers teased out for maximum squirm-in-your-seat effect. Plus the heroine (Joey King), a high-school misfit who finds a cursed wishing box and uses it to predictably toxic results, eventually becomes so idiotic and annoying that you root for her next calamity. Best seen surrounded by a vocal audience, though few of them will be able to ID the once-young heartthrobs of yesteryear (Ryan Phillippe, Sherilyn Fenn, Elisabeth Rohm, Jerry O’Connell) aged into parental guardian roles. One minor end-credit postscript. —YSM

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War for the Planet of the Apes

How can WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES be so slow and ponderous, when A) it’s supposed to be a war, and B) the apes are so nimble and quick? Probably because this tale—pitting intelligent ape leader Caesar (the always excellent Andy Serkis) against an ape-exterminating Colonel (Woody Harrelson phoning it in) and his human soldiers—is freighted with biblical allusions from Christ to Moses, choirs singing, bells tolling, an angelic innocent, etc, ad infinitum. It may be time for this rebooted series to call a temporary cessation of hostilities against beleaguered audiences. —YSM

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Baby Driver

Not to be mistaken for an animated kiddie romp, BABY DRIVER–a high-octane heist/chase flick–may zoom off with the title of sleeper hit of the summer. Writer-director Edgar Wright’s gimmick: A youthful ace getaway driver called Baby (Ansel Elgort) has to drown out his tinnitus with tunes constantly piped in by his earbuds, meaning that as he falls for a waitress (Lily James) and runs afoul of assorted hard-bitten criminals (Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, and a terrifying Jamie Foxx), the action is married to pop music, even more fluidly than in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The story won’t entirely convince, but when you’re spinning at 120 mph to Martha & the Vandellas’ “Nowhere To Run” in wheels this slick, it doesn’t have to.   –YSM

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Spider-Man: Homecoming

Marvel keeps winning. They’re winning so much, they’re gonna get sick of winning. Their latest winner, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, might seem like yet another reboot too soon, but don’t let that put you off from this somersault of pure summer fun, loaded with Spidey’s irrepressible, high-school-POV humor. The fact that they’ve merged Spidey (British fresh-face Tom Holland dons the tights and the Queens accent) into the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe allows Robert Downey Jr.’s smart-mouthed Iron Man to lend an assist; Marisa Tomei gamely takes the thankless role of a youthful Aunt May; and Michael Keaton as the Vulture gives a unique, blue-collar twist on the villain. The acrobatic action is unobtrusively backed by great tunes, too. Stick around for the usual Marvel postscripts, the second one in particular. —YSM

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The Ornithologist

A bird researcher, and he’s gay, and he’s hot (Paul Hamy): a promising start, at least from this viewer’s perspective, even if the initial proceedings (paddling on a river, beautiful birds, paddling on a river some more) glide along like Animal Planet for the stoned. But then THE ORNITHOLOGIST (from Portugal, with dialogue in Portuguese, Chinese, English, and—go figure—Latin) plunges down the rapids to become an allegorical journey of the soul, where Symbolism stomps around in big, clompy, absurd shoes, because Religion. Mix liberally with not-so-inadvertent scenes of bondage and water sports. Someone must have thought this all made some kind of sense. Someone was wrong. —YSM

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47 Meters Down

In the genre of mindnumbing stupidfun (yes, that’s a genre), 47 METERS DOWN achieves new depths—and that’s a good thing. Grab some popcorn, watch sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore, mom Rebecca from TV’s This Is Us) and Kate (Claire Holt) enter the shark cage in great white–infested waters, and know that everything that could possibly go wrong, will. Enjoy. —YSM

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It Comes at Night

In a plague-ravaged world, survivors may have as much to fear from each other as from the plague itself. This setup, familiar to any fan of TV’s The Walking Dead, gets a stylish, taut, and grimly illuminated treatment in IT COMES AT NIGHT. Sadly, for all that style, the movie proves as mis-messaged as its title. (There is no “it” nor any other supernatural element, by day or night.) Teenaged Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his mom and dad (Carmen Ejogo and Joel Edgerton) are hiding in rural isolation when they cross paths with Will (Christopher Abbott), Kim (Riley Keogh), and their young son; but by the time that meeting plays out, you may be no wiser as to what writer-director Trey Edward Shults was trying to say. At least he said it with panache. —YSM

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About Your Sacrificial Moviegoer

We love to sit in the dark with a big tub of popcorn amid a roomful of strangers. Reports on what we witness there come in two varieties: Bullet Reviews quickly and concisely convey our take on a film, always in spoiler-free fashion; Trailer Trash reveals Your Sacrificial Moviegoer's best prediction on whether an upcoming movie is worth seeing, based solely on the trailer (the short "previews" before the feature presentation).

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