Somethin’s comin’, somethin’ good: this week, Paul and Arlo pirouette through a discussion of Steven Spielberg’s new take on West Side Story, nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. Is it a spoiler to say they love it? The boys discuss how Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner’s changes enrich the text, why choreographer Justin Peck’s bold choice to discard Jerome Robbins’ iconic choreography was the right move, what it means for the Sharks to be played by Latinx actors, and the joy of watching Spielberg treat every musical number like his and Janusz Kaminski’s playground. Plus, Taco Bell sends Arlo spiraling into an existential crisis, and the boys chat about this year’s other Best Picture nominees.
NEXT: Si Spurrier and Jeff Stokely’s Six-Gun Gorilla is locked and loaded for this month’s Four-Color Flashback.
Gobbledygeek episode 320, “Dunkirk: Beach Battle Bingo,” is available for listening or download right here and on iTunes here.
Sun, spray, bullets, and blood: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk recounts the worst beach trip in history, as 400,000 Allied troops were trapped by the Nazis in Dunkirk, France. The word Paul and Arlo keep coming back to as a descriptor is “relentless.” 107 minutes of third-act intensity, Dunkirk may be the purest expression of Nolan’s watchmaker-precise skill. The boys discuss the film’s three interweaving time strands, the lack of overt character development (except for that moment), Hans Zimmer’s ticking time bomb of a score, and why the movie never names or shows its Nazi enemies. Plus, Arlo is convinced the rest of the world is experiencing a mass delusion regarding Arrested Development season 4; and the boys take a look at the SDCC trailers for Ready Player One, Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, Stranger Things, and The Defenders.
Next: it’s another Four-Color Flashback, as Ensley F. Guffey, co-author of Wanna Cook? The Complete Unauthorized Guide to Breaking Bad, joins Paul and Arlo to discuss Y: The Last Man – Vol. 7: Paper Dolls.
The penultimate pre-Avengers Marvel franchise hit like a thunderbolt! Well, a severe summer shower at least. Chris Hemsworth (Papa Kirk from Abrams’ Star Trek) plays the titular Thunder God, an impetuous and brash young warrior eager to earn the respect of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Instead, he reignites a war with his people’s ancient enemies the Frost Giants, and finds himself exiled, penitent and powerless, to Earth. There’s a rushed romance with a sexy scientist (Natalie Portman); a fun but sadly bloodless battle to reclaim his birthright Mjolnir, the literal hammer of the gods; and a final showdown with his half-brother, the once and future God of Mischief. But the real highlights of the film aren’t the action set pieces: Hemsworth is a joy, with the muscles and the cocky but charming smirk; Hopkins chews the scenery appropriately, adding to the Shakespearean vibe director Kenneth Branagh was aiming for; and Tom Hiddleston as Loki steals the show with his wounded-little-boy-in-the-body-of-a-god routine. My earlier review was perhaps a bit glowing for what is probably just a good-not-great summer popcorn film…but then perhaps not. I look forward to watching it again and seeing if the ol’ Asgardian magic can still enchant me like it did before. – Paul Smith
THE GREAT DICTATOR: The Criterion Collection (DVD/Blu-ray)
You don’t necessarily equate Charlie Chaplin with vicious satire. But in 1940, with the U.S. still at peace with Nazi Germany, Chaplin made The Great Dictator, one of the most biting pieces of satire in cinema history. It was the first major film to take on Hitler and Nazism, and Chaplin tackled both subjects with eviscerating wit. Chaplin plays both a Jewish barber (thought by some to be the final iteration of his Little Tramp character; Chaplin had different feelings about that at different points in his life) and Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomainia. Hynkel’s impassioned speeches, in a made-up language, are hilarious, and a scene involving a giant globe is memorable. The critical community has a mixed consensus on the film’s closing monologue, addressing the film’s themes in a deadly serious fashion instead of a comic one; I can understand the frustration of some, but to me it’s stirring. After last year’s Criterion edition of Modern Times, The Great Dictator is the second Chaplin film to join the prestigious Criterion Collection; special features on both the DVD and Blu-ray include audio commentary by Chaplin historians Dan Kamin and Hooman Mehran, a Kenneth Branagh-narrated documentary entitled The Tramp and the Dictator, two visual essays, color production footage shot by Chaplin’s half-brother Sydney, a deleted scene from Chaplin’s 1919 film Sunnyside, and a theatrical trailer.
I’ve long thought that Marvel’s overarching plan for its homegrown superhero movies was absolutely insane–and pretty ingenious, too. Spider-Man, the X-Men, and some other notable players are tied up at other film companies, but Marvel wisely held onto the rights to each member of the Avengers and ever since Iron Man in 2008, they’ve been working on getting the band together. Iron Man had some subtle Easter eggs and a nifty post-credits scene, and it’s a miracle that Iron Man 2 didn’t entirely collapse under the weight of its Avengers teases; The Incredible Hulk, besides a brief scene between Tony Stark and General Ross, was too busy restoring its hero’s rep to get involved. Thor is the next Avenger to get the spotlight and, well, he’s an interesting case.