Photo: Warner Bros.

The movie to watch

Dunkirk

“Christopher Nolan’s terrific new film, Dunkirk, is powered by an engine of combusting contradictions: It’s at once minimalist and maximalist, cynical and dopey, a big-boy white elephant art film that is actually a lean and mean suspense set-piece machine. Here is a lavish, colossal retelling of the escape of Allied troops over the English Channel from the tip of France in 1940, shot in 70mm with an ensemble cast, though its ostensible subject is the law of survival in the nick of time; long stretches consist of movement without dialogue, and the nesting-doll narrative (refined from Nolan’s sci-fi thriller Inception) brings attention to reflex and scale, all while sucking Dunkirk’s largely unnamed characters toward a climax that also runs the length of the film. (Neat trick, that.) In terms of form, it marks a big step forward for Nolan; restraining his usual choppiness, the Anglo-American creator of long, quasi-cerebral blockbusters has crafted what are head-and-shoulders the purest action scenes of his career, and they take up most of the movie. In other words, Dunkirk finds Nolan playing both genre director and composer-conductor—a 107-minute oratorio for dead wet beaches, gunfire, Stuka dive bombers, Spitfires, ticking clocks, burning oil, and sinking ships, in the key of the filmmaker’s career-long obsession with water and drowning.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The album to listen to

Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds From Another Planet

“While last year’s Psychopomp flashed what could be loosely categorized as versatile dream pop (created in the wake of mourning her mother, no less), Soft Sounds From Another Planet is even more flexible. [Michelle] Zauner dabbles with conviction in electronic dance, liberal use of Auto-Tune, and even a saxophone solo on surprisingly compelling lead single ‘Machinist,’ one of the tracks that validates the album’s title. Nearly seven-minute-long opener ‘Diving Woman’ is both driving and enchanting, with a krautrock groove and shoegaze atmosphere. Elsewhere she dabbles in acoustic ballads (‘This House’) and straightforward melancholic indie rock (‘12 Steps,’ ‘Body Is A Blade’) to equally exemplary results.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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The comic to read

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Ales Kot, André Lima Araújo, and Chris O’Halloran, Generation Gone

“Youth has always been a cultural target, but countless think pieces and breathless cries of what millennials have ‘killed’ have cast a new shadow on exactly what expectations are being heaped on the generation that’s inheriting a slew of problems. Trust Ales Kot to thrust this perspective to the forefront of a comic, with a double-sized issue to launch Generation Gone. This isn’t the first story to give a group of fictional, disaffected young people superpowers and release them into the world, but Kot is making a statement that is both broad and very specific with his version. The characters talk about paying off debts both individual and social, trying to change the world with money they’re going to steal from a major bank. That’s an optimism that’s rooted in having nothing left to lose and no other options, but feeling like an attempt has to be made anyway.”
Read the rest of our review here.


The video game to play

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

“The game’s premise deserves a lot of credit for Final Fantasy XII’s early promise. It’s a typical ‘evil empire absorbing your sovereign nation’ story, but the transition from the prologue’s royal pomp and military spectacle to the street-rat reality of your main character is a powerful one. It cuts straight to the political manipulation of Dalmasca’s new rulers and the class dynamics they introduce to the gorgeous city of Rabanastre. You’re also thrown into the game’s job system early on, forced to make a permanent decision about Vaan’s career path that will surely have some effect on shaping your playstyle for the dozens of hours that follow. For inexperienced players, it’s a nerve-wracking moment, but it’s also an exciting taste of how deep the strategy for your party’s customization can get.”
Read the rest of our thoughts on Final Fantasy XII here.

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The podcast to listen to

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That Awful Sound, “I Am Claus (Aqua - Barbie Girl)

“For a novelty hit that’s clearly the product of a bygone time, Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’ has some weird staying power. Technically speaking, there are many pop songs like it. More accurately, there’s nothing like it: a Eurodance duet from the perspective of a living Barbie performed by a brunette singing about being a blond bimbo while being courted by a bald man with racing stripes along the side of his head. These two, we’re told, met on a cruise ship prior to forming the band. Perhaps inevitably, a lawsuit was brought by toymaker Mattel, ending with the judge declaring, ‘The parties are advised to chill.’ All this and more is discussed ad nauseam over 90 minutes in the only podcast dedicated to dissecting the half-lives of strange chart-toppers from the recent past while also daring to tackle a riddle posed by a YouTube commenter: What is an emo hole? (Answer: It’s the hole cut out in a sweater sleeve in which to slide one’s thumb through.)”
Read about the rest of the week’s best podcasts here.


The show to watch

Castlevania

“Of all the video games you could choose to adapt for TV or film, Castlevania is one of the wiser picks. The story of this influential 30-year-old game series is told in broad strokes, more of a vague framework for the unending struggle between Dracula and humanity than any sort of detailed narrative with complex characters. But dig deep enough, as the creators of Netflix’s new Castlevania animated series have done, and you can find the pieces to build a more multidimensional tale, one that doesn’t presuppose Dracula is some unstoppable force of pure evil who goes around slaughtering humans just for the fun of it. The show’s writers smartly latched onto one of the games’ most simple yet pathos-rich threads: the story of Castlevania III and the tragedy that turned Vlad Dracula Tepes into the leader of a genocidal hellbeast army.”
Read the rest of our review here.

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