OPENING Thursday: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Spending $200 million on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is Luc Besson's sci-folly, too much for a fantasy gorgeous to observe yet torturous to sit through. "Too much" is Besson's signature move.
Based on a French comic book series, Valerian casts sleepy-eyed Dane DeHaan in the title role, a scrawny space jockey too confident in his charms. DeHaan is slightly more convincing as an intergalactic detective than model-turned-mannequin Cara Delevingne as his partner Laureline. Neither wrestles Besson's clunky banter anywhere close to submission.
Valerian displays reckless imagination and zero personality. That's the difference between a fun midnight movie and one that won't see the light of day for long.
After Batman fantasies, Inception and Interstellar, writer-director Christopher Nolan keeps it real in Dunkirk (PG-13), a historical epic that's your immediate frontrunner in the still-early Oscar derby.
Nolan tells the story of an Allied retreat in World War II that boosted Great Britain's spirits as much as any battle victory. More than 400,000 troops were surrounded with little hope by German forces. Nearly three quarters lived to fight again. Dunkirk relates their heroism from land, sea and air with piano-wire tension. Oscar winner Mark Rylance, Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh and a mostly unrecognizable Tom Hardy co-star.
Lifelong girlfriends head to the Big Easy for down and dirty fun in Girls Trip (R), a comedy shaping up as another hit for producer and St. Petersburg native Will Packer. They're in New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival celebrating black culture, a fresher setting than Rough Night's Miami (and it's a sure bet to be funnier).
Queen Latifah, above, Regina Hall and Jada Pinkett Smith are the headliners but relative newcomer Tiffany Haddish is getting the loudest love from sneak previewers on social media. Critics weren't invited to those screenings but some of us like to laissez les bon temps rouler, too.
INDIE FLICKS: MAUDIEOscar nominee Sally Hawkins stars in Maudie (PG-13) as acclaimed Canadian artist Maud Lewis, who taught herself to paint as therapy for crippling arthritis. Ethan Hawke co-stars as the gruff handyman she marries.
Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter deemed Maudie "a very small, intimate piece that operates within a narrow tonal and emotional range … but it has a shot at carving a profile for itself on the basis of Hawkins' captivating performance."
Opens Friday at Tampa Theatre.
SHORT STUFF:KIDS FILM FESTIVAL
The Glazer Children's Museum hosts the first Kids' Gasparilla International Film Festival, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, included with museum admission ($9.50-$15).
Co-sponsored by the grown-up Gasparilla film fest, the day showcases short films and animation from the New York Children's International Film Festival.
Screenings begin at 10 a.m. with a screening for museum members of Kid Flix 1, recommended for ages 3-7. An encore at 11 a.m. is open to the public. At noon, Kid Flix 2 offers shorts recommended for ages 8 and up, with an encore screening at 4 p.m. The schedule also includes workshops for ages 6 and older (1 and 3 p.m.) and a free open-air screening of The Iron Giant at 8:30 p.m.
in theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan's masterpiece will be chased all awards season.
2 War for the Planet of the Apes: Wraps up one of the best movie trilogies ever.
3 The Big Sick: A charmer redefining what romantic comedy means.
4 Baby Driver: The most fun you'll have at the movies this weekend.
5 Spider-Man: Homecoming: There's a new web slinger in town (Tom Holland) and he's geek-cool.
(Dates subject to change)
July 28: The Emoji Movie; Atomic Blonde; An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Aug. 4: The Dark Tower; Detroit; Kidnap
Aug. 11: The Glass Castle; Annabelle: Creation; Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature
Aug. 18: The Hitman's Bodyguard