The greatest things in the world right now are the first two episodes of The Defiant Ones, a four-part HBO documentary deep-dive into the early lives and meteoric careers of producer/rapper/mogul Dr. Dre (of NWA and Beats by Dre) and engineer/producer/executive Jimmy Iovine (of Interscope Records). It sounds pretty niche, but if you've listened to music at any time in the last 25 years there's a good chance the story of these unlikely partners will sing to you.
The overarching theme of The Defiant Ones is one of risking big and compromising little. In the 1970s, Jimmy Iovine had barely graduated from sweeping the floors of a New York recording studio when he suddenly found himself as the sound engineer on a John Lennon session.
He slayed it and went on to produce albums by Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Meatloaf, U2 (before they sucked) and Stevie Nicks. After relocating to L.A., he launched Interscope Records, the most controversial label of the 1990s. Interscope was not afraid to push the envelope and Iovine signed Tupac, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and, after no other studio wanted a piece of his Chronic album, Dr. Dre, who had soldiered his way through controversy and conflict with NWA but was sonically the finest producer in the world at the time.
Given rare and complete access to his subjects' personal archives and lives, director Allen Hughes (Menace to Society, Dead Presidents, American Pimp) cuts together an incredibly engaging docu-series about two (on the surface) very different people who did things their own way, and utterly changed the music industry. Hughes runs the risk of deifying his subjects at times, but for every time the word "genius" is tossed around it's matched with candid discussions of each man's darker times. Dre, notoriously private, even discusses and apologizes for his assault of MTV journalist Dee Brown, an event that has long been glossed over in other retellings of the Dr. Dre mythology.
The first two episodes are probably the most interesting, especially for hip-hop fans, but the lead characters are so engaging and Hughes weaves their very different lives together so tightly and uniquely (Dre in a high-speed police chase, cut with a Nine Inch Nails video and soundtrack is a high point) that even the later parts work.
The Defiant Ones is full of high gloss, perfectly lit interviews (so many great cameos!), luxury mansions, home studios, private jets and beach houses, but the road to get there is intriguing and the glimpse behind the curtain of hip hop's first billionaire matched with Iovine's raw tenacity makes this one the Download of the Week.
At the Village 8, more technical brilliance on display in Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan's (Memento, Dark Knight, Interstellar) take on the historical land, sea and air evacuation of allied troops from France during the Second World War.
Nolan is a perfectionist and Dunkirk is probably as cinematically close as we've gotten to experiencing the horrors and depravity of war, as well as the strength of human survival. There are real questions raised in this one about how we react to the most terrible aspects of humanity, but the film doesn't integrate those themes into a classic hero-story narrative. We see the horror, we hear it, but we don't totally feel it. By choosing not to focus on any one of his heroes, Nolan has purposefully crafted a cold, almost textbook version of his story.
Dunkirk is still magnificent — a war movie unlike any we've seen before, technically perfect in every way and definitely worth seeing on the biggest screen you can get to — but it might not be as memorable as the opening beach scene of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (the highwater mark of war scenes thus far) or even the scene when Elias is gunned down, arms spread, in Platoon.
Also opening, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a new Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) flick based on a French sci-fi comic series from the 1960s that apparently heavily influenced Star Wars. Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns) and Dane DeHaan (Metallica Through the Never) star as a pair of peacekeepers unleashed on a mystery at the edge of the universe. Also, Valerian has Rihanna in it — 'nuff said.