Atomic Blonde

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+Atomic Blonde

Directed by: David Leitch

Produced by: Eric Gitter, Peter Schwerin, Kelly McCormick, Charlize Theron, A. J. Dix and Beth Kono.

Based on the Oni Press Graphic Novel Series: ‘The Coldest City’, Written by Antony Johnston and Illustrated by Sam Hart

Screenplay by: Kurt Johnstad

Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones.

Based on the Oni Press Graphic Novel Series, The Coldest City, Atomic Blonde was cold alright, with Lorrain Broughton (Charlize Theron) a killing machine breed out of MI6 to seek out the assassinator of a spy, who stole a list of all the identities of Western agents operating in Berlin, behind The Iron Curtain, circa 1989.

Atomic Blonde is a spy/action movie set in the 80s like I’ve never seen before.  So 80s it took a while for the movie to get over itself and get to the meat of the story.

After a failed attempt on her life when landing in Berlin, Broughton makes contact with Station Chief, David Percival (James McAvoy) – an operative who’s been unmonitored for years; king of the castle, he does as he likes.  Percival’s gone feral.Atomic Blonde

And the closer Broughton gets to finding the list, the more complicated the journey.

It’s a familiar story: spies, betrayal, seduction and deception, but shown in a different way – the 80s flavour of fluorescent paint mixed with the noir persona of Broughton, like the film was trying to establish itself with bright saturated colour against a mute cold character.

I felt the reliance on the early fight scenes heavy until I witnessed a seamless montage of smacking, spraying blood and keys left dangling, impaled in a bad-guy’s cheek: AKA gritty fisticuffs that legitimized the film from something that was trying-out 80s noir for size, into a sit-up and take-me-serious action movie.Atomic Blonde

I like a film that explores a different vibe and no other actor could have achieved the feminine brutality of Broughton like Theron.  Every single fight scene in the film is Theron, hence that seamless raw feel.

Angelina Jolie also played the seductive spy in, Salt (2010), but Theron has stepped up and brought a brute coldness to this role.  The sensual was there with some steamy scenes with French operative, Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella, who you’ll remember from the recent film, The Mummy (2017)).  But what I really believed was the brute force of Broughton’s nature.

And Atomic Blonde is all about Broughton.  There’s only a hint of belly to humanise the character, the rest is all action –  a hallmark of director David Leitch being a stunt man himself and directing the highly successful, John Wick (2014).  He likes his characters dry and unrelenting.  And Theron was perfect for the role.

Atomic Blonde twists the classic noir genre into something else; for me, the action was the highlight.

Kong: Skull Island

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MKong: Skull Island

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Produced By: Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni and Alex Garcia

Executive Producers: Eric McLeod and Edward Cheng

Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly

Story By: John Gatins

Visual Effects Supervisor: Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reily, Tian Jing, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, John Ortiz, Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham, Tody Kebbell, Eugene Cordero, Terry Notary.

A prequel to the story of King Kong (who first appeared on film in 1933) Kong: Skull Island is about the origins of Kong; hinting at a past battle on an island hidden from the world by a never-ending storm.

Set in the ‘70s just as the Vietnam War is ending, scientist Bill Randa (John Goodman) takes a team to Skull Island to explore the possibility of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms).  Enlisting a military escort headed by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), this group of humans have no idea about the bizarre creatures they’re about to meet… or get eaten by…

The production team who created the 2014 film Godzilla have reunited here and some of the creatures on Skull Island reminded me of the Godzilla film, particularly those scary skull lizard creatures AKA Skull Crawlers.  But there’s a better story here.  Skull Island is more than the creatures and special effects although it was sometimes a close thing with the dialogue falling flat at times. 

There’s a touch of fun with the 70s soundtrack and humour in the script but some of the jokes didn’t quite come off.  The times when the film took itself too seriously were worse.  Where the sincerity was just too much to swallow, losing that suspension and ruining the fantasy.  But really, this was rare in the film which is a minor miracle when dealing with a MonsterVerse.

Samuel L. Jackson with those grouchy looks plays the villain well.  And Tom Hiddleston as James Conrad, the hero, was believable as the British solider turned mercenary tracker – there’s a fantastic cast here.  The highlight for me was John C. Reilly as the stranded WWII solider Hank Marlow.  Now this guy was funny.  And a great way to get the audience on side.

The Visual Effects team have given Kong some magic that make it seem there’s thought and emotion behind those eyes.  And to really give the film that authentic flavour, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong being his second feature film) and the team film those beautiful tropical landscapes at real locations around the world: Oahu, Hawaii, the Gold Coast in Australia and Ha Long Bay (amongst others) in Vietnam.

There was some good action here and some tense moments with a conflict set up between those for Kong and those against. The script gives a bit of meat (ha, ha) to the story and there’s some good blood and guts with a setting that lives and breathes as an undiscovered world to frame Kong’s origins.

Great film to see on the big screen.

Patriots Day

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MPatriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Producers: Scott Stuber, Dylan Clark, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Hutch Parker, Dorothy Aufiero and Michael Radutzky

Screenplay by: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer

Based on the book: ‘Boston Strong’ by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge

Soundtrack: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J. K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan

Based on true events surrounding the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Patriots Day details the hours leading up to, during and immediately following the attack which killed three people and seriously injured over 270 bystanders, sixteen of whom lost limbs.

Director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg previously collaborated on the disaster flick Deepwater Horizon (2016), and their combined talents have enabled them to effectively recreate the Boston Marathon bombings with gritty realism.

Shot in a semi-documentary style, using hand-held cameras to capture the raw immediacy of events, the film effectively incorporates archival footage from the 2013 marathon. I think of this style as “shaky cam” and by the three-quarter mark of this 133-minute feature I was feeling very queasy, so if you prefer smoother camera work it might be best to sit far back from the screen. The synthesizer soundtrack music became repetitive and intrusive at times and a bit distancing, where silence might have worked better.

The actual bombing sequence wasn’t a surprise because most people know it happened, so the first half of the film focussed on establishing who would be directly affected by the bombings and allowed the audience to become attached to these people. The explosions were effectively staged and edited, and quite graphic without dwelling too much on the gruesome severed limbs.

After a slow patch the tension increased during the second half when the police and FBI manhunt turned to identifying and tracking down the perpetrators of the bombings.

Star Mark Wahlberg portrayed a fictional police officer, an amalgamation of several actual officers, and I felt he was the weakest link because he wasn’t based on a real person and his backstory was largely irrelevant. The sequence where the FBI call on his extensive knowledge of Boston streets to retrace the two bombers’ steps with technicians who then scroll through CCTV footage to find the culprits, really challenged credibility. Surely there would be effective IT software to achieve this without relying on the memory of one sleep-deprived man!

The home-grown terrorists (brothers) were not given much obvious motivation for their actions, aside from a short conversation with the owner of a hijacked car. The first shoot-out with the two terrorists when one of them was critically injured and captured seemed quite over the top with extensive gun fire, home-made bombs exploding and general mayhem ensuing, but a check of the facts indicates it really happened this way.

Boston and its people came across as the real heroes of this inspiring film, with the term “Boston Strong” becoming a rallying cry of hope and love in the face of horror.

What really got to me, however, was not the capture of the remaining terrorist but the photos of the three victims who had died at the scene, particularly the eight-year-old boy, whose sheet-covered body had to be left in situ until all crime-scene forensics had been completed.

That heart-rending photo of innocence really brought home the sheer waste and tragedy of this horrific event.

 

10 Cloverfield Lane

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Director: Dan Trachtenberg10 Cloverfield Lane

Writers: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken.

Story and Screenplay: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle.

Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

Based on the script, The Cellar and part of the Cloverfield series (see Cloverfield (2008)), this is a psychological thriller that was well-paced.  And by thriller, I mean the soundtrack (composed by Bear McCreary) was used to build the tension and restraint was used in telling the story.

Howard (John Goodman, and my goodness he was well-cast in this one), is a doomsday fanatic.  Building his bunker, his ‘Arc before the flood’, he knew it was coming.  Whether It be aliens, the Russians or the Korean’s (North, he’s convinced later), Howard knew It was coming.  And now, it’s just not safe to go out there.

Goodman’s facial expressions and frankly, his girth, make Howard’s creepy character believable; making him all the more powerful and in control.  Not only did he hold the keys, he’d certainly be suck’n up all the oxygen with that set of lungs!  And the camera work here is to be commended.

Much of the suspense is built around the soundtrack, so you kind of know what’s going to happen but you kinda don’t.  I liked the restraint used to build this story of claustrophobia, with time spent building the characters, allowing the audience to get close: Howard, the creepy-doomsday guy, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the normal one, and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), the loveable-but-not-quite-sure-about one.

There are not many tricks or tools used to portray this movie and what was used by director Dan Trachtenberg was used well.

I enjoyed the relationship between the characters, and the idea, that, Yeah, I’d probably try that too.  Everyone was there for a reason and the audience was left, like Michelle, not quite sure what to believe.  And yes, thankfully, there are a few surprises.

I wasn’t blown away but I wasn’t disappointed either.

I think more could have been done with the camera work.  Like the soundtrack, accentuate a few more of those expressions from Howard, making the bunker all the more tight, building the suspense with well-placed angles and close-ups.  I just wasn’t completely engrossed; wasn’t on the edge of my seat.

Even so, 10 Cloverfield Lane is definitely worth a watch.

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