Atomic Blonde (Review)

Atomic Blonde (Review)

I was lucky enough to view an advanced screening of this movie with my friend Mason from Reel Dude Reviews.  So thanks to him for letting me see this mind boggling movie.

Set in Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War, Atomic Blonde is a movie about Charlize Theron kicking butt with anything and everything she can get her hands on.  Also there’s spy stuff.

This movie is pretty much all action all the time, which is both a gift and a curse.  It’s a good thing because the action is amazingly choreographed and sold by the actors very well.  They don’t try to hide the action by shaking the camera all over the place in the name of “making it more intense” (we all know you’re doing it because the actors are very good at action scenes).  The camera is steady at all times so you see every punch and feel every blow.

The bad part of it is that for the first half of the movie, Charlize Theron doesn’t really do much.  It sounds weird but hear me out.  An action film should have a plot that forces the character to always move the plot forward.  Speed is a perfect example of this.  There’s a bomb on a bus and if the bus slows down, it explodes.  This forces Keanu Reeves to continually be on the move and to keep moving forward if he wants to save the people on the bus.

In Atomic Blonde, however, Charlize Theron just kind of meanders from set piece to set piece while trying to do her job.  And sure, the plot is the kind which forces her to try and move the plot forward, but I never felt like she was.  For the first half hour or so, she’s just going around the city and then people try and beat her up and then she beats them up in awesome ways.

I can’t fault the movie too harshly for this because I get the sense that I was missing key aspects of the film.  It’s also a spy thriller and a good spy thriller leaves things hidden for the viewer in plain sight for you to catch in the next viewing.  On the other hand, I feel like I shouldn’t worry to much about the intricacies of the plot because I found that the more I thought about what was going on, the more plot holes there were.

Atomic Blonde is an action film with style and its own identity.  A mixture of hardcore action, spray paint and 80s pop music give it it’s own distinct flair that makes it stand out as one of the most unique action films of the year (though I am noticing that after Guardians of the Galaxy, people have started adding 80s music to action films to spice it up).  So, it’s an enjoyable action movie acted wonderfully by Charlize Theron and James McAvoy with ridiculously delicious action scenes.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Review)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Review)

Spider-Man is back on the big screen and…well, it’s pretty much what you would expect.

Tom Holland is a fantastic Spider-Man and a different take on the character.  Eager yet untested, he is able to do amazing things yet is growing bored of his life after getting a taste of the Avengers back during Captain America: Civil War.  This serves as a good motivating factor as he tries to take down the Vulture, who may be too over his head.

The Vulture, on the other hand, starts off with a pretty good motivation that sees yet another consequence of the Avenger’s actions (in fact, I believe Phase 3 is all about consequences for the Avenger’s actions).  Though for the majority of the movie, I got the sense that he was pretty much just the same old forgettable Marvel villain.  There’s this aspect of his character that he’s doing this all for his family but at the same time lives for the thrill of the heist that might be getting the better of him, but it doesn’t really amount to anything and it’s never brought up.  There’s nothing really new about his character, which is a shame because Michael Keaton is always enjoyable and I loved the design of the Vulture.

So, everything about the movie was good and I enjoyed it immensely.  I couldn’t shake this odd feeling about it.  It was likable but it was just that.  In the end, it’s safe.  The action is just good enough.  The story is just good enough.  The music is just good enough.  The whole movie is just good enough.

Which is fine but I’m always expecting more in my movies.  Maybe this sets a high standard that no movie can reach but it’s something that I can’t really help.  Maybe if the movie instead tried to form a parallel arc between Spider-Man and the Vulture about how they both want something bigger and better with their lives but aren’t prepared for the consequences of it when it blows back into their face but there is no connection.  Spider-Man is stopping the Vulture because stealing is wrong.

The side characters are likable but all mainly serve Peter Parker’s story.  They have no stories of their own.  They’re only important when Parker has to deal with them.  Maybe if they had one of the characters say this to his face then I would have liked the movie more.

As it stands, the movie is decent.  Serviceable.  It does what it sets out to do, nothing more, nothing less.  And I enjoyed it a lot more than I probably sound.  It was refreshing to see a movie in the MCU that didn’t deal with Avengers level stuff, but more ground level things.  It was fun, lighthearted, funny and exciting at times, but it just didn’t wow me like I wish it had.  It simply met my expectations.

Storks (Review)

Storks (Review)

So I know this movie came out in 2016 but I saw it a few days ago for the first time.  Since I want to give my opinion of it, I don’t see why I shouldn’t write a review.  I’d probably write a review of Sanjuro when I watch it for the first time and that movie came out in 1962.  Basically, just because the movie isn’t recent doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be allowed to write my thoughts about it.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

So what exactly do I have to say about a film set in a world where babies aren’t born the natural way, they are delivered by storks.  And now, those storks have decided to instead deliver packages.  Which I assume means no babies have been born for the past…years?

Honestly, this is a movie where you can’t use logic to understand it.  In fact, I would say that using logic on this movie would be a big disservice to it.  It’s not that kind of a movie.  What it is is a film where the creators try to cram as much humor into each scene as possible, regardless of whether or not it made sense.  And honestly, that’s probably why I ended up enjoying myself.

A lot of this movie isn’t perfect.  It feels more like this movie goes from scene to scene, checking off boxes to make sure that they have every piece of a typical animated movie.  Two main characters who want nothing to do with each other but bond over shared experience?  Check.  Secret bad guy?  Check.  Two main characters separate because of a secret?  Check.  All the way down the list, even to the point where it doesn’t make sense and character motivations suffer.

Still, despite all of that, I still laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  And in the end, I suppose that’s all this movie is trying to do.  Would I recommend it?  Only if it’s the last thing you possibly have to watch.

Wonder Woman (Review)

Wonder Woman (Review)

Though it stumbles at the start, Wonder Woman‘s mature handling of the period and interesting characters help propel the film to heights never before reached within the DC Extended Universe.

The beginning of the film is (arguably) its weakest moment.  It has the unenviable job of establishing this Greek fantasy setting of Themyscira, kingdom of the warrior women known as Amazons.  It has to introduce a different side to a universe that we’ve seen before in previous films and make it understandable to the audience.  Unfortunately, while the movie succeeds in doing all of this, it crunches it all down into the time allotted for the prologue, leaving the pacing of the prologue something to be desired.  There was so much information crammed into the first half hour that I was left without a real connection with any of the other characters.

Ironically, for me, it was when they finally left the bright and colorful island and entered the dreary and dark real world that the movie started to pick up for me (wonderful use of color there; don’t think I didn’t notice).  The World War I setting is unique and absolutely works for the story they wish to tell.  I have to tip my hat to the film for handling the subject matter with such deft precision.  How do you set a superhero movie in probably the darkest time in human history?  By never shying away from the dark but offering us the light that may be too hard to see.  Which is what Wonder Woman is here for.

At her heart, it’s not her Lasso of Truth, or her demigod status that makes her stand apart from the other superheroes.  It’s her ability to feel the pain and suffering of other people around her and to channel that pain into righteous fury.  She doesn’t care for the bullets aimed at her, all she cares about is destroying the ones causing suffering.  Which is what a hero is supposed to do.

The theme also works to explain the dynamic between the two leads.  Gal Gadot as Diana has an unshakable faith that mankind is a beautiful and good race while Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, a Captain who has been fighting the war for a long while, isn’t so sure.  It all fits beautifully together to the point where a wonderful thing happened, the first time in a DCEU film: I actually cared about the characters on screen.

Some of the lines of dialogue are a bit too on the nose but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.  Some of the lines are also a bit cliche but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.  The CGI might have been distracting but I honest to god didn’t even notice them because I cared about the characters.  They might have even used that freezeframe slowmotion thing a bit too much during the action scenes but I didn’t care because I cared about the characters.

You can have the biggest budget in the world, the greatest actors in the world and the greatest director and everthing, but none of that matters if the audience doesn’t care what happens to the characters on screen.  And by god, I did care.  I was absolutely invested.  I was so invested, I nearly cried at the end.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Review)

The soundtrack to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are probably the reason I’ll end up buying a Vinyl player.

Guardians of the Galaxy was definitely one of the better movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2 series of films.  It was unique, it was funny, the characters were instantly likable and even if the plot served more to add context to the MCU’s overarching story and it suffered from the MCU’s patented boring villain, it was still engaging enough to be memorable.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers on the comedy.  It’s the same characters that we’ve come to know and love doing what they do best: save the galaxy while having to deal with each other.  This time around, there’s a bigger emphasis on them actually working together as a team.  With this comes the realization that this time around, the focus is on the relationships between the characters than them saving the galaxy.

Peter Quill finally meets his father, Gamora and her sister Nebula have to deal with each other after their plot line was left up in the air in the last movie, Rocket and Groot wind up with Yondu after a series of events, even Drax has moments with Mantis.  Every character has a clearly defined arc and development to the point where I realized that this was what I was supposed to be focusing on, not the overarching plot.

Sure, there’s a galactic threat that needs to be stopped by the Guardians but at the same time, you’re not watching it for that.  In fact, for the most part, I wasn’t waiting to see what happened next, I was sitting there waiting for the turn of events that kicks off the climax.  There’s no sense of rising action, for the most part; of the stakes getting higher and higher.

Having said that, I liked this movie more than the first one because of it’s emphasis on the character’s emotions and their relationships.  In the first movie, they had to learn how to work as a team to finish the mission.  In this movie, they actually have to learn how to live as a family together.  There is actual growth going on and it’s a pleasure to actually see them grow closer through all the trials and tribulations.  Though certain story beats are predictable, some are not and actually took me off guard.  The more we learn about the characters, the more we realize that those moments shouldn’t have surprised you because they were absolutely in character.

It’s a rarity in the MCU where the sequel is just as good and better than the first one.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is just as charming, just as heartfelt and just as funny as its predecessor.  It’s focus on the characters emotions and their relationships is a wonderful way to spice up the series and to make sure it doesn’t grow stale.  As it stands, it is currently one of the best movies of Phase 3, if not the best.

Beauty and the Beast (Review)

Beauty and the Beast (Review)

The live action Cinderella was better.

The 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite animated films ever.  When I heard that Disney was adapting the animated film into a live-action film, as they’ve been doing recently, I was excited but also skeptical.  Previous live-action remakes of classic Disney films have been hit or miss for me.  Maleficent was all kinds of bizarre though it had it’s moments and the same could be said about Cinderella.  So I went in expecting the film to be average at best.

I was wrong.  All this film did was appreciate how much of a masterpiece the original animated film was, which is saying something since this film is pretty much a shot for shot remake of that one.

Something positive first.  Many of the casting choices were very enjoyable.  Kevin Kline as Maurice brings something unique to the movie.  While eccentric, there’s a sensitivity to him as well as a hidden sorrow that makes him a sympathetic and intriguing character.  Though his French (?) accent is…questionable, Ewan McGregor really shines as Lumiere, the charismatic candlestick.  In fact, my favorite characters in the film were all the side characters, who performed their roles splendidly, if underused.

Unfortunately, this is not enough to save the film from it’s main problem: it’s adherence to the original animated film.  Everything that happens in the film happens because it happened in the animated film to the point that when they do change something, it no longer makes any sense as a whole.  For instance, when Belle is singing about how she wants more in life, she’s sings the final part on a wide open hill behind her house.  In the film, her house is within the town limits, so when she goes to the wide open hill, it’s literally looks like it’s 5 miles away from her home.

It got to the point where I honestly felt like I was just watching the original animated movie all over again.  I didn’t pay money for a theater ticket just to watch a movie I own on blu-ray at home.  For all it’s faults, at least Cinderella actually did something different with the film adaptation.

Speaking of, they even pulled the same stunt they did with Cinderella in a way.  Whereas in Cinderella, the milked the dress shot for all it’s worth, in Beauty and the Beast, they milk the songs for all their worth to the point where I actually think they slowed down the beats of the song to really get their money’s worth and left me getting bored.  Sure it’s the songs that I love but they’re sung so poorly that I just didn’t care.  Plus, it didn’t help that the first song that Emma Watson sings was just so auto-tuned that I couldn’t not hear it throughout.  And I knew that they were only singing/miming the songs because that’s what was in the original.

Which is a shame, because when the film deviates from the source material, it starts to become interesting.  I will say that the brand new song, “Evermore” is by far the best and most heartwrenching song in the film.  They added a small plotline talking about Belle and the Beast’s parents that I hoped would go somewhere.  A shared experience is a great way to get two people to understand each other.  Alas, it goes nowhere because they need to get to the dress (which reminded me of a plastic Barbie doll dress) and the dance.

I really wanted something new and different with this film.  A different take on the classic story that I love.  What I got was a shot-for-shot remake of the classic story that just left me sad.  None of the scenes had any impact on me because I had seen it done better before in the original.  I wasn’t singing along to any of the songs because they were all done better in the original.  I know I should try to judge a film on it’s own merits, but it’s so hard to do so when this film relies so hard on nostalgia from the original.  I know I’m in the minority (if Rotten Tomatoes is to be believed) and if you think you’ll enjoy this film, then go ahead and watch it.  I hope you do enjoy it more than I did.