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.

The Fate of the Furious (Review)

The Fate of the Furious (Review)

Binge watch The Fast and the Furious franchise and take a shot every time someone mentions “family.”

I haven’t been keeping up with the “Fast and the Furious” franchise.  The last movie I actually watched all the way through was the first one back in 2001. I saw a few moments of 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift but had no real interest in continuing to watch the series.  It seemed to be a generic popcorn franchise that studios continued to pop out for easy money.

Around the time the fifth one came out, I started hearing people say that the films were actually good.  Still, I didn’t pay them any attention, even when Dwayne Johnson joined the franchise and they stopped being about street racing and started saving the world in elaborate ways involving cars.  Eventually, my buddy Mason from ReelDudeReviews asked me to join him opening night and since I had no other plans, we went and watched it.

One thing I appreciated from the movie was it’s tongue in cheek nature.  Nothing ever seems to be done with any real seriousness.  Being chased by police?  Send a wrecking ball through them.  No reason how or why that happens, it just does.  It’s one of those movies where cool things happen with a the slightest of reasons given as to why they happen.  Normally this would be a criticism, but for this film, I have a hard time criticizing it for that.  It’s a film that knows exactly why people came to watch it.  They didn’t come for the logic, they came for cool action and set pieces.

The only real criticism I can even think of is that the film has about seven films worth of backstory that go right over my head.  I had to guess that Paul Walker’s character’s name in the movie was Brian (again, I had only seen him in the film back in 2001) when they mention him in passing.  I didn’t know who was who or how they related to each other.  I didn’t know when Kurt Russel joined the franchise or why.  I was really surprised with Nathalie Emmanuel showed up in the film as a hacker, having only seen her in Game of Thrones.

The film is so over the top at times that it almost takes away from the impact of the more serious scenes.  The premise is that Vin Diesel’s character is being forced to work for Charlize Theron thus betraying his family (shot).  It’s a emotional situation that lends itself to good drama but at the same time, it has a hard time reconciling itself with how ridiculous the action scenes become.

Again, I can’t really fault the movie too harshly.  It’s a movie that did exactly what it set out to do.  It’s an action movie that entertains with the bare minimum of effort given to plot, character development and scripting and the maximum of effort given to intense action sequences.  All of this is held together with a cast that is surprisingly strong together even when I don’t have the experiences that I assume most people had watching all the movies previously.

Family (shot).

Kubo and the Two Strings (Review)

Kubo and the Two Strings (Review)

If you must blink, do it now.

These are the words that started the movie and I have to say, I honestly cannot remember if I blinked.  I do remember doing my best to keep my eyes open so I didn’t miss a thing.  From the first frame, I was instantly engrossed in this epic of a story, unlike anything I had ever seen.  And yet today, I can say that thinking back, I still missed some key details that almost certainly require a second viewing.

Set in Ancient Japan, the film tells the tale of Kubo (Art Parkinson), a one-eyed boy who makes a living as a storyteller, bringing origami figures to life to enact the tales and exploits of his samurai father, Hanzo.  Every night, he must return home to his mentally handicapped mother before the moon rises or else his mother and grandfather will find him and take his other eye.  One night, however, he stays out too late and is forced to run away and find his father’s old armor, as it is the only thing that will protect him.  He is accompanied on his quest by Monkey (Charlize Theron), a stoic and harsh wooden charm brought to life by his mother and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey), an amnesiac samurai cursed to take the form of a beetle.

Right from the beginning the movie is not about a quest to find a father’s old armor.  It’s about a young boy’s quest to discover who his parents are and about family and that is evident from the very first scene.  A mother caught in a storm at sea, capsized and cracking her skull on a rock and crawling desperately to protect her crying baby is an image that I was not prepared to witness at the beginning of a kids movie.  There are some very intense moments in this film that made me wonder if this movie should really be rated PG.

Then again, I’m not a kid anymore and I should remember that kids can handle quite a bit.  I remember as a kid watching a chinese cartoon where a child slits his own throat in order to save his father’s kingdom from 4 dragons.  As a kid, I didn’t understand that he was committing suicide.  I understood that he was sacrificing himself to save the kingdom (by the way, the movie in question is called Prince Nezha’s Triumph Against Dragon King).

Movies have a unique way of transporting us to another world and Kubo and the Two Strings is no exception.  It is a world steeped in Japanese fairy tale, mythology and folklore.  It is rare to find an American movie that is based in a different country’s culture and it is also refreshing to find a movie that is so unique.  The only complaint I have about the film would be the ending which seems more like the ending to an American fairy tale over an ending an Asian fairy tale would have.

Ultimately, the movie is about the journey and probably more about beginnings.  It’s touching, its intense, its funny and its everything I ever wanted from a movie.