I think Atomic Blonde was a little over-hyped, and that was the beginning of its downfall for me. I thought it was too stylish, and too concerned with the perfect “cool” shot than advancing the story. It is entirely possible that I’m a little jaded though. To me it was built up to be the next great spy film, and the titular Atomic Blonde was to be a “female James Bond”, but it just seemed too artsy to be a great spy film. It was entertaining, and there were things I enjoyed, but there were things that just frustrated me and kept me from loving this film the way I thought I was told to.
Set in the Cold War against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall, Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an undercover MI6 agent sent to investigate the murder of a fellow agent named Gascione and recover a missing list of double agents. In Berlin she meets up with David Percival (James McAvoy), the lead field agent to try and recover the list of agents, and to discover the mole or double agent (code named “Satchel”) in their midst. The film is sort of told in reverse, which is a style I don’t really like for these sorts of stories. We open on Lorraine in London, being brought in for debriefing by MI6 after the mission in Berlin. After we’re quickly introduced to the principal players, we know that Satchel is going to be A or B, but I did have doubts for a minute that it may have been C….literally “C”, as in Chief “C” played by James Faulkner. Then we get the debriefing and the main story is told essentially in flashback. My problem with this style of storytelling for this sort of movie is that we now know Lorraine will not die during the course of the adventure. Sure, enjoyment can be found in the ride but the element of surprise and suspense is kind of ruined.
For a film that was touted as being a great and revolutionary action film, I didn’t really find it to have that much action. Sure there were fight scenes and they were fairly realistic; in so much that people got hurt and weren’t invincible; but there were great lulls too and the great action sequences I thought I was promised took far too long to be realized. There was a “long cut” fight, as those have become really popular all of a sudden, and it was cool, but I couldn’t help but think that it was just there to force the “coolness” and the style of the film.
There were positives and it was entertaining, but there were just too many clichés for me by the time the film ended, like the French spy. She was way too cliché as the love struck, doe eyed rookie, who’s in over her head. The film did do a decent job with it’s switchero, but it was still a little obvious who Satchel was. I suppose the worst thing was that the film wasn’t overly original for something that was seemingly being hyped up as a new leader in the genre. I didn’t really care about Lorraine’s character, partially because she didn’t seem developed or overly interesting, and partially because I knew she’d make to the end of the film.
I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, but when I get frustrated with a movie I start to look for plot holes and more ways to not the film. I started to get that way with Atomic Blonde. My biggest problem was that with this flurry of agents from all sides trying to get the mythical “list” and figure out who Satchel is, they overlook that there are people who know who Satchel is. Gascione, Percivale, and Spyglass have all had the list at some point. Percivale has definitely read it, Spyglass has it memorized, so logically, all three of them know who Satchel is, but none of them call it in? Anyway, the movie was entertaining, it was actually pretty good, but it wasn’t great like I was led to believe it would have been.
Bottom Line: The most disgusting part of the movie happens in the very beginning. Lorraine is soaking her injuries in a bathtub full of ice before going to her debriefing. She gets out of the tub, pours a drink and adds some icecubes to it before drinking. THOSE ICECUBES CAME FROM THE DIRTY TUB WATER SHE WAS SOAKING HER BLOODY, DIRTY BRUISES IN!
Friday, on the eve of the Niagara Falls ComicCon, it seemed like a good time to see X-Men Days of Future Past, and to prepare, I had read the trade paperback containing the original story from 1981. I have to say that was worth it. The DOFP storyline was only two issues long but highly enjoyable, as was the rest of the trade which contained a pretty good early Alpha Flight story where Wolverine and Nightcrawler joined up to help fight the Wendigo. Back to DOFP though, the comic story is iconic but quite different from both the film adaptation and the early nineties X-Men cartoon adaptation, though all three were fun and worth watching and reading.
An assassination happens in the past that is the catalyst for a war that devastates the planet in the future, with all mankind, baseline humans and mutants alike suffering. Only the X-Men can save the day by sending one of themselves (or their consciousness) into their younger self to change the events that initiate the government’s Sentinel program. With time as their enemy, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent to the past to unite a disillusioned Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to stop Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Adaptive Sentinels are fighting what’s left of the X-Men in the future with Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), and a small group of others…(alright I’ll list them: Bishop, Iceman, Sunfire, Warpath, Colossus, and Blink)
The movie was a lot of fun, but I had to cringe and laugh at a few parts, parts I probably shouldn’t have laughed at. The first thing that struck me was that the opening credits sequence looked a lot like the opening to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man film. The “future” Sentinels sure looked a lot like the Destroyer armour from Thor when their faces opened up to blast the mutants. 3D did not really help this movie, and at one point when Magneto was ripping apart train tracks, the hovering rails looked like an incredibly bad effect. Okay, those were pretty much my only issues with the movie, well aside from the my feeling that the “future scenes” were kind of boring. Let me clarify that. The future was mostly just fight sequences, and they were really well done and choreographed, but when there wasn’t a fight going on, the future scenes were dull and I just wanted them to get back to the “past” storyline. Little things like this made me just wonder if Bryan Singer was really necessary to direct DOFP or if it would have been just fine if First Class director Matthew Vaughn was brought back. I suppose the argument can be made that bringing Singer back was a publicity shot in the arm for the franchise, but then there came a whole bunch of negative allegations that make Singer a PR shot in the gut. I’m not going to talk about it here, I’m sure you’ve probably read about them on movie news sites and frankly I’m obviously not qualified (nor really are many others) to say what has or hasn’t happened. I really liked Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, and am really intrigued by Kingsman: The Secret Service which comes out late this summer I believe, so I think he could have done a great job too. Of course it was nice to have Singer on board to cement the X-Men franchise together, closing the loop between his original series and the recent reboot/relaunch. It’s a funny thing, everyone says Singer does seem to “get” the characters but as a comic fan there were things in his “future” that didn’t make sense that I could just nerdily rant about (how come Kitty Pryde seemed to have a romantic thing going on with Iceman and not Colossus?) but I’ll leave that alone (or for the comments section if anyone desires to ask).
The principal cast (Xaviers and Magnetos and Jackman) were excellent. I was a bit hesitant last time out (First Class) about McAvoy but he was great here. Also great was Jennifer Lawrence, in First Class I had said she was just “fine” but not mind blowing or anything, this time again not mind blowing, but really a much more polished actress and she delivered. Evan Peters as “Peter” (cough cough Quicksilver. Though I don’t think we can call him that because Marvel Proper/Disney owns that name for their Avengers films) brought a lot of fun to the film which is something that all comic book movies need and I really liked the Blink character in the future scenes played by Bingbing Fan. She really looked like the character and the effects for her powers were really cool. A quick IMDb scan shows she’s been in a fair number of films in her native China, so was her casting thought of along the same lines as Omar Sy? Sy is an extremely popular French comedian (and was excellent in The Intouchables), who is now starting to appear in North American films. Hollywood it seems is a slowly dying market as many films are making more money in Europe and in China. By casting stars who are big in these regions are producers trying to increase their crossover appeal or just hedge their bets if their North American numbers aren’t high enough? Either way, both Sy and Fan were nice additions to the X-Men film universe and hopefully both get an expanded role in the next film, X-Men: Apocalypse which was teased after the credits tonight.
Bottom Line: really fun, really satisfying as a fan, but don’t forget about the original Chris Claremont and John Byrne comics as well.
Whew! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, though I have seen a few movies since my last review. Sometimes the absences are from lack of material to review, other times from lack of time to review the material. Well, now I have some material built up, and time is slowly returning to me so hopefully this week will be full of content.
Debuting this week on DVD is Trance from Oscar winning director Danny Boyle, and I’ve got to say I loved it on almost every level. There were several ways to look at this one, as it is a psychological thriller, on top of a robbery movie. I think it was the best “heist” movie I’ve seen in many years. I love a good heist movie, but then the filmmakers also gave us a nice dose of psychological thrills. In lesser skilled hands, this could almost be too ambitious and could create a disaster of a film, but Boyle is more than capable of handling the multi-layered story. Tack on the amazing cast of James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, and Rosario Dawson and Trance is a sure hit for any fan of the genres.
James McAvoy plays Simon, an assistant auctioneer who assists Franck (Vincent Cassel) with the theft of a famous painting (Francisco Goya’s Witches in the Air) from his own auction house in London, but during the heist, Simon gets hit on the head and can’t remember what he has done with the painting. After torturing him reveals no answers, Franck and his crew believe that Simon has lost his memory and bring him to a hypnotherapist to help uncover the mystery. Using hypnosis, Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Dawson) uncovers the plot and makes Franck a deal, she’s wants in on the take as payment for helping to recover Simon’s lost (or possibly repressed) memories. Trance was not a straightforward mystery film that you could solve from your couch, but instead a very stylish ride that keeps you under its spell until the end. The hypnotic sequences overlap the real sequences at times, leading to some murky confusion, mirroring Simon’s own state of confusion. As layer after layer of hypnotism takes its toll we, the viewer, are left wondering what, if anything, is real and if Simon is being manipulated or simply losing his mind. We get a tale of memories and false memories; of reality and imagined realities; and of love and deception which all come crashing to a climax as the truth behind the painting’s location is revealed.
Both the camera work and sound were simply fantastic making for an incredible movie experience. The mirrored images, the multiple angles used and the effective use of colour really accented the story well, but for some reason I really noticed and enjoyed the sound editing. I suppose the sound is not really something you pickup on a lot of times, but this time I did. The harsh buzzing of a cell phone on vibrate; the sound (and lack of sound) in Simon’s hypnotic memory sessions and at the heist itself were masterful. I will admit that at times the story got to be a little confusing (purposely) but if you just sit back, pay attention and watch, the ending will piece it all together for you.
Before I finish off I have to say that I really enjoyed Vincent Cassel and though she only had a very small part in Trance, I can see why Tuppence Middleton was nominated for the London Evening Standard Film Awards Most Promising Newcomer in 2010. A quick IMDb glance shows me that she was also in the Spies of Warsaw TV mini-series. I’ve wanted to see this one for quite a while and now have one more reason.