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Posts Tagged ‘Atomic Blonde’

In recent years Luc Besson has been at his best when making totally bonkers films with extraordinary vision: Angel-A (2005), The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010), Lucy (2014), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017).  At the same time he has moonlighted as a writer, producer, mentor, or just contributing a story idea for other directors.   These have resulted in some excellent B pictures: Taxi, District B13, and Lockout, as well as some not so good movies/franchises: Taken, From Paris with Love, and 3 Days to Kill.

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This makes his latest film, Anna, something of a curiosity.  On one hand it is return to the world of assassins, the subject of his best films, Nikita (1990) and Léon (1994), (or at least my favourite).  Anna has a lot more in common with Nikita, taking a young girl with a drug problem and a deadbeat boyfriend and training her as a killer.  To its credit, the film skips the usual training montage, and takes Anna from recruit to deadly killer in a moment.  The downside to this is a lack of character development.  Anna is looking for a way out of her life as an assassin before it has even begun.  The use of time is problematic.   The story keeps jumping backwards and forwards as a narrative device.  This works well in some ways, but, I’m not convinced adds up; probably best not to think too much about it.  Then we have the setting.  The main part of the story is set in 1990, so we are in Atomic Blonde territory,  the last days of the Cold War, and yet the film seems to be telling a story at the height of the tensions as seen in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  This leads to further issues of distracting technology, mobile phones, laptop computers, and USB drives appearing five, ten or even fifteen years before invented.

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The film is peppered with action set pieces all of which are well choreographed and shot, but they are interspersed with the spy stuff that is far less interesting and convincing.  This all results in the story feeling both rushed and too long.  Newcomer Sasha Luss is suitably attractive, and good in the action scenes, but doesn’t have the charisma, acting ability, or comic timing to match Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Anne Parillaud, and Jennifer Lawrence who have all played similar characters better.  Ultimately what we are left with is a film that doesn’t know if it wants to be Atomic Blonde or Red Sparrow (more the plot driven book, than its film adaptation) but ends up being an inferior retelling of Nikita. I enjoyed Anna, and would certainly watch a sequel should it be made, but will not rush to re-watch this one. 

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It’s that time of year again, my top ten favourite films of the year.  A really tough choice, my top five came easy, I then had a short list of twenty to choose from for the final five.  From a criteria point of view:  All films were released, and most importantly seen by me in the UK in 2017. 

  1. Blade Runner 2049: I am getting predictable.  Two years ago Sicario missed out on my top movie of the year by the smallest margin to Mad Max.  Last year Arrival took the top spot. Back in 2013, Prisoners made my top ten.  It is therefore no surprise that a Denis Villeneuve tops the tree again.  What is a surprise, is that my favourite film of the year, is one I didn’t want to be made. As a lover of the original Blade Runner I just didn’t want them to mess it up.  Far from it, the film is both excellent in its own right, and takes the original movie and its concepts in an interesting direction. Blade+Runner+2049-1
  2. The Handmaiden: Chan-wook Park’s second appearance on the list after Stoker took top spot in 2013.  His adaptation of Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith sees the setting change from Victorian England to Japanese occupied Korea.  The film looks amazing and has a plot that twists and turns in a most satisfying way.The Handmaiden
  3. Baby Driver: Every generation has a new movie about a getaway driver, Baby Driver is up there with the best thanks to a fantastic concept.  The car chases are the best I have seen in years, the soundtrack is killer.  The thing that sets it apart is the way the action is cut perfectly in time with the music.  The music becomes a character in itself. A film that could have disappeared in its own style and sheen turns out to be nothing short of amazing.  Baby Driver
  4. Free Fire: Ben Wheatley’s costume drama goes back to a more innocent time, well not exactly; 1978!  It is essentially a single location shoot ’em up  B movie set during and after a failed arms deal.  The outcome is violent but also highly amusing.  Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, it’s a movie a many filmmakers could learn a lot from.Free Fire
  5. Dunkirk: Christopher Nolan is yet to make a bad film.  Dunkirk looked like it would be his most conventional story to date.  The structure of three stories told over three different periods of time makes it far from conventional. The tension never lets up and is only enhanced by the lack of CGI and the imposing score.  The structure enhances rather than confuses the film.  The photography is nothing short of stunning especially when seen on IMAX. Dunkirk
  6. Atomic Blonde: Imagine if John Wick looked like Charlize Theron and was a spy in the last days of the Cold War, that would give you an idea of Atomic Blonde.  The miracle is how you make a movie like that work.  David Leitch, stunt man/coordinator and half the team behind John Wick has done it. Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, Theron finally gets her perfect and iconic character.  There is a little more plot than the movie needs but the action is great and it looks amazing.Atomic Blonde
  7. The Death of Stalin: Armando Iannucci made an interesting choice with his cast using a mix of British and American accents in this story of the power struggle in the days that followed the titular death of Starlin.  Farce and satire in equal parts, with a really dark undercurrent, the risk pays off, it is brilliant and hilarious.  The best comedy of the year. the death of stalin
  8. Logan: Finally a Wolverine movie worthy of the character from the comic books.  More violent than anything else we have seen from the franchise.  Within the confines of a comic book movie it is also far more realistic and grounded than usual.  Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both fantastic in parts they have grown into in the seventeen years since the first X-Men movie.Logan
  9. Personal Shopper: After a fantastic supporting performance in director Olivier Assayas’ previous film Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart returns to star.  A haunting film the seeps into your psyche.  Not as good as Clouds of Sils Maria but Stewart is sensational.Personal Shopper
  10. Get Out: A clever race satire dressed up as a horror/thriller.  Far more intelligent and subversive than many have give it credit for.  Best of all it is tremendous fun.Get Out

 

 

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August has been another stellar month, eight trips to the cinema, most have them have been good, I have enjoyed them all in some way.  Only one can be movie of the month, here are the contenders:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Two decades after The Fifth Element Luc Besson returns to space for a sci-fi adventure.  Adapted from Besson’s favourite comic strip Valerian can’t decide if it wants to be the camp fun of Flash Gordon, or something more nuanced.  Cara Delevingne should feel a little miffed as despite being the main character and best part of the film, her character  Laureline has had her name expunged from the comics original title.  The content of the film seems to divide opinion one thing that can’t be disputed is how fantastic it looks. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron proved with Æon Flux that she had a affinity for action, sadly the film wasn’t much good.  It wasn’t until Mad Max: Fury Road that she had a suitable vehicle for her talent.  Former stunt man/coordinator David Leitch, half the team behind John Wick has created the perfect movie for her talents.  Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, Theron gets to play a character somewhere between James Bond and John Wick.  There is a little more plot than the movie needs but the action is great and it looks amazing. Atomic Blonde

A Ghost Story – Director David Lowery reteams with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.  Not much happens, and it happens very slowly without much dialogue, what should be terrible and boring, is actually brilliant.   A Ghost Story

Overdrive – Low rent rip-off of The Fast and Furious franchise.  The multiple twists and tunes in the plot are clearly signposted and are unlikely to surprise anyone. There is some good action and the survival rate of the classic cars is better than the aforementioned automotive franchise. Overdrive

The Dark Tower – Having not read any of the Stephen King sauce material I didn’t know what to expect from this adaptation.  The narrative is a bit of a mess and lacks the epic feeling I was led to expect, but I actually enjoyed it.  Idris Elba is excellent, Matthew McConaughey shows moments of brilliance but on the whole his performance is as disjointed as the film.  Not a disaster, but it could have been better.The Dark Tower

Annabelle: Creation – Prequel to the spinoff of The Conjuring.  Well constructed horror that is as enjoyable as the Conjuring movies largely thanks to the right balance of creepy build-up and jump scares; not to mention a supremely creepy doll._T2A7437.dng

American Made – Based on the true story of Barry Seal, an airline pilot recruited by the CIA to take reconnaissance photos, he soon finds himself working for the Medellín Cartel.  Tom Cruise makes a charismatic star as ever. Directed with verve and style by Doug Liman, one of the most underrated directors working today. Domhnall Gleeson is wonderfully slimy.  American Made

Logan Lucky – Steven Soderbergh returns from retirement with a blue collar Ocean’s Eleven. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are great in the leads but the best performances come from Riley Keough and Daniel Craig.  Not the best that Soderbergh has to offer but still a really good and enjoyable film. Logan Lucky

Ever since seeing it I intended the movie of the month to be A Ghost Story, a movie that has haunted me (pun intended) for weeks.  However, as is so often the case, my movie of the month, is the one I most want to see again: Atomic Blonde.Atomic Blonde poster

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At a time when action movies have become CGI laden and often dull, there are occasionally films that break the mould.  Shortly before his short live retirement,  Steven Soderbergh made Haywire (2011).  The story goes that while channel surfing late at night Soderbergh spotted Gina Carano fighting in an MMA fight on TV.  He quickly developed the idea of Mallory Kane, a highly trained operative working for an independent contractor.  One of the notable things about the film is the way the fight scenes are staged.  Shot at mid range with long takes, much the way MMA and Boxing is shot.  This is a world away from the ultra close-up highly edited style that can make anyone look like an action hero.  Then came John Wick (2014); former stunt men and stunt coordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch made their feature debut.  Making the most of Keanu Reeves martial arts skills the fight scenes and gun fu are highly choreographed making the whole spectacle like a ballet. The photography and editing combines styles with a mixture of long takes and quick cuts.John Wick Haywire

While Chad Stahelski made John Wick Chapter 2, his former directing partner, David Leitch went his own way and made Atomic Blonde.  An action spy thriller the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s.  Charlize Theron stars MI6 field agent sent to Berlin in the last few days before the fall of the wall to retrieve a McGuffin that anyone who has seen Mission: Impossible or Skyfall will be familiar with.  The film is so stylish it makes a Luc Besson look passively plain, the action is fantastic and Charlize Theron is a  charismatic and likeable lead.  The film is a little too plot heavy to be as fun as John Wick; there are a series of twists and turns that you will see coming a mile of, but none of this matters, it is still an enjoyable movie.attomic blonde

In the near thirty years since the film was set films have changed a lot so I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the spy and or action movies of 1989:

Starting with the spy thrillers: Licence to Kill was Timothy Dalton’s second and final James Bond movie.  A more violent and action based movie than earlier Bond movies, it recived mixed reviews on release.  I loved it and am happy to report it has aged well and in the era of Daniel Craig’s Bond people are beginning to re-evaluate Timothy Dalton’s time as 007.Licence to Kill

The same is not true of The Experts; a  John Travolta vehicle in the pre Pulp Fiction wilderness years.  I seem to remember enjoying it at the time but re-watched it about ten years ago and was surprised just how bad it was.  It was also considered a box office bomb at the time.the experts

Technically a 1988 move: Red Scorpion was released in the USA and UK in ’89.  Significant as it portrays Dolph Lundgren as a soviet soldier who ends up fighting African freedom fighters against Soviet oppression.  I remember liking the film at the time, it did however receive poor reviews, I must re watch it to see.Red Scorpion

We think of Marvel and DC comic book movies as a modern thing, with about three each a year as well as TV spinoffs, but both comic book giants had movies out in 1989.  The more significant of the two: Batman; Tim Burtons vision of the dark knight was revolutionary.  A dark brooding gothic fairytale Batman a world away from the camp of the60’s TV show.  The Batmobile looked amazing and the black sculpted latex batsuit was revolutionary.  I’m not sure if Michael Keaton is the best Batman, he is certainly the best Bruce Wayne.  Over at Marvel, Dolph Lundgren was staring as Frank Castle, aka: The Punisher.  Taking the idea of the Marvel character but changing many details of his origin.  The film isn’t great, and is a world away from current Marvel movies, but it isn’t terrible either and has a certain charm.Batman The Punisher

Cop movies, particularly buddy cop movies were all the rage at the time, the best of the bunch was Lethal Weapon 2. Almost as good as the original, this first sequel had all the action and excitement of the first in the franchise but with a lot more comedy.   Other entries to the subgenre worth watching are: Black Rain and Tango & Cash.Lethal Weapon 2 Black Rain Tango & Cash

One of the best movies of the year and possibly my favourite of the franchise: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Taking a big risk with a very self indulgent origin or the character prologue that not only works, it enhances the film.Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Two years after Dirty Dancing and two before Point Break, Patrick Swayze’s star was on the rise, he had two movies out in ’89 the better of the two was: Roadhouse. Dumb action fun, it isn’t a great film but its impossible not to like it. Roadhouse

One of the biggest action stars of the time, Jean-Claude Van Damme had two movies out in ’89: the sci-fi action adventure Cyborg, and the fight movie Kickboxer.  I saw Kickboxer around the same time as the previous year’s Bloodsport and can’t differentiate between them in my mind. cyborg and kickboxer

Finally: Blind Fury is a Zatôichi inspired action movie starring Rutger Hauer.  Robot Jox is a low budged B movie masterpiece from Empire Studios about people fighting giant robots similar to the Jaegers from Pacific Rim. Blind Fury Robot Jox

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