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Posts Tagged ‘Red Sparrow’

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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Emily Nelson – A Simple FavorA Simple Favor

Reynolds Woodcock – Phantom ThreadPhantom Thread

Lou – Ocean’s EightOcean's Eight

Dominika Egorova – Red SparrowRed Sparrow

Anyone from Wakanda – Black PanthaBlack Panther

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A busy month of cinema going.  In addition to the films listed below I also saw a ten year anniversary screening of the brilliant but controversial Martyrs.  The contenders for movie of the month are:

Red Sparrow – If you have seen the trailer you would be forgiven for thinking that Marvel had re-cast Black Widow and made an origin movie. This couldn’t be further from the truth, more George Smiley or Harry Palmer than James Bond. Jennifer Lawrence reteams with her Hunger Games director Francis (no relation) Lawrence for an old school spy thriller. Lawrence is convincing as a ballerina forced into a new career. The action is more verbal than physical, but the visuals are often brutal and unflinching. The supporting cast are also excellent, particularly Matthias Schoenaerts as Lawrence’s creepy spymaster uncle. The plot is full of twists and turns but not so much that you can’t follow the story leading to a satisfying conclusion. It is not a film I expect to go down well with audiences, which is a shame, I loved it.Red Sparrow

Wonder Wheel – Woody Allen movies can be a bit hit and miss, this one is certainly more in the miss camp. Ginny (Kate Winslet) is unhappily married to Humpty (Jim Belushi), deluding herself that her affair with pseudo-intellectual flake Mickey (Justin Timberlake) is more than just a fling. Things are shaken up by the arrival of Humpty’ s daughter Carolina (Juno Temple), on the run from her mobster husband. Temple is excellent, Belushi is terrible, he wants to be Brando in a Tennessee Williams play. Shot by three time Oscar winner Vittorio Storaro, the film looks great, it is just really dull and plodding.Wonder Wheel

You Were Never Really Here – A welcome return from Lynne Ramsay. The plot of a hired killer/enforcer sent to rescue a Senator’s daughter sounds like something we have seen many times before, most notably David Mamet’s underrated Spartan (2004). But this is so much more nuanced than that. Existing in a dream like state reminiscent of Ramsay’s earlier Morvern Callar (2002), the film has little interest in plot, instead, it concentrates on the fractured mind of its protagonist Joe (Joaquin Phoenix). All this is aided by another great score by Jonny Greenwood. Not one for the multiplex masses, but a fantastic film for those who like this sort of thing, like me!You Were Never Really Here

Gringo – A first feature for director Nash (brother of Joel) Edgerton. A south of the border comedy crime drama about corrupt corporations and a hapless everyman. Charlize Theron and David Oyelowo relish their comedy roles, Joel Edgerton once again proves his versatility. Amanda Seyfried isn’t given much to do. Even Sharlto Copley isn’t bad. A fun movie but not as funny as it should be. And for those, who have seen the film, and are wondering, the answer to the question is Revolver!Gringo

Mom and Dad – The concept of this movie is totally bonkers, the execution is total B movie schlock, but it actually works thanks to some great style touches, and Nicolas Cage going totally Nicolas Cage! For reasons that are never really explained suburban parents go berserk and try and kill their own offspring. The film could be taken as a straight tongue in cheek comedy horror, or as a satire on the relationship between teenagers and parents. With themes of mothers being jealous of their daughters and fathers resenting the loss of their youth, the latter reading is certainly topical. Don’t expect a masterpiece or anything particularly memorable but as disposable fun, it isn’t bad.mom and dad

Love, Simon – Taken on its own merits, Love, Simon is a coming age, high-school drama, a genre that is two a penny. On this basis it doesn’t come close to other recent films of the genre, the highlights being Lady Bird and Edge of Seventeen. However, it is hard to take on its own merits for a simple difference in the plot. Simon, the main character is gay, and the obligatory teenage crisis of the movie is his coming out. This is the first overtly mainstream YA movie I have seen with such a storyline making it potentially a watershed movie. In one way it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been done before as the story fits the genre really well, it follows all the usual beats of a person whose seemingly perfect life comes crashing down because of bad decisions, he then spends the final act trying to put them right. The film is enjoyable and entertaining largely thanks to a likeable cast and the right amount of humour.love simon

Tomb Raider – Reboot of the successful but rubbish Angelina Jolie vehicle. Telling an origin story, Alicia Vikander (who is actually older than Jolie was when she took the part) plays a young Lara Croft raiding her first tomb. A more serious, and slightly more grounded take on the character it is notably better than the original two movies. However the story is very derivative, some of the set pieces are borrowed directly Indiana Jones, some of the CGI is poor and Walton Goggins is wasted playing a one dimensional character. Alicia Vikander makes a likeable charismatic lead, if there is a sequel, it will hopefully have a better script.Tomb Raider

Ready Player One – There was a time when blockbusters were fun, it was called the 80’s! If anyone can recapture that its Steven Spielberg, he hasn’t disappointed. Largely existing within a virtual reality world where anything goes, the movie is filled with pop culture references; not being a gamer I didn’t get a lot of the game references, but the film ones are nothing short of joyous. There is a whole scene and extended set-piece involving a Stanley Kubrick movie that only Spielberg could have pulled off. At its heart the story is a quest, the subject of many games, but also one of the oldest basis’ for a story going back at least as far as Homer. It is a little sentimental and clichéd in its message, but that isn’t actually a bad thing especially when it’s done style, and without cynicism. More fun than anything Spielberg has made for nearly thirty years, and like some of his earlier films, one that will be enjoyed for years to come.Ready Player One

Unsane – A young woman looking for a support group following an incident with a stalker accidently commits herself to a mental institution. Steven Soderbergh’s second feature since coming out of “retirement” is tonally similar to his earlier film Side Effects. Shot using iPhones giving some unusual and sometime unnerving visuals. Depending on your point of view the film either perfectly balances multiple ideas, or is a confused by having too many ideas, I am leaning towards the former. It certainly holds a mirror up to some topical issues, as well as been a straight horror tinged thriller. By far the best thing about the film is Claire Foy who is excellent, I am now suddenly intrigued and excited to see what she does as Lisbeth Salander.

unsane

Pacific Rim: Uprising – After moderate success and five years, no one expected a Pacific Rim sequel to ever happen. With Guillermo del Toro busy making the Oscar winning The Shape of Water, directing duties passed to Steven S. DeKnight who has a solid pedigree in television. The film offers absolutely nothing new or original but is great dumb fun.Pacific Rim Uprising

Isle of Dogs – Following 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson returns to the world of stop motion animation. Set in Japan, a corrupt dog hating mayor exiles the canine population to a trash island under the guise of quarantine. A young boy travels to the Island to rescue his beloved pet. Charming, funny and touching helped out by an amazing voice-cast and a fantastic soundtrack.isle of dogs

A Wrinkle in Time – Based on book of the same name by Madeleine L’Engle’s that has been a children’s staple since its first publication in 1962, or so I am told. I had never heard of it! Directed by Ava DuVernay with a solid cast it was sure to be good. Sadly it isn’t. It is well made, visually spectacular, and largely well acted, but that’s about all it has going for it. The story is dull and the plot wafer thin at best, the good v evil / light v dark story lacks any subtlety.A Wrinkle in Time

Never has a movie of the month come with so many caveats; firstly had Annihilation been screened at a cinema it would almost certainly been movie of the month.  I tend not to count reissues towards movie of the month, again Martyrs would have been a strong contender if I did.  I considered giving it to Red Sparrow just to be contrary as everyone seems to hate it.  Finally, You Were Never Really Here is probably the best movie this month, but I’m not sure how many times I will want to re-watch it, however, my chosen movie I have already seen twice.  I saw a preview about a week and half before release, went a away, read the book on which it is based, and watched it again (in IMAX), my movie of the month is: Ready Player OneReady Player One Movie of the Month.jpg

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