‘Atomic Blonde’ Review

Director: David Leitch

Writer: Kurt Johnstad

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, John Goodman, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, Roland Moller, Bill Skarsgard, and Eddie Marsan

Synopsis: An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, as I was lucky enough to see a free advanced screening of the film at the beginning of the month. Loosely based off the graphic novel titled The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde is the first film solo-directed by David Leitch, one of the co-directors of John Wick. So even before the film was released, we knew that the film would at least have great action scenes, right? Well, yes, it does, but Atomic Blonde isn’t without its faults. However, if anything, it once again proves that Charlize Theron – if you didn’t know already – is a total badass.

Atomic Blonde is set within days the Berlin Wall comes down, and follows Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), who is introduced after getting out of a tub of ice water with bruises covering her whole body and a black eye. Lorraine then goes to MI6 to get debriefed by her boss Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). The film then is told through flashbacks. Lorraine is bought in after the death of fellow agent Gasciogne (Sam Hargave), who Lorraine had a brief relationship with, who was carrying heavy and sensitive information on him when he died. Lorraine’s mission is to go to Berlin, meet her contact David Percival (James McAvoy), find the information and get out of Berlin alive. However, the mission is thrown for a loop when the list actually does go missing, and the only person that knows anything about the list is a defector codenamed Spyglass (Eddie Marsan). Lorraine not only has to get the information, but get out of Berlin alive.

Since the trailers were released, I have been really looking forward to Atomic Blonde. It had a great cast, the style looked cool and more importantly it looked like Charlize Theron was going to kick a lot – a lot – of ass. Thankfully, we get a lot of Charlize Theron kicking ass. The problem with Atomic Blonde is that before we get to the extreme level of ass-kicking, the film trudges along. The film works along the lines of other spy thrillers by being layered and dense with plot and characters that may or may not betray or want to kill Lorraine. However, some of it doesn’t really work too well.

Sofia Boutella’s character Delphine gets introduced, but she doesn’t really do too much in the film other than the promoted sex scene with Theron’s Lorraine. Her character should be more important considering the state of things, but no. Eddie Marsan’s character is introduced early on, but then disappears for the rest of the film until he’s needed again. Although I wish we got a little more of him especially since he’s an important part to everything, but I can see why he’s gone. James McAvoy seemed like he was having fun playing his David Percival. He’s a bit snarky, unpredictable and sometimes straight-out untrustworthy, but he’s still damn fun to watch. It’s also great to see him clash with Theron’s Lorraine, considering their styles are so different.

However, the film belongs to Theron. She’s a force from beginning to end, and never turns it off. Her character is cold and distant, but considering the lifestyle she lives it makes sense. That also makes her a death machine to anyone stupid enough to mess with her, but she also gets hurt like everyone else which is a nice touch. Add that the fact that she did a lot of her own stunts, because you can clearly see her face throughout the fight scenes makes those fight scenes more believable and awesome. Including an amazing ten-minute or so non-stop action scene that feels like its unbroken and probably one of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

All in all, Atomic Blonde is a worthy action spy thriller worth your time. While the film faces some pacing issues that bring the film down, and loaded a bit too much for its own good, director David Leitch still puts together a great action film with a great lead in Charlize Theron. I wouldn’t personally put Atomic Blonde next to John Wick, but if you’re feeling left out story-wise, the action should hold you over.

Atomic Blonde

4 out of 5

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‘Dunkirk’ Review

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the real event during World War II, and one of the most disastrous military missions in British history, Dunkirk is told through the perspective of three different viewpoints with imagined characters director Christopher Nolan made up, and a few characters that were based off real people. However, that doesn’t make Dunkirk any less of an important history film. I personally didn’t know anything about the real event at Dunkirk, and held off reading anything about the event until after the movie. This isn’t also your typical Nolan movie either, which makes the experience so much better. So let’s not waste any more space and get to what makes Dunkirk so damn good.

Nolan does do some experimenting with this film as it jumps across three different timelines that weave together in a slow fashion – all of them dealing with the British evacuation of Dunkirk. There’s the shoreline nicknamed The Mole, which takes place over the course of a week and follows British soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and a fellow soldier he comes across played by Damien Bonnard, as they try to get out of Dunkirk. There’s “The Sea” that takes place over a day and follows Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and George (Barry Keoghan) who sail to Dunkirk as a rescue party and pick up a soldier (Cillian Murphy) along the way. Finally, “The Air” which takes place over the course of an hour and follows British pilots Collins (Jack Lowden) and Farrier (Tom Hardy) who provide air support for the ships.

One of the things you obviously notice right away about the film, despite big names like Hardy, Murphy, Rylance, James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh appearing, they are nothing more than supporting roles. Although, I’d make the argument that Rylance is one of the leads of the film, but I’ll leave that up to you. Also, considering this is a war film, you’re probably expecting buckets of blood and a hardcore brutal look at war like Saving Pirate Ryan right? Well, you don’t get that. However, you did get something better, for the lack of a better word – a cold, relentless and unforgiving look at war.

There never is a real safe place in their film, which adds to the tension every time we get what could be a moment of peace. Combine that with Hans Zimmer’s amazing score with a ticking clock that is both unnerving, but blends right into the scenes perfectly. Considering that, I was surprised like most people were that Dunkirk’s runtime is only an hour and forty-six minutes. Not that war films have to be long, but even with that “short” runtime, Dunkirk tells the story it is trying to tell.

I don’t know if people will see this as a negative, but Nolan doesn’t really get into any back stories of the characters. Everything is very in the moment, despite the non-linear narrative Nolan is putting on. You get a sense on who the characters might be by their actions, but Nolan doesn’t really give anyone an exposition dump to tell their story. The only real person that gets a ton of dialogue is Branagh’s Commander Bolton who is trying to get everyone out of Dunkirk. The other characters like Whitehead’s Tommy, who opens the film, can be seen as the lead of the film, but since the film jumps around I was okay that he wasn’t the central focus – but again that could be me

That said, the cast is great with everyone holding their own and not stealing the spotlight from anyone. Whitehead spends the majority of the film with Harry Styles, who surprisingly is not that bad. This could easily be seen as stunt casting, but the singer isn’t bad in his acting debut. Cillian Murphy is terrific as the soldier pleading with Mark Rylance’s character to turn back and go home. Speaking of Rylance, he does fine job as Mr. Dawson and his two main co-stars Barry Keoghan as George and Tom Glynn-Carney’s Peter. Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy as the pilots are only involved in the dogfights, which are great and enthralling to watch.

Even with the great cast, this movie belongs to Nolan and the crew. Specifically, the already mentioned Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, who gives us the massive scope, but captures the intense dread and desperation of the characters, especially the ones on The Mole as they hear the German planes fly over them dropping bombs on them.

All in all, Dunkirk is an intense film that doesn’t let you go until the very end. Christopher Nolan was able to do something different in the war genre that I hope people appreciate and find the nuances with the great cinematography and score.

Dunkirk

4.5 out of 5

New Podcast – Ben Affleck Leaving the DCEU, Doctor Doom Movie, Movie Trailer & Ton More

The Movie Pit Podcast is live!

It was a big week, so the podcast is pretty long. Also, if Youtube is inconvenient, the podcast is on ITunes now too (link – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-movie-pit-podcast/id1249582608?mt=2)

 

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Review

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria and Amiah Miller

Synopsis: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mystic quest to avenge his kind.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Planet of the Apes was a movie that changed the movie scene due to its amazing practical effects, visual storytelling – apes of horses! – and vision of the future. Sure the series went to some crazy places and out there ideas. No serious watch them or look it up, but the series always had a special place in people’s hearts, and after a lackluster attempt with Tim Burton’s version – although credit where credit is due with those practical effects – the series got a much needed shot-in-the-arm with the reboot back in 2011 in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Lead by motion-capture pioneer Andy Serkis with WETA Digital helping with the groundbreaking special effects, Rise became an instant hit with fans and nonfans alike. Serkis’ Caesar was a compelling character that made us feel and root for him to win, which meant yes, humans are the bad guys and had to be stopped. We then got Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which added an extra layer, it wasn’t humans vs. apes, it was humans vs. apes vs. apes, thanks to Toby Kebbell’s Koba, who hated what humans did to apes, and Caesar, who saw the good in humans once and believes that there could be peace. Now, of course, we get War for the Planet of the Apes, a great end to a great trilogy.

War picks up a couple years after the events of Dawn, and we now sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) with the remaining apes living in hiding in the woods from a group of soldiers lead by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After two attacks on their home, Caesar has had enough and decides to get revenge. Breaking away from the apes, and sending them to a new promised home, Caesar is followed by his trusted and closest friends in Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Eventually they come across a young girl, played by Amiah Miller, who has lost the ability to speak, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), an ape that has learned to talk just be being around humans. What follows is Caesar struggling with his darker side to get revenge, but also still trying to remain the leader to his people

Despite the summer releases of all the films, and the massive – and impressive –special effects, this Apes franchise never really feels like a summer movie. They could have easily turned this into a full-fledged apes vs. humans series, but instead they made every film about making Caesar a fully fleshed out and complex character. The film could be looked at as character study on both sides. Are the apes the heroes, or are the humans. Yes, there are good humans like James Franco’s Will or Jason Clarke’s Malcolm, but for every good few humans, there are extremely bad humans like Harrelson’s The Colonel, who take the extreme.

Caesar fights for his people and to keep them safe, but so do the humans, and in this case Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel has a reasonable case for his actions. Although anyone in that kind of position will probably say their position is right, but in this case, he’s somewhat right. That said, that is another reason why I love this rebooted trilogy. It gives you both sides of the argument and lets you choose, but Caesar is such a great character and seeing his journey for three films now, you have to root for him.

Of course, some of that goes to Andy Serkis. Serkis’ subtle nuances always made Caesar feel more human, if that makes some sense. Here it’s the same, Caesar is still conflicted, but still has his purpose but is stuck figuring out if he wants to continue doing things his way or if he falls for the darkness that Koba told him he would and should do. That’s why his advisory here in Harrelson’s The Colonel is a great one. Like Caesar, The Colonel only has one purpose and will do whatever it takes to complete it.

When it comes to the rest of the cast, it’s hard to really judge all of them considering they are mostly all motion-capture. When it comes to the new characters in Bad Ape, he brings some humor to the otherwise dark toned film, and all of it works and is not forced. Then there’s Amiah Miller’s character who is a huge homage and Easter Egg to the original series that ties in where the future of the series can go, but also do their own version. Also, credit to Miller, who’s still relativity new to Hollywood, on what she was able to pull off here given that she doesn’t talk at all.

Speaking of homage and Easter Eggs, War does have a few more besides Miller’s character, but there is something that I really liked that they added that connects to the original. It was something that feels small, but when you look at past films, and potentially future films, it completely works and makes sense – although part of me kind of wishes they don’t make any more after this.

All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes has it all; action, drama, humor, beautiful cinematography by Michael Seresin and score by Michael Giacchino. More importantly, War is a fitting end to a near perfect trilogy that gave us a great character in Caesar played by Andy Serkis. While part of me would somewhat like to see where this franchise goes from here, the other part of me hopes they leave it at that.

War for the Planet of the Apes

4.5 out of 5

Spider-Man: Homecoming Spoiler Review

The spoiler-filled review of Spider-Man: Homecoming is up!

Give it a listen, and if Youtube is too inconvenient for you, the podcast is up on ITunes now right here (id1249582608?mt=2)

New Podcast – Baby Driver Spoiler Review & More

The Movie Pit Podcast is back recapping the slow movie news week that was. Also, I spoil review Baby Driver. Also, if Youtube is inconvenient for you to listen to the podcast, the podcast is now on ITunes. Link down below

 

Podcast Link – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-movie-pit-podcast/id1249582608?mt=2

 

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Review

Director: Jon Watts

Writers: Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Donald Glover and Marisa Tomei

Synopsis: Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes.*

 

The second reboot of Spider-Man in the last 15 years is here, and dare I say, it might be the best one yet. Jon Watts has bought the real teenage aspect of Peter Parker which not only makes him a desperate young hero trying to prove himself, but also trying make it through the difficulties of high school. There other nice thing, there’s no origin story. Although the film does act as a pseudo-origin story given that Peter is finally becoming the Spider-Man we all know and love from the comics.

The film begins with, surprisingly, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes with his clean-up crew after what looks like the Battle of New York from The Avengers, and suddenly getting kicked out, but not before taking some alien technology with them. We then jump forward to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in a home movie-like video recapping the events of Captain America: Civil War, including some shots from the airport battle. After getting to keep the suit, we cut forward yet again a few months with Peter feeling left out and antsy to get back into the real action. That comes to fruition when he discovers a gang selling alien tech weapons lead by Adrian aka The Vulture. Peter then tries to take down Adrian and his crew, while also dealing with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) who knows his secret, dealing with his crush from afar in Liz (Laura Harrier) and keeping his identity from his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

While on paper, Spider-Man: Homecoming sounds like it has a lot going on, but what Jon Watts and the writers were able to do here is nothing short of great. The film is actually over two hours along, but it never feels long. Homecoming moves at a brisk pace, all while being enjoyable and fun, but more importantly, it’s funny. The humor is top notch and while the film never goes full comedy, the humor is one of the many things that makes the film great.

The other nice thing about Homecoming is that it’s small stakes movie. There’s no end of the world or portal opening in the middle of the sky scenario. It’s Peter trying to stop a gang from selling alien tech weapons. Sure he fights a guy in an alien tech suit, with his super-suit and superpowers but it’s not like he’s a demigod or Iron Man. We see Peter as Spider-Man swinging around the city doing some things like stopping a guy from stealing a bike or even when he’s just being Peter, we see him go to a bodega to get a bite to eat. He really is, as cheesy as it sounds, a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

The reason why this works is simply because of Tom Holland. Holland is great as Peter and Spider-Man. He has the sensibility and humor a Peter Parker/Spider-Man needs and makes the role his own. Nothing against Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, but Holland is of the right age for the character and has a personality that we can easily follow and root for. He’s also still learning everything as he goes, and we see him fail, which is what we’ve been really missing from the previous installments. Sure he has the heart of a hero and is always trying to do the right thing, but he still doesn’t know when to step in and when to step away.

The rest of the cast is pretty great too. Let’s start off with the obvious – Robert Downey Jr. once again playing Tony Stark/Iron Man. While he’s in almost every promotion spot we’ve seen, he’s actually not in the movie that much, so if you had the fear that Iron Man/Stark would take over the film, he doesn’t. Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, since they never actually call him the Vulture, is okay as the villain. His reasoning does leave something to be desired, but you can see where he’s coming from, but I think it helps that he’s damn terrifying when he needs to be.

Jacob Batalon as Ned, Peter’s best friend and the only friend that knows he’s Spider-Man, is great here and his chemistry with Holland is fantastic. Zendaya as the deadpan schoolmate Michelle has her moments that are welcomed humorous moments. Laura Harrier as Peter’s love interest, Liz, doesn’t have much to do other than be something Peter can’t really have because of his alter-ego Jon Favreau once again plays Happy Hogan, who acts like a watch dog to Peter, although he struggles him off every chance he gets. Tony Revolori plays Flash Thompson, a high school rival/bully to Peter, and Bokeem Woodbine plays Shocker, the secondary villain that Peter/Spider-Man has to deal with.

Donald Glover appears as Aaron Davis, someone Spider-Man comes across for help. Unfortunately, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May is a little underwritten for me. Yes, the fact that she’s younger does play a funny little role in the film, but she doesn’t really give Peter a wise speech about being a kid or anything like that, she does have one moment like that, but I kind of wish they played her up more. Instead she is played as an over-protective aunt who tells Peter to run the other way when danger is put in front of him. However, this new attitude does get a nice payoff, but I still would have loved to see more of her.

Of course, there are many Easter Eggs for fans to fine, some are right in your face, while others fans may need to keep an eye out for it. Thankfully, Sony doesn’t overstuff the movie with them or try to force the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the film itself keeping everything Spider-Man related and watching him grow as the character that we all love and know.

All in all, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a hell of a lot of fun. From start to finish you are bound to love this movie. Tom Holland has solidified himself as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and I for one can’t wait to see where he takes the character next. The Easter Eggs to the history of the character do make the film all the more great consider where the potential can go, and I’m sure one particular one will get fans talking. However, I would highly recommend everyone to go watch Homecoming. It’s not a reboot for reboot stake or for Sony to make more money, it’s a Spider-Man movie that we’ve been waiting for.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

4.5 out of 5