Tag Archives: graphic novel

Atomic Blonde – Review

2 Aug

In 2012, a graphic novel was released called The Coldest City, which tells the story of a spy operating in Germany during the events that lead up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. I have to be honest, up until recently, I’ve never heard of it, but it’s now been brought to my attention with its new big screen adaptation titled Atomic Blonde. I’ve been looking forward to this movie for quite a while, but I knew that it could really go either way, so I’d like to say I had my expectations in check. After seeing it, I have to say that I’m pretty surprised at a few things. First off, it’s a better movie than I thought it was going to be, which is pretty cool. Secondly, the marketing for this movie is completely off and it’s really not at all what the trailers make it out to be.

The year is 1989 and the Berlin Wall is close to falling which will bring together people on either side for the first time in years. Meanwhile, amidst the government turmoil, MI6 agent James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave) is killed by a KGB agent and the microfilm containing the names and actions of every agent in operation is stolen from him. This concerns a lot of people and only the best of the best can be trusted to go in and retrieve this information before it is sold to the highest bidder. Enter Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), a top level MI6 agent with a very special connection to the deceased. Her mission is to not only retrieve the microfilm, but also hunt down and assassinate a traitor known only as Satchel, who’s been selling information to different sources including a KGB associate and arms dealer named Bremovych (Roland Møller). Upon arriving in Berlin, Broughton meets with another agent, David Percival (James McAvoy) who’s been operating in Berlin for a long time, but as she spends more time with Percival and his associates, it becomes clear that no one can be trusted and people can be bought and sold no matter their previous allegiances.

The trailers for this movie made it seem like Atomic Blonde was going to be a non stop, kinetic thrill ride of a movie that relentlessly jumps off the screen and attacks the senses of the viewer. That’s not really what the movie was and after I adjusted to this realization I started to really enjoy the movie for what it was. Sure, there’s action in it, but this is more of a spy movie than anything else, that just so happens to be infused with the style and sensibilities of a graphic novel. It does feel over the top in terms of its characters and certain plot elements but it also feels down to earth at other moments. This is a really layered story, and covering anything in a paragraph long summary is just impossible. What really is done right with this movie is a sense of blurred motivations and it’s appropriate that this line of work is constantly referred to as “the game” because the film makers have turned this area of Berlin into something resembling a game board. The characters move about in certain areas as clandestine as possible while trying to weed out the actions of the other characters. It’s a web of deceit and lies that holds up until the very last frame of the movie and this tale of suspense and turncoats works just as well as the action sequences.

Over the past few years, Charlize Theron has proven that she can perform just as well as the other modern day action movie titans. She was great in Mad Max: Fury Road, but her performance in Atomic Blonde takes her skills to the next level. When the movie does shift gears into pure action mode, it gets nuts. There’s a few major action sequences throughout the film, and the wait building up to each of them is worth it with the payoff. Theron owns the screen in these sequences and the choreography of each of these scenes are unique and memorable. It’s also all shot very well so the action can be seen in full. A while into the movie, one of these sequences starts and appears to not break action for at least 10 or 15 minutes. This is one of the greatest action sequences I have ever seen, and despite the fact that it is edited together, the illusion is strong and I didn’t have a hard time believing it was one continuous shot. Major kudos goes to director David Leitch. This being his first full feature film, I am really surprised by his skill behind the camera and I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.

While Atomic Blonde does very well in most areas, I do have to touch on some problems that I had with the movie. The pacing of this movie does have a hard time at some points. There will be a hard hitting action sequence, but then it will feel like the plot hits a brick wall. This kind of stop and go narrative is jarring and there’s a whole plot line with a certain character that could have been left out all together. The movie is a good length but it would have worked better if the screen time with this particular character was spent building on something else. There’s also a bit of a weird clash of style and story. This is a very stylistic movie, but it also tells a very down to earth and real story. It often felt like the style and the substance were contradicting each other, which shows that Leitch does have some growing to do in how he presents his stories.

Atomic Blonde is not a perfect movie but it is a more than competent action/spy thriller that has a whole lot of style and some really great film making. As a debut feature film, it’s really impressive and I want to see David Leitch grow as a film maker. While he shoots action very well, he needs to work on elements of his story telling and his style before he can create a movie as hard hitting as I think he wanted Atomic Blonde to be. Still, this is a very entertaining movie with a great sense of location and plenty of suspense and action to keep audiences on the edges of their seats.

Final Grade: B

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Screwed – Review

11 Jun

Sometimes I watch a movie and I think, “How am I ever going to write a review for this?” Unfortunately, here I am today with that very same problem. Teruo Ishii is not a director with no credits, in fact his filmography is rather large and he is getting his material from a popular comic book artist, Yoshiharu Tsuge. What could go wrong here? It’s a movie that prides itself on being weird and exists solely to knock your socks off. Unfortunately, this movie is a failure on most levels.

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For two years, cartoonist Tsube (Tadanobu Asano) and Kuniko (Miki Fujitani) have lived together, and for those two years, Tsube has had very little work which results in very little money. After finding out that Kumiko had a one night stand and may now be pregnant, his self esteem reaches an all time low and he leaves her to travel around the countryside and hopefully find himself. While he travels, he meets a strange amount of people with obsessive or suppressed sexual urges, which makes him explore a side of himself that he never knew. When he gets an unexpected and life threatening injury, however, the world turns into a different sort of place where no one is willing to help him.

This is probably going to be a short review because I really don’t have much to say. Screwed feels so broken and dull that it hardly even qualifies as a movie you watch. It’s more like a movie you sleep through. Like, what was this movie trying to be? It’s this weird combination of an honest exploration of a depressed man’s mind, but then it’s also this acid trip down a hellish rabbit hole. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do either one well enough for me to be remotely interested in either.

Screwed didn’t work for me at all. The only time it got remotely cool was the last twenty minutes, and those parts all felt forced, like the film makers had to do something weird for its audience to respect it in some way. I know I say this a lot, but for a movie like this, it would have worked better as a short film around 45 or 50 minutes in length. It goes on for way too long and offers nothing of substance.

Bottom line: It’s stupid and ugly so don’t watch it.

I apologize for the quality of this review, but I really didn’t have much material to work with. There’s nothing online about this movie to clarify certain things or add decoration, so this is the best I can do for everyone. Until next time!

Road to Perdition – Review

22 Dec

When I say that I’ve been wanting to watch this movie for about ten years, I really have been wanting to watch this movie for ten years. It’s not like anything really stood in my way, more so that I just never got around to actually watching  it. But no more! After Sam Mendes took home the Academy Award for his debut film, American Beauty, he was approached with a script based off a graphic novel by Michael Allan Collins. The result is Road to Perdition, a wonderfully acted, designed, and all around fantastic movie that may never be a classic, but still should be recognized as something great.

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Michael (Tyler Hoechlin) is a 12 year old boy who looks up to has father, but isn’t really sure of what he does. In reality his father is a notorious mob enforcer, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), who works for Irish mobster John Rooney (Paul Newman). When Michael sees his father unwillingly help in a murder committed by John’s son Connor (Daniel Craig), the older Michael has to take him on the run after his wife and other son are killed to keep the secret from getting out. As the two Sullivans begin robbing banks to support themselves, John Rooney hires hitman and photographer Harlen Maguire (Jude Law)to hunt them down and silence them once and for all.

Having wanted to see this movie for years, there was a lot of pressure because if I didn’t like it than, shit, that would’ve been a waste of lots of excitement and anticipation. After finally seeing Road to Perdition, there is nothing I need to complain about. It was a really great movie, but there’s something about it that really stops it from achieving a status as a classic. My theory is that it isn’t quite as large or sweeping as The GodfatherScarface, or even Boardwalk Empire. People, including me, love huge movies and Road to Perdition is the quiet, smart kid who sits in the back of the room and only gets attention from people who know what he’s capable of.

 

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What Sam Mendes succeeds at doing is creating a uniquely small, yet hard hitting story about the relationship between a father and son. There’s plenty of gunplay and mobster violence to be had in this movie, but a lot of it occurs offscreen because that isn’t the focus of the movie. Instead, much of what we see is through the eyes of a 12 year old. The older Sullivan is seen as a mysterious figure, always shot from afar, but he soon becomes much clearer and human and is shot with more close ups. Small things like this make the story much more potent and is also just a sign of the talents that Mendes and the late, great cinematographer Conrad L. Hall have and had. Hall especially makes great use of light, lighting every scene as if it were an Edward Hopper painting.

Finally, the cast of actors are all top notch. Hanks carries his role and is pretty much the actor to play these types of roles. Newman gives one of his last great performances as the tragic “villain” while Jude Law hams it up perfectly as the rat like photographer/hitman. Credit also has to be given to Tyler Hoechlin who gives a fine performance, despite his age. This is not an easy role for a kid to take on, but he handles it with the maturity and sincerity of a professional.

Road to Perdition is one of the most underrated movies that has come out within the last 10 to 20 years. It has a superbly quiet, yet startlingly violent story to tell about a strained relationship between a father and son. Paul Newman and Conrad Hall both do fine jobs in this film being so late in their careers, while Hanks, Law, and Hoechlin carry their own weight on the screen as well. This may not be as epic as other mobster films or shows, but it has a story that packs one hell of a dramatic punch and also works as a brilliant form of artistic expression. This is a great film, and highly underappreciated.