REVIEW: “ATOMIC BLONDE” (2017) Universal Pictures

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Ever since Mad Max: Fury Road, I felt as though Charlize Theron could really do no wrong at playing a kick-ass, strong female character – as let’s face it, she should have been nominated for that role. With “Atomic Blonde”, it feels as though what I thought is correct. Theron’s character, Lorraine Broughton is a concoction of James Bond shaken (not stirred) with a bit of John Wick and perhaps even a little Bourne as an added twist of sour lemon. That is of course except for the simple fact that she could probably kick all their asses while barely mussing up her hair.

“Atomic Blonde” isn’t all sex and violence, though yes, it’s what drives the film, as there is a story in here, though I will say it’s not the most well written one. It’s a 80’s spy flick turned upside down as it’s lead character takes us on a thriller of a ride, done mostly in flashbacks during an investigation being conducted by Eric Gray (Toby Jones), and our own CIA exec Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman), who seem to be trying to work together here..sort of. With some fantastic 80’s fashion and a soundtrack that is in and of itself, it’s own character, as every song fits perfectly into it’s scene and makes a huge impression on the audience by making you want to stand up and dance, but instead, you sit because you’re being transfixed by some crazy fun, fantastic action scenes.

The setup: Lorraine is an undercover MI6 agent sent to Berlin in the days before the Wall comes down to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a important list that asylum seeking agent code-named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), which contains the names of double agents that’s fallen into the wrong hands of Aleksander Bremovych (Roland Møller). James McAvoy plays David Percival, a fellow agent who’s probably been in Berlin a little too long as he’s clearly running a black market on the side and doesn’t really seem to be on the up and up agent-wise. Berlin is at the point of time where there are protests every day with the East & West sides wanting the downfall of the infamous Berlin Wall that separates them. So of course with all that going on, it’s in a complete state of chaos which predicates the plot here. Things are changing and changing fast with Lorraine being basically sent into an impossible situation, which in order to stay alive, she’s needs to not only be one step ahead, but going to have to fight like hell just to survive and get herself out, let alone fulfill the mission.

All in all, it’s the action that makes this film and leaves the storyline in the dust, with Theron truly being an “Atomic Blonde”. The acting beyond the action, isn’t really there. Sofia Boutella, whom usually is the one doing all the ass-kicking, is really in her first role here that she doesn’t, and honestly, you could have left her French agent character Delphine Lasalle out and no one would have missed her, unless of course the sex scene between her and Charlize are important to you, but it’s truly not an addition or would it be a subtraction that would be missed to the plot. Lastly, you know how picky I am with accents but I do give a hush-hush wink-wink to Theron’s playing a British one here. 😉

Grade: B-
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Media Review Screening: Monday, July 24, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“Atomic Blonde” will be released in theatres nationwide on Friday, July 28, 2017

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REVIEW: “GIRLS TRIP” (2017) Universal Pictures

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The formula for “Girl’s Trip” is something you’ve all seen before. Best friends from college whom haven’t seen each other in years and have lost touch. All lead separate lives, yet come back together for a big reunion. But just as with all ‘formula’ films – it’s how you do it. And it’s done pretty well right here. While comparison’s to Rough Night will be inevitable as again, the formula is similar, ‘Girl’s Trip’ definitely benefits from a beefed up storyline and complete chemistry between it’s leads.

Speaking of those leads, this fearsome foursome of Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall), the successful married author with the smooth ex-sportsman husband Stewart
(Mike Colter), who is setting herself up to be the second coming of Oprah. Sasha Franklin (Queen Latifah), runs a TMZ style gossip site and like a Real Housewife, her lifestyle exceeds her income. Lisa Cooper (Jada Pinkett Smith), the stressed out, newly divorced of ‘mom’ of the group in everything from her mom-fashion sense to her ‘mom’ flirting style. Lastly we have our stand-out – the steal the film/sure to be our new star of the moment – Tiffany Haddish as Dina, the most over-the-top, wild, fun character to come across the screen in a long time. They are all otherwise known as the Flossy Possy and they have the matching necklaces & 90’s style bedazzled vests to prove it. This raucous romp of a film is bust-out-loud laughing for a good 90 minutes, but therein also lies the problem as the film is 2hrs long. That’s not to say that 2 hours isn’t filled with it’s share of raunchy comedy, heartbreaking reveals, and some truly jaw-dropping gags that run the gamut from all out fun crassyness to possibly even the illegal at some points. But the punchlines are hysterical and you can’t help but laugh uncontrollably.

Haddish’s and her charismatic zip set the tone early, zinging between bouts of physical comedy and wonderfully inappropriate one-liners that are as shocking as they are masterfully and hysterically, delivered. Later in the film, Haddish serves up what will likely become contemporary cinema’s best example of how to use fruit to simulate sex acts (sorry, “American Pie”), a sequence so deliciously raunchy that it’s worth the price of the ticket alone.

But Dina, for all her big talk and hilarious faults, is also an exceedingly loyal friend, and that will come in handy when “Girls Trip” takes on the very big secret at its center. It’s that secret that is the source of much of the film’s drama, and is what makes it for a bit of an overstuffed feature and adds time to the film that makes it just a bit too long as you think it ends at least 3 times before it actually does. As the ladies make their way through all the glory Essence Fest has to offer, including run-ins with a slew of big talents in a seemingly never-ending parade of cameos (Diddy and New Edition makes off with the best ones) and at least one wild adventure fueled by some ill-gotten pure absinthe, “Girls Trip” keeps the momentum going ever onward into the next big comedic set piece. That it all ends with a reveal that while it might dilute its more raucous sensibilities, it ends the film exactly how you think it will. But it only makes it more clear why Director: Malcolm D. Lee and all these ladies should think about coming back again and again for possibly some more hilarious ‘Girl’s Trips’ because I know I will be there for each and every one of them.

Grade: B
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Media Review Screening: Monday, July 17, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“Girls Trip” will be released in theaters nationwide on Friday, July 21, 2017

REVIEW: “WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES” (2017) 20th Century Fox

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With this being the final film in the Apes trilogy saga ~ WOW! does this one have a lot to offer. From charactarization to extraordinary and beautifully done set pieces, along with spectacular next-level CG work that brings such realness to the apes. Of course it has flaws, but they are few. This truly shows how to respect original material, yet reinvent it in a way that enhances and sends it off in the right way.

If you are like me and have, whether secretly or not, always been cheering for the apes, you will love this movie. This movie has so much going on within itself the whole time, you will rarely find a dull moment. It starts with a bit of a prologue from previous films which I loved as it’s always nice to have a reminder – but done simply, clearly and precisly in a matter of a few short sentences. This will make it nice and easy for those who’ve not seen the earlier films in this series.

Of course, as the title dictates, it all starts with war. After the death of the man-hating Koba (Toby Kebbell) in “Dawn of The Planet of the Apes”, we find Caesar (Andy Serkis) looking to lead his klan to a new life where they can live in peace. But after a huge opening scene battle, where we see Caesar letting some humans live so they can take back an offer of peace to their commander known as The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). This offer is clearly rejected when they attack the apes and kill Caesars’ wife & son. And now it’s Caesar turn for revenge. Wanting to take this path of revenge on his own while sending the others off to find the peaceful land his son had found for them, he is unltimately joined by Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary), and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Along the way they pick up Nova (Amiah Miller), a young mute girl (how she gets her name is a fun little plot line) and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), an ex-zoo ape who doesn’t speak the ape language at all and truly adds the perfect bit of fun, zany bit of humour to a oft-times, dark film. We also find out, there was a disease that came after the plague, that cause humans to go dumb as in the case of Nova. This all builds up to the reasoning behind why The Colonel wants to completely exterminate the entire Simian community.

In the midst of all this, we also meet the newest addition to Caesars’ family, one that brings us back around to the very beginning. To those of you that don’t know Cornelius (Devyn Dalton), this goes back old school – we are talking Roddy McDowell/Charlton Heston Apes beginning circa 1968. Along with a few brief appearances by Koba – more of a mirage – reminding Caesar of things such as ‘ape does not kill ape’ and how hate bred inside of him and it didn’t end well, we have a good mix of old and new being brought together to wrap everything together.

As Caesar learns his entire tribe has been captured and taken to a work camp where they are put into forced labour to build a wall, he tried desperately to figure out plans to set them free. See, turns out that The Colonel has a completely different army coming after him because he is killing his own people, including his own son, for coming down with the new ailment that seems to be contagious to some. So what do the apes do? Well what we all should. They stand up and resist and through peserverance and brainpower, they outwit their captors to find their way out. There are moments that you can’t help but think of the narrative and where it leads to and how it matches so much in a way with our past and present state of our country politically.

As for acting, you would think with all the CG effects there really couldn’t be any, and while the human characters aren’t leading the ‘interesting’ pack here, there are moments when you swear Caesar is real. While there is predictability for sure, the very climatic ending is almost in two parts and while I scoffed for a quick moment at the 2nd part, it wasn’t a scoff of disdain but rather disbelief in a good way.

Just remember ~ No one comes out of this film well, after all it is a war.

Grade: A-
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, June 21. 2017 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Nationwide Release: Friday, July 14, 2017