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

REVIEW: “THE MUMMY” (2017) Universal Pictures

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Remember the 1999 version of The Mummy? How fun it was and you loved it! Well this isn’t that. This one take us to the old school premise of The Dark Universe, a creation of creatures that put Universal on the studio map back in the 30’s. Though the franchise had been struggling ever since the original 1999 movie was released, as the sequels to the first fun film gradually got worse. The first “Mummy” was slick, well made and entertaining; the second was your typical sequel movie, not the worst but far from the best, and then with the third installment it was clear that Hollywood had given up on the franchise and wanted to squeeze out one more pay-check.

Well skip forward to 2017 and we have Tom Cruise leading this one. While it may appear to have something just as good as the original, sadly it falls short of that kind of fun. Sure, for some, the flashy visuals or the (occasional) uninspired dialogue, may work – but most will see right past all this. However, there is no doubt that a lot of money was invested in making this film look good, and it does an okay job of doing that.

(L to R) Nick Morton (TOM CRUISE) and Chris Vail (JAKE JOHNSON) in a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: “The Mummy.” From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, “The Mummy” brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.

To summarize up the plotline quickly, Tom Cruise is Nick Morton who along with his fellow partner in crime, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), are supposed Army men, but really are just there to loot antiquities from local Iraqi war zones. Archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is there trying to stop that from happening while having a little liason with Morton. What they find though is the mummified remains of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who was the sole heir to Egypt’s throne before her Pharaoh dad found a second wife and had a son. Furious that she wouldn’t be Queen, she vowed revenge, killing all three and making a pact with the bad-news Egyptian god Set. But before she could sacrifice a lover, who was to become the god’s human embodiment, she was captured and “mummified alive.” The ceremonial dagger with which she intended to make the sacrifice was split into two parts, putting its magic powers on hold until the about-to-wake-up Ahmanet can put the pieces together again. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) – yes, THAT Dr. Jekyll – is the holder of one of these parts and of course wants to use it for his own means.

I think that it’s important to remember that you’re not seeing anything ground- breaking with this film. It’s not the same type of storyline as the originals nor is it going to have the same impact as those and it certainly isn’t going to steal the show at the Oscars, with the acting by all the leads, Cruise, Wallis, Crowe & Johnson being very stilted. But it has its moments of adrenaline-pumping action, some well-crafted visuals and of course the lead in to what The Dark Universe is set to bring us.

Some of this 1hr 47min Egyptian-fetish flick feels a bit clunky, and the story is all too familiar sounding (disturbing an ancient evil which comes back to wreak havoc on everyone), but when you consider that there have been worse redux films, The Mummy does have its entertainment value. It has its action, but it also has some cracks in its sarcophagi which will, hopefully, be ironed out when they inevitably make another of these in two or so years time.

Not the worst, not the best, and hopefully they will step it up some for the rest of the Dark Universe series for us.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening in IMAX 3D: Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “STAR TREK: BEYOND” (2016) Paramount Pictures

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The storyline… well let’s face it.. you know the story line. We all do as it is after all, a Star Trek movie. In case you don’t, bascially a Space ship is roaming the galaxy, runs into problems, has battles, etc etc.. BUT it is how well done these same plots can be that can make all the difference in the world.

While starting off on a bit slower pace, it picks right up with our usual crew: Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones McCoy (Karl Urban), Lt. Urhua (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), & Chekov (Anton Yelchin).
Add in a minor villian in Kalara (Lydia Wilson) who then of course, leads them to a major villian, Krall (Idris Elba). Throw in the requisie new character ‘star fleet member’ Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) and you have rounded out the cast all of whom work well enough together. As I’ve stated before, an important part of these films are the villians and for me, you are only as good as your villian. While neither one excels here, it’s mainly because I think it’s hard to really come off as a villian you love to hate with such dramatic costuming & make-up, so taking that into note, I will say both Elba & Wilson did well.

Ostar trek 1n a technical level, the film is stunning visually with brilliant CG and I didn’t mind the 3D as much as I usually do, though I will say, there are a lot of shaky-cam moments, which I was not expecting and which is not very appealing to me motion-wise. One of my favourite personal highlights is the Enterprise fighting scene with Beastie Boys – Sabotage underlaid. An amazing score once again composed by the brilliant Michael Giacchino does bring some brilliant moments back.
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Two things to finish this up as first: I simply loved the fact they went ‘old school here and brought it all back around to what we all remember was just a simpler time in space!! hahahaha
Second: My guest hadn’t seen any previous Star Trek films, though knows the jist of it and whom the characters are. He did like it and noted that he felt that wasn’t necessary for someone to watch or enjoy the film. Good thing! though he did question the doubles of each character when they went ‘old school. Ahh..well..you can’t explain it all to them. 😀

Grade: B-
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This review is dedicated to Anton Yelchin..one of our best and brightest young actors..one of my personal favourites, who passed all too soon. Rest in Peace Anton.

Review Screening: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Release Date: Completely worldwide ~ Friday, July 22, 2016

“KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE” (2015) 20th CENTURY FOX

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Watch out James Bond ~ the “Kingsman:Secret Service” is in town!!!
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Starting off my 2015 with a early preview screening of this oh!so!fun! fantastic joyride of a film is just what I needed. Simply put, I LOVED IT! and I’m thinking spy movies will NEVER be the same.. 😀 This film truly injects the fun & thrills back into the spy movie genre as it’s a ridiculously entertaining action comedy that will certainly be hard to top – not just by the other parodies but yes, by the actual spy movies themselves. “Kingsman: The Secret Service” is enjoyable, well-made action film with a fair dose of humour, lots of slicked along style and panache’ ~ yes I said panache’ because that’s the only word that comes correctly to mind with it’s wonderful style & wardrobe fashion sense, but it’s definitely made by, for, and about people who’ve seen far too many Bond films…and yes, you can count me as one of the latter. 😀 kingsman colin in front of suit store

And while I won’t give away any spoilers….”Kingsman” is the story of a streetwise London youth named Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton) who is rescued from his life of petty crime and run-ins with the law by a posh secret agent named “Harry Hart/Galahad” (Colin Firth) and trained to be a new generation of spy working for a top secret privatized spy operation aka “The Kingsman”. How fun is it to see Colin Firth so polar opposite type-cast as a bad-ass and a good one at that?? REALLY FUN ~ I mean who knew??!! Certainly not me as who could even come up with this idea and make it work so well. Matthew Vaughn is who. Truthfully, Vaughn has cast his film fairly perfectly. Firth is game and great in his yes albiet, computer-aided fight scenes with his delivery of the dialogue spot on and with Egerton a naturally charismatic presence with smarts behind his cutesy smile. The always wonderful Mark Strong plays gadgetmaster “Merlin”, while Michael Caine is brilliant, although brief, as “Arthur” head of Kingsman. kingsman colin  taron

Samuel Jackson goes for broke here and strikes it big-time in riches as a over-the-top billionaire Steve Jobs type in villain form, “Richmond Valentine”, and supported wonderfully by henchwoman “Gazelle” (Sofia Boutella), who sports a pair of sharpened-and-bladed prosthetic legs and slices & dices her way through the film with them as divinely mad as any deadly dentures Richard Kiel ever wore as ‘Jaws’ or Harold Sakota as ‘Oddjob’ with his deadly flying top hat in Goldfinger. kingsman blades

But the biggest surprised nestled within “Kingsman” (and trust me, there are a bunch) might be the fact that it isn’t just some knock off doodle of a film. This is a hugely entertaining, heartfelt out and about thrillride!! It’s that bold, unique and whipsmart about what it puts out. There’s a real emotional through-line and Eggsy is a terrific main character, one you want to root for far beyond the boundaries of this film. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a total blast. This is a movie, after all, where the villain sets his diabolical scheme in motion to the disco grooves of KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Give It Up.” I mean come on..what are you waiting for??? that alone should dictate that you see this movie at least twice! And though the action may be ludicrous at times, it’s also hugely engaging and delightful. Yes, the design is full of tributes and nods to other films and other bits of pop culture, but it also creates a logical world for itself. The tone of the film is spice but with a dose of sour but not in a bad taste way, it’s ‘knowing’ yet rarely cynical. And the British-isms of it aren’t lost or sanded down for an American audience. Firth is a killer, but never a brutish bad guy and Eggsy’s up-from-the-bottom determination to do good is clear in every scene, as Egerton pulls off loads of charm in his acting and skill in his action work. kingsman taron water

The whole plot is delivered with a dash of wink and pizzazz, with such bits of wittiness that even at one point Harry Hart/Galahad is conferring with Valentine and notes how much he misses “fun” spy movies. The genre, according to him, has become too stuck in “real world” politics all the while we note that this discussion takes place while the two characters are eating Big Macs of course, because hey, why not right? The movie is very much a throw-back fun return to the splashy, colorful films of the sixties that emphasized outlandish gadgets, deadly vixens and global plots where people push buttons and thousands could possibly die. kingsman big macs

With its fashion-forward flair — the film may borrow liberally from the Roger Moore 007 era, but there’s also a touch of Patrick Macnee’s gentleman spy character ‘Mr. Steed’ from “The Avengers” thrown in especially with Firth’s character. But all in all “Kingsman: The Secret Service” feels like a well-made gentleman’s suit, with superb cut, distinctive colour, and excellent flair. You get all the required gear of an action film, the gadgets, and delights ~ but you also get a good dose of sly winks at how ludicrous it all is yet also how parts are just out-and-out genius. It’s fakes a stiff upper lip but also constantly raises an eyebrow in amusement. It’s full of fun Bond-isms, little bits such as when Eggsy orders his martini with “gin as that’s the way it’s meant to be, shaken for 10 seconds while looking at a closed bottle of vermouth” I mean how can we not laugh out loud at this. (yes, Bond fans will know exactly what I am talking about here)

It’s like Kingsman is perfectly perched at just the right pop cultural moment as this is most likely the perfect moment to give the middle finger to the genre, and start a whole new, self-aware fun franchise in the process. The jokes are sharper, the plotting swifter, the violence more shocking. the sexual innuendos way more prominent as it deconstructs the old school spy genre while also celebrating it and it does so with wit and intelligence and style and yes again, panache.
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It’s clear that as a Director, Vaughn is able to handle world-class actors here getting them to loosen up and play, in ways that feel engaging and new. Sam Jackson’s lisping villain is a genocidal madman who gets weak-kneed at the sight of blood, all the while being able to turn new-comer Egerton, who is all rough-around-the edges charm and brittle good looks, into a movie star with charisma and magnetism. Most will talk about how great it is to see the star of “The King’s Speech” kick ass, but truly Egerton is the real revelation here as he is pure magic in this film.. Mark my words Taron Egerton ~ breakout star of 2015.
All in all, Kingsman:The Secret Service is a thoughtful, exciting, whip-smart spy adventure that doesn’t let its smart-ass post-moderism overwhelm its playfulness or its heart. And lest we forget..we are thoroughly reminded throughout the film of it’s own quote ~ “Remember the suit is a modern gentleman’s armor and we’re the new Knights.” Do I want a sequel? My only response is HELL to the YES!!

Grade: A-
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(See grading scale – as yes, usually an A would be regarded as an Oscar-worthy pic for me, and while this isn’t that..the fun level is so high..I couldn’t go any lower!)

First Advanced Screening in Los Angeles at AMC Century 15 on Thursday, January 8th, 2015.