Atomic Blonde

“So um I got to go to another movie premiere. Crazy, right? Why didn’t I move to LA sooner?

Yeah so I got an email invite from one of the many relevant email lists I’m on for the Atomic Blonde premiere at the Ace Hotel downtown, so of course I jumped on it. As per usual, I was there super early in case of a sell out, so when I got in, I had some time to explore a bit. Dang, the place was swanky. They set it up to look like the type of 80s night club our heroine blonde may be seen in, complete with lighting and killer 80s dance playlist. There were several levels to the place, each filled with free booze and popcorn. Totally set the right mood for the movie.

Alas, no fun celeb encounters this time. I tried sitting in the lobby by the entrance on the red carpet side for a while, but they ushered us to our seats far too early (srsly, the “”Please take your seats, the show is about to begin”” went on for 45 minutes, 30 of which were after the scheduled start time). By the end, I was too tired and cold (the auditorium was freezing) to wanna hang around. Plus the place was rather massive and full of people, so the odds of catching anyone cool were slim. Charlize Theron and director David Leitch did take the stage at the beginning to intro the film, so that was cool.

For the movie itself, I wanted so badly to love it. I really liked it, but it wasn’t love. The big draw were the action sequences, brought to you by the original other half of the John Wick team. Chick John Wick?! Yes please! And yes, the action was incredible, and Charlize was amazing at them. The choreography was great, and I loved how it played well with the 80’s soundtrack (so now it’s John Wick + Wonder Woman + Baby Driver).

Unfortunately, the scenes in between all the action left a lot to be desired. Most of them were very slow, and even confusing at times. It was kind of a MacGuffin-esque spy story we’ve seen before, and it didn’t offer anything new. Add in that freezing auditorium, and I was just over it.

Still, action lovers, check this one out. That alone is worth seeing it for. It occurs to me that the first John Wick did have some similar structural issues, so hopefully our kick ass spy chick can come back again with a more polished film and take over the world. That I would be completely in favor of

Atomic Blonde – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

“This past weekend was actually a perfect dichotomy of quality vs entertainment. I already wrote about how Dunkirk was high quality, but I couldn’t really get into it. Valerian may have been the exact opposite. Lots of technical imperfections, but a very enjoyable film.

First off, can I just express my annoyance at the title? The graphic novel series this film is based on is called Valerian and Laureline, why is the film only called Valerian? Surely, they could have worked out a title that included both names. Sorry

But yeah, based on a French sci fi comic that director Luc Besson grew up with. Now when I think of Besson, I think of The Professional (hell I even picture Jean Reno when I hear his name) or La Femme Nikita or Lucy, but for a lot of you, the first movie you think of is The Fifth Element. The Fifth Element was actually greatly influenced by Valerian and Laureline, and this movie is actually something that Besson has been working towards his whole life.

And it showed. The whole movie felt very much like a labor of love, with a lot of attention to details in the world created. Sure, maybe more attention to setting than dialog and plot, but such are the priorities of a crowd pleasing scifi. The world they inhabited looked rich and vibrant, there were original and creative creatures I simply adored, and I was constantly fascinated by what new species or technology we’d encounter next. Also, that trans-dimensional marketplace? I have so many questions! But we’ll save that for another time.

Yeah Valerine was flat and Laureline deserved better, but the point was I had a good time. We don’t get a lot of quirky scifi like this, and rarely with this level of devotion behind it. So again, for this weekend, Dunkirk may have been the better movie, but Valerian is the one I enjoyed more.

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n”

Dunkirk

“I don’t typically care for war films. I love the first half of Full Metal Jacket, but get lost for the second. Saving Private Ryan and possibly Jarhead are the only ones I can stick with, due to story and characters respectively. Platoon, Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, couldn’t do ’em. For me, the problem is that battle sequences aren’t enough. I want a good story, not just a piece that fits into a larger part of history. Or I want good character development, instead of pure survival. These are things that I need to stay invested in a movie, and without them you’re at a huge disadvantage.

Therefore, my thoughts leading into Dunkirk were conflicted. I _love_ Christopher Nolan, and think he’s a truly visionary filmmaker. But would that be enough to overcome the story issue I was already forseeing?

Shamelessly stolen direct from Wikipedia: The Battle of Dunkirk was a military operation that took place in Dunkirk (Dunkerque), France, during the Second World War. The battle was fought between the Allies and Nazi Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and Allied forces in Europe from 26 May to 4 June 1940. < End Plagerism > The movie is about that evacuation. We follow three groups: the soliders on land waiting to get home, the Englishmen at sea coming to get them, and the pilots in the sky continuing the fight. And because this is the dude that brought you Memento and Interstellar, we’ve got a weird timeline. The story on land spans a week, sea spans a day, and sky spans an hour. But they’re all told simultaneously as they converge.

First, let’s talk about where Nolan truly excels. Visually, this movie is stunning. There’s a lot of talk and debate as to what screen format is the best to see it in. I just opted for the normal screen that was most convenient to get to, and even without the bells and whistles (or additional MM’s and screen size) I was blown away by the images. Gorgeous cinematography and scenes that really popped. Truly one of those that deserves to be seen on the big screen and not your iPhone.

Second, the in between. That timeline convergence. I genuinely applaud the creativity in the approach, but I’m not sure how well it worked. While it afforded some cool flashback-eque interconnected stories, for the most part it was kinda confusing. Very hard to tell where in time you were at a given point.

Lastly, the story. For me, that was lacking. We had some character stuff with a few of the soldiers on land, but they were often hard to tell apart in the height of battle. The sea story had the most interesting character development, and was usually the part of the story that held my attention most. The sky being so relatively short felt spread thin. There were pockets of suspense here and there, but not enough to sustain and keep my attention throughout.

Ultimately for me, this is a clear division between quality and entertainment. It was certainly one of the most technically beautiful and quality movies I’ve seen, but I’ve enjoyed far worse movies much more. Then again, if you’re more into war movies than I am, then you just might damn well love this.

Dunkirk – \m/ \m/ \m/”

The Thomas Crown Affair

“How have I lived this long and never seen this movie? For some reason it never caught my attention, until I found it in a $1.50 bargain bin (typical). OMG, that was fun!

I didn’t care much for Rene Russo, which is prolly why I avoided it (and some of the romance dragged it down for me), but Pierce Brosnan was stunning. And I love the chase of a heist movie. It’s no Ocean’s, but equally satisfying in its reveals.

Side note, if anyone out there wants to steal a painting for me, I’ll take Ivan Albright’s Picture of Dorian Gray. Don’t judge.”

The Little Hours

“I needed a good laugh this past Saturday. And when plans fell through and I realized I suddenly had time to myself, I thought it was perfect that The Little Hours was next on my list. Aubrey Plaza and Allison Brie as nuns? Yes, that’ll cheer me up. Well, it would have if the movie were actually funny to me. Instead, the 90 minutes provided me with excruciating boredom.

Aubrey Plaza and Allison Brie as nuns should be all the explanation you need, but I’ll add to it. So it’s the 1300’s (I think) and Plaza is a the troublemaker and Brie is trying to get out of the convent and find someone to marry. Enter Dave Franco as an escaped servant who poses as a deaf-mute in the convent. Add in drunken priest John C Reilly, head nun (the actual term escapes me) Molly Shannon, wealthy lord Nick Offerman, and an array of other funny types and hilarity should ensue. Except it doesn’t.

I read after that the screenplay was really just an outline, and the cast was left to improvise most of what they said. It shows. Plaza’s lines are very much her, and very little of the jokes actually come off as clever. As stated on Stardust, I think the film relied too much on the absurdity of the situation and cast to bring the humor. And that only takes you so far. The rest just felt like there wasn’t any real effort.

So I didn’t get the laughs I wanted. I really didn’t get anything I wanted out of this movie.

The Little Hours – \m/ \n”

War for the Planet of the Apes

“Could it be possible? A modern trilogy that was a prequel to a revered franchise, AND every entry in the trilogy is solid? I don’t know what planet I’m living in, but yes it is possible. The success and quality of Rise and Dawn gave me high hopes for War, although I was skeptical there would be more battle that substance. I needn’t have worried.

War picks up some time after Dawn (with a really nicely put together recap at the beginning). Caesar and his family of apes have been hiding from human soldiers, but have now been discovered. As the apes move on to find a new haven, Caesar sets out to take on the humans. All that sounds pretty standard and expected. What was unexpected was how freaking emotional the whole movie was. Srsly, the whole time, nothing but feels.

At first, I thought it was just me. Generally speaking, primates of all varieties are my favorite animals, so I thought maybe it was just that that had me into it. Then I watched some of the other reactions on Stardust when I got home, and found the same comment from so many users. This movie is really emotional. I find it interesting that a war movie starring apes is more emotional than most war movies starring humans. What does that say about us? I don’t know.

But yeah, the movie was non stop on the feels, and on the story throughout. Certainly among the most solid bluckbusters you’re gonna find this summer. The other thing that impressed me was how good the CGI has gotten. It’s to the point where you take it for granted. You don’t think about the fact that you’re seeing computerized characters. They just are the characters

And on the subject of characters, it’s been a while since I’ve met a new one on screen that I’ve loved as much as Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape. I’ve always thought the phrase “”my heart is full”” was way too cheesy and I kinda didn’t understand it, but that’s what I felt every time I saw him. He stole every scene, and could have used more. He made me laugh, he made me worry, he just made a great movie that much better.

So as previously stated, a solid (supposed) end to a solid trilogy. In Apes we trust.

War for the Planet of the Apes – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

A Ghost Story

“I get that some films are more art than entertainment. In a perfect world, we’d get a solid mix of both in each movie that comes out of Hollywood, but the truth is some films are always gonna be firmly one or the other. And that’s okay, except that I much prefer films that lean towards entertainment. So while I can enjoy a movie with bad artistic quality, but high entertainment value, it’s very difficult to enjoy a movie with high artistic quality but low entertainment value. Such was the plight of A Ghost Story.

The film is a reflection on loss and grief, and it’s illustrated by a ghost that looms around the home he once inhabited with his girlfriend/wife/lover/unclear. The couple is played by Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, and the ghost is depicted like a kid in a bad Halloween costume: Casey Affleck covered in a sheet with eyeholes. The image was really cool, so that was enough to peak my interest. However, the movie really is just ghost Affleck wandering around observing for about 80% of the movie. And during much of that, there’s little to observe.

I can kinda get the statement that was trying to be made, and the themes that were being explored. But given the minimal action, I think it might have best worked as a short instead of a full feature, because it ended up boring as hell. For example, there’s one scene that’s already going down in infamy where grief stricken Rooney eats an entire pie for several minutes while ghost Affleck just looks on. I found a great article that aggregates the responses from various critics to that five minute segment of the movie. Basically the conclusion I’ve drawn is that your reaction to that scene is indicative of your reaction to the whole film. For me, that’s something like “”I sorta get it, but did we have to?””

I hate knocking down a film that has some serious artistic value, but if all I want is to fall asleep and/or get outta there, then was the art worth enduring?

A Ghost Story – \m/ \n”

Spider-Man: Homecoming

“After blogging about so many superhero movies over the past few years, I find it harder and harder to write about the new entries. Thankfully, while Spidey is yet another entry into the MCU, there’s a few things that make it stand out. So let’s just focus on that.

First off, yay Spidey in the MCU! I won’t go into the backstory there, I’ll just say that I’m happy he’s home. The tie ins to the existing U were fantastic touches that we’d previously been missing, and his mentor/mentee relationship with Iron Man is a new and exciting direction for both charaters. But most of all, I just feel like the people at Marvel know how to handle our friendly neighborhood friend, and know his place in the world.

Which brings me to my next point, his place in the world. It wasn’t yet another high stakes end of the world type of story. Spidey’s a teenager in high school, and it was an appropriately high school story. He’s he’s trying to get his chance to save the world, but his reality is that his own world needs saving and he has some learning to do. That was the absolute right way to fit him into things.

But just because his story is smaller scale, doesn’t mean his villain is too. Oh no, in Michael Keaton’s Vulture we got one of the best baddies we’ve seen in the MCU thus far. The character was more fleshed out than just a wronged someone on a rampage, and his relationship with Peter and how they fit together was more substantial than we usually get. Plus, Keaton is just amazing. I love that with the increased success of the MCU, they’ve been able to bring in more and more legit actors, and we all know Keaton knows his way around a super costume and how to give a stellar performance.

And on the subject of cast, Tom Holland is the spirit of Spidey. We haven’t seen an incarnation thus far that was as motormouthed as him, which I think also helps reflect his age appropriately. I also really loved his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon), who somehow managed to steal scenes from our most dynamic Spidey to date. The other big plus was seeing John Favreau back with a substantial role.

Smaller point, but just when I was starting to get annoyed with all these end credit scenes that don’t offer too much (Looking at you Guardians 2 with your countless add ons), we get one of the absolute best ones to date. It doesn’t quite beat the Avengers schwarma scene, but it’s pretty close.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Despicable Me 3

“I’ll start off with some of what I said in my Stardust video. I’m glad we went back to the full cast of characters. Minions was Minion overload, yet still managed to have the same structural issues as the first two movies. And I missed the girls. Gru to some extent too, but Agnes most.

Again, elaborating from my Stardust, this was the first movie in the franchise that I felt overcame it’s structural issues. With every other one, I really did not care about the A story (which featured Gru in the Despicables). I was okay on the B story (the girls). I loved the C story (the minions). Even Minions ended up with the same structure, just all characters replaced by minions, and it was only the group minion scenes I really cared about. With DM3, for once they all felt about even. Not spectacular, but all equally in between what was usually my feelings towards B and C. I suppose that’s progress.

I liked our new baddie, played by Trek Parker. And I absolutely adored Julie Andrews as Gru’s mom. The rest was fine. Nothing too spectacular, but by this point, you know what you’re getting with Gru’s Crew. I saw it on the 4th of July in a theater crowded with little human minions, and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves. That’s really what matters. Me, I was mostly enjoying the carton of Panda Express orange chicken I snuck in. That matters too.

Despicable Me 3 – \m/ \m/ \n”

The House

“I love Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, but I dislike how volatile their filmography has been lately (especially Ferrell). It seems as though their films are either awesome or fall flat on their faces. It’s almost a relief that The House was somewhere in the middle.

Our dynamic duo play parents to a college bound teen, desperate to figure out a way to finance her education. They’re persuaded by a friend (you know the trope, the friend who’s always caught up in some hairbrained scheme) to join him in running an underground casino from his home. What could possibly go wrong?

As a film not a lot went wrong, but it didn’t go particularly right either. It was watchable, even enjoyable at times, but it lacked that punch that these comedians have been known to bring in the past. Granted, I’d rather they play more grounded characters than go too far out there, but it seemed just a little too safe. Still, a few scattered jokes were very clever, and there was a surprise and very unexpected cameo that I really appreciated. It might not be best to bet on the House, but at least this time you break even.

The House – \m/ \m/ \m/”