THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US quick review

Should Kate Winslet just stop traveling in the company of men? She always finds herself royally screwed in some way. Luxury cruise ships, airplanes… or maybe… she’s the problem? *pondering* Maybe men should stop traveling with her… hmm…

Boy howdy have I been seeing this trailer and a certain level of anticipation always bites at me when I see it. I love Winslet and I… well, I never watched any of Idris Elba’s most celebrated TV shows (IE: LUTHER [2010 – 2018]), but I have seen the Thor movies and I rather enjoy him in those, so I’m down to see these two work off of each other.

Here’s the cast. As previously mentioned, starring, we have Kate Winslet (COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], REVOLUTIONARY ROAD [2008], TITANIC [1997], and the upcoming AVATAR 2 [2020]) and Idris Elba (THE DARK TOWER [2017], PROMETHEUS [2012], 28 WEEKS LATER [2007], and upcoming films MOLLY’S GAME [2017] and THOR: RAGNAROK [2017]). In support, we have Beau Bridges (THE DESCENDANTS [2011], MAX PAYNE [2008], and TV show BLOODLINE [2015 – 2017]) and Dermot Mulroney (SLEEPLESS [2017], GEORGIA RULE [2007], and MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING [1997]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Hany Abu-Assad, known for foreign projects that I’ve never seen or heard of. Co-writing the screenplay are J. Mills Goodloe (EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING [2017], THE AGE OF ADALINE [2015], and THE BEST OF ME [2014]) and Chris Weitz (STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE [2016], THE GOLDEN COMPASS [2007], and ANTZ [1998]). Composing the score is Ramin Djawadi, known for THE GREAT WALL (2017), CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010), and BLADE: TRINITY (2004). Finally, the cinematographer is Mandy Walker, known for HIDDEN FIGURES (2016), RED RIDING HOOD (2011), AUSTRALIA (2008), and the upcoming MULAN (2019).

Overall, I know early ratings aren’t being too kind to this film, but… I can’t help it, I like the core stars, it looks like it’s got some chilling moments, and I ain’t just talking about that snow, I don’t know, I think I might like it.

This is my honest opinion of: THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US

(SUMMARY)

Alex (Kate Winslet) and Ben (Idris Elba) are two strangers who meet at an airport. A storm is approaching and their respective flight was cancelled. Alex knows how to get in touch with a pilot, Walter (Beau Bridges), who is willing to fly her to her destination and upon overhearing that they have the same destination, she offers him a ride. However, en route, Walter suffers a stroke and their plane crashes. Stranded with limited food and supplies, they venture out into vast, punishingly cold and unforgiving wilderness to find help and their way back home.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Mmph… while I won’t necessarily argue the negative reviews, I don’t think I agree.

Let’s tackle the problems first. For one thing, the set-up is pretty forced. Basically, what you saw in the trailer, two strangers meeting and she offers to help him along since they share a common destination, that moment in the trailer isn’t any different than in the movie. Look, even the best of samaritans have a knack for walking past people with problems, even if they have problems that they could technically help with. But things like hitching a ride with you on an airplane, that’s pretty out there. There’s no real reason for them to meet like they do. It’s just… he’s on the phone, she overhears, she offers that ride, and he accepts. Cue the plot. That simple.

I also knew the problem would be the romance in the film, and it gets pretty painful, especially in the last fifteen minutes. For one thing, I’m not sure how realistic I would find it. Alex is married, to a wonderful man according to her later in the film, and just because Ben, who is beyond emotionally unavailable, is a fellow survivor of a plane crash, they have a romantic connection? Especially with Alex. She’s got all this optimism about making it off the mountain alive, so why would she even have urges like that? Ben, I could understand, possibly, but not Alex. The romance is pretty forced.

***SPOILERS***

 

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In retrospect, a forced romance can still be good if the chemistry is enough to hold the relationship together. However, nothing excuses the completely different movie that takes over. Now we have this horrible melodrama involving the two characters now separated into their respective lives, but can’t stop thinking about each other. He’s been a dick and not calling her back because he thinks she’s a married woman. She doesn’t get married to Mark (Dermot Mulroney), visits Ben in London, and after a heart-to-heart in a restaurant, they decide to part ways. But in about the cheesiest crap that this movie could have possibly inserted, as the characters walk away, they start crying, and then AT THE SAME TIME, turn back around and run toward each other and leap into their arms. Oh… my god, I think movies from the 1950’s would have called this moment trite!

***

 

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***END SPOILERS***

But it’s not all bad.

Elba and Winslet are both pretty solid. When their scenes require them to be at odds with each other, you feel that tension. When he gets upset with her decisions, you believe he’s an asshole. And when she believes that she’s not dying on this mountain, you legitimately want her to get out of this alive. So while their romantic chemistry isn’t believable, their chemistry as a pair of survivors is solid. The cinematography is gorgeous to look at, the death-defying scenes are tense, and certain resolutions by the end feel natural enough.

What would I have changed? Well, I would probably have Alex and Ben have some sort of chemistry before she offers that plane ride with her. Like, they both stood in line at the airport front desk, or at the bar and had a basic, nothing conversation. Just something to establish some kind of relationship, weak as it ultimately is anyway. Get rid of the obvious romance and make it a little bit more subtle, more like a “will they or won’t they” scenario and leave the emotions ambiguous to interpretation. Oh, and get rid of that last ten fifteen minutes when they’re at home, or make it incredibly brief.

Overall, the movie’s okay, leaning more toward the bad side. It’s not devoid of good things in it, but it’s not enough to elevate it very high. It’s not a good movie. I may not agree with current ratings, scores, and reviews that trash it, but I don’t plan on defending the film either. The set-up is contrived, the ending is a mountain of cheese, and the romance in the middle isn’t compelling. But the acting is good, the scenery is gorgeous, and it’s got its visceral moments. It could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better. Not the worst watch, but I’m not recommending it. At best, a rental.

My honest rating for THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US: a weak 3/5

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LOGAN LUCKY (quick) review

Easy jokes! Easy jokes! James Bond retired, got in-car-sir-ray-ted, then decided to help Kylo Ren and Jenko rob NASCAR. Okay, so that’s not quite as funny as it was in my head. Cut me some slack, I’m not as clever as I’d like to be.

Anyway, that does seem like what the movie is about. Some down on their luck boys in the south who hire a professional to help them steal from NASCAR. I haven’t looked up the details of the plot because I’m just so tickled by this cast.

Speaking of which. Starring, we have Channing Tatum (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], THE VOW [2012], STEP UP [2006], and the upcoming KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE [2017]), Adam Driver (SILENCE [2016], STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], J. EDGAR [2011], and the upcoming STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI [2017]), Daniel Craig (SPECTRE [2015], THE GOLDEN COMPASS [2007], A KID IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT [1995], and the upcoming Bond 25 [2019]), and Riley Keough (IT COMES AT NIGHT [2017], AMERICAN HONEY [2016], and MAGIC MIKE [2012]). In support, we have Katie Holmes (WOMAN IN GOLD [2015], BATMAN BEGINS [2005], TV show DAWSON’S CREEK [1998 – 2003], and the upcoming OCEAN’S EIGHT [2018]), Hilary Swank (THE HOMESMAN [2014], MILLION DOLLAR BABY [2004], and THE NEXT KARATE KID [1994]), Seth MacFarlane (SING [2016], TED [2012], and TV show THE ORVILLE [2017]), Jack Quaid (THE HUNGER GAMES [2012], TV show VINYL [2016], and the upcoming RAMPAGE [2018]), and Dwight Yoakam (CRANK [2006], PANIC ROOM [2002], and TV show UNDER THE DOME [2013 – 2015]).

Now for the crew. Director and, weirdly enough, cinematographer, we have Steven Soderbergh, known for MAGIC MIKE (2012), THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE (2009), and ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000). Penning the screenplay, we have Rebecca Blunt, making her feature film debut. Congrats, miss. Finally, the composer for the score is David Holmes, known for HAYWIRE (2011), ANALYZE THAT (2002), and OCEAN’S ELEVEN (2001).

Overall, I’m pretty excited to see this. Everyone looks like a hoot to watch and a little bit of fun sounds pretty good about now.

This is my honest opinion of: LUCKY LOGAN

(SUMMARY)

Set in North Carolina. Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) just got let go from his construction job. To make matters worse, his ex-wife Bobbie Jo (Katie Holmes) is moving their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) with her new husband. After a brawl with a snobby British businessman (Seth Macfarlane) in Clyde’s (Adam Driver) bar, Jimmy’s brother, they decide to rob the Charlotte Movie Speedway with the help of the incarcerated Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).

(QUICK REVIEW)

I liked it. I don’t love it, or anything, and it’s not always laugh out loud funny, but it’s an enjoyable flick with some fun and likable characters and performances.

Speaking of performances, I can’t let this slide, I absolutely love seeing Holmes again. I know, she’s been in plenty of films and TV shows recently, but I don’t watch much TV anymore and I so rarely see her in movies. It’s just… nice. And she’s really good too, playing the ex-wife who’s fed up with Jimmy’s crap, constantly forgetting things involving their daughter. But more than just her, Craig steals the show just as well. Being so closely associate with the recent Bond films, it’s quite hilarious to see him take a role so polar opposite and succeed with such flying colors. I will never stop laughing at the whole, “Oh, now I see the problem. I twisted the bag too many times.” After such a huge build-up of explaining the science of his makeshift explosive, because Joe doesn’t like calling them bombs, and how powerful it will be, to see him make such a tiny mistake is so hilarious. That’s this film’s greatest strength. There’s some amazing performances, making this movie undeniably entertaining and funny.

My only real issue is that the tone seems to be a little… off and on in the first half. What I mean is, I know it’s supposed to be a comedy, but there are some serious stretches of runtime that feel like this movie is trying to be dramatic. Nothing overly dark, of course, I don’t want it to sound like that, but the comedy seems to take a sudden backseat and the drama is surprisingly boring. Thankfully, that fizzles out in the second half and it’s all systems go, so it’s not a crippling problem.

***SPOILERS***

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Another problem I had was the complete lack of resolution to the story. This might take some explaining. So, what’s the whole point of this heist? Jimmy has very little money and he wants to get a lawyer to fight against Bobbie Jo and her decision to move on the other side of the city where it would be harder for him to see his daughter. If there’s any other motivation, then I either missed that, or it’s left completely unexplored. But by the time the movie wraps up, his threats of getting a lawyer against Bobbie Jo is completely pushed aside. Why? What happened to make him be so understanding in the end? This is totally ignored.

***

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, this is a really fun film. Lots of comedy, solid performances, it’s a good time to be had. If you’re a fan of the cast and comedy heist films, like Soderbergh is known for, then this one is recommended.

My honest rating for LOGAN LUCKY: 4/5

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KIDNAP (quick) review

Finally! I can stop seeing this damned trailer.

If anyone frequents the cinemas even half as much as I do, then you’re probably somewhat passably familiar with this film’s existence, but no matter how much time went by, it was never released. As I understand it, KIDNAP has a bit of a shaky history, financially speaking. According to shadowandact.com, the film has been in the works since 2014 and was supposed to be released in 2015. But the distribution company Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy that year, meaning that the film couldn’t be released. Relativity has since reemerged, but still not quite out of the sticks. This movie was pushed back to a February 2016 release, but that got pushed to May… then that got pushed to December… only to be pushed back again to March 10 of 2017. Jesus, I’m frustrated just from writing this out. I can’t imagine how the cast and crew must be feeling. But GUESS FREAKIN’ WHAT?! When March 10 came around, guess whose alarm didn’t go off that day? You guessed it, KIDNAP wasn’t released as planned! What the actual story is behind that latest push, I have no idea, but my excuse of “oversleeping” is much more humorous.

Well, assuming that this movie is going to be released… which, if you’re reading this review, then it must have, what are my thoughts? Aside from “finally, I can stop seeing this trailer?” It… could be alright. On the one hand, if it doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just an action movie for suburban housewives to see a garden-variety middle-class mother go mama-bear on a bunch of assholes who kidnap her son, then this could at the very least be entertaining. On the other hand, if it takes itself a little too seriously, then it probably won’t be very good. Halle Berry hasn’t had the best track record in recent years. Sure, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014) is arguably the best X-Men movie, but not really because of her. In fact, her role was pretty small. Her last good movie was arguably X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003). Was her TV show EXTANT good? I never saw it. CLOUD ATLAS (2012)? Was she the reason it was well-received? THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE (2007)? Never heard of it. My point is, she’s more associated with MOVIE 43 (2013), NEW YEARS EVE (2011), and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006), none of which were considered good. Though, I’m sure by comparison, LAST STAND is Shakespeare when stacked next to MOVIE 43. Who knows where KIDNAP is going to rank.

Well, let’s take a gander at the cast. I’ve already prattled on about Berry enough, who also produced the film, so… let’s go to support. We have Sage Correa (1 episode stints on TV shows UNCLE BUCK and LIFE IN PIECES), Lew Temple (DESIERTO [2016], THE LONE RANGER [2013], and TV show THE WALKING DEAD), and Chris McGinn (a bit role in TV show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Luis Prieto, known for unknown projects. Writing the script, we have Knate Lee, who will be writing the upcoming film X-MEN: THE NEW MUTANTS (2018). Composing the score is Federico Jusid, known for EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (2009 – translated: THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES). Finally, the cinematographer is Flavio Martínez Labiano, known for THE SHALLOWS (2016), NON-STOP (2014), and UNKNOWN (2011).

Overall, not excited for it, but… yeah, thank God I don’t have to see the trailer anymore.

This is my honest opinion of: KIDNAP

(SUMMARY)

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is a single mother trying to make ends meet and take care of her young son Frankie (Sage Correa). After work one day, she takes him to the local fair and have fun. However, things take a turn for the worst as she takes a phone call and finds that her son has been abducted. Seeing the kidnappers take him away, she begins to chase after them in her own car, refusing to give up on saving her son.

(QUICK REVIEW)

It’s not good. Four-ish years of trying to get it released and this is the result. By no means awful, but it’s not as good as it could have been.

The set-up is pretty obvious, leave your kid alone for a few minutes and he gets kidnapped. Go figure. I suppose the only refreshing thing is that this movie’s main selling point is that she’s constantly following the kidnappers. Still, a better movie about kidnapped kids would be PRISONERS (2013).

I think it’s nice to see that Karla doesn’t ever really give up, even when it’s obvious it’d be at a point where in any other movie she would. Instead, she’ll drive across a field and luckily end up on the right highway to continue her chase. So the movie is definitely loaded with conveniences. I do enjoy watching how the movie is smart enough to keep throwing obstacles in Karla’s way, like finding a cop who gets axed off, or increasingly low fuel, it’s not horribly structured. And Berry is trying her best to make this performance work and it works sometimes.

Sadly, there aren’t a ton of good things to talk about. Because there’s far too many over-the-top moments; driving in reverse on the freeway without even so much as a scratched up paint job, it’s a wonder why this movie didn’t go for a more fun route. With a structure similar to SPEED (1994), all that was missing was a charismatic actor to go with it. Don’t get me wrong, Berry is a great actress when given the right material, but I feel like her character would have worked better if she was a little more bad-ass. Instead, Karla is a little annoying because too much of her dialog is, “Oh god!” or “I’m coming, baby! I’ll never lose you, baby!” Hell, even the everywoman angle could have passably worked if the script was smart enough to take a page out of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) and just have her act with her expressions. We know she’s a woman who will not give up getting her son, so constantly talking to herself out loud isn’t going to make her character seem more determined.

I also find the police terribly incapable at their jobs here. There is a series of intense car collisions happening and the cops keep either being stupid and put themselves in a situation to get killed, pull over the wrong cars over the radio, it’s shocking to see this shit play out the way it does.

Dialog that’s cringeworthy, stupid character decisions, and even subplots that go nowhere, it won’t be a shock if this movie isn’t received well or do well at the box office. It’s a shame because Berry’s had a rough few years cinematically. Here’s hoping that Kingsman 2 will give her more opportunities in the future. Not recommended. A rental at best.

My honest rating for KIDNAP: a weak 3/5

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GOOD TIME (quick) review

Before seeing this movie, I didn’t think that much of it. Nothing really captivated me and I figured I’d be bored by it. Only saw its trailer once, but that was enough for me to say that this wouldn’t interest me much. But, me willing to give things a shot, I went in anyway. It’s so hard to say “no” sometimes.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Robert Pattinson, known for THE LOST CITY OF Z (2017), WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (2011), and HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005). In support, we have co-director Benny Safdie (PERSON TO PERSON [2017]), Buddy Duress (PERSON TO PERSON), Taliah Webster (feature film debut; congrats, miss), Jennifer Jason Leigh (MORGAN [2016], ANOMALISA [2015], and THE MACHINIST [2004]), and Barkhad Abdi (THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY [2016], EYE IN THE SKY [2016], CAPTAIN PHILLIPS [2013], and the upcoming BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]).

Now for the crew. We have the Safdie brothers Benny and Josh, both have directed projects I’ve never heard of. Co-writing the script is Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein, both have written projects I’ve never heard of. Composer of the score is Daniel Lopatin, known for THE BLING RING (2013). Finally, the cinematographer is Sean Price Williams, known for a ton of stuff I’ve never heard of.

I wasn’t especially looking forward to this flick. It looked boring as hell. How did it hold up?

This is my honest opinion of: GOOD TIME

(SUMMARY)

Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) has an undying loyalty to his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (Benny Safdie). Connie is also a bank robber and ropes Nick into a heist. They leave with the money, but the bills get doused in paint and the two are on the run as the cops are hot on their trail. Though Connie gets away, Nick is taken to jail and Connie has to work up enough money to bail him out, or get him himself.

(QUICK REVIEW)

It’s not good. Not the worst, but I didn’t like it that much.

It opens fine enough, with a seemingly accurate portrayal of a mentally handicapped man, performed by Benny Safdie, as well as a good performance from Pattinson too as a misguided, but caring brother. In fact, I’ll just say this now, Pattinson is fantastic throughout the film. But it doesn’t take long for the movie to lose me. The first red flag was when the two of them rob a bank wearing black men masks (which looked damn convincing at first glance) and rob the teller with only notes telling her that they’re armed and not trigger any silent alarms. It’s all done quietly, but the entire time I’m wondering why she takes them at their word. I would have triggered that alarm on the down-low anyway. And finally, when they stupidly get the money they might as well have politely asked for, they soon find out that their bag of money had a hidden ink bomb. Why the piss fuck wouldn’t they suspect that?! Of course the bank would do that!

The rest of the film is an unfocused mess that I quickly found myself not caring about. Supposedly, Connie’s goals are to work enough cash to break his brother out. He knows he can’t get it because his girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has all of her credit cards frozen by her mom. He tries to break his brother out of the hospital after getting hurt getting caught, and brings him to another person’s house to call for help from his mom. There’s a scene of near-statutory rape (I don’t know how old Taliah Webster is, but Crystal says she’s sixteen), so a million kinds of ewwy, he finds out that he broke out the wrong guy and his name is Ray (Buddy Duress), who becomes the absolute most annoying character that I’ve ever had the misfortune of following in a movie. Worse than Jar Jar Binks. Yeah, I think he’s that bad. His dialog consists of nothing but, “I’m so fucked up, bro,” or “Come on, bro,” and it grated my mind like a mother fucker. To make matters worse, he’s a central character. That’s what ultimately lost me. Jesus, I’m getting a headache just thinking about it. I had hoped the annoying characters would end with Corey, Leigh’s character, but nope, we traded her for someone worse. We get a soul-crushingly long backstory about Ray, which concludes with a bag of stolen money that Connie wants to get from him, which ultimately goes nowhere and… I’m getting so angry just thinking about it.

What movie was everyone seeing?! Why is this getting critical praise from everyone?! 7.9/10 on IMDb (as of 8/15/2017)?! 91% on RottenTomatoes (as of 8/15/2017)?! What the hell did I miss?! This movie was a fucking load of shit! Like I said, Pattinson does somewhat save it, but with a majority of the characters being beyond irritating and a plot that gets unbelievably unfocused, I just wanted the movie to end. Not recommended. If you’re a fan of Pattinson, watch it as a rental, but it’s not really worth it even then.

My honest rating for GOOD TIME: 2/5

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WIND RIVER review

So… the dark and gritty adventures of Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch? Shut up and take my money! What is it about a snow setting that makes a movie look so damn appealing? Maybe it’s because I’m from suburban Los Angeles and snow is akin to the Loch Ness monster, or Atlantis… or the impeachment of an asshole President. I gotta say that this movie looks really good. The movie is toting around how it’s the same writer of SICARIO (2015) and HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016). I can’t claim to be in the same band wagon as everyone else who loved SICARIO, but I did really like HELL OR HIGH WATER. Whatever I feel for those movies, you can almost guarantee that this film is going to be incredibly well-written, slower-paced, but atmospheric as hell.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jeremy Renner (THE HOUSE [2017], ARRIVAL [2016], MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION [2015], and upcoming Marvel’s AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018], and the as-of-yet titled or planned release-date sequel to his Jason Bourne film) and Elizabeth Olsen (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR [2016], GODZILLA [2014], MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE [2011], and upcoming films INGRID GOES WEST [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). In support, we have Graham Greene (THE SHACK [2017], Twilight Saga NEW MOON [2009], and DANCES WITH WOLVES [1990]), and possibly in a bit role, Jon Bernthal (BABY DRIVER [2017], THE ACCOUNTANT [2016], TV show THE WALKING DEAD, and upcoming Netflix TV show Marvel’s THE PUNISHER).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Taylor Sheridan. He’s only directed one poorly received horror film called VILE (2011), but he penned HELL OR HIGH WATER and SICARIO, and will be writing SICARIO sequel, SOLDADO (2017). Co-composing the score… and performing it?… are Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, both known for Netflix’s WAR MACHINE (2017), HELL OR HIGH WATER, and THE ROAD (2009). Finally, the cinematographer is Ben Richardson, known for TABLE 19 (2017), THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (2014), and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012).

Overall, I’m curious. I won’t say it’s the movie of the week that I have to see, but it’s on the list of films that I will see.

This is my honest opinion of: WIND RIVER

(SUMMARY)

Set in Wyoming. Cory (Jeremy Renner) is a game hunter tasked with hunting a den of lions killing live-stock when he comes across the body of eighteen year old Natalie (Kelsey Asbille). The local police, headed by Sheriff Ben (Graham Greene), calls the FBI, who sends rookie agent Jane (Elizabeth Olsen). Cut off from any reinforcement and only a handful of officers to help with her investigation, she enlists Cory’s help to solve the case.

(REVIEW)

I think it’s best to point out a quick tidbit of information. In the beginning of the film, it’s stated that this is based on a true story. Don’t take it literal. Cory Lambert and Jane Banner are, in the context of this story, completely fictional, as is the victim, Natalie.

But make no mistake, while the movie is fictional, the events that it’s representing are absolutely not. While it’s not hard to look up this information online, I’ll save some clicking for you and give you a rundown. The Wind River reservation is real and it’s really in Wyoming. It’s also Wyoming’s only American Indian reservation. In this place, life expectancy is 49 years. Jesus Christ, humans are capable of living up to 120 years and in this place, they can’t even make it half way. This isn’t a sick accusation of weakness of course, but rather an acknowledgement of what life in this place is like. Drug addiction, poverty, an astoundingly broken justice system that makes you want to scream, blood pressure will only rise when you realize the Department of Justice determined that 84% of Native American women – and by extension Alaskan native women – experience violence and 56% experience sexual violence. Hell, the movie itself ends with a quote that will leave you sick to your stomach, “While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women.”

Here’s a couple of links that really go into everything that I just said. Check them out if you’re interested.

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/08/166625/wind-river-review-indian-reservation-sex-crime-drugs

https://www.bustle.com/p/the-true-story-behind-wind-river-is-this-hidden-injustice-against-native-american-women-75304

This movie’s importance is more subtle than you might think. Leaving the theater, yeah, I thought it was a really good movie, but something about saying “it’s a really good movie” didn’t feel right. Usually, I attribute that to me lying to myself and as I write these reviews, I usually discover something about the movie that makes me go, “oh that’s what was bugging me,” or some such crap like that. It’s pretty rare to get a situation where I start to realize it’s actually better than I thought.

But as important as it is to talk about these things, let’s talk about the actual movie itself.

Once again, I usually don’t have an ear to spot this sort of thing, but I think I’m getting better at: sound design. Here’s what I mean. The intro to Cory is basically him sniping some wolves threatening the local farmers’ live-stock. It’s pretty atmospheric in the beginning, just the wolves looking at the sheep, or goats, or whatever they were, but then out of nowhere, you just hear this thunderous BOOM. Of course, there’s a blood splatter and then a camouflaged Renner appears, making me think if this was the Hawkeye performance that he thought he was signing up for in THE AVENGERS (2012). But it’s not just this scene. The brilliance of Sheridan, and by extension, the sound effects department, guns in this movie are scary. When they’re drawn, you know shit’s gonna get real, a very similar feel that SICARIO did extremely well. When a shootout begins, you feel that immediate adrenaline rush the characters must be feeling. Your blood pressure rises, your stress level goes haywire, and every bullet leaving the chamber is like an invisible force playing baseball with your chest. They’re all completely visceral moments loaded with tension and even fear. Especially in the end, you won’t know whether to cheer or scream for your own life.

The performances are fantastic. Renner delivers arguably his best performance since THE HURT LOCKER (2008). As Cory, you see this man’s determination to make sure that justice is served the best way that can be dished out in a desolate place like Wind River and wants to prevent a family from living with the exact same pain as he does. He’s a professional, deadly, the very definition of a man you don’t fuck with. This is definitely the best performance that I’ve seen out of Olsen, which is saying something because I think she’s great as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel films. Jane is clearly a rookie FBI agent who’s only in this situation because there was no one else closer to send in and she was in Vegas. Her intro scene is showing up in a standard thin-ass jacket, freezing her tits off, but what I love most about her character is how well-handled she is as a character. I can see a character like this, rookie agent who’s fighting everyone for control and doesn’t know the first thing about fuck all. They’ve existed before and they’re frustrating and hamper a movie like no one’s business. But that’s not Jane. She quickly learns to adapt and isn’t afraid to ask for help. She won’t hesitate to show force and isn’t incompetent in a fight, but also isn’t some trigger-happy nutcase. She’ll try to diffuse a situation, proving that she can be in control when it needs her to be.

Overall, this is a film dripping with chilling atmosphere, and I’m not just talking about the snowy weather. It’s a captivating movie that will make you dread what these characters will face next, but you can’t help keeping your eyes glued to see how they’ll get out of it. As amazingly executed as the film is, it’s even better knowing that it’s shining a light on an issue that Americans probably overlook too much, or not even know is a thing at all, making it a must-watch. If it isn’t obvious, I highly recommend this film.

My honest rating for WIND RIVER: 5/5

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DETROIT review

Man, I really should have paid attention in history class. I assume it’s a racially charged film. No duh, 1967 white cops in a black neighborhood, that goes without saying. But I suppose what sets this film apart is the star-studded and fairly interesting cast. I’m mostly referring to Will Poulter, who seems like he’s playing a cop who is in charge, even though he looks like he’s in high school. No offense to the man of course, he’s twenty-four years old, but just the way his face is structured, I almost don’t buy him as someone giving orders. But it’s not like I’ve seen the film and for all I know, his performance overshadows his baby face. To be fair, he is a great actor, so I’m sure that’ll be the case.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have John Boyega (THE CIRCLE [2017], STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], ATTACK THE BLOCK [2011], and upcoming films STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Will Poulter (THE REVENANT [2015], THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER [2010]), and Anthony Mackie (TRIPLE 9 [2016], CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER [2014], PAIN & GAIN [2013], and Marvel’s upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]). In support, we have Algee Smith (EARTH TO ECHO [2014]), Jacob Latimore (SLEIGHT [2017], COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], and THE MAZE RUNNER [2014]), Jack Reynor (FREE FIRE [2017], SING STREET [2016], TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION [2014], and the upcoming JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), John Krasinski (THE HOLLARS [2016], 13 HOURS [2016], TV show THE OFFICE, and upcoming TV show JACK RYAN), and Kaitlyn Dever (video game UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END [2016], and TV shows LAST MAN STANDING and JUSTIFIED).

Now for the crew. Directing is Kathryn Bigelow, known for ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012), THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and POINT BREAK (1991). Penning the screenplay is Mark Boal, known for ZERO DARK THIRTY, THE HURT LOCKER, and IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (2007). Composing the score is the always amazing James Newton Howard, known for FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016), THE HUNGER GAMES (2012), M. Night Shyamalan’s LADY IN THE WATER (2006), and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2 (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Barry Ackroyd, known for JASON BOURNE (2016), THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and UNITED 93 (2006).

Overall, yeah, this looks like it’s going to be good. Some great talent in front of and behind the camera, so I’m thinking we can expect a quality film here. Let me at it.

This is my honest opinion of: DETROIT

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1967 Detroit, Michigan. Racial tension between the black community and law-enforcement is at an all-time high and the city has become a war-zone, with officers gunning down black people in the streets for little to no cause and covering their tracks with lies and false evidence. Within the local Algiers Motel, a black teenager, fed up with the police and the mistreatment of black, fires a few blank rounds at the police to scare them, but the result is the police thinking it’s a sniper attack and the motel is raided and so ensues a night of humiliation, beatings, and murder.

(REVIEW)

I feel a little conflicted. It’s good, but I’m not sure just how good I feel about it. Definitely, the one thing I will say is don’t see it if you’re expecting a story with a happy ending. It’s not sad, or anything, but my buddy whom I saw it with said it best, “It’s depressing.”

I can’t say how long this review will be, but let’s see how I do.

First and foremost, the acting is spectacular. On the villainous side, Poulter threw me to the ground, shoved a pole in my back, and wiped the floor with me because he was so despicable, so fucking monstrous that he quite possibly stole the show. Not that I have a mind to catch on to “themes” of movies all the time, but one of them was just how low and depraved these men could get in this time period and what they managed to get away with. They will even take an act like praying, a symbolic gesture of peace, clarity, and hope, and use it to traumatize and horrify, forcing them to recite a prayer at the threat of death. And their behavior and attitude isn’t just reserved for the people of color. No, they’ll mistreat the white women too. It’s incredibly hard to watch. But the act of threatening alone isn’t enough if the victims aren’t scared out of their minds and boy howdy did I believe they were. Man, I hope shooting on that set that things were chill between everyone because even though it’s acting, I can see things getting out of hand and someone decking each other simply out of reaction, but I highly doubt that ever happened. Stories like Shia Lebeouf knocking out Tom Hardy are pretty isolated incidents. Either way, everyone did amazing and you could cut the fear in their eyes with a chainsaw and not make a scratch. If you wanted a real horror film to watch that features no monsters, this is well worth that experience.

I suppose another aspect that I can appreciate is the restraint that this movie had to not have Julie (Hannah Murray) or Karen (Dever) raped by the cops. While I’m sure that didn’t happen in the incident anyway, I can definitely see some studio big-wig trying to throw that “creative liberty” in there all in the name of “added dramatic effect.” You can’t convince me it hasn’t happened before. It sure looked like it was going to go that route what with the constant close-ups of the two women’s backsides and the animalistic men ogling over them. Hell, I was ready to rip my hair out after Julie’s clothes were ripped off. I was calling it, that’s where it was going to happen. But nope, the humiliation and the implication in the men’s eyes was more than enough, and honestly, a lot more effective.

Other than there being a great deal intensity and visceral stress and fear that you feel alongside the victims, there’s not a whole lot of praise to be spoken. It’s just holding a magnifying glass on an incident which perfectly captured the tension between two sides of a conflict and what the law was clearly there to protect at the time, and it wasn’t always its citizens.

Although, having done no real research, and certainly not having the resources that the crew had while putting this movie together, one element did bother the crap out of me. Carl (Jason Mitchell) used a pistol with blanks when he wanted to scare the cops. When the cops raid the place looking for the gun, they keep shouting for it, but… why don’t they explain that it’s not real, or didn’t have real bullets? They spent hours getting questioned and it’s like they honest to God didn’t know anything about a real gun. Is a real gun so indistinguishable from a fake one, or a real one with no real ammo? I don’t know, I grew up with paintball, airsoft, and cap guns, as well as watching a whole ton of action movies. I think I could tell the difference. These people, scared or not, really didn’t say anything?! Maybe this is a weird detail overlooked by the movie, but… yeah, that seemed off to me.

Overall, this movie isn’t for the feint of heart and it certainly shouldn’t be seen if you’re looking for a crowd pleaser. But it’s the 1960’s in one of the most crime-ridden cities in America, even to this day. This movie’s setting alone was an indication that a happy ending was never going to be in the cards. But it’s worth watching. It’s a powerful piece that will stay with you. I think a detail or two can be questioned, but it’s a good film. It’s no “must see” of the year, but if you have even a passing interest, I do recommend it.

My honest rating for DETROIT: 4/5

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ATOMIC BLONDE review

Aww yeah, son. It’s finally here. All that hype is about to be tested. I love a good action film, and I love a good spy film. Combine the two with a kick-ass female to helm the project, and you’ve got me saying, “Shut up, and take my money!”

The story looks like your typical betrayal-revenge thriller, but the action does look pretty awesome… eh, for the most part. I don’t know, some of the action looks a little too… choreographed. Like once someone throws a punch, it’s like there’s an obvious pause between moves so the actors and stuntmen can get into position for the next attack. The kitchen scene feels particularly heavy in this as well as that hyped up stairway scene, albeit on a smaller scale. But who knows, maybe the finished product is much more streamlined.

Let’s take a look at this on screen talent. Starring, we have the incredible Charlize Theron (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS [2017], KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS [2016], and HANCOCK [2008]) and James McAvoy (SPLIT [2017], X-MEN: APOCALYPSE [2016], WANTED [2008], and upcoming films X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX [2018] and M. Night Shyamalan’s Split/Unbreakable crossover, GLASS [2019]). In support, we have John Goodman (VALERIAN [2017], PATRIOTS DAY [2016], RED STATE [2011], and the upcoming TV revival ROSANNE [2018]), Sofia Boutella (THE MUMMY [2017], STAR TREK BEYOND [2016], KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE [2015], and the upcoming TV film FAHRENHEIT 451, due out… who knows when), Toby Jones (MORGAN [2016], CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER [2011], THE MIST [2007], and upcoming horror film THE SNOWMAN [2017] and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM [2018]), Til Schweiger (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS [2009], FAR CRY [2008], and LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE [2003]), and in a bit role, Daniel Bernhardt (LOGAN [2017], THE MATRIX RELOADED [2003], and TV show MORTAL KOMBAT: CONQUEST [1998]).

Now for the talent behind the scenes. Directing, we have David Leitch, a former stuntman who has been a part of countless action films. His career stretches from HITMAN: AGENT 47 (2015), all the way back to Marvel’s BLADE (1998). He’ll be directing the upcoming DEADPOOL 2 (2018). Penning the screenplay is Kurt Johnstad, known for 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014), ACT OF VALOR (2012), and 300 (2006). And… wait a tick, this movie is based on a graphic novel? Hmm… news to me. Apparently, it was a series titled “The Coldest City.” Anywho, the composer for the score is action film veteran Tyler Bates, known for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017), JOHN WICK (2014), SUPER (2010), and Marvel’s upcoming Netflix show THE PUNISHER [2017]. Last, but not least, the cinematographer is Jonathan Sela, known for TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (2017), LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (2009), THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008), and the upcoming DEADPOOL 2.

Overall, yeah, this could be pretty bad-ass, so I’m stoked for this.

This is my honest opinion of: ATOMIC BLONDE

(SUMMARY)

Set during the Cold War in 1989. Lorraine (Charlize Theron) is a British spy and being called in by her superiors for a mission debriefing, detailing her assignment of tracking down a missing list that contains the names of every operative working for British intelligence.

(REVIEW)

Apologies for the delay in this review’s release. I did actually see it last week, and I had to see this again. Not because it was that good, but because I had a miserable experience watching this the first time. So before I go into the review, I’m going to start with an enraged rant about being on your fucking cell phone in the movies. So if you want to skip that and go right to the review, CTRL-F and type “HPOR”. So here we go.

So I’m watching the movie and during an important exposition scene, this woman behind me starts talking on her phone. Allow me to really describe what I mean by this. Her phone is on SPEAKER, high volume so everyone can hear, and you’d swear to God that this bitch was in the middle of an important business meeting because she’s not even making an attempt to whisper. She’s talking like normal. My favorite part of the entire conversation she’s having with who the fuck cares, at one point, she apologizes. Not to the audience who is being horrendously inconvenienced, mind you, but to the person she’s talking to, as if all the people screaming at her to get off her phone are interrupting their important conversation. It took me a good five, maybe even ten minutes to finally get up and track down an employee at the AMC that I frequent and told them exactly where to find her. By the time I got back in the auditorium, everyone was in an uproar at this bitch, WHO IS STILL ON HER PHONE!!! You know what it finally took for her to hang up? Some dude got up from his seat and got right in her fucking face. Of fucking course, in that specific moment, that’s when the employee comes in, just narrowly missing out on the mayhem.

The experience, for all intents and purposes, was fine afterward, but the sheer amount of inconsideration from this incident is beyond baffling. Fine, a phone goes off, it happens. Like me, I don’t have many people who call me and talk to me, so there’s almost no reason to care about, “Alright, one last thing. Using your phone is distracting. Don’t ruin the movie!” Oversights happen and most people are generally understanding of that. But these people (she was with a companion) literally paid twenty-plus dollars just to watch half the flick and spend ten minutes of the remainder of their time there on a conference call. People, I don’t pay money to see these movies to hear your phone chats. I don’t pay money to see your cell phone screens light up. And to go so far as to talk, whispering or full blown outdoor voices? Are you fucking kidding me? How did FIREFLY’s Shepherd Book put it?

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And to everyone else who is as pissed off with this shit as I am… don’t be like me, waiting ten minutes for them to stop without telling the theater staff. I know, maybe you don’t like confrontation, or don’t like missing any part of the movie, but… if you don’t take some sort of action, they won’t stop talking. You’re going to miss out on the movie one way or another. Don’t miss out on more than you, or the rest of the audience that has a set of fucking manners, need to.

(HPOR) Now for the review.

I’ve probably said this before, but spy films can be a hit or miss for me if they’re not comedies. This is because the ones that you’re supposed to take seriously, James Bond, Jason Bourne, they have a tendency to have complicated plots that my brain isn’t calibrated to follow. I eventually tune out the politics, ramifications, and junk in lieu of waiting for the action scenes or attempting to connect with the character relationships, which is always the crux of why I end up liking them. A few one-liners never hurt either. So how does this movie rank among them? It’s good. Not great. I don’t argue the “Kick-ass action,” or “…totally badass,” comments. Hell, I don’t even argue the whole, “We now have our female 007!” comments either. But… yeah, I don’t love this movie.

The smaller issue that I have with this movie is just how drenched in neon colors this movie was. This is personal, obviously, but the very aesthetic of this film is a struggle. If it’s not bright neon colors, it’s pale white and blue. I know, I know, snow and shit, and I don’t know if I could properly explain why it bugs me. But couple that with the 80’s techno music, or whatever it was, it sort of made my eyelids heavy. It succeeds in making itself distinguished among other action-spy films, but it does it in a way that didn’t agree with me. It’s that same sensation that I get when I play a first-person shooter video game; I just get a headache after awhile, which ruins the experience some. Like I said, the majority of viewers likely weren’t bothered by this, but I was.

Another smaller complaint was the lesbian scene. Now before you feminists get your pitchforks and torches, hear me out. Setting my man-brain aside who absolutely adores two attractive women having sex, pure titillation is something I reserve for porn. That’s what it’s for. However, gratuitous sex and nudity in a movie is exploitative and, frankly, annoying. It’s there just for marketing and to get asses in seats. Now, if the story is about sex and relationships, trying to do it in an artistic way, that’s perfectly acceptable. In coming-of-age films, the exploration of sexual awakening, a character who doesn’t believe in monogamy learns to fall in love, that sort of thing, then of course, the sex and nudity is more warranted and understandable. But that’s for those movies. Action films don’t always put that kind of effort into the romantic relationships. The exceptions for me are the Bourne films and the occasional Bond film. I do not believe this film does the relationship between Lorraine and Delphine justice. While both Theron and Boutella are outstanding actresses to be sure, Lorraine and Delphine barely share any screen time together before they bang and I don’t believe the sex was truly organic to the story. It’s certainly a lighter exploitation, mostly because there are good scenes between them later, which I’ll get to, and it’s not over graphic with either the nudity or the physicality, but I feel like for the relationship to carry more weight, more time should have been dedicated to them. Unfortunately, that could have also derailed the film and not kept the story in focus if not done well, but it could have been done. The two ladies could have ran around Berlin solving pieces of the puzzle together, fighting together, it could have worked.

A bigger issue that I also had was, as predicted, some of the fight scenes felt a little too choreographed. Like I said above, the action looks like… punch! Pause. Punch again! Pause, wait for stunt actor to get into place. Punch! Okay, it’s not as bad as I’m making it out, but I feel like I could literally see the actors trying to get back to their marks and waiting for their cue. It more prominent in the kitchen during the apartment fight, and pretty brief in the balcony scene toward the climax, but it’s still there and pretty distracting. Again, this may be something most won’t notice, care about, or agree with me on, but it did feel a touch distracting to me.

The biggest issue I had with the film was how complicated the story was that I could barely follow it. Okay, so a list of all the MI6 agents is now in the hands of the bad guys. We learn that the latest agent killed was a lover or boyfriend of Lorraine’s. We also learn that there’s a traitor within MI6, code named Satchel, whom Lorraine is tasked with finding as well because it’s this person who’s leaked the list to their enemies. I know that these plot point intersect and how they’re related to each other, but… why was Lorraine in that apartment? She says she was looking for clues to Satchel’s identity, but… what was she looking for specifically? We’re not filled in on her plans or strategies, so it just looks like that scene was there to showcase another action sequence. I guess she finds that picture with Percival (James McAvoy) and her dead lover, revealing them to be friends. But that information is never brought up after he admits to it and doesn’t play a further role in anything, so what’s the point? Beyond that, characters seem to take themselves from one location to the other when it feels like it should be as simple as finding the missing Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), who committed the entire list of operatives to memory. It never truly feels like anyone is on point with their objectives. And if I can’t follow the actions and motivations of the characters… it can easily bore me. So yes, outside of the action scenes, the movie is pretty boring and not overly interesting. The pieces are there, but they don’t fit very well.

But before anyone starts thinking that I hate this film, I don’t. So let’s dive into the good aspects.

First and foremost, yes, the action is great. I’ve already mentioned how I felt the action was a little too choreographed, but I do give it some credit that the action is visceral. Dude gets hit in the face with a pot or a freezer door, it really looks like it hurts. Someone gets shot in the stomach, but still attempts to fight, it looks like a real struggle. People getting punched, or thrown around onto wooden furniture or getting whacked with lamps and shit, stabbed in the neck with a cork-screw, the action is undeniably intense and gritty. Especially with all the cuts, bruises, and blood, you feel just as exhausted as the actors do. Hell, especially in the balcony scene, I know if it were me, all battered and beat up, I’d just be like, “You know what, just go. I’m done. Have a good Wednesday.” It’s pretty awesome.

The actors also churn out solid performances and work incredibly well off of each other. Lorraine and Percival are pretty funny and I enjoy their banter. I also liked the connection that Lorraine and Delphine shared. Despite the unnecessary sex, there is a really good scene with the two of them in bed together and they’re talking, Delphine comments that her eyes change when she tells the truth and the dialog goes something like:

LORRAINE
Thanks for the warning. Now I know to not do it again.

DELPHINE
Why?

LORRAINE
Because someday it’s going to get me killed.

That’s a really poignant line. It shows that someone can spot a weakness that could potentially be exploited and she now has to compensate for it in order to cover her ass. But more than that, it’s a detail that was told to her by someone that has always tried to be on her side, and wouldn’t exploit her weaknesses. So of course, I love Boutella’s performance as this semi-innocent and inexperienced field agent who is clearly way over her head. But I really liked Delphine as a character and the impact she had on Lorraine.

There’s also a deep level of appreciation for the details. I mean, in that reveal scene with Theron, Lorraine coming out of that ice cold bath tub, every inch of her body covered in bruises and cuts. It really gives you that sense of how bad-ass she is and you feel every bit of that bruising as she does. Except everyone in the audience is a pussy because y’all be squirming in your seats and she’s just all, “Smokin’ my cig, poppin’ my pills, fuck this job, I’m a bad-ass, mother fuckers.” Pretty sure I’d be on the ground crying like my mother if a swarm of spiders were just crawling over her. And boomeranging back to the stairwell scene, I’m pretty sure Theron started that scene without a scratch, but then the bruises and cuts were all over her by the end of it. I’m curious, were those bruises… real? I mean, according to the trivia on IMDb, she cracked two teeth during filming. She really was getting slammed into walls… albeit padded ones, but how far off the mark can I possibly be? Maybe they’re digitally inserted? Either way, it’s fantastic and it’s made to look like it’s all done in one take. I can probably safely assume it wasn’t, but it’s not quite quite easy to spot where the cuts may be.

Fun fact: That tunnel when Lorraine is in the car and beats dudes with her shoe? That’s the same tunnel used in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016) when Black Panther is chasing down Bucky Barnes. I part of me thought I’d recognized it, but I didn’t think much of it until I read that.

Overall, I can’t say that this is a bad movie. It’s very well done and well-executed, but I just don’t love it, or like it all that much. The visuals literally hurt my eyes and head, so it’s already hard to get enveloped by the film. Bits and pieces of the action don’t look right, and some of the character choices don’t always make sense to me, so I can’t climb on the band wagon that everyone has a ticket for. But there is a real passion behind the project that I can’t deny. To my understanding, this is a passion project of Theron’s and it really shows. It’s hard hitting, beautifully shot, fantastic acting, it’s no wonder why so many like it. I say if you like your action-spy flicks, or enjoy the cast, this is a good one to check out. It’s not a movie that I can personally see a third time, but I acknowledge it’s merits and I recommend it.

My honest rating for ATOMIC BLONDE: a strong 3/5

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