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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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 review

AHHHHHHH!!! Oh my god, it’s here!!!

Whew, three years is way too long to be makin’ me wait. As you can probably tell, I was a huge fan of the first GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014). Probably would come as a shock to me circa 2013 because I thought this movie wouldn’t be good or successful due to these characters not being what many think of when it comes to Marvel Comics. You think X-Men, or Spider-Man, pretty much everyone except the Guardians. But leave it to Marvel to make unknown names household with seemingly little effort thrown in, making that movie arguably one of the best movies to come out of that year and I fell in love with it. This is one of my three all-time favorite Marvel Avengers-related films, tied only with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (2013) and DOCTOR STRANGE (2016). It had great characters, terrific performances, probably one of the most infectious soundtracks in all sci-fi history, fun action, wonderful humor, everything you’d need for t a fun and amazing thrill ride.

To say that I’m excited for this movie would be a monumental understatement. I mean, I’m a sci-fi junkie as it stands, but this is special, yo! I’m blindly accepting that this will be a great film. Let’s just hope whoever the villain is will be better than Ronan the Accuser. Actually, the plot seems to be pretty well under wraps. All we know is that there’s going to be a lot ass-kicking and humor, so… hellz yeah, let’s kick this puppy into gear!

Let’s take a gander at the amazing talent shall we? The original guardians return, of course: Chris Pratt (PASSENGERS [2016], THE LEGO MOVIE [2014], DELIVERY MAN [2013], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018] and the Untitled Jurassic World sequel [2018]), Zoe Saldana (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], THE BOOK OF LIFE [2014], COLOMBIANA [2011], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and AVATAR 2 [2020]), Dave Bautista (007 SPECTRE [2015], RIDDICK [2013], THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS [2012], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017]), and voice talents Vin Diesel (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS [2017], THE LAST WITCH HUNTER [2015], BABYLON A.D. [2008], and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and FAST & FURIOUS 9 [2019]) and Bradley Cooper (WAR DOGS [2016], JOY [2015], AMERICAN HUSTLE [2013], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). Returning support includes Michael Rooker (THE BELKO EXPERIMENT [2017], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], SLITHER [2006], and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR) and Karen Gillan (THE CIRCLE [2017], THE BIG SHORT [2015], TV show DOCTOR WHO, and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR). Newcomers include Kurt Russell (THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, DEEPWATER HORIZON [2016], and THE HATEFUL EIGHT [2015]), Sylvester Stallone (RATCHET & CLANK [2016], CREED [2015], THE EXPENDABLES 3 [2014], and upcoming films ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES [2018] and ESCAPE PLAN 3, due out… who knows when), and Pom Klementieff (OLD BOY [2013]).

Now for the amazing talent behind the scenes. Writing and directing is James Gunn, known for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), SUPER (2010), and SLITHER. Composing the score Tyler Bates, known for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017), JOHN WICK (2014), HALLOWEEN II (2009), and the upcoming ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) and TV show Netflix’s THE PUNISHER. Finally, the cinematographer is Henry Braham, known for THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (2016), THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007), and NANNY MCPHEE (2005).

Overall… SO STOKED, A-HOLES!!! ‘Nuff said.

This is my honest opinion of: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

(SUMMARY)

The misfit accidental heroes are back and are still trying to get a handle on things. Hired by the Sovereign race to protect precious batteries from an inter-dimensional monster, the Guardians succeed, but unknowingly, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) stole a couple for himself to sell later for a hefty sum. In exchange for their services, they hand over a captured Nebula (Karen Gillan), and leave. But Rocket’s actions are discovered as the Sovereign race shoot down Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) ship, but still manage to escape in time. As repairs are under way, the crew is paid a visit by a stranger known as Ego (Kurt Russell), who admits to being Peter’s father. To make matters complicated, Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista) separate from Rocket, the still growing Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and Nebula to give Peter the chance to learn about his heritage, while Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his band of Ravagers hunt him down with the help of the Sovereign, find them, and take them hostage. The Ravagers divide amongst infighting, Yondu, Rocket, and Baby Groot are imprisoned and attempt to find Peter and the rest of the Guardians.

(REVIEW)

Maybe my expectations were too high, but I only liked this movie as opposed to me loving the first one.

Obviously, I must have my complaints about this movie, so let’s get those out of the way. First thing that I didn’t like… the soundtrack wasn’t as memorable. You’d think this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but let me explain why this is a letdown. The first Guardians was monumentally entertaining and a great contribution to that was the music. “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, “Hooked on a Feeling,” by Blue Swede, “Cherry Bomb,” by The Runaways, all of these are memorable and catchy songs. Admittedly, I can’t call myself a “music guy.” I don’t know the greatest of the greatest hits of the 70’s and 80’s, so unless it was in a Guitar Hero game, I’ve likely never heard of the songs. But here’s the thing, with the exception of “Cherry Bomb,” I wasn’t familiar with “Come and Get Your Love” or “Hooked on a Feeling.” Yet, I remember the melodies, the lyrics, all complemented by whatever respective scene the song is playing over, and they were catchy enough that I’d want to listen to those songs when I’m driving down the road some day, which I do. But I couldn’t hum the tune to one song in this one. Not one. I can remember the opening sequence, but not the song that was playing over it. Of course, you could argue that Baby Groot dancing and fighting space rats while the Guardians are getting their asses kicked by a tentacle monster is a simple case of scenery-chewing, but I maintain that I still don’t remember the song. Any of them for any scene.

The next complaint that I had was that Drax with surprisingly not as funny either. I felt like the majority of his jokes were a little too forced. Granted, that’s not all of them, but I laughed at nearly every joke in the first Guardians, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, I found it hard to see him as likable in some areas, particularly when interacting with Mantis (Klementieff). He’s actually pretty berating of her and calls her ugly a lot. I know someone’s going to tell me, “He’s only brutally honest. He’s doing it to be mean,” and I get it, but… that wasn’t an issue in the first movie. Well, I guess he did call Gamora a whore and Rocket a rodent a couple times and I found it funny there. But I do have a theory as to why I separate the humor here. When he calls Gamora a whore, she’s more acting annoyed at the fact that he’s declaring her a friend while also insulting her after he was individually proclaiming his friendship to everyone else. Her reaction was natural and understandable, and the joke is basically that he’s trying to be genuinely sweet and grateful, but he’s still an ass. When calling Rocket “rodent,” he attacks Drax in a fit of drunken rage and we learn why specifically he hates being called that name. It’s a genuine insult that hurts his feelings and we learn something new about him. This isn’t played for laughs, but rather straight and serious, arguably making on the more dramatic moments in the first movie. Here… what’s the joke? How did a five minute conversation come about where they talk about how he sees her as ugly? It’s fairly uncomfortable, not charming.

***SPOILERS***

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Somewhat early on, there’s this bit where the Ravagers tracked down the crashed ship with just Rocket, Groot, and Nebula. Kraglin (Sean Gunn) aids in a mutiny against Yondu for getting them kicked out of the Ravager community and want to return to the way they used to do things. The ones still loyal to Yondu get jettisoned out into space – or rather gingerly float out because the vacuum is completely taken out of the equation for whatever reason – and yet the next time we see Kraglin is when he helps break out Yondu, Rocket, and Groot because, “They killed my friends.” Well, shit, dude, you’re only space pirates who invade and kill whoever you want. In the case of mutiny, I have to ask why this is such a shock. This is in the next scene with them, by the way. This isn’t some character arch journeyed through the movie and in the end he learns the error of his ways. Nope, it’s the next scene where he realized he screwed up. The mutiny almost seems pointless, other than to be a clumsy and contrived way to build up Yondu, and arguably Kraglin, being an honorary Guardian at the end.

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***END SPOILERS***

By the way, this isn’t really a complaint, but I’m not too sure if I agree that the relationship between Drax and Mantis is supposed to be representative of father and daughter. I can’t say I recall where I heard that from, but that’s not what I picked up from their interactions. Both characters are socially inept. They have a tendency to say exactly what’s on their minds and an inability to understand certain social cues. And of course, with Drax constantly telling Mantis that she’s ugly, but still shows a peculiar caring for her, and a greatly expressed lack of desire to want to have sex with each other, I picked up that the two were more brother and sister. Anyone else agree with me on this one?

So I’ve had a few gripes here and there, right? Does that mean I think the movie’s bad? Hellz to the no. At the end of the day, this movie is as entertaining as you could hope it to be.

Despite not remembering the soundtrack playing over the opening fight sequence, I still remember the sequence as a whole. Baby Groot dancing to a song while the Guardians are battling a giant tentacle monster, it’s every bit as brilliant as anyone could hope for. Even when the song ends, I still love how the rest of the scene concludes. It’s an amazing “howdy doo” and worth the price of admission alone.

The humor is still there. Rocket is still a big-mouthed jerk with the one-liners and gives everyone shit. The best scene that stands out with him is when he’s making fun of Taserface’s (Chris Sullivan) name and even getting the rest of the Ravagers to join in on the mockery. Groot is as adorable as he’s portrayed in the trailers, albeit not in on the action as one would hope. But nearly every scene with Groot is full of “aww” moments, be them about how cute he is, or how assholes are treating him. There’s this bit where the Ravagers captured him and want him to dance, and during their amusement, they pour alcohol on him, still laughing at him. You’re part of the crowd that cheered for him when he went ape-shit on that same Ravager and kicked his ass.

Also, am I the only one who made the fun connection that Ego was almost incredibly similar to Andross from the STAR FOX 64 video game as far as their “true forms” were concerned? I mean, Andross’ true form was a giant brain and Ego’s true form is a giant brain… PLEASE TELL ME I’M NOT ALONE IN THIS!!!

***SPOILERS***

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But never mind the comedy, the drama is effective as well. When Ego admits to Peter that he’s the one who put the tumor in his mother’s head that ultimately killed her, he has that “You killed the greatest woman who ever lived!” moment and you can’t help but share his rage. I guess I have a soft-spot for superheroes defending their mothers.

The stuff with Gamora and Nebula is also really well-executed. They have a strange relationship to be sure, one that’s never been explored before this movie. Nebula tries to kill Gamora when she’s got the chance, but can’t bring herself to do it and they air out that dirty laundry. Nebula’s defeats when sparring with Gamora as children resulted in Nebula getting cybernetic augmentations in hopes to being Gamora’s combative equal. But Gamora always won the fights and Nebula just wanted a sister, but with every loss in battle against her, Nebula’s hatred grew. All this time enduring pain and being seen as a disappointment, and yet she still has that shred of love for Gamora, who only now realizes the weight of their upbringing with Thanos and how it tore each other apart. So the ending scene with the two women hugging and parting ways, that was a legit moment. It’s an awkward hug to be sure, but I like to think that’s the point. They’ve never shared a connection like this before, so it’s new territory. But in the end, they do still have different goals and desires. Gamora wants to save the other children that Thanos wants to convert and Nebula wants to kill Thanos himself, despite how impossible they think it is, so we know that Nebula won’t be joining the Guardians any time soon.

And this was something I had a difficult time acknowledging: the father-son relationship between Yondu and Peter. At first, I thought it was contrived and ultimately too sappy. In the first movie, Yondu’s threatening to kill Peter and even kicks the crap out of him before the climax of the film. If Yondu thought of Peter as his own son, why threaten to kill him? What if Peter didn’t have a plan to take down Ronan? Would Yondu have killed Peter? Or would he have come up with an excuse not to do it? While I maintain that this is some bullshit, it’s easy to forget that these characters do have a weird relationship and that’s the point of a sequel: the expand on what we already know and to take these characters and their relationships with each other to new grounds. We knew that Peter and Yondu had a weird connection, and this movie dives into why that is. Yondu had been under Ego’s employment for a long time, rounding up his offspring only to be killed off when they didn’t satisfy Ego. Yondu clearly had enough of it and despite getting kicked out of the Ravager community, refused to let Peter share the same fate as his illegitimate half-siblings. In time, Yondu clearly develops a soft-spot for Peter and does kind of end up becoming Peter’s only father figure he’s ever known, so this development makes more sense than I gave it credit for, making his death in the end very emotional.

Speaking of father figures, I also had some initial reservations against Ego’s motivations. At first, I complained that he introduced himself as a kindly, apologetic person who didn’t want things to turn out like they did between him and Peter. I complained that when he suddenly became a bad guy and tried to kill Peter that it was lazy writing to make a “twist” bad guy. But after realizing the information I had originally missed and thought Ego to be one of the worst villains that Marvel’s dished out, I suddenly realized that he’s arguably one of the better ones. At first, I disagreed with how he went on and on about how much he genuinely loved Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) and hated leaving her only to kill her in the end. But having missed the previous information that he’s been killing his own children who couldn’t control the power they were supposed to inherit from him, it’s now obvious that he’s probably manipulated his offspring before. He kills them because of his messed up outlook on life. He never fell in love with anyone and he never cared about being a father to any children. He wanted their power to fully integrate every planet he’s been to in order to transform them them into extensions of himself. He probably manipulated his previous offspring like he did with Peter, but only Peter showed that he can use his powers, making him more useful than any other. This is, in retrospect, a little bit of a different take on the whole “bad guy wants to dominate the galaxy” type deal; different meaning and method behind it all. Granted, it’s still tiring to see this bad guy trope, but it’s much easier to sit through with this knowledge.

***

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***END SPOILERS***

Overall, I’ve only seen the movie once so far and I came out with some bad tastes in my mouth that I probably need to reevaluate after a second viewing. Sunday Movie Night with my coworkers! Objectively speaking, while I stand by that this movie has more problems than the first film, there weren’t as many as I originally thought, and it’s hard to deny that this movie does take steps upward with its characters and tries harder in its dramatic areas, which ultimately paid off. It’s still a lot of fun and is definitely a worthy sequel to the concentrated awesome that was the first. If you liked the first film, I highly recommend seeing this one. Full price, biggest theaters, loudest speakers, wherever that is. But maybe not in 3D. For some reason, the 3D made the CGI a little too obvious. But this movie is incredibly entertaining and that’s the job of any real superhero movie. Not my favorite, but still pretty damn cool.

My honest rating for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2: a strong 4/5

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THE BELKO EXPERIMENT review

Not gonna lie, about the only reason I wanted to see this movie is because some co-workers probably made it out to be a lot more fun and hilarious than it really might be. Not that I don’t acknowledge that this isn’t a comedy, but you’d think it should be. I mean, co-workers locked in a building and forced to go ape-shit on each other, dying off one by one? There’s commentary right in front of them ripe with bloody, comedic possibilities. But I digress. I thought it wouldn’t be a good movie, but it’d be just the right amount of fun.

So let’s take a look at the cast. John Gallagher Jr. (10 CLOVERFIELD LANE [2016], JONAH HEX [2010], and TV show THE NEWSROOM), Tony Goldwyn (TARZAN [1999], GHOST [1990], and TV show SCANDAL), Adria Arjona (TV shows EMERALD CITY, TRUE DETECTIVE, and the upcoming PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2017]), John C. McGinley (42 [2013], and TV shows STAN AGAINST EVIL and SCRUBS), and Michael Rooker (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], SLITHER [2006], TV show THE WALKING DEAD, and the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WARS [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Greg McLean, known for THE DARKNESS (2016), ROGUE (2007), and WOLF CREEK (2005). Oh shit, this is kind of hilarious, penning the screenplay is James Gunn, who wrote – and directed – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), SUPER (2010), SLITHER (2006), and the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017). Composing the score is Tyler Bates, known for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), WATCHMEN (2009), and the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Luis David Sansans, known for CAPTIVE (2015), ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST (2014), and TV show NARCOS.

Overall, I was seeing this with some co-workers, so while it may not be a good movie, I suspected I’d enjoy myself just fine. So… did I?

This is my honest opinion of: THE BELKO EXPERIMENT

(SUMMARY)

Belko Industries is a nonprofit company located in the middle of nowhere in Colombia, the main building hosts eighty American employees. When the local employees are sent home, the building soon locks down, preventing any escape or entrance. Over the building’s intercom, a voice announces that the employees must kill each other, or the surgically implanted tracking devices in their heads, doubling as explosives, will be detonated. Soon begins a game of kill or be killed as the employees of Belko vie for survival and dominance.

(REVIEW)

I don’t care what anyone says, this was a bloody good time! But does that objectively make it good? Eh… probably not. But I, as well as my co-workers, were pretty entertained.

First of all, the violence is surprisingly unhinged. When a microchip explodes, the barely-existent head is pretty damn graphic. The flesh will be peeled aside, and is really juicy. It almost made me squeamish as someone pokes around in there with a pen. And you get an eyeful of that shit too. It’s not implied squishy sounds to give you something to imagine, no, you get up close and personal to blood and chunky flesh. It’s awesome.

As you can see, this is definitely a movie to bring the kids to see. *SARCASM*

The acting is pretty damn solid for the most part. A few lines here and there are delivered awkwardly, but they’re pretty rare and probably only going to be spotted if you’re really looking for it. Few stand out sadly, as the characters are pretty stock. Goldwyn plays Barry, a pretty standard ruthless asshole, Gallagher Jr. plays Mike, a standard good guy trying to hold on to his humanity, and Arjona plays Leandra, a standard… token main female. But I hesitate to say that’s a bad thing as the main selling point is the violence and the common-office-supplies ways that everyone’s going to get killed. Characters with personalities might have taken away from the experience. Having said that, I did say that a few characters stood out. McGinley is always a riot to have on screen and always knows what to do with the roles he’s given. Seriously, this man should be more of a modern icon than he really is. He plays this creepy co-worker, Wendell, with a serious boner for Leandra, which is obviously not reciprocated. But he’s so engagingly despicable that he really gets under my skin. He’s great. And probably not in a positive way, so does Marty (Sean Gunn). He plays this pothead co-worker who ends every sentence with “man”. While that grates a bit on the ears, he’s funny when he starts going around emptying the water gallons, convinced that there’s chemicals in them that are making the co-workers susceptible to their violent tendencies. There’s no rhyme or reason for his beliefs, but he is a strange mix of funny and annoying.

But I think the best part of this movie is its sense of humor. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a comedy by any stretch, but there is a self-awareness to it that makes me adore it when it comes around. Like when the intercom voice first shows up and tells everyone that they’re going to have to start killing each other within the next two hours, one character playfully starts strangling his co-worker, clearly not taking the voice seriously. There’s another scene, after the death count rises, there’s two people hiding on top of an elevator, holding each other for comfort. The voice comes along and announces those with most kills, and mentions one of them. Awkwardly, he removes his arm from her without a single word said. It’s pretty hilarious. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite brands of humor is self-awareness. If it can be made fun of, the movie should, and the movie does for the most part. They’re welcomed moments as the movie is pretty action-packed with tons of violence, the humor is great at balancing it all out. But then again, Gunn has always had a penchant for dark humor.

As much fun as the movie is, it does fall into some tropes that made my eye twitch. As per usual in horror films, you have way too many people making stupid decisions. You have this one character who’s constantly hiding and is pretty successful at it. Even she gets a kill in out of self-defense. You have characters that freak out and start panicking like children next to broccoli. And there’s painfully predictable moments when characters are in a safe place, feel content, and then suddenly die. There’s actually a few of those. It’s one thing to have it once and let a trope be a trope, but when you do it twice, you take the annoyance factor and raise it by ten. We didn’t need it the first time, let alone the second. And the relationship between Mike and Leandra is pretty pointless and barely adds anything to the story. You don’t really even care if they remain together by the end. In fact, I kind of wish the climax would have been building up to the two of them hunting each other down for the final kill.

It’s imperfect, and those imperfections prevent it from being great, or even really good, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun for what it is: OFFICE SPACE meets HUNGER GAMES for adults. I hope this achieves a cult classic status because there is so much here to love. Is it anything particularly new? Probably not, but if you’re a fan of the concept, working an office job and the co-workers start killing each other, I can’t imagine anyone hating this movie. Oh, and definitely see it with your co-workers. The experience is only that much more enjoyable because now you’ll have some fun conversation starters to play with. I recommend this movie in theaters and hope you all check it out. I saw it once, I’d be open to seeing it again someday soon.

My honest rating for THE BELKO EXPERIMENT: 4/5

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JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 review

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Now we’re talkin’. This is the first highly anticipated action movie of the year and you won’t hear any argument from me. JOHN WICK (2014) was probably one of the most stylized and exciting gunplay movies in years about a retired hitman who goes on a killing spree when some foolish jack-offs kill John’s beloved dog, a final farewell gift from his deceased wife. You’d swear to God that this story has been sitting on the cinematic shelf for years. Everyone knows that any bad guy that kills a dog is the most despicable scum to ever walk this Earth, so why not make that the motivation of our protagonist: Avenge the death of a beloved dog mixed with some seriously bad-ass action. I loved it and now I’m uber excited for the next installment. I doubt it’s going to have lightning strike twice, as the dog seems to be the sidekick this round, and seems to be a kind of Matrix reunion, but as long as we have some solid action, I think I’ll be an easy customer here.

Speaking of Matrix reunion, how about that cast? Reprising his role as the titular character of John Wick is Keanu (pronouced “kay-ah-nu” as I recently learned) Reeves. People seem awfully split about the guy, don’t they? Some love him, some don’t. Personally, I love the guy. I respect the man himself and what makes him who he is as a person, but that won’t be the focus here, despite how much I want to gush. Sure, he’ll never really change that surfer-dude voice of his, but I still enjoy his work. THE NEON DEMON (2016), THE MATRIX (1999), BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989), the list goes on. I think despite his fame, he’s underrated as an artist, and I’m likely in a vast minority of fans who see his movies specifically for him, but I’m a proud fan of the man and the actor, and I can’t wait to see him bring his fiery intensity to the character once again. While it’s unclear just how much he’ll be in the film, based on what the trailers showcased… Laurence Fishburne, fuckers! Probably one of the coolest actors around. If you need a man to be smart and wise while kicking ass, Fishburne is the man for the job. From PASSENGERS (2016), to THE MATRIX (1999), to his TV show BLACK-ISH, you can’t go wrong with him on screen, and to see him and Reeves sharing the screen again, I’m a tad giddy. Beyond them, other talents include franchise reprisals Bridget Moynahan (LORD OF WAR [2005], I, ROBOT [2004], and TV show BLUE BLOODS), Lance Reddick (WHITE HOUSE DOWN [2013], JONAH HEX [2010], and TV show FRINGE), and Ian McShane (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES [2011], KUNG FU PANDA [2008], and TV show RAY DONOVAN), and newcomers Ruby Rose (XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE [2017], RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER [2017], and TV show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK), Peter Stormare (PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR [2014], CONSTANTINE [2005], and TV show LONGMIRE), Common (SUICIDE SQUAD [2016], NOW YOU SEE ME [2013], and TERMINATOR SALVATION [2009]), and John Leguizamo (THE INFILTRATOR [2016], CHEF [2014], and the Ice Age franchise).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is Chad Stahelski, known only for JOHN WICK (2014), but is slated to direct the upcoming reboot, HIGHLANDER, due out… who knows when. Penning the screenplay is Derek Kolstad, known only for JOHN WICK as well. Co-composing the music are Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard. Richard is known for TV shows QUANTICO, RAVENSWOOD, and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, and Bates is known for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), SUPER (2010), and TV show SALEM. Finally, the cinematographer is Dan Laustsen, known for CRIMSON PEAKS (2015), SILENT HILL (2006), and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (2003).

Overall, I’m so stoked for this. I want to see the same bad-ass action, to have Reeves strike the fear of God to me and his on-screen adversaries, and a cute Matrix reunion.

This is my honest opinion of: JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2

(SUMMARY)

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) just got his car back from Abram (Peter Stormare) and intends to return home and fully retire from his murdering life. However, he gets brought back in when an old acquaintance of his from their respective organization, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), requests him to go on a hit for him, to which John refuses. The refusal was not taken well as John’s home is destroyed by Santino. Hoping to have it settled within, his former boss Winston (Ian McShane) takes no action against Santino and John has no choice but to fulfill his wishes: killing his sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini), so he can take her political power. He succeeds, but is then double-crossed by Santino by sending his men after John, who fail to kill him. John then begins a long trek back to finding Santino and kill him for his actions.

(REVIEW)

YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAH!!! WOOOOOOOO!!!

Alright alright, that won’t be the review, but jeez, can you really blame me if I wanted to?

Oh man, where to begin. The movie opens with a huge bang, just a ton of fighting around cars, which reminds you of the thrill ride you’re in for. The action in this movie is just as exciting, well-choreographed, shot beautifully, and hard-hitting as you’d expect. And they don’t skimp out on the violence either. A shot gets fired, and you can practically feel that bullet go through a skull. You feel that pain, even if the unfortunate dude didn’t. You feel like you hear that bullet ripping through bone and brain, it’s glorious. And Reeves, oh my god, this guy is way too nice to be knowing the many different ways there are to kill a man. I still really like John Wick as a character. He doesn’t talk much by comparison to other characters that are chatterboxes. The only time he really opens his yammer is when he’s dishing out a bad-ass line. And he signs! Who knew?!

Speaking of signing, Rose is who does the most signing. Again, who knew?! Did she and Reeves take some classes? Did they both know how to sign and then thought, “Hey how about I’m deaf and Keanu signs at me?” Eh, who cares? For whatever reason, I remember her character pretty well, and that’s not supposed to be an easy accomplishment when the character is more quirky than well-written. But I suppose there is a subtle smartness about the way she’s written. Like any really good actor, the best acting is through the eyes and facial expressions. When done right, the lines would speak for themselves and Rose does a solid job that, being the bad-ass bitch of the movie with her catchphrase: “Be seeing you.” I really enjoyed her presence, though I wish there was a better rivalry between John and Ares.

Speaking of rivalry, how about Cassian? I know most people don’t think Common is a terribly compelling actor, but I always thought that for the roles he’s been cast in, he does a solid enough job. When Cassian and John fight, the intensity really shines through, so I say that he’s pretty good as a man who’s motivations are clear print: avenging his client, whom he was close to.

Now for the big man himself, Fishburne. Despite not being in the movie long, he is a pretty entertaining character. He’s this guy who once fought John and lost by way of some kind of knife wound, offered a choice to try and kill John again and die himself, or live by keeping the knife where it was, choosing the latter. I think the movie is trying to build up some kind of war between John’s former organization of assassins and Fishburne’s characters of underground assassins. But I could totally be wrong. In any case, Reeves and Fishburne reuniting is pretty fun to watch, as well as watching him chew the scenery. “Someone give this man a gun!” I love this man, and I hope to see him in a future sequel.

I think the only real downside is that the villain is kind of a bitch, if you think about it. Not that he doesn’t know how to fight, but I think his set-up is kind of silly. Practically the entire plot is set up because John refuses to do anything for Santino. Santino reacts by blowing up his house. Even if this organization were to take fifteen minutes to explain why Santino’s actions were allowed, I don’t think there’s a reason good enough to justify such a reaction. It screams, “baby didn’t get his way, so throw a tantrum” to me. Also, as he’s being hunted down by John, he’s doing that traditional bad guy thing where he tries to void the hero by running away, even though for all intents and purposes, he’s still supposed to be a skilled assassin himself. Why not stand and fight with his best men? If he was so afraid that John would successfully kill him, why would he think that sending a shit ton of other assassins at him would do the job considering John’s reputation and body count? For that matter, why bother putting the hit on him in the first place?

I suppose I forgive this hiccup because I leads to a really interesting and exciting future for the character. This film has got some of the best gun-play action you’ll see for awhile. You’ll clap, you’ll laugh, you’ll cheer, you’ll cringe, but best of all, if you loved the first one like I did, then you’ll love this one. Despite how early in the year it is, I’m convinced this is going to be the best action movie we’re getting this year. I may have only seen it once, but by the grace of God, I’d love to see this a few more times.

My honest rating for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2: 5/5

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