“Atomic Blonde”

If any movie hasn’t already claimed action sequence of the year, I think David Leitch’s (“John Wick,” the upcoming “Deadpool” sequel) spy thriller “Atomic Blonde” will. A six-minute-long shot featuring a barbaric fist fight, shootout, and car chase has to be worthy, right?

MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is called to Berlin to obtain a mysterious list. Like most spy movies, this list contains information on undercover agents. She has a buddy cop dynamic with a debauched rock star-like operative, David Percival (James McAvoy) and the two race against time to find the list.

“Atomic Blonde” excels in genre splicing. It has the wide frames, slow pace, and convoluted narrative you’d find in a spy thriller, as well as the neon visuals, brutal violence, and cynical anti-hero found in Neo-Noir. Leitch is somewhat unrestrained in his direction, but “Atomic Blonde” is a blast regardless.

The neon visuals suit the film well due to its setting. “Atomic Blonde” takes place near the end of the Cold War during the collapse of the Berlin Wall, so there’s a strong 80’s aesthetic. Each song is used appropriately (New Order’s “Blue Monday” and George Michael’s “Father Figure”) and we get a brief history lesson on East Berlin. We don’t often see Berlin Wall-related movies, so it’s a refreshing change of setting.

Theron and McAvoy  both deliver fun-yet-committed performances. Between Theron’s stuntwork, dialect, English accent, and expressive moments of silence, she’s the perfect action heroine. Between McAvoy’s charisma, line delivery, and sense of humor, he steals nearly every scene from Theron.

I mentioned “Atomic Blonde” is convoluted and I’m not kidding. By the end, my friend and I were both struggling to figure out the twist ending. Does a spy movie with a cliched list plot need to be this difficult? As I’ve said in past reviews, a confusing ending is enough to warrant a sequel. “Atomic Blonde” is based on a comic book, so it’s bound to happen.

Grade: B

Advertisements

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

I’m pretty sure after watching Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” that Dane DeHaan is the 2010’s Keanu Reeves. But no one can replace Keanu Reeves!

Set in the distant future, the International Space Station has evolved into an extraordinary intergalactic city called Alpha. It’s home to millions of species and called the city of a thousand planets. When secret agents Valerian (DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevinge) are called to Alpha, they uncover a secret that puts Alpha and a mysterious species in grave danger.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is the closest we’ll get to a “Fifth Element” sequel since both are quirky sci-fi adventures. Besson is once again kinetic, imaginative, and ambitious; unfortunately, “Thousand Planets” is more on par with the Wachowskis’ 2015 failure, “Jupiter Ascending.”

For a film about space-and-time-traveling agents that encounter various alien species and criminals, Besson’s content focusing on Valerian and Laureline’s awkward romance. It’s not cute, charming, or funny; it’s plain irritating. We spend more time watching Valerian propose to Laureline than we do learning about their agency or their characters.

DeHaan and Delevinge are both miscast in their respective roles. DeHaan spends the movie practicing his best Keanu Reeves impression while Delevinge delivers every line with little-to-no enthusiasm. Their chemistry is nonexistent. Furthermore, the movie is based on a comic called “Valerian and Laureline.” Why is it Laureline is hardly involved in the action and is constantly a damsel-in-distress?

Besson has some innovative sequences, including one that blends “TRON”-style visuals into a 1st-person POV shootout. “Valerian” is a dumb practice of style-over-substance with meta references to Besson’s previous films (keep your ear open for a “Taken” reference). I admire Besson’s ambition, but he should focus on storytelling that isn’t overstuffed with sexism and exposition.

Grade: D+

“Dunkirk”

I’m in the minority with my reaction to Christopher Nolan’s ambitious WWII film, “Dunkirk.” I find myself asking constantly, “Is it Nolan’s masterpiece?”

“Dunkirk” takes place over a week-long period and focuses on the evacuation of the titular beach. In one segment, we have infantry soldiers stranded on the beach (Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles). On the sea, we have a noble civilian sailor Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) leading his son and another boy to rescue soldiers. Finally, from the air, we have an Allied pilot Ferrier (Tom Hardy) attempting to take out Nazi bombers while low on fuel.

Nolan’s no stranger to ambition and is highly ambitious in “Dunkirk.” With a Pg-13-rated, 106-minute-long war film that contains no gore and little dialogue, “Dunkirk” is mildly admirable. However, Nolan’s direction leads the film to some rather underwhelming moments.

The strongest segment of “Dunkirk” is Mr. Dawson’s story. Rylance delivers a terrific performance as a headstrong sailor that isn’t afraid of battle. He wants to save as many soldiers possible since men his age are starting war. Cillian Murphy is also great in this segment as an unnamed soldier who shows signs of PTSD. This sequence hauntingly demonstrates the psychological horrors and nobility in war.

The land sequences with Whitehead and Styles’s characters feature some stunning imagery and harrowing sequences. In one sequence where they nearly drown on a sinking ship, I white-knuckled the arm rests of my chair. The two characters find themselves in several brutal scenarios and have to make tough decisions. Unfortunately, I got bored after a while due to lack of character development. Neither character has any background or arc, so it’s hard to remain invested.

Finally, the air sequences were some of the most amazing air sequences put on film. Nolan uses actual planes instead of CG and each aerial shot is mesmerizing. This segment’s narrative is repetitive since Hardy spends most of it silently noting his fuel capacity. He also spends most of his time behind a mask. Why is he always playing masked characters?

I can see “Dunkirk” being nominated for Best Picture and Best Director among other Oscars. It’s an Oscar-bait movie and I know critics will endorse “Dunkirk” for the awards. I get it, but unlike the critics, I don’t consider “Dunkirk” to be Nolan’s masterpiece.

Grade: B

“Wish Upon”

I’m excited writing this review! Why? Because “Wish Upon” might be the best bad movie since “The Room.”

Clare (Joey King) is an unpopular high school girl with a dumpster-diving father (Ryan Phillippe) and two quirky friends June and Meredith (Shannon Purser and Sydney Park). When Clare inherits a mysterious Ancient Chinese wish box, she wishes for popularity, money, a new boyfriend, and her enemy to rot. The wishes come true, but why hasn’t Clare connected the deaths of her dog and family members to these granted wishes?

HUGE SPOILER ALERT!!!

“Wish Upon” is marketed as a serious horror movie, but there isn’t a single scary or tense moment. It’s unintentionally funny, stupid, and appears unfinished. There are blurry aerial shots misplaced throughout the movie, a random exposition scene featuring Jerry O’Connell, and obvious plot holes that left me asking myself, “Was this the final cut?”

The plot holes are persistent throughout. If Clare can’t simply open the box without making a wish, then how is one of her friends able to open it later to translate the message? When Clare wishes to be popular, why are her only two friends not affected by this wish?

We also have some of the most spoiled and insane teenagers in film history. It’s not offensive, but hilarious because there’s no way a kid would snap a photo of their friend’s rotting face and post it on Instagram. There’s no way that kids would constantly take advantage of a friend’s newfound wealth and get away with it. This is a sequence that acts as part Instagram porn, part MTV reality show as we watch friends buy overly priced purses and snap photos of their cupcakes.

After five selfish wishes and seeing the consequences, Clare still thinks it’s a good idea to keep the box and make more wishes. She still thinks her dad being less of an embarrassment is worth the loss of her aunt and love interest’s cousin. I found myself wondering what Clare’s SAT score was.

There’s also a subplot where Clare’s boyfriend becomes a psycho stalker thanks to a backfired wish. It’s meant to be disturbing, but is hilarious thanks to cheesy lines like, “You’re so beautiful when you’re asleep.” This subplot lasts for three minutes and isn’t mentioned again for the rest of the movie.

I couldn’t get over how amazingly bad “Wish Upon” is. Yes, I hated it, but I’m still obligated to buy it for my occasional bad horror movie nights.

Grade: F

“War for the Planet of the Apes”

It’s time the Academy takes motion-capture work seriously because Andy Serkis is incredible in “War for the Planet of the Apes.” His performance throughout the three recent “Apes” films is an expressive and dynamic piece of work.

Two years after Caesar (Serkis) defeated Koba (Toby Kebbel) and prepared for war against humans, Caesar’s battling The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a genocidal military leader hellbent on exterminating apes. Their recent battle results in significant losses for Caesar, leading him on a quest for vengeance. However, his loyal followers Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Rocket (Terry Notary) grow concerned as Caesar grows increasingly merciless.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is an epic, brutal, and amazing installment of the franchise. Between the Vietnam War-inspired opening battle, Western-style cinematography, and some thought-provoking moments about evolution and devolution, this is a rare brainy blockbuster.

If you haven’t seen “Rise” or “Dawn,” you should definitely watch those before “War.” This is a trilogy that follows the evolution of a complex protagonist. Caesar has come a long way from a naive being that can only communicate in sign language. He can now communicate in full sentences and is aware of the world’s harsh realities. The humans on the other hand, are another story.

The Colonel is a mad leader that we’ve seen before in film and in history. Think a mixture of Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now”) and Hitler. Harrelson’s performance is insane-yet-restrained, which is enough to overcome the character’s cliches. The final showdown between he and Caesar is an unconventional one that suits both characters.

The underrated Steve Zahn also has a great supporting performance as Bad Ape, a cowardly ape drifter who aids Caesar. He adds much-needed humor to the film without imposing on its dark tone. The film occasionally focuses on Bad Ape being an unlikely hero and Maurice fathering a young mute orphan, which add heart to the film.

As much as I loved “War,” I was disappointed in its black-and-white approach on good and evil. In “Dawn,” we had good apes and humans, and bad apes and humans. This made “Dawn” morally complex since all characters were relatable. “War” goes back to the “Rise” roots with its good apes and bad humans mentality, which made the characters’ arcs simple.

Director Matt Reeves proved himself to be a visionary filmmaker with “Dawn” and “War,” showing he can make a spectacle with brains. Let’s see how he does with his Batman movies.

Grade: A-

The 2017 Half-Time Report

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hey, guys! First off, I want to say thank you for a great year and supporting Donttalkaboutmovies. This year has been an exciting year in film and you guys motivate me to keep watching movies! On that note, I want to give you guys the half-time report! This is a quick summary of my favorite (and least favorite) movies are so far this year.

In the Action/Adventure category, I was blown away by Edgar Wright’s jukebox musical heist thriller, Baby Driver. This is a candy-colored adrenaline rush that’s music to my ears and better on the second viewing. On the other hand, you can skip King Arthur: Legend of the Sword because it’s quite obvious Guy Ritchie has lost his way.

The Comedy genre has been lacking this year with lackluster films like Rough Night and Sandy Wexler; nonetheless, The Big Sick is a terrific comedy that hits all the right notes as a comedy, romance, drama, and social commentary film.

For the Horror genre, Get Out is king of 2017’s horror roster thus far. Writer/director Jordan Peele has crafted a funny, scary, and provocative horror film about racism. You can skip The Void, Unforgettable, The Belko Experiment, and The Mummy because those were all duds.

The Superhero genre has been booming lately and I can personally recommend Logan, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Each movie is great in their own way, but definitely keep Logan away from younger viewers.

The Science Fiction/Fantasy category has been a tad underwhelming, but the Anne Hathaway-helmed Colossal blew my expectations out of the water. If you want a quirky genre movie that explores characters and darker themes, this one’s for you!

I have been slacking in the Drama category this year, but I still found Danny Boyle’s long-waited T2: Trainspotting to be a fun and stylish sequel about nostalgia.

In terms of animation, I’m still telling people to watch the anime film Your Name. I saw this on a whim and don’t regret it, thanks to its beautiful animation and mind-bending narrative.

Thanks for reading! What are your favorite films you’ve seen so far this year?

“The Big Sick”

I’ve been saying since I started watching HBO’s great “Silicon Valley” that Kumail Nanjiani (Dinesh) is the funniest person on television. In “The Big Sick,” he further demonstrates his comedic talent as both co-writer and leading man.

Based on true events in Nanjiani and his wife (and co-writer) Emily V. Gordon’s relationship, Nanjiani is a semi-fictional version of himself. Kumail works as a full-time Uber driver and standup comedian in Chicago where he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his shows. What starts as a fling blossoms into something serious for Kumail and Emily, but two things stand between them: his culture and her mysterious illness.

Most rom-coms have a couple meet in the first act, get together and break up in the second act, then reconcile in the final act via a ridiculous scenario. “The Big Sick” defies genre conventions, thanks to Nanjiani and Gordon’s experiences. This is a funny, sweet, and personal film.

Nanjiani shows gifted talent as his fictionalized self, going through a number of emotions. Kumail lies to his loved ones as a defense mechanism and learns that telling the truth helps insecurities. Kazan’s Emily is a great foil to Kumail since she hides certain things from him, which lead to both sad and awkwardly funny scenarios.

Ray Romano and Holly Hunter excel as Kazan’s parents, Beth and Terry. Hunter should be considered for award recognition. She’s high-strung, judgmental, but also an understanding mentor figure to Kumail. The second act primarily focuses on Kumail bonding with them and helping them overcome their differences. It’s nice to see a romantic comedy without the cliched antagonistic parents.

There are scenes with Kumail’s family that risk going this route, but Kumail’s parents’ (Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff) logic is understandable. They want Kumail to find happiness, but also consider their way in doing so.

“The Big Sick” is 124 minutes long, but it wastes no time with feelings. The montages are heartwarming, the arguments between Kumail and Emily are heartbreaking, and the standup sequences are insightful. For couples who need a date movie, “The Big Sick” is a perfect choice.

Grade: A