Atomic Blonde: Movie Man Jackson

How…does it..feel? Cold. As in the Cold War, the year being 1989. In Berlin, the war is winding down, but political unrest is winding up. After a high-ranking secret agent is killed in the streets, the MI6 sends in their best, agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron). Her mission is to track down Bakhtin (Jóhannes Jóhannesson), who not only killed agent Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave), but is in possession of a list that is trouble for everyone who doesn’t have it.

To retrieve it, she’s paired with station agent chief David Percival (James McAvoy). The two must traverse the shady, seedy city of Berlin to prevent major worldly damage from occurring. But in the world of espionage, no one can ever truly be trusted, and everyone knows more than they’re letting on.

There are some movies that earn their keep almost entirely on one scene. In Atomic Blonde, that one scene is an amazing stairwell fight scene that rivals some of the best American action movie scenes in recent memory, namely, John Wick’s red circle club shootout, that movie being co-directed by David Leitch. He’s on his own here, and in this one scene, it’s tightly constructed, highly unpredictable, and impeccably choreographed. Honestly, it along with the production is probably worth the price of admission alone. That doesn’t absolve the rest of the movie from its mild-at-best storytelling and script. But Atomic Blonde brings enough hot aspects to offset them ever so slightly.

Atomic Blonde is bathed in style from the get-go, employing a cool and neon-hued color palette that makes the locale of Berlin and that of its many hotspots pop off the screen. Based on a graphic novel known as The Coldest City, Leitch seems to draw inspiration from that medium in the way some scenes are shot and presented. In addition to the technical achievements, this film features a moody, industrial score by composer Tyler Bates (yet again, another John Wick connection) and an easy-listening, new-wave/synth pop soundtrack. He even manages to craft a central theme that will surely be used in any subsequent sequels.

And yet, Atomic Blonde’s probably closer to being a bad movie than a great one. At least script-wise. The espionage plot can more or less be summarized by “everyone twists everyone.” Even the characters who are rarely seen, if at all, are twisting everything. Leitch uses an interrogation by an unreliable narrator that frames the events of the story. At times this method works, but other times, little is added, or rather, the natural flow of the story is broken. A conventional telling would likely make things more comprehensible.

With multiple watches, it is a possibility that the numerous pieces, curveballs, and turns fit better and make some sense. Problem is with Atomic Blonde, it’s hard to actually want to go back and immerse into this world any deeper than surface-level. Watching an espionage movie already conditions the viewer (or at least, yours truly) to distance themselves from the characters who make up it. If everything is going to be flipped on its head, what’s the point of getting invested into anything or anyone?

Still, there’s a ton of talent on hand in the film that keeps it afloat. Charlize Theron, of course, can do it all. A dangerous and debonair dame, she’s perfectly cast in the role of Lorraine. An ass-kicker, but takes her share of getting her ass kicked, strong, yet vulnerable. Her dynamic with James McAvoy, having mass amounts of fun being a complete wild card, is compelling. Due to the twisty nature of the genre, however, no characters are given much weight; everyone is disposable to some degree. John Goodman and Toby Jones, while nice to see on screen, play roles anyone could play as nothing is asked of them. Outside of Lorraine and Percival and maybe Delphine (Sofia Boutella), all other characters might as well be a jumbled mass of indiscernible people who sound the same with similar-sounding names.

Looking for a brunette or redhead? Go elsewhere. Atomic Blonde is light and ditzy on characterization and solid storytelling, but high on direction and sensory fun. Blondes do have more fun.

C+

Photo credits go to cinemavine.com and landmarkcinemas.com

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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The Mummy: Movie Man Jackson

Power isn’t given. It’s taken. In ancient Egypt resides Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). She has power, but she desires more, and goes about attaining it in a sinister way. She comes close to doing so, but is thwarted at the last moment, mummified into a tomb for her transgressions, and cast out of the ancient land.

Fast forward to present day Mesopotamia, aka Iraq, where soldier-of-fortune Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and accomplice Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are looking for the next big score to sell to the black market. After surviving a battle, they come across the massive tomb of Ahmanet. Unwittingly, Nick releases her back into this world, and as a result, becomes a target for the resurrected princess who looks to complete the sacrifice she was unable to thousands of years ago.

Peace and love and universes, man. That’s what it feels like in 2017, with Marvel leading the way, DC playing aggressive catch-up, while Warner Bros (on a vastly smaller scale despite ironically featuring two of the biggest monsters in the world) and Universal feeling like they’ve got the IP to launch their own interconnected offerings. Just in case one didn’t know, Universal wants to make sure it’s known that The Mummy is the launching pad of the “Dark Universe” by saying so before The Mummy even begins in Universal font. It’s a bit much. But the end feeling walking out of The Mummy is that of a competent, yet somewhat disposable, summer blockbuster.

The Mummy 2017 serves as director Alex Kurtzman’s (People Like Us) first big-budget feature. He’s got a little bit of a difficult task in not only reestablishing a major monster character, but a larger universe. He mostly succeeds in this, at least in the first two-thirds. Though getting off to a bit of a rough start with some overlong story exposition (more of a writing fault than anything), Kurtzman generally settles into a directorial groove, with the highlights being some thrillingly fun action sequences peppered throughout adjoined by a solid score from the popular Brian Tyler. There’s been better CGI in summer blockbusters, but what’s found here gets the job done. One caveat: Stay away from the 3D offering, as it does little to nothing to enhance the overall presentation.

Surprisingly, the movie handles its juggling of a singular world along with introducing bigger matters fairly well. But, by the end, The Mummy bookends itself with more obvious exposition and promises of “a world of gods and monsters,” just in case it wasn’t known already. A simple mid-credits scene may have worked just as efficiently. Any attempts at emotional or intellectual investment fails to register much of a pulse, such as an inorganic, hot-shotted romance that seems to be exist only because the two leads are good-looking. Humor is hit and miss—sometimes a really big hit—but other times undercutting what intensity may be there.

There aren’t many legitimate mega movie stars that exist nowadays, but Tom Cruise still serves as one of them. He’s playing a role that many people could play in Nick Morton, but Cruise still brings some excitement if only because he’s Tom Cruise, running and delivering comedic lines like only he can. However, he’s got the same problem that Jake Johnson (takes a while to realize anytime ‘Nick’ is said in The Mummy, they’re not referring to Jake), has in this movie: They’re playing themselves, which I don’t think The Mummy is going for. Johnson’s character in particular, though occasionally funny, would fit better in a different production, like a Halloween episode of New Girl or something.

Little can be said for the person Annabelle Wallis stars as. Initially appearing to be an interesting, do-it-herself character, her character is ultimately revealed to a basic damsel archetype with no chemistry had with Cruise. Two standout performances come from Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella. The trailers have done a great at hiding who exactly is Crowe, and the reveal as to how he fits into this upcoming world may be the best aspect of The Mummy. It’s excellent casting and perhaps the biggest reason to get excited about this future universe and a few age-old monsters. Boutella’s been knocking it out of the park recently in Kingsman and Star Trek: Beyond; this role doesn’t allow her to be as physical as those, but her presence is notable.

 

There’s absolutely nothing new or overly impressive hiding in the tomb of The Mummy. But for a 110 minute feature in the heat of the blockbuster season, there are worse fates than being a middling big-budget film made for eating popcorn during and not thinking much about afterwards.

C+

Photo credits go to flickeringmyth.com, impawards.com, indiewire.com, and cheatsheet.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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Star Trek Beyond: Movie Man Jackson

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Everything becomes old at some point. Even space. It has been about three years into a five-year exploration trek for Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew on the USS Enterprise. To be honest, Kirk doesn’t know if captaincy is right for him anymore, and he starts to think about what else may be out there beyond the vast reaches of space. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is in the same mindset as well, as his efforts may be needed back on his home world.

But in the present, their full attention is needed as the Enterprise is bombarded and ransacked by the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) and his “swarm,” looking for a piece of technology that is vital for his ultimate mission. The destruction caused by the swarm has left the crew stranded and separated from each other on an unknown planet, with no working communication. Escape from this planet appears impossible, but there’s always hope in the impossible.

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50 years is a long time for anything to be around and and active, be it a man, woman, automobile, whatever. In 2016, Star Trek Beyond arrives to punctuate the 50th anniversary of Gene Rodenberry’s original series. Kind of a big deal? Absolutely. Adding to the pressure is the simple fact that the blockbuster season of 2016 has been terribly lean on action thrills since Captain America: Civil War hit cinemas two and a half months ago, or technically, before summer truly began. May have come a little late, but Star Trek Beyond honors what came before it, while bringing the big budget summer fun.

With an obligation to direct another popular space opera franchise, J.J. Abrams couldn’t make the return to the captain’s seat (more of a co-pilot as a producer). This time, that honor falls to Justin Lin, Fast & Furious franchise savior. After seeing what he did with the latter half of the Fast franchise, there was never any doubt in my eyes as to whether his skills could translate to a different universe. Do scenes get a little cut-happy sometimes? Sure, but at least there’s not as much lens flare, right? His destruction scenes are every bit what Independence Day: Resurgence by all accounts should have been and then some, with awesome cinematography and the sounds of Michael Giacchino accompanying them. Rest assured, this isn’t Dom Torreto and Brian O’Conner in space; this is very much Star Trek.

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And not just Star Trek—revisiting cool but well-worn species, foes, and locales—but Star Trek—introducing new species, foes, and locales. Video gamers may notice some similarities to Mass Effect 2 in a few places (the bee swarm looks a lot like the Collectors), and the object in question that pushes the adequate plot is more or less an MacGuffin, but still, kudos goes to Lin and writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung for including a few touching callbacks to the original series but also choosing to go forth into new terrain. Specifically, the two new characters are welcome additions.

Idris Elba is unrecognizable, but even under a bevvy of makeup and costume, he’s got presence. He carries a level of menace that hasn’t been seen in the new reboots by any previous baddies. While he isn’t as mysterious or developed as, say John Harrison, was, he does have a thread that gives him some depth in the final act. The real star of the feature, though, is undoubtedly Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella. She’s unique visually and can hold her own with intellect or in battle. The thing is, there is much to be uncovered into her backstory. But this is a great introduction, and let’s hope that future installments continue with more Boutella in this role.

As for the returning cast, there’s not much more to be said for them except for that they are strong in their roles. Better yet, none look to be tired with what they are doing. Some, like Saldana’s Uhura and Cho’s Sulu are pushed to the backburner this time, but others like Pegg’s Scotty, Urban’s Bones, and the late Yelchin’s Chekov have many pivotal scenes and more importance to the plot than before. Pine and Quinto are still the stars, but Beyond truly feels like an ensemble effort this go-around, and that isn’t a bad thing.

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Star Trek Beyond was not sabotaged by its first trailer, or by its latest director. With three quality films into the reboot, yours truly is very excited and even eager to see where the next journey takes Captain Kirk and company.

B+

Photo credits go to comingsoon.net, uproxx.com, and moviepilot.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson