Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a great soundtrack in search of a film.

I think my anger with the film is because of its wasted potential. It could, and should, have been so much better.

The acting is solid, as is the directing and the technical stuff. The make-up department deserve an Oscar nomination. No, seriously. A character goes into shock and they made the character up to the right shade of pale.

The problem is the plot.

It makes no sense. No, seriously.

Without the last two “twists” (neither of which is a twist if you’d paid any attention during the film), it just about makes sense, because of some serious legwork by the actors, mostly Charlize Theron.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE

With the penultimate twist, it becomes a solid entry in the gay spy drama category.

Think about it, young British agent, commits a lesbian indiscretion and is blackmailed by the Soviets, becoming Satchel. In protecting herself, she loses yet another chance at happiness and gets Delphine, who is very much the girl she was, killed. But she’s got to see it through to get her freedom. It’s all very bleak and actually works with the story.

Unfortunately, that’s when they throw in the last twist.  Which isn’t a twist and ruins all that has gone before. I’m not joking about it not being a twist. If you’ve ever heard John Goodman’s voice before, you’ll get it about halfway through the film.

With the last twist, a CIA op has killed 3 Allied agents, and one defector, mostly because of a lack of communication by the CIA. And we’re supposed to be happy about this and think it was a successful operation.

Also, MI6 is so incompetent that it didn’t notice a CIA mole, who was pretending to be a Russian mole, for about 10 years.

You’ve got poor Spyglass, killed trying to do the right thing. Then poor David Percival, who is a see you next Tuesday, don’t get me wrong, and in the throws of the traditional British spy middle-life crisis, who finds out that a friend of his was killed by the Russians to protect someone who has betrayed Percival’s government, and therefore goes all dark side. We’re supposed to be happy she kills him, and that he gets blamed for the whole thing, even though she’s the mole and there isn’t a mole, she’s actually triple-agent but the CIA didn’t bother to tell anyone. And I’m like … no.

In short, when your most sympathetic character is a Stasi agent, there is something wrong with the film!

I’m not even going to go into the really weird thing where there is only 1 German actor, who gets no lines in German. All the other Germans and Russians are played by Scandinavians. Now the amassed Vikings all do a damn good job (no, seriously, all my love for Roland Møller and Bill Skarsgård) but if you’re actually filming in Germany, which this was, it’s a bloody odd casting choice.

 

 

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Film Locations

An update of this post. Includes films watched up to the 15th February 2015.

First things first, I really do like the new pie chart layout from google docs. It’s much neater and easier to read.

Showing locations of films, only including real places

The number of films set in the US is the section that’s increased in size the most. As before, there’s a much greater spread of locations than in the books I read.

Locations for UK based films

Are completely skewed towards England.

Film locations, including fictional places

The outer space set films still haven’t overtaken French-based films.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

Which I enjoyed. It might not have been as good as the first but it made me cry as much.

The main thing I disliked was that the characters were too broad in the first half so the reconciliation in the second half would work. But it did work. Probably better than the equivalent scene in the first one.

The character-is-a-screw-up-because-of-missing-Dad is a trope I could live without, but at least Peter Quill has a better reason than most. Peter Quill is still the one of the gang I like the least but that is not Chris Pratt’s fault, as he does a damn fine job.

The film struck all the “I’d still rather have the Farscape film this isn’t” chords that the first one did. Not helped by bonus Ben Browder. (Who got this film’s giggle of recognition.)

And also every other Australian actor I sort of recognised. Although I want Elizabeth Debicki in all the films. I really like how they did the Sovereigns (or however one is supposed to pluralise that), that mixture of dangerous and silly.

The cool thing about the Guardians of the Galaxy films is that they acknowledge that they’re based on comics so they occasionally go “stuff physics and reality”. It is glorious. As is James Gunn’s direction. Can he direct all the things? Because he makes everything look so pretty.

Spoilers begin below

There was no real twist to the story. The obvious thing was obvious and Yondu was far too cool to live. Also, he’s a father in a Hollywood film. But that’s okay. See Hollywood, films don’t need twists. What they need is character and motive.

This film is totally going into evidence as to why you never trust a guy who woos you with someone else’s song lyrics. I do like that they make it clear that Ego is lying while he’s lying, just from the sculptures he shows.

I love Baby Groot less than grown Groot, but there are few characters I like more than grown Groot. (I am Groot). That being said Baby Groot’s fighting technique and mine are horrifyingly similar. And he is adorable. I especially loved that scene with Baby Groot and Peter at the end when Father and Son was playing (hey, film, that’s cheating). I think it’s because Peter was so worried that he’s going to screw up like his father and Yondu did (accidentally on the part of Yondu) and eeee!

Gamora is such the big sister. And loves Nebula despite everything. I also ❤ Nebula and her grim determination and her knowledge of who the major problem in her life is (Thanos, always Thanos).

I am totally here for the Expendables in Space with Michelle Yeoh if anyone wants to make it. Really, please 🙂

All those who suspect Craggle is yet another lost boy Yondu picked up somewhere along the line say yeah.

Drax is my favourite (if we ignore Groot. Temporarily.) Although that highlights one of the things I like about GOTG is that I do actually like all of the good guys. Drax is hopeless in the best possible way. He’s the character that suffers the most from the broadening in the first half. But when it comes down to it, Drax is there for them, utterly. I loved the shot where he lifts Mantis up as they’re being eaten by the Ego-planet. Because he’s literally using the last of his energy to try to save her.

Of course I love Mantis, as I was supposed to. The film does something interesting. Normally, when there’s a character who is “not pretty”, the character is played by someone who is either 1) actually pretty and we’re supposed to ignore that or 2) there’s a reveal scene where they’re “prettied” up and we’re supposed to be shocked. GOTG2 avoids this by making it clear that Drax is crazy, but it’s cultural crazy so Drax can’t help it. I loved that that Drax doesn’t love Mantis any less just because she is hideous to his eyes.

Rocket is a hard character to love, and that’s deliberate. I did love the scene with him and Yondu, because Yondu is right, they are so very similar. I’m intrigued by the way Yondu has enough self-knowledge to recognise Rocket’s brand of self-sabotage, but not enough to stop himself for doing it. Because at least half of his downfall is him being an arsehole to his crew (don’t be mean to your underlings is a lesson many people should learn).

At the same time, Rocket’s Rocketness is what helps him save the others because you know Gamorra and Drax would have waited for Peter even if it had meant death. Drax especially. Which Dave Batista really sells. At some point Dave Batista has become a more than passable actor.

Anyone who knows me can guess the precise second when I started crying. And you’d be right with your guess. The film viciously goes for my button of “doing a good thing with no expectation of reward”, and then Yondu gets his reward and a proper Ravager funeral and … well yeah, I cried and hard.

While it didn’t quite work for me, I like that the film went full bore on its themes and linked everything together.

Assassin’s Creed (the film)

This began as a review of Assassin’s Creed, and turned into a discussion of the nature of storytelling. If you want a review, that’s easy:

Avoid.

Run far, run fast, don’t look back, don’t try a Leap of Faith in the real world.

None of the following is a diss on the technical people involved. The film was beautifully made. The costumes were amazing, I loved the camera work.

When you’re as good as that cast list are, then the acting is not the problem. Particularly Michael Fassbender at the beginning, he was amazing.

The trouble was it was difficult to care about any of that when no-one is given all that much character.

I mean, Aguilar gets a bit, but the fact that I can only remember the assassin’s name and not the modern-day dude should tell you something. The film was really bad at giving the characters names and identities. For instance, the only reason I know that Maria’s name is Maria, not ‘unspeakably hot Assassin chick’ which I had to call her, was because I looked the film up on IMDB and had to work backwards from female actresses listed.

The same thing for the modern day Assassins. I would care a lot more about the fate of Assassin 3 and 4 if, you know, they were people rather than cardboard cutouts that some fine actors were doing their best with.

I mean it. Name one non-Aguilar assassin just from watching the film.

There’s no sense of them being real people, they have less personality than the NPCs in the game do.

What Mad Max: Fury Road did excellently well, this doesn’t bother to do at all. I’m not given a reason to care about these characters, so I don’t, which means the grand sacrifice scenes don’t work.

It’s odd that a film that took so much care over everything else (the sets, the costumes, the little details like Aguilar’s name and the Torquemada’s nose) had such a bad, flat script.

My other problem is not the film’s fault. Or rather, I have the same problem with the games but the film emphasises it. The whole, ‘there are no rules’ philosophy is well and good if you’re strong and strapping. If you’ve the kind of person who isn’t, it tends to end badly for you. Relying on people to look after each other in that sort of set up also ends badly. That the film just blithely accepts that the Assassins view of life without questioning it is ooky.

Some spoilers below.

The film goes out of its way to avoid shades of grey. Whether it’s making Cal Lynch a criminal who prays on other criminals (so it’s okay to cheer him on), painting the Assassins as completely good and the Templars as completely evil, or just making Marion Cotillard evil all of a sudden (I cannot overstate how bad the film was at giving the names of the characters). That was also a shocking waste of Marion Cotillard. She’s an amazing actress, so use her.

Assassin’s Creed annoyed me, because it came so close to being good. It had one glaring flaw, but the script was so bad and a script makes up such a large part of the film that I felt really let down.

Logan, which I’m banned from watching

There’s are many reasons why your friends would suggest you *not* watch a film.

They might not think it’s worth watching, because friends don’t let friends watch the Seth Rogen Green Hornet.

They might know it’s not the sort of thing you’d like, like the time I suggested my friend, who doesn’t like gore, violence and swearing, not watch Sin City. She made it half an hour in before she said, “I think you were right.” I want it known that I didn’t say ‘I told you so’.

I’m not banned from Logan for either of those reasons.

No. L, who has issued the ban, is worried that I’m going to cry so hard that I’ll desiccate.

In L’s defence, he was sat next to me when I got a little over-involved with the fate of a tree in Guardians of the Galaxy (and bought me a bonsai which is called Groot). Furthermore, my family do have form on the ‘crying so hard it disturbs other people’ front. The Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet was in the cinema the year my girl-cousin studied it and my Uncle took her to see it. He cried so hard someone else’s mother gave him tissues.

It’s pretty much a given that I will cry like a baby at Logan.

It’s a mixture of things. Partly because I am a sucker for superheroes, and Logan plus girl-child is my platonic ideal of a Wolverine story. The first X-Men film is probably still my favourite because they understood that, and there’s that wonderful terrible moment where Logan thinks that Rogue is dead and he’s doing everything he can, even if it kills him, to bring her back. That’s the nearest I’ve come to crying at an X-Men film.

The people behind Logan seem to get him, and get which story they’re telling. Right down to the advertising people. I don’t watch superhero trailers before they reach the cinema because I don’t like to spoil myself but L does. And he banned me from seeing Logan the minute he saw the first one. His exact words were “they’re using Hurt as the background music.” Which was when I knew I was doomed (3rd gen Johnny Cash fan here).

But beyond that, it’s that it’s Hugh Jackman’s last film as Logan. It’s that “end of an era” feeling. Hugh Jackman has been Logan for longer than anyone has been Doctor Who, longer than anyone has been James Bond.

I was 15 when X-Men came out, before my home town got a cinema again. So going seeing a film was a bit of a production, and a rare treat. I can remember who I went with. We’re not the same people anymore, there’s no way we could be, but Wolverine’s always been there. X-Men 2 was supposed to be the first film I saw on my own in the cinema, but the person at the counter misheard me and gave me a ticket to the Matrix Reloaded instead (yeah, I know!). Wolverine: Origins was the first film I saw at the new Showcase in Leicester. First Class, which featured the greatest use of the one serious expletive you’re allowed in a 12, was one of the first films I saw in Birmingham, and I saw X-Men Apocalypse in Newcastle.

I’ve moved house 6 times, but Wolverine’s always been there. I’ve gone to uni, graduated twice, had three jobs, but Wolverine’s always been there. And now he won’t be.

If they do this properly, which from having finally seen the trailer, they are doing, I’m going to cry buckets. In between me being an X-Men fan for 25 years and some damned good acting on the parts of Sir Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman (who is a criminally underrated actor), it’s going to break me worse than Boromir and Thorin did.

So there’s a reason L has not just forbidden but five-biden and pi-bidden me from watching it. It’s for my own good.

I’m still going to watch it though because … oh it looks like it will be so good and I want to keep Wolverine while I can.

My Top 10 Films of 2016 Explained

The promised explanation for my top 10 films of 2016, mostly because I got the expected squawking noises from the expected source.

First, these are also the only films I saw in the cinema in 2016. It’s a mixture of things, mostly that I no longer have my Cineworld card because the nearest Cineworld to me is now an hour and a half away. Nothing against the cinema I do have near me, but it does mean going to the cinema has suddenly got more expensive. My new job is also taking up a lot more of my time than my previous one, which hasn’t helped.

The full logic behind my system can be found here, but the short version is did the film do what it was supposed to do? Was it technically competent? Did it make me want to go ‘but that makes no sense?,’ and did it affect me?

1 – Kubo And The Two Strings

I return to my original review of Kubo – “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll fall in love with a child, a monkey, a beetle and an origami figure.” (which someone said summed it up perfectly, which is one of the nicest complements I’ve ever been paid). It’s amazing, a like a good figure skating programme, the sheer artistry of it means you don’t notice exactly how amazing the puppet work is, because you forget it’s stop motion animation and get completely caught up in the story.

It’s truly, truly amazing.

2 – The Jungle Book

I am the only person who could have done without the songs. They pulled me out of the film something chronic. Other than that, it was all good. It’s lovingly made, the effects are incredible and it’s the only 2016 film that made me cry courtesy of Lupita Nyong’o’s Raksha. (Kubo made me make all kinds of peculiar noises instead).

3 – Captain America: Civil War

Definitely the best of the comic book films this year. It was all interesting shades of grey, and right, wrong and ish, in the way good comics are. Also Black Panther and Zemo and *that* scene in the snow.

4 – Suicide Squad

Mostly for the visuals and the sense of fun which the rest of the DC-verse seems to lack. And the soundtrack. And Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Oh I loved Harley Quinn and Deadshot so much. And Amanda Waller – well love might not be the right word, suitably impressed might be better.

I’m happy with my top four and the order that they’re in. It’s after the top four that I start prevaricating.

5 – Batman vs Superman

I loved the Bat parts of the film, except how the film kept trying to tell me that he was doing the wrong thing when I think he was doing the only sensible thing, and that’s not just Bat-bias.

I can see what they were trying to do with Lex Luthor even if it didn’t work. The film’s quality jumps amazingly every time it’s Holly Hunter vs Lex Luthor.

They still don’t get Superman, which is a problem when he’s the co-headliner. And because of that it feels like the film lacks heart.

6 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I preferred this film when it was called “A New Hope”. And there’s yet another JJ Abrams character with Daddy Issues. And dear lord, do Kylo Ren’s many flaws ever make it seem like Luke is the worst Jedi master ever.

That being said, I do love Finn and Rey, and exactly how little time the First Order rank and file have for Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums.

7 – Star Trek Beyond

I enjoyed this a lot. Especially Jaylah. And Justin Lin can direct all the things because he really conveyed exactly how 3D space and space stations are.

But …

I kept forgetting I had seen this when I was counting the films I’d seen this year. That’s not a good sign.

8 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

This was good clean mindless fun. And when I went to see it that was exactly what I wanted to see. It does exactly what it says on the tin. And Bebop and Rocksteady are perfect. Actually perfect.

9 – Doctor Strange

The cape apart, this felt flat, like it was too concerned with setting up the next Avengers film and its own sequel to be a good film itself. Loved the Night Nurse (and Wong) but the rest of it was flat.

10 – X-Men: Apocalypse

I may have enjoyed it in parts but I have to acknowledge it was terrible.

It felt like half the film was missing. Our heroes successes came too easily and it tied everything up far too neatly. Apocalypse felt like an afterthought in his own film and too much of the film felt like generic superhero film, which X-Men should never feel like.

It’s a shame, because parts of it were wonderful, mostly the sore, ouchy character bits like Quicksilver’s complete inability to spit it out re: his Dad, and Mystique comforting the newbies when they were flying to the finale when you realise that she and Hank are the only ones from their generation left alive.

It should have been so much better.

My Top 10 Films of 2016

That I saw in the cinema. Full logic to come later.

1 – Kubo and the Two Strings

2 – The Jungle Book

3 – Captain America: Civil War

4 – Suicide Squad

5 – Batman vs Superman

6 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

7 – Star Trek Beyond

8 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2

9 – Doctor Strange

10 – X-Men: Apocalypse

I know I am very part of the problem because Kubo is the only one of the films that isn’t a sequel or related to an existing property. And while I’m sure about the order down to 4, 5 through to 8 are very much in flux.