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Non-Review Review: Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a very pretty mess.

Atomic Blonde is a stylistic showcase for director David Leitch and star Charlize Theron, a bruising and beautiful ballet of brutality with a killer soundtrack. Atomic Blonde is a film set in a funhouse mirror version of Berlin in November 1989, a movie that argues its location is more a state of mind than a physical place. The violence in Atomic Blonde is visceral, the mood tangible, the soundtrack delectable. Atomic Blonde is a feast for the senses.

Seeing red.

However, Atomic Blonde also makes next to no sense. The film is an action movie dressed in the attire of a nihilistic espionage thriller, and a little narrative confusion inevitably comes with the territory. These films are all but obligated to have twists and betrayals, macguffins and revelations, switches and levers. Atomic Blonde embraces that zany approach to plot and structure with relish. However, the problem with Atomic Blonde is more fundamental than all that. It often struggles to remain coherent from one scene to the next, from one set piece to another.

Atomic Blonde is beautiful chaos, an exploding collage that probably didn’t make any sense to begin with.

Putting her turtleneck on the line.

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The X-Files – Ice (Review)

Now we’re talking. It’s been a tough couple of episodes, but The X-Files bounces back with a strong contender for the best episode of the first season. Like the last collaboration between Morgan and Wong, Ice is one gigantic homage to a classic horror film. (Well, two classic horror films.) Shadows took its cues from The Entity, while Ice draws heavily from both John Carpenter’s The Thing and Howard Hawk’s The Thing From Another World, both based on the  John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There?

However, Ice works a lot better than Shadows. Part of that is down to the fact that Morgan and Wong seem genuinely enthused and engaged with their premise, rather than simply painting by numbers. Part of this is also down to the fact that this sort of horror and paranoia is more firmly in the show’s wheelhouse than the generic “protective avenging ghost” narrative from Shadows.

Ear, ear!

Ear, ear!

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

Whatever its faults, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is a fond farewell to the original cast of Star Trek, giving the ensemble one last epic adventure before heading off into legend. Chancellor Gorkon suggests that the “the undiscovered country” that lends the movie its title is “the future.” Most Shakespearean scholars would argue that it is “death.” Perhaps they need to – as Gorkon argues – “experience” it in “the original Klingon”, or perhaps there’s more to it than that.

Perhaps the undiscovered country can be both – the death waiting for all of us eventually, the “chimes at midnight” that Chang alludes to after a disastrous diplomatic dinner. Probably not. Still, The Undiscovered Country does represent a death. It’s the end of an era, the extinguishing of a torch that had already been passed. It’s the last adventure of Kirk’s starship Enterprise, and it feels appropriate that it serves to end the Cold War raging between the Klingons and the Federation.

It’s a beautiful farewell to the crew, to the extent that even the actors’ decision to “sign” the closing credits doesn’t feel over saccharine or manipulative. The movie has more than its fair share of narrative flaws, neither as tight as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan nor as energetic as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. However, it hangs together remarkably well, in no small part thanks to a solid premise, a strange honesty and a deep affection for the cast and crew.

We're having some old friends for dinner...

We’re having some old friends for dinner…

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Non-Review Review: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Spying is a damn dirty business. Don’t let James Bond and his fancy Union Jack parachutes or underwater cars fool you. According to The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, it’s an empty and depressing little existence where the players are all confined to the role of pawns on a chessboard. I can’t help but feel that there’s something symbolic about the scene where Alec Leamas, played by Richard Burton, assaults an elderly shopkeeper, played by Bernard Lee – the actor who was playing Bond’s paymaster, M. Given the character’s growing sense of disillusionment, it can’t help but feel strangely potent to see him lash out a symbol of the other – far more romanticised – series of adventures built around British Intelligence.

"I, I can remember... standing by the wall... and the guns, the guns shot above our heads..."

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