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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 Lone Gunmen – The “Cap’n Toby” Show (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

In its own way, The “Cap’n Toby” Show feels like an appropriate farewell to The Lone Gunmen.

The “Cap’n Toby” Show was not the last episode of The Lone Gunmen to be produced, but it was the last episode to air. It was broadcast three weeks after All About Yves closed out the first season of the show and more than a fortnight after news of the cancellation first broke. It aired with very little fan fare, avoiding even the modicum of publicity that FX earned as it burnt off the last six episodes of Harsh Realm only a year earlier. Just in case there had been any doubt, or any hope held out, The Lone Gunmen was definitely dead.

No need to get crabby...

No need to get crabby…

There is a melancholy to The “Cap’n Toby” Show that fits quite comfortably with The Lone Gunmen. The episode had clearly been held back in the hops of airing it during a hypothetical second season. Ideally, it would have given the production team a little lee-way at the start of the next season, perhaps even allowing the three title characters to pop over to The X-Files. The ninth season of The X-Files would be launching without Mulder, so some friendly faces would not be amiss. Airing The “Cap’n Toby” Show in mid-June puts paid to that optimism.

However, even allowing for all these issues, there is an endearing pluckiness and romance to The “Cap’n Toby” Show that feels at once entirely in keeping with the show and the characters. What better way to make a cancellation than with a forty-five minute ode to the nostalgic joys of television?

"Bye bye."

“Bye bye.”

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Non-Review Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has style and charm. It doesn’t have much more than that, but never underestimate how far style and charm can get you. Guy Ritchie has always had a nice a sense of movement, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. always moves at a nice pace, even when it’s not entirely sure where it is going. A film so light that it threatens to get caught in the gust as it breezes by, it is also important never to overestimate how far style and charm can get you either.

Ride along...

Ride along…

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Non-Review Review: A Most Wanted Man

For better or worse, A Most Wanted Man is going to be overshadowed by the passing of its lead actor. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a giant, a performer with a wonderful gift for bringing flawed and real characters to life, and A Most Wanted Man serves as his last leading role in a major motion picture. It is impossible to talk about A Most Wanted Man without talking about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It is a great performance, one that reminds the audience of why they loved Hoffman in the first place – Günther Bachmann is the sort of flawed human being that Hoffman played so well, given a great deal of depth by the late actor.

What's on the table?

What’s on the table?

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Tintin: The Calculus Affair (Review)

In the lead-up to the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, I’m going to be taking a look at Hergé’s celebrated comic book character, from his humble beginnings through to the incomplete post-modern finale. I hope you enjoy the ride.

The Calculus Affair is an interesting little story that is one part suspense thriller, and another part mystery. In short, it’s almost the perfect cocktail to brew up a Cold War espionage thriller, which was exactly what Hergé was going for. It wouldn’t be too difficult to rework the adventure as a James Bond movie (in fact, it even features a sequence with our lead piloting a tank), but Hergé does a lot of work to ensure that the story never gets too heavily bogged down. Much like King Ottokar’s Sceptre, the story stands quite well as an examination of the time when it was written.

Another fine mess!

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Non-Review Review: From Russia With Love

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Dr. No demonstrated that Ian Fleming’s suave British secret agent could make it to screen. Sean Connery’s James Bond was on the pop culture map, but perhaps just short of becoming a pop culture icon – that was a sequel or two away. Of course, a second movie was pushed into development, with a rich library of Fleming’s novels to adapt – as faithfully or as loosely as the producers might like. When President Kennedy, one of the other “coolest men of the sixties”, announced that From Russia With Love was his ninth favourite novel of all time, it seemed th choice had been made. Rumour has it that Alfred Hitchcock was at one point intended to direct the film, but Terrence Young’s From Russia With Love is still a wonderfully iconic Bond film, which represents a pretty large step from “an entertaining espionage movie” to “globe-spanning spy franchise”.

Bond was already making a splash at this stage of his career...

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Non-Review Review: The Bourne Supremacy

I have to admit that The Bourne Supremacy is the strongest of the Bourne films for me, even though fans of the series tend to forget it, snuggled as it is between The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Ultimatum. The middle part of the trilogy is undoubtedly the most straight-forward, but that isn’t a weakness – it contains a well-motivated character arc for the character of Bourne while handling the themes of the series remarkably well, and still paying homage to all the plot devices that one associates with the espionage thriller. It isn’t preoccupied with setting anything in motion, nor in wrapping anything up, but that gives the movie much more freedom than the two that surround it.

Nobody said it would be a walk in the car park...

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