David Leitch’s adaptation of the graphic novel from Oni Press is something of an anomaly that I’ve had a difficult time wrapping my head around since I finished it. I’m not typically one who is easy on an action movie that’s so unnecessarily hard to follow, but “Atomic Blonde” kept me hooked, even when I was trying to keep up with it. Leitch’s direction, matched with the excellent editing, and just amazing martial arts scenes assured me I may just be watching “Atomic Blonde” again and again. The amalgam of a neo-noir and a gung ho martial arts spy thriller amounts to an occasionally awkward experience, but I embraced it in the end as this imperfect action film that sucked me in time and time again.
A beautiful but deadly MI6 agent is sent to Berlin in 1989, right at the time the wall is about to be taken down, so that she can navigate her way through the cities and the web of spies and double agents there to get her hands on a list of them with powerful information.
Yes, believe it or not, the “XXX” movies now have a mythology. And a back story. And supporting characters. Now that America has officially found the “Jason Bourne” series a bit worn, Vin Diesel makes his return with his clunky and ridiculous “XXX” movie series, reprising his role as the rebellious, bald, smart ass anti-hero Xander Cage. This is a break from playing the rebellious, bald, smart ass anti-hero Dominic Torreto, and the rebellious, bald, smart ass anti-hero Riddick, and–the rebellious, bald, smart ass anti-hero in “Babylon A.D.” After the unwatchable dumpster fire that was “XXX: State of the Union” the studio brings Diesel back to prop up a light reboot and sequel of “XXX” that also opens up a world for more movies of this ilk.
Combing the landscape of obscure cinema is tricky. It’s a journey that will often leave you with a lemon if you’re not careful. Author Doug Brunell’s reasoning for the “Sinful Cinema” book series makes a lot of sense as spotlighting certain movies that not many authors out there would be willing to spotlight is a neat idea. If you’re someone who wants to visit films that are completely out of the ordinary, author Doug Brunell seems intent on delivering spotlights for films you wouldn’t normally see discussed in most books about film. Sure, you can probably find summaries and brief essays about something like “The Abductors” in a review compilation, but author Brunell devotes an entire book to it. I’ve been a fan of Brunell’s since his days on Film Threat, so it’s fun to see him releasing a series of books for film lovers old and new.
It’s not many movies with the alternate title of “Spy High” that doesn’t feature much spying. Of course, if you’re interested in a spy movie where the trio of heroes do nothing but sit at a computer typing over and over, then you’re going to love what “Task Force 2001” has in store for you. And just for your information, the trio of aspiring spies has a sidekick dog named Rocky that does most of the work. Because of Ethan Hunt really lacked a sidekick with fur and a tail. Of course! “Task Force 2001” has a great concept and some interesting ideas, but really none of the budget to commit to unfolding the intended action scenes.
Ethan Hunt is no mere agent. He’s a force of nature that keeps pushing himself to the brink of imminent death every single time we meet him. Last time he hung on the side of a high rise, and this time he hangs along the side of a flying aircraft. Not to mention he merely drowns in one of the many close call operations he and the disbanded IMF commit towards. Tom Cruise lends the character an intensity and bug eyed gutsiness that make him a hero you want to root for, and someone you most definitely want on your side at all times. Hunt has met his match this time with the evil Lane (Sam Harris), a leader of a rising organization called the Syndicate, who is always one step ahead of Hunt, while sidekick Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) displays an enigmatic aura that makes Hunt uncertain if she’s friend or foe.
It’s nice to see director Brad Bird inject a new sense of excitement and novelty in to the “Mission Impossible” movie series, as it now embraces its episodic origins to completely reboot the epic story of Ethan Hunt. After the pretty good third outing, “Ghost Protocol” sports an entirely different atmosphere, where the team from the IMF are still out and lurking about, while Ethan Hunt has become a pariah, now jailed in a Russian prison. After Simon Pegg’s character Benji stages a caper to free Ethan from prison, Ethan discovers that the world must be in dire trouble if he’s being turned to for help.
When Melissa McCarthy is misused, she’s a bumbling, awkward, and unfunny mess trying way too hard (see: Tammy), but when she’s used correctly, she’s about as great as any other female comedian working in film today. McCarthy certainly is charming and has a down home quality to her that makes most roles she takes absolutely interesting. Even in such a derivative movie like “Spy,” McCarthy shines and arouses raucous laughs. And because of her, folks like Jude Law, Bobby Cannavale, and Jason Statham manage to shine and earn their own raucous laughter in the process. You wouldn’t think Law or Statham could be funny, but lo and behold, they’re just top notch in another great Paul Feig film about a unique female conquering some form of personal limitation.