Movie Reviews

Atomic Blond: Movie Reivew

By
Westley Smith

Taking a quick look at Atomic Blonde (which came out this past weekend) one maybe inclined to think that it’s trying to capitalize on the success of John Wick, only with a female assassin.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The only thing Atomic Blonde and John Wick have in common is their director, David Leitch (who co-directed (uncredited) some scenes in John Wick: Chapter 1; he is also helming the upcoming Deadpool 2) and very little else. The two films are so tonally different that comparing the two would be a huge mistake. Both are their own films – though Leitch has hinted that John Wick and Atomic Blonde may be in the same universe.

Charlize Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent who is sent to 1989 Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent (who she had a relationship with; unbeknownst to her superiors) and to recover a missing list of agents that is about to fall into the hands of the wrong people.

There is very little I can tell you about the plot of Atomic Blonde other than the small synopsis that I gave above without spoiling anything for you.  Though it was marketed as a hardcore action film, Atomic Blonde relied more on plot, story and characters to drive the movie forward rather than its action set pieces. As with any cold war era film, Atomic Blonde is filled with intrigue and espionage, mystery and suspense, double crosses and backstabbing – you never really know who to trust, including Charlize Theron’s Lorraine Broughton character.

The story is told through Broughton’s character in a series of flashbacks as she is being debriefed by her MI6 superior, Eric Grey (Toby Jones) and a CIA operative, Emmet Kurzfeld (John Goodman) on the events of her mission leading up to the the day the Berlin wall fell.

With this kind of storytelling, Leitch plays with the facts lose and fast, never giving full details; we’re led to believe one thing but in actuality it was something else altogether. This is an okay storytelling devise, but it does make the film hard to follow at times, and you’ll find yourself wondering if you’ve missed something along the way.

But Atomic Blonde is a thinking man’s action movie for sure; if you’re expecting to go into this movie for some turn-off-your-brain-action, you’re going to be disappointed with the amount of story that comes with Atomic Blonde. Upon the first viewing it’s going to be hard to understand everything that is being dumped on you in rapid fire exposition. A second, or even a third watch, will be needed to get all the facts and details in this thriller.

That’s not to say there isn’t any action in the film. There is, including a seven minute long fight scene between Theron and a handful of goons that is seemingly done in one long take. This scene alone is breathtaking, tense, scary, and downright brutal as you begin to see the affects the fight takes on the characters, their stamina, and as the bruises on their faces and bodies begin to swell and bleed. This scene alone is going to go down as one of the best action/fight scenes in cinematic history and I won’t be surprised if it gets put up there with Roddy Piper and David Keith’s brawl in John Carpenter’s They Live.

The action fight scenes are well choreographed with the camera pulled out far enough to show what is going on without cutting to a close-up (to hide the actors inability to fight) or relying on shaky camera tricks to hide stunt doubles.

Theron is in top form in both her ability to play the ice cold Lorraine Broughton (who is as sexy as she is deadly) and to perform in the brutal fight scenes with men who are much bigger than herself. She kicks a lot of ass in this movie and pulls it off effortlessly that she can beat the living hell out of anyone she wants with only her shoe. Theron is a great actress and any roll she’s in she commits fully to – just take a look at her Oscar winning roll in Monster if you have any doubt about her ability as an actress.

The cast also includes James McAvoy as agent David Percival, who is Broughton’s contact in Germany, and who may or may not be working against her.

Sofia Boutella is Delphine Lasalle a photographer that’s been following Broughton around snapping pictures of her and maybe working as a double agent herself and is trying to get close to Broughton by seducing her.

The cinematography in the film is fantastic (especially in the action scenes) with most of the inside scenes lit in neon, giving the film the 1980s punk feel it needed.

The soundtrack is also filled with 1980s punk hits (both German and English) and fun 80s pop songs. All the songs have a purpose in the movie; they were either on the radio or they were playing in a club or in the background, and they help to elevate the scene instead of the songs revolving around it.

With directors like David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (John Wick) spearheading a new wave of action films and redefining the genre as we know it, moving it away from the days of shaky cam and quick cutting and back to where one could actually see the actors fighting and shooting it out onscreen, the future of action films is looking explosive once again.

8 out of 10 stars.

Wish Upon: Movie Review

By
Westley Smith

If you took a dash of Wishmaster. A pinch of Final Destination. Several cups of tween drama. Blend all of them together and what do you get? Wish Upon.

Wish Upon was directed by John R. Leonetti. Leonetti is no stranger to horror. For those of you who do not know the director, he has served as D.P. on several of James Wan’s films, including The Conjuring, Insidious and Insidious: Chapter 2, and Death Sentence. He also directed The Conjuring spin-off film, Annabelle.

Clare Shannon (Joey King) is a traumatized teen who found her mother after she hanged herself when she was young, but only after her mother mysteriously disposed of a box, carved with ancient Chinese words and symbols in the trash.

Years later, Clare, now a teenager, is unpopular at school, bullied, and only has two close friends, June (Shannon Purser from Netfilx’s Stranger Things) and Meredith (Sydney Park). She is living with her father, Johnathan, (Ryan Philipee) who has a “job” (I guess) going around to dumpsters looking for scraps he can resell.

At one of the dump sites, Johnathan finds the mysterious box (the same box, Clare’s mother disposed of) and brings it home to his daughter because of the Chinese writing on the side, and since Clare is studying Chinese language in school (of course she is; convenient plot device) Johnathan thinks his daughter will like this dumpster dived gift – he actually wraps it up for her. HAHAHA!

Opening the “present” Clare finds that she can read only a few words. “Seven Wishes” is inscribed on the front. The box is closed with a metal clasp and will not open.  Thinking the box is silly, Clare decides to make a stupid wish against one of her bullies – a wish that will soon come true. But what Clare does not know, is that every wish she makes, someone has to pay the ultimate price…in blood.

I went into Wish Upon knowing (kind of) what I was going to see. The film was PG-13 and that the filmmakers were targeting the teen demographic. I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot of gore, blood, foul language, or grizzly violence.

And that’s okay. I’m not a gore hound that needs all horror movies to be R-rated in order for them to be good – Poltergeist is PG, The Ring (remake) is PG-13, and both of them are very well made, scary movies that I have both enjoyed and praised over the years to countless people.

Wish Upon is not that caliber of film. It lacks originality and you can see the ending coming a mile away, because it has already been done before. Most characters are nothing more than cliché movie characters that we’ve seen in countless teen movies: the pretty and popular bad girl bully and her crew, the good looking jock, the broken down widower father, and the traumatized teen and her spunky buddies.

The deaths in the movie are a series of Rube Goldberg type accidents, just like Final Destination, that the box unleashes on its victims after Clare wishes for something she wants.

The movie isn’t scary in any way shape or form either, rather relying on the Rube Goldberg scenarios to create tension rather than scares.

Leonetti’s direction is competent in telling the story, but lacking any artistic touches that may have otherwise made the film better – it just all comes off kind of flat and…meh.


But I wouldn’t call Wish Upon a bad film – for young kids and teenagers just getting into horror. This film knew who it was going after and did that well for that age group. Kids would understand these characters and somewhat identify with them and their problems. The kills in the movie are just violent enough that the younger audience (who has never seen hard R horror movies) would find them disturbing.

I think what younger audiences would take away from Wish Upon more than anything else is the films message: be careful what you wish for. When Clare begins to wish for things, it’s all to fit her needs and wants: money, popularity, the hunk boyfriend, the rotting bully (yes that happens) but she soon finds that her wishes have repercussions to both her family and friends, repercussions that will cost her everything.

For adult audiences, and horror hounds who’ve seen it all, Wish Upon will be a big letdown and there is nothing really new to see here.

Wish Upon was a good film for a younger horror audience (it has an R.L. Stine Goosebumps feel to it) and I think kids and teenagers, who are not ready to see really scary films, will find this entertaining, with just enough story, mystery, horror, and scares to satisfy them until they are older.

I’m going to give this two ratings: one for kids and one for adults.

ADULT RATING: 4 out of 10

KID RATING: 8 out of 10

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It Comes At Night: Review

By
Westley Smith

Going into It Comes At Night, I had little knowledge of the film, what it was about, or even who was in it, other than Joel Edgerton. I had not seen many previews of the film, other than a few clips on some of the social media outlets.

I thought it was best that I went into this movie with an open mind, without any outside influence to sway my judgement of the movie.

I’m glad I did because the trailers, what I saw of them anyway, really make this movies seem like a horror film when it is anything but. Now having seen the trailers after seeing the movie, I think I would have been pissed had I went in to it thinking it was a horror movie, when in actuality, it was a tale of survival in a world that has ended.

Joel Edgerton plays Paul, a dominating man who has locked he, his wife Sarah, (Carman Ejogo) and son Travis, (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) away in their remote home in the middle of nowhere as the rest of the world falls victim to an unknown illness.

The film starts off with Travis’ grandfather, who has come down with this mysterious sickness that looks a lot like the Bubonic Plague; sores and blisters cover the man’s skin. Unable to do anything to help the man; he’s already on death doorstep, Paul and Travis take him out of the home (they have to wear masks and gloves around the infected or risk becoming infected themselves) and kill him. To help stop the spread of disease, they burn the body and bury it.

Shaken and rattled the family comes together that night, trying to stay strong, trying to survive the hardship of this new life.

That night Travis begins to have nightmares that something is trying to break into their home. When he comes to, he finds that his nightmare wasn’t just a nightmare, but reality when he’s suddenly woken up by Paul telling him there was someone in their home.

Scared and afraid that whoever is in their home is there to bring harm to them, the family rushes into action and ends up finding, Will (Christopher Abbot) in their house. He tries to tell them it was a mistake, but Paul, not taking any chances in fear for himself and his family’s safety, knocks Will out and ties him up to a tree, stripped of his clothes and shoes.

The next day, Paul questions Will and threatens to kill him if he thinks he’s lying. Will tells Paul that he was out looking for food and water, and that he left his wife and child to find supplies because they were running low. Will stumbled upon the house, and thinking that it was abandoned, he decided to break in. He also tells Paul that they have food: chickens, goats, and some canned goods that he was willing to share for some water.

Is Will telling the truth?

It Comes At Night is a story about the survival in trust. When trust is broken, in a dire situation, everything can come unraveled in a matter of seconds.

And that is exactly what happens.

The film was directed by Trey Edward Shults. Shults does a good job a balancing the tension between what is going on in the outside world (because there is something going on outside of the house, but we never get to know what it is; though it’s hinted at) and what is going on inside the house with the characters. He never really lets you in on who is, or is not, infected, nor how and when they become infected and what it can do to them – though again it is hinted at throughout the film.

 

 

 

 

What really stood out to me was the heavy, foreboding atmosphere of It Comes At Night and it’s fantastic cinematography. Most of the night scenes were lit with just lamps, giving those scenes this eerie oily look that made you wonder what was hiding in the shadows of our characters and maybe the outside world beyond the house in the woods – was there something supernatural going on?

There are only a handful of characters in the movie and because of this we are given a chance to get to know them and how they are going to try and survive this hellish new world, and each other. This is something else that Shults and the script does well; the characters are human, they have faults, good traits and bad, no one in the movie is perfect, which makes them all the more human when they are forced to act in the end – good or bad, their decisions are on their shoulders.

The film offers little in the way of hope. It is a downbeat and somewhat depressing movie about the horrors of surviving at all costs. There is no ray of sunshine to be found here and it is one thing that I really liked about It Comes At Night. Very rarely do we get a movie that makes you question how you would act if put in to a similar situation, and the consequences of those actions.

I really enjoyed Brian McOmber’s ominous, haunting score; it helped build the tension, drama and action in the movie well and seemed to fit perfectly in the setting of the film. It is a score worth checking out if you like ominous music, and can be listened to by itself, and enjoyed, without having to have seen the movie.

If you are going out this weekend to check out It Comes At Night, understand that you are not going to see a horror movie; you are seeing a movie about people trying to survive at all costs.

8 out of 10 stars.

Alien Covenant: Movie Review

By
Westley Smith

When I saw Prometheus back in 2012, I can honestly say that I was not a fan of the movie. I found it boring, with unlikeable characters (other than Shaw) and a plot that was hard to follow and made little sense. When it was announced that Alien: Covenant was being developed, again by Ridley Scott, and that it would tie in to events from Prometheus, I thought it was time I go back and revisit Prometheus to refresh my memory – I remembered nothing.

I was astonished to find myself really enjoying Prometheus the second time around; it wasn’t boring, as I had remembered, and the plot made perfect sense and was easy to follow and understand. Though I cannot excuse some of the dumb characters and their actions; they are still there and feel just like your typical horror movie cliché characters. But at the core of Prometheus lies this really thought-provoking film that asks the question: who made the human race?

Was it a God? Or was it aliens – which in Prometheus’ case are called The Engineers.

To many Alien fans, Prometheus was not the prequel to Alien that they were looking for. First and foremost, there wasn’t a Xenomorph anywhere in site, and tonally, Prometheus is a vastly different film from the original Alien. Alien was dark, grimy, and dingy with this foreboding feeling of danger and doom at every turn, especially once the alien is lose on the ship. Prometheus is glossy and cleanly shot with beautiful looking scenes and set pieces; the foreboding atmosphere of Alien is replaced by a sophisticated story, with moments of terror and panic as the characters uncover who or what the Engineers are. Second, the whole premise of Prometheus was based around the space jockey prop from the original movie, when the crew from the Nostromo discovers the crashed ship on LV 426 – hence how we came to get Prometheus.

Though the core of Prometheus is great – were humans created by a God, or Aliens – there wasn’t enough of tie-in to the original Alien from 1979 to get people excited for future movies and it was somewhat of a convoluted mess.

Simply put, fans wanted to see the Xenomporph.

So that brings us to Alien: Covent, a direct result of listening to fans and trying to please everyone.

The film begins ten years after the events of Prometheus. A shipped named Covenant is on a seven-year trip with 250 people, all set to colonize a new world. To insure the trip goes off without a hitch, an android named Walter (Michael Fassbender) is on board making sure the ship continues to run smoothly and the crew, in hyper sleep, are okay.

When Walter raises the recharging sails on the Covenant, an unsuspecting cosmic blast hits the Covenant, causing malfunctions and damage to the ship and leading to the deaths of several of the crew members, including the captain (James Franco, who is truly wasted in this movie and why he was even cast remains a head scratcher). The crew of the Covenant is woken from hyper sleep to help repair the ship.

While repairing the Covenant, they receive a transmission coming from a planet not too far from their current position – a planet much like earth, but somehow has gone undetected.

Captain duties have fallen on to Oram (Billy Crudup) a religious man who feels he should have been the captain of the Covenant all along, but because of his beliefs he was not given the chance. Oram sees this as an opportunity to find out who sent the transmission and maybe colonize the undiscovered planet in hopes of not having to go back into hyper sleep for another seven years just to reach their original destination. Daniels (Katherine Waterston) isn’t so sure and voices her opinion of the matter. She is overruled – of course she is.

Once they touchdown and begin to track where the transmission was sent from their journey soon turns into a nightmare and they discover that this planet isn’t what it appears to be.

It really seems like Ridley Scott is trying to please everyone for Alien: Covenant. He wants to give the hardcore Alien fans what they want with the Xenomorph but also tie up events laid out in Prometheus. It’s very hard to bridge these two films and make them one cohesive piece. Prometheus and Alien may be in the same universe, but they are vastly different films.

So does Scott succeed? Yes and no.

Alien: Covenant works best in its first and second acts. When the crew first gets to the undiscovered world and begin to uncover its mysteries. Covenant feels very much like a follow-up to Prometheus at this point, with enough mystery and suspense to keep you intrigued.

We are introduced to new alien lifeforms on the planet that affect the host through spoors, and see the birthing of the Neomorph – that whole sequence is rather nail biting and very intense and leaves your palms sweating, much like the cesarean scene in Prometheus.

 

We find out what happened to Shaw and David – don’t worry, I will not spoil anything. And if Shaw and David did indeed find the Engineers.

But it is in the third act where Alien: Covenant falls apart; it feels like you’re in a completely different movie, with a director that forgot how to cut, edit, and pace his film – yeah the third act is that bad. Scenes seem to be missing from the third act, and characters are forgotten about and just disappear without finding out what happened to them. The Xenomorph is also introduced in the third act. I will not go into details on how the Xenomporph comes about in the film, but if you’re a huge Alien fan, and love the lore and the Xenomporh creature, you are going to be angry that it doesn’t have much screen time and the creation of the Xenomorph is also confusing and causes a big continuity error for the rest of the franchise. Another problem with the third act is it actually has a fourth act hidden inside the third act – if that makes any sense at all. It’s really odd how it’s structured and seemed tacked on just to add to the movie’s run time, or dare I say, the Xenomorph’s screen time. And the twist ending, really isn’t that much of a twist, and you can see it coming a mile away.

 

There is another problem with Alien: Covenant and one that plagued Prometheus also: stupid characters doing stupid illogical things that only serve to push the movie forward. But where in Prometheus we were limited to a few of those characters, in Alien: Covenant we get dozens of these characters, only added to the movie to give it a greater body count.

Not only do the characters in Alien: Covenant do dumb things, like sniffing strange pods that release microbial spoors into the air, just to get them infected, or characters constantly splitting up – one guy even goes to take a leek (actually he just wants to have a smoke by himself for some reason) and bumps into one of these pods and becomes infected by the spoors, which spawns the Neomorph. Almost all the characters are clichéd and reduced to nothing more than victims like in a cheap slasher film, being picked off one-by-one.

Not that it matters, there really isn’t much character development for anyone in the film, including the leads, for you to care anyway. Like I said earlier, James Franco is wasted, and we’re never given any time to get to know him or his character, so his death isn’t really a big deal to us. We see the aftermath his death and the affects it has on the crew, especially Daniels, but it’s handled so lazily that you end up forgetting about it soon after it happens, as do the characters.

Daniels is the lead character in the film, but you never learn anything about her other than she was romantically involved with Franco’s character. She’s kind of like a discount Ripley, in that they needed another female lead to do battle the alien. I’m okay with having all the Alien films having a strong female lead, I like strong female characters who don’t take crap from anyone, including one really pissed off Xenomorph, but give me some character development first so I can care about her when the shit hits the fan. I could have cared less if Daniels lived or died in the film, she was just there and serviceable at forwarding the plot.

 

Walter and David (both played by Michael Fassbender) was given more time and care than any of the other characters in the film; you got to know both of them. And Fassbender’s acting in both roles was great – his acting alone really holds this film together and it’s hard for you to take your eyes off him because he is so good.

All in all, if you’re going to see Alien: Covenant this weekend just know what you’re getting into. If you’re hoping for a return to form in the likes of Alien or Aliens, you’re going to be disappointed. If you go into it hoping for closure to Prometheus, you’ll be happy, and the added extra bonus of the Xenomorph might just make your night.

7 out of 10 stars.