Film Review: ATOMIC BLONDE (USA 2017) ***

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atomic blonde.jpgAn undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

Director: David Leitch
Writers: Kurt Johnstad (screenplay), Antony Johnston (based on the Oni Press graphic novel series “The Coldest City” written by)
Stars: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Advertised as a female James Bond film with Charlize Theron as a top ass-kicking M16 spy, ATOMIC BLONDE tries its best to assume a British setting though Theron and most of the cast speak with an unchanged American accent. Who really cares, as the film delivers senseless action with dazzling visual and choreographed fight scenes courtesy of director David Leitch in his first solo directorial debut, himself a stunt coordinator and stuntman for stars like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

The film is written by Kurt Johnstad, based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, published by Oni Press. The film opens with a commentary of how the cold war has ended in 1989 flowing the collapse of the Berlin Wall and then goes on to say that the film is not about this subject. The film is about the cold war revolving the good guys, the British M16 and the Americans in this case trying to retrieve a list of double agents that if fallen into the wrong hands would…..It does not really matter as Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock says. The point is that top level female spy, Lorraine Broughton (Theron) has been assigned to aid fellow spy and wild card David Percival (James McAvoy) with this mission. As it turns out Percival has supposedly got the list from Spyglass, a Starsi agent (Eddie Marsan) and he is to be escorted out of Berlin. Not so easy, as every Russian and German spy is also out to get the list.

With the film setting in the 80’s, one can expect a solid 80’s soundtrack. And the film has a great one at that, and not surprising as the music is by Tyler Bates who has put together similar memorable soundtracks for films like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 1 and 2 and the two John Wick Films. The song are also appropriately chosen to fit the plot for example with Depeche Mode’s ‘Behind the Wheel’ during the defection segment and Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ at the film’s climax.

The film’s excellent cast includes McAvoy (SPLIT), always good in portraying crazies. Eddie Marsan who plays Spyglass steals the show with a dead serious performance amidst the over-the-top action. German veteran actress Barbara Sukowa has a cameo as the coroner who delivers a key line: “In Germany, we do not make little mistakes.”

The film’s best action sequence lasts a full 10 minutes as Lorraine fights off multiple attackers in ultra-violent hand-to-hand combat on a staircase while protecting Spyglass. If this is not enough, an exciting car chase follows right after where villains in cars appear out of nowhere to chse the two. Director Leitch dishes sexiness to the limit with same sex scenes between Lorraine and a French spy (Sofia Boutella).

The plot of ATOMIC BLONDE is quite difficult to follow and there is no use trying as the plot is pointless. The story’s twist in the end of who is the double agent makes little sense either. But cold war spy films in the 70’s were often difficult to follow. ATOMIC BLONDE delivers dazzling senseless action, that is the point of the film and that it succeeds.


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Film Review: SPLIT (USA 2017) ***1/2

split_poster.jpgDirector: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson

Review by Gilbert Seah

 The first thing on the mind of anyone venturing to see a new M. Night Shyamalan film is whether the film is going to be a bomb like AFTER EARTH and THE LAST AIRBENDER or a hit like his early films THE SIXTH SENSE, SIGNS and UNBREAKABLE. His last film THE VISIT pleased the majority of filmgoers and SPILT should do the same.

The film begins with the abduction in a car in broad daylight of three teenage friends Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and difficult outsider Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). The three girls get seated in the car while the father of one of them puts their gear in the trunk. “Can I help you?” the father says to a stranger whose face is off-camera.

From the car mirror, Casey senses something is wrong when she sees their bags on the road. She turns to get a glimpse of the man who has just moved into the driver’s seat and it is not her friend’s father. This is top notch camera work worthy of Hitchcock and proves a hard act to follow. True enough, none of the rest of the film can match the first 10 minutes of pure suspense.

Their captor Kevin (James McAvoy) locks the trio in a windowless room, then proceeds to frighten and baffle them. One minute he’s wearing eyeglasses and obsessive about cleanliness, the next he is presenting as female (PSYCHO style), and later he acts like a nine-year-old boy. It is revealed that Kevin exhibits 23 alternate personalities, and in order to escape, his captives must convince one of the personalities within him to set them free, before the arrival of the 24th and final personality, the “beast”.

James McAvoy delivers a really creepy performance worthy of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Teen actress Taylor-Joy need not have to do much. The film is scary enough and all she has to do is register fear in hr face. Shyamalan often has the camera in close-up.

To add more to the simple plot of abduction, the story of Casey’s life is told in flashbacks. Her father has passed on from a heart attack and she is looked after by a creepy uncle who may be a pedophile. Kevin is a patient under study by Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) who hopes to rehabilitate him.

As in all Shyamalan’s films, there is a surprise twist – the best of which were in his first two films. There is a big surprise at the end of this one too, but only consequential to the goings-on. Still, Shyamalan fans should not be disappointed.

Shyamalan’s films all make money even his two big critical flops. SPLIT only cost a paltry $10 million to make, primarily for its use of inexpensive stars and absent unneeded special effects. SPLIT is expected to gross $20-25 million this weekend alone which means that there should be another Shyamalan thriller/horror the next year. No one should be complaining.


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Movie Review: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (USA 2016) ****

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xmenapol.jpgX-MEN: APOCALYPSE (USA 2016) ****
Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Oscar Isaac, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult,

Review by Gilbert Seah

From the first 15 minutes of X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, it appears that director Bryan Singer, the director of the new X-MEN movie (and the director of all the others except for X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) is going all out to outdo all the other X-MEN films in terms of yes, everything. The film begins with the first mutant born in ancient times (3600 B.C.) in Egypt. He is none other than En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), and if that name is too difficult to remember, he is also called Apocalypse. He is entombed. Singer has the volume up full blast, the special effects at full throttle, 3D included, so there are tons of rocks, sharp objects and metal thrown out of the screen. If you think Singer will give audiences a break, forget it! The film is nonstop action, effects, noise and explosions all the way – the way an action super hero film should be. But he also builds in the storyline (script by Simon Kinberg), so that it is not just meaningless action.

The story involves Apocalypse resurrected in 1983. There is some humour and irony in him being disgusted by the human race ruled by weaklings. So, he decides to take over the world and rid the world of weaklings. This actually sounds not too bad an idea. So Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is conned into joining him. If Apocalypse gains the power of Professor X (James McAvoy) he can rule the world. So, it is up to Professor X aka Charles Xavier and the good X-Men to save the day. It is also good to see so many super heroes (or mutants) in a single movie – enough to satisfy any action fan. And it seems that it must be a requirement to look good to be in this film. Every male and female are drop dead gorgeous.

The action sequences especially the climax in which all the X-MEN have to join powers to destroy Apocalypse, are super well executed, much better than all the recent super hero films. The film also works because all the actors seem to take their roles seriously. But the oddest is Jennifer Lawrence as the blue Raven. She looks as if she does not want to be in the film, as she is making so much money being famous right now. She gives Professor X the kind of look: “You want to recruit me again to save the world? I have better things to do.”

Unlike DEADPOOL, BATMAN V SUPERMAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA, Singer’s film has action segments that are imaginative and cinematically stunning. The best of these has Quicksilver (Evan Peters) save his fellow X-Men amidst slow motion or stopped background to the song “Sweet Dreams”. The final fight scene in which a big silver X falls from the sky would definitely draw cheers from a packed house of elated fans. The one with Professor X’s wheelchair pulled backwards with his head tilted to the side is yet another inspirational storyboarded sequence.

The film also contains great scenes of the world being destroyed. The dialogue also contains lots of quotable lines like: You are no longer students, you are X-Men”, “I have never felt so much power in my life, “ etc.

APOCALYPSE costs a whopping $234 million to make. Singer makes sure it shows. And the results are worth it. This is the best Super Hero Action Movie so far this year. Let’s hope it pays off at the box-office.


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Happy Birthday: James McAvoy

jamesmcavoy.jpgHappy Birthday actor James McAvoy

Born: April 21, 1979 in Port Glasgow, Scotland, UK

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