FlixChatter Review – Atomic Blonde (2017)

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Directed By: David Leitch
Written By: Kurt Johnstad (screenplay)
Runtime: 1 hr 55 minutes

When I found out I would be reviewing this film, I pulled up an article on it for a little background information-and made the mistake of reading the comments. They were mostly all the same, with guys accusing Atomic Blonde of being pandering and asserting that the movie is unrealistic because women are too frail and weak to be badass action heroes. It was infuriating, and it made me hope that that this movie would be amazing, just to spite the trolls. Fortunately, I was not disappointed.

In Atomic Blonde, an adaptation of the graphic novel series The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) recounts her mission in Cold War Berlin to track down a list of double agents to MI6 executive Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA official Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). From the moment she meets up with fellow agent David Percival (James McAvoy), Lorraine is plunged into danger and intrigue as she works to complete her mission.

This is an incredibly fun action movie. The fight choreography is impressive, ranging from creative and graceful to realistically graphic, and even some of that is surprisingly gorgeous; there’s one scene where blood is spattered on a large painting of a woman’s face right on her mouth, making it look almost like a messy lipstick kiss. Having it all set to a phenomenal soundtrack of 80’s rock makes it even more entertaining. 
 The technical aspects of the movie are impressive as well. The editing is tight and creative; one moment that stands out is in a scene where a body being thrown into a river, and as soon as it hits the surface, the scene cuts to Lorraine’s face breaking the water as she sits up in a bathtub. There are several gorgeous, well-balanced shots. The film overall is dark and gritty but glossy, which is perfect for a graphic novel adaptation, although the green filter is a little overused.

It can be hard to critique acting in a movie like this when so much of the focus is on the action and visuals, but Charlize Theron and James McAvoy still manage to shine in their roles. Theron is cold, calculating, and tough but still shows brief moments of panic and sadness without being melodramatic. McAvoy is so much fun to watch in this as well; he is so good at acting goofy but still a little unhinged and sinister (as proven in Split earlier this year). My one critique is some of their line reads are hard to understand, but I’m not sure if they’re mumbling or if there’s a sound-mixing problem.
 If you’re looking for a fun, beautifully-shot action movie to see this summer, you should definitely check this out. Ignore the trolls.

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Have you seen ‘Atomic Blonde’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

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Talk about a “sequel” that no one saw it coming huh? I don’t believe anyone except the filmmakers and studio folks knew that this movie even existed before the trailer was shown a couple of months ago. A sort of “blood relative” to the 2008 found footage Cloverfield, this new movie is more of a Twilight Zone episode and it’s 10 times better than the original “movie” (both are produced by JJ Abrams).

A young woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) decided to leave her boyfriend and while on the road, she got a call from him. But as she was about to answer the phone, she got in a car accident. Hours later she woke up and handcuffed to the wall and had nothing on by her underwear. A mysterious man named Howard (John Goodman) said he rescued her and brought her to his secret underground shelter. He told her that there’s been an attack and many people have died. If she wants to stay alive, she needs to follow his orders. Later she meets another man named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) who she thought was Howard’s prisoner but Emmett said he fought to get inside the shelter.

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The whole movie is about these three characters interacting with one another and if I can’t really say much without giving away spoilers. The performances by the actors were quite good, especially Goodman. You don’t really know if he’s telling the truth or he’s just crazy. Gallagher provided the humor but deep down he’s a beaten man who has regrets about his life choices. But the movie belongs to Winstead. Unlike many of the female leads in other thrillers, her character is smart and always on guard about her surroundings. She never trusted Howard and when it’s time to take action, she’s the one in charge.

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Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, the movie felt like a very good episode of The Twilight Zone. Trachtenberg was able to create some tight tension moments and keep all of his actors on their toes. Since this is his first feature, I thought he did an impressive job. But like many young filmmakers, he couldn’t resist the use of hand-held shaky cam on some scenes. I don’t know if it’s being taught in film schools regularly or what, but it needs to stop.

Despite the good performances and tight direction, the movie’s finale was sort of a letdown for me. I wouldn’t go into it but I thought the writers should have come up with a better way to show the audience of what really happened to the world. That said, this is a good thriller and you don’t need to see Cloverfield to enjoy this one.

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Have you seen 10 Cloverfield Lane? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Double Reviews: The Monuments Men

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Happy Friday everyone! Today we’ve got another double review of a film which release has been delayed for a couple of months. Originally, this was to be released last December during awards/holiday season, but director/star George Clooney actually asked the studio for more time for post-production due to the special effects weren’t ready. Sarah and I went to the screening last Wednesday, here’s our take on it:

Sarah’s Review

When I was visiting Germany last year and killing time waiting for my train back to Dusseldorf from Cologne, I was struck by a postcard in one of the gift shops with a Google earth type of photo of Cologne in post-World War II Europe. The entire town was decimated by repeated bombings but somehow the 13th century Cologne cathedral still stood tall amidst all the destruction- as if saved only by the grace of God. “The Monuments Men,” the new movie co-written and directed by George Clooney, tells the story of curators, archivists and art historians from thirteen countries whose mission it was to save some of the most culturally significant works of art from Nazi destruction near the end of World War II. In a Napoleonic-like move, Adolf Hitler often ordered his armies to claim some of Europe’s greatest art treasures for his planned “Fuhrer Museum” to be built near his boyhood home in Austria. (Did you know Hitler was a failed art student? Neither did I. When George Stout, an American art conservationist played by George Clooney in the movie, shows one of his paintings to the newly assembled group, one of them remarks, “Hitler did that? It’s not bad.” However, James Granger, played by Matt Damon and based on Metropolitan Museum of Art Director James Rorimer, says, “Well, it’s not good.”) When the fall of the Third Reich became a reality, Hitler commanded his men to destroy everything and the group that has become known as the Monuments Men swung into action, embarking on “the greatest treasure hunt in history.”

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As a self-proclaimed history buff who has studied and visited many of the places in the film, I really wanted to like this movie but it felt like this great story got lost in a mishmash of a film trying to be a combination of Hogan’s Heroes, Saving Private Ryan and The Da Vinci Code. Call it a movie with an identity crisis- it was like it couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a comedy or a drama. SPOILER ALERT! (Without giving too much away, one example is a scene where one of the Monuments Men gets shot and it’s obvious he’s going to die. However, in the next scene he is cracking jokes. Umm, hello? It’s wartime and you’re dying.) The cast, which also includes Bill Murray and John Goodman, do what they can but ultimately can’t save this one. About the only person who seems to understand the gravity of the situation is Claire Simone, the museum curator turned spy played by Cate Blanchett. When showing Matt Damon’s character some of the Nazi’s re-possessed goods, he asks incredulously, “What is all this?” “People’s lives,” she solemnly replies. Her scenes were a breath of fresh air.
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This movie does do a couple of things well. It helps put you in the moment where these men unearth thousands of stolen, priceless artifacts. What must it have been like to gaze upon these famous artworks and know that you had a major role in securing them for future generations to enjoy? And it also provides a powerful reminder of what we were fighting for- not just art, but our culture, history and way of life. Two scenes brought this home to me: the first near the beginning of the film where you see the beautiful landscape of Paris decorated with Nazi swastikas and the second toward the end of the film where you see Nazi soldiers indiscriminately torching some of what they had stolen. Maybe it was these ideals that frustrated me the most about this movie- it was okay, but it could have been so much better.
The movie is based on a 2010 book of the same name by Robert Edsel and it did make me want to learn more about this fascinating point in history. Also, in a local connection, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has put together a self-guided tour identifying items from its own collection saved by the Monuments Men or with other World War II related stories. As our temperature doesn’t want to rise above zero lately and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is free, this seems like a great idea! As for the movie, it piques your interest but doesn’t quite hold you in its grasp.

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2.5 out of 5 reels

Ruth’s Review

When I first heard about this film, the subject matter intrigued me more than even the ensemble cast. Truthfully, seeing Matt Damon and George Clooney with their megastar smiles in the trailer, it felt like an Ocean’s Eleven heist type of flick, but with Nazis. Hmmm, it turns out that first impression wasn’t that off-base after all.

Seems that the film has everything going for it to be a truly great WWII drama. Clooney is after all a reputable Oscar-nominated director/writer/actor, a triple threat on top of being one of the biggest movie stars in the universe. He’s got the clout to assemble a bunch of Oscar-caliber International cast and crew, who are more than up for the task to bring this amazing wartime tale to life. But yet, even halfway through the film, it just left me wanting. For something so monumental in history, the film just doesn’t do the story justice.

To call this film uneven would be putting it mildly. There’s a tonal hodgepodge that makes it quite hard to really grasp the weight of the mission of the men (and women) involved. Art historian Frank Stokes, played by Clooney himself, preaches to the audience the significance of this art-rescue mission and how noble the cause was for humanity that it was worth a person’s life. Yet the way the film’s played-out lacks the gravitas of that sentiment. At times it’s just too lighthearted for its own good that it loses its impact. I’m not saying that mixing drama with comedy can’t work, I mean there are great films that finely tread the line between drama and comedy, but I’m not sure it works well here.

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There’s a scenario where one character accidentally stepped on a land mine, but it’s treated like a humorous scene. I guess there ought to be an SNL skit where the Monuments Men don’t know which foot to stand on. Seems that Clooney himself realizes the challenge of getting the tone right, as this article from The Wrap points out  “If we get the tone right it will be a really fun film …” he said. Well, the film is not without its shares of fun, but I think if the tone were right, it would’ve been a great film.

Performance-wise, seems that the cast are having a good time making this which is fun to watch. Clooney and Damon are pretty good but I’ve seen much better work from both of them. It’s amusing to see Bill Murray being Bill Murray, Bob Balaban with his deadpan humor and Jean Dujardin being his irresistible charming French guy that he is. Now, as much as I got a kick watching them, I barely knew about any of them nor any of the other characters in the film. Why did they sacrifice their lives for this mission? Is it simply their love for art, or was there something more? As a result, I couldn’t connect with any of them no matter how hard I tried. Even during the most dire circumstances, it didn’t incite lump-in-my-throat kind of emotion, and this coming from someone who cry easily at movies. I think Cate Blanchett‘s character, the only female cast who’s the most solemn of the whole bunch, is the only one who lends credibility to the story. But still her character’s not explored as well as I would like, either.

This is Clooney’s fifth directorial effort and he also co-wrote it with his screenwriting partner Grant Heslov.  Seems that the filmmakers’ heart are in the right place and the film is not without its poignant moments. I just wish those moments are more consistent instead of just in few and far between. I don’t think that even if this were released just in time for Oscar season that it would’ve been in the running. It’s not a terrible film however, I’d recommend it as a rental if you love the cast. But if you want to really know who the Monuments Men are and their mission, I’d think there are documentaries on them that’s more satisfying and compelling. As it stands, it’s quite entertaining with a tinge of poignancy, though it lacks a certain level of artistry that’d give us a lasting impression.

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3 out of 5 reels


What do you think folks, agree/disagree with our review? Well let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: Monsters University

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I remember rolling my eyes when I first heard of Pixar making a prequel of Monsters Inc., one of my favorites from its canon of animated features. But then I saw the trailer and I thought it looked pretty funny, and got me curious if revisiting the world of the colorful monsters would be well worth the effort.

Well, after seeing it a week ago, I can happily say that I enjoyed it immensely!! Mike Wazowski, the one-eyed green monster with Billy Crystal‘s high-pitched voice, remains one of my all-time favorite Pixar characters. Here Pixar crafted yet another ingenious storyline, an ‘origin story’ if you will of how the Mike + James P. Sullivan (Sulley), the best ‘scarer duo’ at the Monsters, Inc. end up working together and what the job meant to them.

Right from the get-go, I felt glad to be back in Monstropolis. Ever since he was a youngster, Mike has always been enamored by the profession of collecting screams from human children for the city’s power supply. A school field trip to Monsters Inc. got him all wide-eyed about becoming one of those scarer himself… it’s akin to how a field trip to NASA made some youngsters yearn to be an astronauts! So when Mike’s enrolled in Monsters University (modeled after Univ of Cal Berkeley according to the campus website), he was pretty gung-ho about learning to be the best scarer he could be. I LOVE how they introduce him walking around campus as a freshman, it’s such a fun character development that’s classic Pixar, and visually it’s as beautiful as I had expected. It’s interesting how Mike’s roommate is none other than the chameleon Randall (he still goes by Randy here), who seems pretty harmless and even nice at first, but of course his sinister side is later revealed.

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His meeting with Sulley is a memorable one, both hilarious and moving at the same time. Y’see, Sulley came from a legendary family of scarers, in class the professor actually mentioned the Sullivans by name and holds it in high regards. So Sulley is one of those students who could get by with not much efforts on his part, which infuriates Mike as in contrast, he’s the kind of guy who’s always been told he’s not scary at all, that he’s not cut out to be a scarer, etc. So naturally, he’ll do everything in his power to prove everyone wrong.

MonstersUnivDeanHardscrabbleAs with many Pixar films, it’s chock-full of awesome characters and this one is no different. The fraternity students where Mike & Sully end up belonging to are a hoot, they’re the nerds in school that the cool crowds make fun of, so immediately I sympathize with them. Plus they’re just such a hilarious bunch! One of the most memorable characters is definitely Dean Hardscrabble, a red dragon-like creature with millipede legs and bat wings. Voiced by the great Dame Helen Mirren, she’s quite a terrifying character that’s no doubt feared by everyone at school. Another British actor I like, Alfred Molina, also lends the voice of the professor of the Scaring Program.

I find the story to be quite engaging from start to finish, I was fully invested in Mike’s journey and the plot surrounding the Scare Games is definitely well-crafted. The beauty of this movie, as with many Pixar movies, is how relatable the story is. Even though we’re dealing with weird-looking creatures, the emotional issues they face (disappointment, betrayal, inferiority, etc.), are situations we could all identify with. But of course, they didn’t forgot about the sense of fun and that aspect is definitely here. The scene at the library is perhaps one of the highlights for me as I was in stitches the whole time, and also the finale of the Scare Games that’s action-packed and emotionally-charged.

If you’re a fan of Monsters, Inc. and its fabulous characters, I think you’ll enjoy this movie as much as I did. The chemistry between Mike & Sulley is still the primary strength of the film, and Billy Crystal and John Goodman are such excellent voice actors. Having just rewatched the original though, I still rate that one higher than this. The moment the duo met Boo in the beginning of the movie was pure comedic gold that’s tough to beat, even by Pixar itself. Now, as charming and entertaining this prequel is though, I do hope Pixar will return to delivering fresh, innovative ideas instead of recycling their old ones.


4 out of 5 reels


What say you, folks? Did you enjoy this one?

Weekend Roundup and ARGO review

It’s been quite a hectic start to October for me, but it’s definitely going to be an exciting month with Twin Cities Film Fest just around the corner!

I skipped the cinema this weekend, but it looks like people just can’t get enough of bad ass Liam Neeson with his special set of skills. Taken 2 took in an astounding $50 million (apparently it’s not the third best October opening ever), which is sensational considering the dismal review. Now, even though I heard reports that Neeson won’t be back for Taken 3, the studio is likely to give him an offer he can’t refuse. I do hope he’s got the integrity to say no to that.

I saw a total of three films this week: ARGO (thanks to my buddy Ted for the advance screening tickets), and two great films from the early 90s: The Hunt for Red October and Point Break. Red October is the one Jack Ryan movie that has eluded me for some reason but it’s a fantastic political thriller, and despite being set mostly on a submarine, it’s not at all dull. From the comments on the Five for the Fifth post, seems like a lot of people like Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan and now I could see why.

I saw Point Break years ago and I’ve been wanting to rewatch it for some time. I finally bought the Blu-ray this weekend and I certainly have a new appreciation for the Kathryn Bigelow’s action thriller. The story is not ground-breaking but it’s more multi-layered than meets the eye. Full of high-octane action and the surfing and sky-diving scenes are quite spectacular, bummer that Hollywood is reportedly set to remake this cult classic! Anyway, I’m sort of crushing on Keanu Reeves all over again now, ahah.

Now on to the review of…

ARGO (2012)

At first glance you might think this has something to do with Jason and the Argonauts, but no, this one has nothing to do with Greek Mythology though there is a reference to that in the film. This Ben Affleck-directed political drama is loosely based on a true story, that is former CIA technical operations officer Tony Mendez’ account of the Iran hostage crisis of the late 70s.

The opening of the film starts out like a documentary, providing a pretty detailed background of why supporters of the Iranian Revolution are protesting outside of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Basically, the anti-Shah Iranians under Ayatollah Khomeini demanded for his return to Iran (he was undergoing cancer treatment in the US) for trial and execution.

For a film where the outcome is already known, Affleck did a great job in building up the suspense right from the get go. The whole sequence where the Iranians took over the embassy is quite gripping, and how the six of the consular employees were able to escape just in the nick of time and ended up taking refuge at the Canadian embassy.

Enter CIA officer Tony Mendez (Affleck) who’s tasked to get those six men out of the country. According to Wiki, Mendez’s work in the agency frequently dealt with forging foreign documents, creating disguises and handling other graphical work related to espionage. After exploring all the options that the agency considered — one of which includes a bike trek across 3000 miles of treacherous mountain conditions! — it’s clear that the utterly bizarre idea of smuggling them as a fake film crew was the only option!

ARGO is full of edge-of-your-seat scenes from start to finish. It doesn’t take long for the audience to realize just how high the stake is and how those escapees’ lives are in great danger, as they could be discovered at any moment. If found, they would suffer a much worse fate than the hostages, and Mendez saw that firsthand when he arrived in Iran and saw men being hung from cranes in public view!

Thankfully, Affleck peppered the taut suspense with dry humor and lighthearted moments, courtesy of the delightfully zany pairing of John Goodman and Alan Arkin as Oscar-winning make-up artist John Chambers and Hollywood producer Lester Siegel, respectively. The scenes in Hollywood as they’re working on coming up with the fake movie is such a much-needed relief from the tense situation happening in Iran. It’s a hoot to see both Chambers and Siegel working on a movie that doesn’t even exist, there’s even a fake reading and launch party to get the press to ‘sell’ the movie! In the CIA camp, there’s also Bryan Cranston as Mendez’s CIA boss in D.C. who’s always fun to watch.

This is Affleck’s third outing as director and now I can say he’s one of my favorite directors. I’d rate this as high as Gone, Baby, Gone and once again the 40-year-old Bostonian displayed his keen ability to not only cast excellent actors but drew the best performance from them in his films. Though his own acting here is good, I still think Affleck is much more skillful behind the camera. The lesser-known actors playing the hostages also did a good job in their roles, as well as Victor Garber as the Canadian ambassador.

Final Thoughts: In a year chock full of movie superheroes, it’s nice to see a real-life story about a group of quiet heroes who took great risk to save others. Kudos for Affleck for creating an authentic and atmospheric film. ARGO is a thrilling and entertaining adventure that shifts brilliantly between three different locations—Washington D.C., Tehran and Hollywood—until it culminates in a nail-biting finale. Stay on during the credits as they show the photos of the real-life individuals depicted in the film, the casting manager did a good job in finding actors that resemble them. This is easily one of the best films of the year and surely will end up as my top 5 of 2012. At this point, it could even be a shoo-in for Best Picture Oscar nomination.

4.5 out of 5 reels


What did you see this weekend? Anybody else seen ARGO? If so, do let me know what you think.