*NEW* ATOMIC BLONDE REVIEW *NEW*

Charlize Theron kicks just enough ass to make this a little more than a generic actioner.

An undercover MI6 agent (Theron) is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

The slow opener didn’t build up high hopes as it flicked back and forth from bumping off obscure spies to Theron’s bruised bathing sessions.

I didn’t mind having to piece together this murky tale of deception and espionage. It just that it didn’t really amount to much by the closing credits.

The whole story was told in a series of flashbacks with Theron’s Agent Broughton recalling her mission in Berlin. And oh my God, was that John Goodman? Wow, the man is looking old.

The murky Berlin backdrop was a perfect political cesspool for treachery and backhanded deals.

James McAvoy was on scene stealing form as the eccentric David Percival. A rogue agent whose enjoyed a little too much freedom. A much needed presence in this super serious yarn. Or so I thought?

He worked well with CT. I just wish the pair were in it together more. They spent far too much time apart messing about with the cloak and dagger stuff.

I know a good portion of the film was spent trying to suss out whether the agents could trust one another BUT a lot of the fun and intrigue was lost in their separation.

The plot, for all its contrivances, was relatively straightforward and a little disappointing. The inevitable double crossing and back stabbing looming on the cards.

I was actually glad the film didn’t stick with the hum drum Cold War guff. It was getting dreadfully glum and boring.

The fight sequences were ridiculous. The set pieces took a similar style to The Bourne movies and cranked it to 11!

Kudos to Theron who did her own stunts. The punch ups were brilliantly choreographed (and redeemed a lumbering first act) as Broughton soon discovers that her cover was blown from the moment she landed on German soil.

The car chases were fast and furious. If full of continuity errors BUT I digress. All I’m saying is that one Jeep goes flying in the air, blocking the street and is miraculously gone in the next frame. Okayyyy thennnn . . .

The tone was a little mismatched BUT I enjoyed AB a lot more when it took itself less seriously.

The soundtrack was brilliant. Even with the umpteen variations and remixes of Nena’s 99 Red Balloons and New Order’s Blue Monday.

Jonathan Sela’s cinematography was brilliant and dull in the same frame. I know. Work that out. Murky and full of neon. And apparently in every room back in 1980s Germany.

I just wish more was made of the actual story line. There was a great cast at director David Leitch’s disposal comprising of the likes of John Goodman, Toby Jones (Captain America) and James Faulkner (Game of Thrones).

Sofia Boutella (The Mummy) didn’t fare too badly as the naive French ally Delphine. And no! Not just because of her raunchy rendezvous with Theron.

The pair had good chemistry and worked well together. In fact, she almost stole the limelight off McAvoy as he withered further into the background.

Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) was completely wasted in his role as the defective agent Spyglass. Anyone could have played him.

The finale, with all the twists and turns, just didn’t do much for me. The pay off didn’t quite add up. And as I much as I love Theron, did anyone else find her accent a little muddled?

BUT by the end I wasn’t really that fussed.

A watchable actioner.

Thank God for Theron and that quick injection of high octane shoot-em-punch-em. Or else this feeble tirade would have been left out in the cold.

3/5 (just)

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*NEW* THE ACCOUNTANT REVIEW *NEW*

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Best film of the year? Don’t count on it.

Warning contains moderate forensic accounting.

As a math savant (Ben Affleck) uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

An engaging action packed thriller that delivers on the punch ups BUT stumbles on the plot and pace.

Ben Affleck played the stern faced socially awkward maths wiz perfectly. Unemotional, relentless and yet beneath his cold exterior; someone desperate to connect.

The first hour was slow burning BUT engrossing as the film flicked back and forth delving into the mysterious Christian Wolff. Cold, calculated and clever.

We watched him undergo his daily routine from eating with the same cutlery to wearing the same shirt. The questions mounting as he subjected himself to strobe lighting and heavy metal music while testing his sensitivity threshold. The flashbacks teasing mere tidbits of his troubled past.

I’m happy that the actual accounting side of it all was skimmed over. In that small 15 minute segment with stats and figures flying around, my mind felt numb. No matter how enthusiastic Affleck tried to make it.

We get it. People hide money. Well done.

The accounting angle simply established the inner workings of our protagonist. A meticulous mad man intent on seeing out the task in hand.

Thankfully, that was just a introduction for Christian to meet Dana (Anna Kendrick).

Kendrick was actually quite good. A much more subtle performance. I’m normally used to her doing the usual OTT fast talking schtick in everything.

The pair had good chemistry. Their blossoming relationship may have been a little corny BUT the awkward exchanges and glances allowed us to see a different side to the hard man as he grows concerned for the quirky clerk’s safety. Dana’s attempts to make conversation with Christian was cringe-inducing BUT endearing.

The fighting sequences were fast and furious. Affleck used all that Bat-bulk to deliver some well choreographed fist fights and shoot em up gun battles.

It was only when we moved into the second hour that things fell apart at the seams. The pace could have been cut by a good 30 minutes. Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow) was completely unnecessary as Marybeth Medina. The analyst assigned to locating the accountant.

Her subplot was terrible. We endured a good portion of the film watching her regurgitate everything we already knew. She brought nothing to the fold. It didn’t help that she never caught up with the anti-hero at any point. Dismal. As much I’m a fan of J.K. Simmons; despite one revelation, anyone could have played him. If at all!

There were two areas where that time should have been spent. The first being Christian’s actual back story. The flashbacks into his past weren’t explored enough. They may have explained the type of autism that Christian had BUT I wanted more of his childhood. Especially when he had such a ruthless and unsympathetic father.

Robert C. Treveiler (The Mist) was menacing as Christian’s military dad. Refusing to accept his son’s condition and teaching him a harsh life lesson; ““If loud noises and bright lights bother him, he needs more, not less”. Forcing the boy to undergo intense training to adapt and not be a door mat.

I wanted more of this intense relationship BUT the tidbits were few and far between. Only really thrown in when the pace (tragically) dragged.

I also wish we had more of Jon Bernthal’s (The Walking Dead) Brax. A charismatic opponent and a bi-polar opposite of Christian. Not enough of him. Delivering suspense and tension with every unlucky person that had the pleasure of meeting him. A missed presence that was only really brought back for the frantic fiery finale.

John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun) and Jean Smart (24) were completely wasted in their feeble roles as Christian’s corporate clients.

BUT it wasn’t all bad. At its best, it was brutal, gripping and tense with another stellar performance from Affleck. It was just a shame that the pace and flawed plot line hampered things. Despite an ultra-violent finale, that delivered a few twists, it ended on such a bum note. Shame.

If you’re a fan of the Bourne movies, then this one is for you.

3/5

SPOOKS: THE GREATER GOOD REVIEW

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One of the best British dramas takes to the silver screen? Was it needed? Did it succeed? Or should the BBC have let old dogs lie?

I won’t hide my bias. I am a huge Spooks fan. It came around the same time as 24, managed to stand its own, and became one of my favourite TV shows. But very much like 24, it was never afraid to wipe out main characters, deliver twists and turns every week, tense cliffhangers and nail biting cryptic dialogue between fellow spies and high ranking officials.

It may have lost the battle with 24 but certainly lasted the war. 24 stumbled at series 6 and never really recovered. It improved. While Spooks only really tested me at Series 8 of a 10 series run!

The last two series did feel like old hat. What was hard hitting soon became predictable and a retread of stronger story lines from earlier series. I guess there is only so much you can do with a spy drama. But the final series delivered a heartbreaking and satisfying finale.

Four years after the hit series came to a close, we have a movie. A close that was long overdue as the show seemed to be heading down the road of mediocrity. A fitting ending that wrapped things up but subtly suggested that a return wasn’t out of the question.

So here we are. Did I sigh? Denounce the movie gods? Nope. I felt excited. My love for Spooks not quite over and after watching this film . . . I can firmly say it’s still not.

The opening sequence set the tone. Tension bubbling on the back burner. Even if I found the dialogue a little flat and cliched. Spies ironically playing the game ‘I Spy’ while the “cocky” CIA operatives chat up the only British totty (Tuppence Middleton) in the surveillance squad.

However, my little niggles were soon pushed to the back of my head (momentarily) by the introduction of one of my TV icons, head of MI5 security services, Harry Pearce (Peter Firth).

As soon as Firth entered the scene, the fan boy excitement was back. Offering a pillow to a systems analyst who had time to rest his feet on his desk.

It wasn’t long before something was afoot and we were thrown straight into the action as a terrorist (Elyes Gabel) escapes custody during a routine handover.

Racy, tense and very much in the style of the Bourne films. But let’s not forget Spooks were there first! They even threw in the infamous TV title sequence.

I will emphasize that the pace really is put on the back burner. It seemed to chug along after a promising opening and Pearce facing termination after making a judgement call.

The bureaucratic sniping and dealing with the “red tape” spiel did feel like the Spooks of old. Unfortunately, that meant it was dreadfully predictable. However, that was all relieved by some cracking performances from some old faces (Oh yes) and a lot of new ones.

Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) was superb as Mace. Just as callous and manipulative as ever. The introduction of David Harewood (Homeland) and Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) was a mixed bag for me. Harewood played the uptight Warrender perfectly. A weaselly two faced mediator desperate to keep both agencies at bay.

The only cast member that annoyed me was Jennifer Ehle. Normally I don’t mind her but what the hell was her accent supposed to be? Her twang (even though she was meant to be English) really grated against me. It was like she was trying to do an impression of the Queen. Terrible.

Disgraced, Pearce must look to the only person who can help him. The agent who he removed from MI5. Cue . . . No, not Matthew Macfadyen! I know. Gutted, too.

It’s only Jon Snow, of course. Kit Harington literally hits the ground running making a memorable entrance into the mix. Smashing through a cafe window to escape some Russians. Never found out why he was running? A passing comment would have been nice after an entry like that.

Harington was very good. The sulky scorned spy role suited him and he worked well with Firth. Their relationship may have been a little cliched (and strikingly similar to Kingsmen) as Pearce knew his father who died in a botched operation.

BUT it was still interesting to see their already fractious bond tested to the max. And yes, Harrington’s character knows nottthhinggg. One for the Game of Thrones fans.

Harington was the much needed catalyst to jump start this spluttering slow burner. Once he begins Borune-ing the place up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, I was hooked.

The airport rendezvous with Pearce was superb. Tense, suspenseful and every thing that won me over with Spooks the first time round. The numerous drop off points, the items of clothing with cryptic cards and the time frames. Brilliant.

At it’s best, it’s tense, dramatic with the odd shocker. But at it’s worst, it’s a little predictable and slow. The problem with Spooks is that you always know there is a bigger play. And the cogs are always turning. You can call things before they happen. That’s the problem after 10 series. It does kill the tension and some of the bigger reveals.

Firth was excellent as HP. Despite being integral to the plot, he does seem to be pushed into the background. A little disappointing. Harington’s Holloway is always at the forefront. Not a problem as he proves to be a worthy addition to the Spooks set.

However, Firth still gets his moment to shine and when he does, it’s great. After all the sorrow and tough decisions the man has to make, you really hope that there can be some solace for him.

I don’t think it’s a must for people who haven’t seen Spooks. There are a lot of new faces. When the old ones appear, you get the picture. I won’t say who, Spooks fans. Don’t worry. But there isn’t as many as I hoped.

And Guppy from Casualty has come a long way. Game of Thrones, A Most Violent Year and now this? He was brilliant as the maniacal Qasim. His American accent was impeccable. Take lessons, Ms Ehle. Tuppence Middleton showed potential. I just wish her character wasn’t so bland. But then again Spooks fans, who will ever top Ros?

The film may have been patchy but the last 20 minutes still had me trying to connect the dots. Even if some twists worked and others didn’t, the closing scenes still got me. And Firth stole the show, allowing HP to show a little vulnerability. Cracking his cold demeanour for a one moment before shaking it off and vanishing like a ghost. A spook. Proving once again why his character will always be one of my favourites.

The ending may have been ambiguous but it confirmed one thing for me. I’m still not quite ready to let Spooks go just yet. The film format certainly didn’t kill the franchise. If anything, it has given me hope. A few tweaks on the plot and pacing and I’m happy for it to continue. Cue freeze frame. Black and white.

3.5/5

Also did anyone else feel the title made you want to do this?

NIGHTCRAWLER REVIEW

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Donnie’s really gone Dark-o

Jake Gyllenhaal manages to do his best Patrick Bateman impression and out-Bale Bale in one of his best performances to date.

Dark, demented and very good. If a little predictable.

So what’s it about? When Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

Within the opening sequence, we get the essence of Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) as he is caught stealing copper fencing from the train tracks. Flashing that Cheshire cat smile and pleading innocence, you can see the cogs turning. And in the bat of an eye, that smile fades instantly and a monster is unleashed. Cool, calm and collected. Striking when the moment arises.

A true American psycho. A smooth talking charmer with ambitions that he will stop at nothing to achieve.

An impressive and well written debut from Dan Gilroy. Fantastically shot. The cityscape at night was captured brilliantly by the cinematography of Robert Elswit.

Nightcrawler is somewhat of a slow burner as we watch Bloom climb the social ladder for fame and glory.

It starts with our sociopath desperately seeking a job and smooth talking his way into anything. That is until he witnesses a crash. Those flashing lights and ruthless nightcrawlers (Freelance cameramen preying the streets for horrific accidents, murders and crime scenes) creeping out from the urban underworld, craving for a pay check soon sets our protagonist on his path.

Bill Paxton plays the relentless Joe Loder brilliantly and it’s good to see him back in movies. His character dispensing the mantra: “If it bleeds, it leads” unwittingly sets up a competition for carnage.

Gilroy does make some fantastic commentary and satire on the censorship and attitude of the news media. The public’s obsession for blood and trauma constantly pushing them to distort moral and ethical boundaries for fifteen minutes of fame.

The film builds up and up as the madness ascends to crazy and scarily realistic levels. Where Bloom first intervenes small car accidents with a little handheld camera; it soon escalates to breaking into live crime scenes and moving pieces of evidence (and even bodies) to make the perfect shot.

It was great to see Riz Ahmed (Four Lions). He plays the clueless sidekick with aplomb. Oblivious to Bloom’s ambitions and unaware of what lay in store. Some of his encounters with Gylenhaal make for dark but comical viewing.

Rene Russo also stood out as Nina Romina (Awful name. Didn’t realise that until I saw the credits). Questioning the morals behind Bloom’s actions but desperately enabling him for the sake of keeping her job and bringing in the ratings.

SMALL BIT OF TRIVIA: Dan Gilroy is the husband of Rene Russo and brother of Tony Gilroy who is responsible for Michael Clayton and The Bourne franchise.

The chase sequences are intense. Especially in the closing moments as Bloom’s descent into darkness reaches breaking point.

There are suspenseful moments to be had. The sequence in which Bloom and his sidekick are filming the police attempting to apprehend a murder suspect. A scenario the pair set up. I was hooked. Nail biting stuff. Executed perfectly. The tension mounting as you wait for the fireworks to go off.

At times, it did feel like the trailers did show too much of the film. You knew when to expect several of the bigger moments in the film. That’s not to say there aren’t more surprises along the way.

Bloom is intelligent and some of his speeches rival Bateman. But crafty and calculated he may be, they go on far too long. Especially in his dinner date with Nina. We get it. You’re mad. Get on with it.

One major qualm is that with a film like this; there are only ever two outcomes. It seemed to go down the Bad Lieutenant (Cage Lieutenant) route which makes for a surprisingly flat (if typical) and slightly abrupt ending.

Don’t get me wrong. Gyllenhaal is a tour de force and should be commended. The weight loss added to his creepy demeanour and shark toothed grin. Gilroy has written and directed a visceral descent into the dark side of the American dream. Something we haven’t seen for a while. A resurgence? Maybe.

As Lou Bloom says, “If you want the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket”. Well, if you have the money, buy a ticket and go see it.

Certainly worth a watch. And we are live in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

3.5/5 (But this may change)