Atomic Blonde


Viewed – 30 January 2018  Online rental

Charlize Theron is certainly now one of those bankable stars and somewhat a chameleon who can deliver the goods in a wide variety of roles.  Following her action-star making turn in Mad Max Fury Road previously, carrying her own action vehicle seemed an obvious progression (as long as we forget Aeon Flux).  So we get an 80’s set espionage thriller that see’s Theron as Lorraine, a highly trained spy who’s given the task of tracking down a stolen micro-film containing the real identities of tons of secret agents.  Along the way she teams up with James McAvoy’s under-cover agent, with the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin wall as set dressing.

atomic-blonde

This felt like it was trying too hard to be cool, minus the director’s actual ability to marry cool looks and cool action with cool music (leave that to either Tarantino or Nicolas Winding Refn).  However, with Theron’s obvious presence, an interesting setting with all that cold-war intrigue and political unrest … what we get is an energetic and at times gutsy thriller, somewhat in search of it’s own identity.  You see, we’ve seen this plot many times, the story is basically Mission Impossible #1 and well, Theron’s Lorraine isn’t that far removed from Angelina Jolie’s ‘Salt’.  McAvoy also didn’t add much, looking like Tyler Durdon and grimacing and doing his quickly grating McAvoy-thing throughout.  The story wasn’t that easy to follow either, told mostly in flashback with a wealth of double crosses, twists and misdirection.  After a while it gave me a bit of a headache.

Which is a shame as beneath it’s flaws and familiarity, there’s potential for a great movie here.  We do get one incredible, superbly-choreographed sequence involving Theron, an army of bad guys and a stairwell, but when the story confuses and characters hide so may secrets and agendas, I just had difficulty caring.  It’s worth a look for Theron and some decent action, but otherwise there’s better thrillers out there.

Verdict:  3 /5

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War


Viewed – 21 April 2016  Cinema

Following some controversy over Kristen Stewart and the director of Snow White and the Huntsman, this sequel has languished in development with us not really knowing what we were getting.  Turns out a sort of origin tale and a sort of follow up, with mixed results.  Chris Hemsworth returns as the charismatic Huntsman whose growing love for fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain) quickly catches the eye of bitter Freya, the sister of Charlize Theron’s Ravenna who has now turned Ice Queen following the death of her child and forbids the land from experiencing love.

The Huntsman

Despite lacking the scope of the actually very good Snow White and the Hunstman, and possibly on a smaller budget – this is still an entertaining ride.  Hemsworth is again charismatic even if his (Scottish?) accent is pretty bad.  The same can also be said for Chastain who makes for a bad-ass warrior woman but strays awkwardly between Irish Emily Bluntand Scottish.  Thankfully then their love affair and the rivalry between Emily Blunt’s Ice Queen and Theron’s Ravenna are all handled well and make up for what is otherwise quite simple fantasy fair.  The action, especially some awesome fight choreography is exciting, and we also get a couple of Dwarfs in the form of Nick Frost and Rob Brydon who makes for perfect comedy support as does a scene-stealing Sheridan Smith.

Considering how much the character is mentioned, the lack of an appearance by Snow White seemed odd (even if recast).  Also I’d have liked some larger-scale battles and a few more creatures and effects going on … but what we have instead is a focused tale of love and manipulation and rivalry that I thought worked a treat.  Perhaps dial one’s expectations back a tad, considering how spoilt we have been with Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings etc. and you should still get a kick out of this.

Verdict:  3 /5

Mad Max: Fury Road


Viewed – 04 June 2015  Cinema

I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the Mad Max series, other than a few memories of catching glimpses of the movies growing up (I’ll always remember the sight of a razor sharp boomerang being flung and slicing off someone’s fingers) and well, that Tina Turner song.  However I went into this fairly blind but knew I was getting a fairly high-octane post-apocalyptic action movie.  By high-octane however I wasn’t quite prepared for just how bat-shit crazy this film actually turned out to be.

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Everyone’s favourite chiselled hard man Brit actor Tom Hardy plays the wondering hero Max, who as we meet him gets captured by a vicious gang and taken to a settlement where a psychotic overlord keeps the peasants in line by restricting the water flow and well, doing unimaginable things to the women (a milking farm?).  That is until one of his best soldiers, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa steels a convoy vehicle and heads off into the wasteland, with some of the evil overlord’s finest women hidden inside.  Thus sets up the biggest chase in movie history as this guy send all hell after his women of which one is pregnant with his child.

MadMax-FuryRoad-ImmortanJoeThis is a wild and unrestrained viewing experience … from the get-go it’s full on, in your face, chaotic and pretty damn overwhelming.  I had a bit of a tough time holding on for the ride as we get speeded up editing that made me dizzy and more screams and nut jobs and cars exploding than I think I’ve ever seen before.  The sight of one vehicle with several nutty henchmen beating big base drums on the back, whilst on the front some metal god strums an electric guitar – and I knew I’d been transported to a world truly in the eye of a mad genius.  Director George Miller, who also made all the previous Mad Max films, is on blistering form and this is an intense explosion of energy and visual spectacle that rarely lets up.  Theron is very good as Furiosa with her cool look, complete with robotic arm and skull-cracking attitude – the whole movie centres around her plight and you do care for her and her entourage of pretty young things.  Of course we can’t conclude without talking about Tom Hardy’s Max, which he plays as the grizzled loner troubled by visions of his dead daughter, yet bar a bit of narration and a few words here and there, grunts his way though the whole movie – which makes him a bit sidelined, surprisingly.

The movie’s unrelenting pace and intensity did get a bit much, and the story failed to bring anything to the concept that we haven’t seen many times before.  So see this if you want to be shaken in your seat from a roller-coaster of excitement.  See it for some stunning visual spectacle.  Maybe not so much for everything else.  Welcome to the apocalypse.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Snow White and the Huntsman


Viewed – 29 September 2012  Blu-ray

Extended edition

I missed this during its theatrical run as there were other movies I was wanting to see.  Yet I have since heard very good things about it, so was eager to discover what all the fuss was about.  The casting of Kristen Stewart didn’t entirely excite me due to her involvement in the tiresome Twilight series, but with Thor’s charismatic Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman and a classic fairy tale back drop, I still had a feeling this was going to be good.

Snow White has been held in a tower for many years by evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) following the fall of her kingdom, and with the Queen beginning to run out of youthful peasants to drain the life force from, turns to Snow White who holds the key to her immortality.  Yet Snow White manages to escape, and befriends a world-weary Huntsman who has been hired to kill her.

A clever twist on a very old fairy tale, inspired by the Brothers Grimm short story and directed with no end of visual flair by relative newcomer Rupert Sanders.  Sort of a cross between Lord Of The Rings and Ridley Scott classic Legend, I was swept up in the good vs evil story with some quality acting, especially from Theron in a creepy, disturbing take on a classic character, and for an attractive but usually bland actress, Stewart suited her role well, and proved a lot fiestier than I thought possible.  Chris Hemsworth of course almost steals the show in a lovable rogue performance that is also different enough from Thor to make him one of the more enjoyable actors around.

As far as the formula goes, this doesn’t really do much we haven’t seen before, and the ending left me wanting – but I suppose that’s what sequels are for.  However, this offers up an intelligent and slick 2hrs with thrills a plenty, gorgeous imagery and impressive effects (check out the black glass soldiers – wow) – making this very much a must-see.

Verdict:  5 /5

Young Adult


Viewed – 31 July 2012  Blu-ray

I don’t know why I haven’t seen more movies starring the simply quite delicious Charlize Theron.  Despite her wealth of accolades, an Oscar nod and a healthy fan base, her talents have  so far (for the most part) passed me by.  So this latest entry to her quite prolific cannon sparked my interest.

Theron plays Mavis (!) a writer on a series of successful ‘young adult’ aimed novels, who following a divorce and in the middle of a mid-life crisis, chooses to return to the small town where she grew up with one clear aim – to win back the boy she fell in love with in high school.  Only one catch – or two actually.  He’s happily married, and his wife has just had a baby.   Co starring the underrated Patton Oswalt as the nerdy guy who had a crush on Mavis in high school, and Patrick Wilson as ‘the one’, this is an instantly likable and entertaining comedy-drama.

Penned by current Hollywood go to gal Diablo Cody, this is full of the kind of sharp dialogue and clever one-liners that were so memorable in Juno.  Although the idea gave me a feeling of deja vu, and some of the stronger langauge felt a little unnecessary … Theron holds proceedings together with what should have been an Oscar-nominated turn (tutt tutt), making what is essentially a marriage wrecker, someone I ended up liking.  She was the girl who was meant to have it all, make it big, become somebody.  Yet approaching forty, it hasn’t quite turned out like that for Mavis – so who can blame her for trying to turn things around?

A quality evenings viewing.

Verdict:  4 /5