[Early Review] Atomic Blonde (2017)

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman

Screenplay: Kurt Johnstad

115 mins. Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity.

 

I saw Atomic Blonde the other night, and I was heavily intrigued walking into the theater. After all, David Leitch has proven he knows action and the trailers had a lot of bite, so how was the film?

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Fate of the Furious) is sent to Germany in 1989 right before the collapse of the Berlin Wall to retrieve The List, an important piece of intel containing information about all current operating spies. Lorraine is ordered to work with David Percival (James McAvoy, X-Men: First Class, Split), a Berlin station chief who has gone native, in order to retrieve The List and take down a powerful group of spies in the process.

Atomic Blonde has some of the best action sequences of any film in the past few years. Charlize Theron proves herself yet again capable of playing a strong kick-ass female protagonist, and her scenes where she is whooping her adversaries are incredibly strong. The rest of the film, however, falls flat rather quickly. We are introduced to interesting characters like Til Schweiger’s Watchmaker and Bill Skarsgard’s Merkel and then instead are subjected to poor villains (and far too many) that are underdeveloped. It’s as if somebody said, “Yeah, there are Russians and Germans and it’s set in the Cold War,” and somehow that was enough. But it wasn’t. I actually would have liked to see more inclusion from Broughton’s allies, including Toby Jones as Eric Gray, her handler, and John Goodman (Monsters, Inc., Bunyan and Babe) as Emmett Kurzfeld, a CIA agent. Sadly, these two great supporting players are relegated to a small role that amounts to little more than a framing device.

The plot is overly convoluted with twists and turns for the sake of having twists and turns, and every time that the bullets stopped flying, I lost interest. This is especially apparent near the end of the film when everything Shyamalans pretty hardcore. By the time the ending hit, I was mostly out of it.

That’s not to say it’s the worst film ever. I liked some of the more stylistic flairs like the titles displayed as spray painted Berlin Wall-esque touches, and the soundtrack is exceptional and worth listening to, but there just wasn’t enough outside the fight scenes to cling to, and Atomic Blonde suffers from it.

Overall, Atomic Blonde is mindless action, but its major detractors are its plot, and no film should have that noted. Charlize Theron does better than I expected again, and she is surrounded by capable players that have nothing to do.  The film quickly finds itself out of excitement and it isn’t something I see myself wanting to watch again.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

 

Facebook: Almighty Goatman Film Reviews

Twitter: @AlmightyGoatman

Instagram: @AlmightyGoatman

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

10cloverfieldlane2016d

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

Screenplay: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle

104 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material including frightening sequences of threat with some violence, and brief language.

 

What is 10 Cloverfield Lane? Is it a sequel to Cloverfield? How is it actually connected? What the hell is actually going on here? Lots of questions circulate the pseudo-sequel, or as J.J. Abrams calls it, the “spiritual successor” to Cloverfield, ever since its trailer premiered in front of 13 Hours after filming was completed without anyone really knowing about it. The idea is brilliant, but it remains with a follow-up question: Was it worth it?

10cloverfieldlane2016b

SPOILER ALERT: A film like 10 Cloverfield Lane has been shrouded in so much secrecy that many would consider any discussion to be spoilery. I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of the spoiler territory and tread lightly here, but for all you spoiler purists out there, this is a heads up.

When Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Final Destination 3, Faults) wakes up in an underground bunker handcuffed to a pipe, she doesn’t understand what’s going on. It isn’t until she meets her captor, Howard (John Goodman, Monsters, Inc., Curious George 3: Back to the Jungle) that she learns of a horrible truth: there has been an attack on American soil. Everyone else is dead. She meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr., TV’s The Newsroom, Short Term 12) who backs up the claim but doesn’t have any proof. So the question remains: Is Howard telling the truth? Or is Michelle in more danger beneath the soil? Also, it has Cloverfield in the title, so there’s that.

I spend the entirety of the film trying to tie it to Cloverfield. I’ll tell you right now, the film is tied to Cloverfield, but if you haven’t seen the original film, you could enjoy this one all the same.

John Goodman gives an award-worthy performance as the jealous and tense Howard, and he is met on an almost-equal playing field by Winstead and Gallagher here, as this single-location thriller unfolds. Director Dan Trachtenberg plays the claustrophobia well here, not overdoing it but letting the story dictate when. It’s a tautly-edited film, packed with great set design and excellent dialogue.

This entire film is exactly what it should be with one exception concerning the film’s ending (which I actually really enjoyed, but I also wanted more). I really can’t get too much into it, but I will say this: I’ve heard Abrams discuss a possible third installment, and I cannot wait. Not that this film sets up a sequel so much. I just want to see the next direction the series will take. After the stunning found-footage Cloverfield and the tightly-wound thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane, I just…I want more!

10cloverfieldlane2016c

So there you have it. See this damn movie! It’s the best film I’ve seen this year (so far, of course, but all the same). If you didn’t like Cloverfield or couldn’t sit through the found-footage, that’s fine. Go to 10 Cloverfield Lane. Now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

 

So have you seen 10 Cloverfield Lane? What did you think? Did you catch the cameo at the beginning? Let me know!

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 29 – Monsters (2010)

 monsters2010a

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able

Screenplay: Gareth Edwards

94 mins. Rated R for language.

 

Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) is living proof that anyone can make a movie, even if they have to play multiple roles, which he did, as director/writer/cinematography/production designer/visual effects on the film. But how is the finished product?

monsters2010b

Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy, TV’s Halt and Catch Fire, 12 Years a Slave) is an American who has been hired to escort his boss’s daughter Sam (Whitney Able, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, A Walk Among the Tombstones) from Mexico across to the U.S. The only way to get there? Go through the “infected zone” where alien creatures have taken over in a world where humans have adapted to the idea that they are no longer the dominant species on Earth.

The visual effects on the film, which were made on a single computer with store-bought software, are terrific. Director Edwards commands his film and doesn’t settle for less than great. As for our story, there isn’t much of one. I don’t think he realized how much the plot would have to fend for itself here, and the plot is nothing new.

McNairy and Able have great chemistry (they were dating at the time) but they just don’t have much to do. There is a lot of needless exposition of the characters that doesn’t make them very compelling. I’d rather learn about the world that has been built.

monsters2010d

Monsters is a pretty incredible film for its backstory, but as far as entertainment goes, general moviegoers won’t find much to love here. Filmmakers like myself love the idea that one man can be so driven by his need to create, but the film itself is less than remarkable.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, click here.

[Oscar Madness] Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

starwarsepisodeIthephantommenace1999a

Director: George Lucas

Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz

Screenplay: George Lucas

136 mins. Rated PG for sci-fi action/violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects

 

Today we are going to look back on Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, a film that has truly polarized fans of perhaps the most-beloved sagas in motion picture history.

Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson, Schindler’s List, Taken 3) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, Mortdecai) are about to take part in trade negotiations with the insidious Trade Federation over trade disputes. When negotiations go south and the Trade Viceroy takes control of the peaceful planet of Naboo, the Jedi take refuge on the remote desert planet of Tattooine, where they meet young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd, Jingle All the Way), a child who may just be the Chosen One, a Jedi who can bring balance to the Force.

starwarsepisodeIthephantommenace1999c

Director George Lucas (American Graffiti, THX 1138) returned to his beloved Star Wars franchise sixteen years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi to create one of the most discussed entries in the canon. Some love it; many loathe it. I find it to be an enjoyable, albeit flawed entry in the series.

Jake Lloyd absolutely destroys his role as Anakin by not understanding the characters and delivering his lines as though he is just reading them. His scenes can’t even be saved by Neeson and McGregor. Anthony Daniels (The Lego Movie, The Lord of the Rings) and Kenny Baker (The King and I, Willow) return as C-3PO and R2-D2 and help to tie this film to the others. Then there is Ian McDiarmid (Sleepy Hollow, Annie: A Royal Adventure!) as Senator Palpatine. I love his performance here. He is slippery like a politician should be with just a note of secrecy.

I want to say something about George Lucas. I might get flack or praise, not sure which, but George Lucas can direct just fine. He cannot write all that well. He should stick to storytelling but leave the screenplay work to others. Look back at The Empire Strikes Back. It is considered by many to be the best in the saga, but it is the only one not specifically written by Lucas. Just sayin’.

The flow of the film is nicely tied together. I enjoyed the time spent on Tattooine, and I felt like the Naboo sequences add something new to the series. I honestly didn’t care much for Jar Jar Binks, but I also accepted that galaxies far far away probably had annoying aliens. There just has to be some.

The effects are wildly well put together, from the podrace sequences to the battle for Naboo. The new Yoda (played by Frank Oz, Zathura, Monsters, Inc.) is more advanced than previously, though it doesn’t really look like Yoda.

starwarsepisodeIthephantommenace1999b

Looking back at the first chronological Star Wars adventure brings up a lot of questions. How has the film held up? Did the love or the hate soften? Will Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens have the same reception? I don’t have the answers to all those questions, but I can say that expectations are often the culprits for long-waited installments. I like Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. It is far from the perfect Star Wars film, but it is an enjoyable reintroduction to the galaxy and the time that we love so much.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 10th Birthday!] The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004)

thespongebobsquarepantsmovie2004

Director: Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne

Cast: Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Clancy Brown, Roger Bumpass, Mr. Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Tambor, Alec Baldwin, David Hasselhoff

Screenplay: Derek Drymon, Tim Hill, Stephen Hillenburg, Kent Osborne, Aaron Springer, Paul Tibbitt

87 mins. Rated PG for some mild crude humor.

 

I think every generation has some children’s entertainment that earlier and later generations just wouldn’t quite understand. It’s for the same reason that older generation thinks that kids’ music these days aren’t good, while I can simultaneously play music that I love around younger folks today and they don’t like it either. It just existed in the right time and couldn’t have in any other.

thespongebobsquarepantsmovie2004b

I think that holds about as true as ever with Spongebob Squarepants. It just couldn’t have happened at any other time. But it did happen. It still is happening. There have even been two movies (the sequel is coming in 2015). Today, I’m going to discuss the first film, which celebrates 10 years of release today. I actually remember seeing it in the theater way back when. I think my buddy and I were the oldest people in the theater that weren’t parents. And that was okay. We laughed at the right times. We even cried at the right times (totally serious here). When I got out of that theater, I felt like I had learned something incredible about myself. The lesson in The Spongebob Squarepants Movie is simple, yes, but also incredible important to people finding themselves being forced to grow up when they just aren’t ready.

Spongebob Squarepants (Tom Kenny, TV’s CatDog, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) is dreaming of his new promotion running the Krusty Krab 2, the new restaurant opened by his boss Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown, The Shawshank Redemption, When the Game Stands Tall). The only problem is Mr. Krabs didn’t give him the promotion; he gave it to Spongebob’s coworker Squidward (Roger Bumpass, Monsters, Inc., The haunted World of El Superbeasto). Meanwhile, the evil nemesis Plankton (Mr. Lawrence, TV’s Rocko’s Modern Life) has discovered Plan Z, the only plan he hasn’t tried to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula, and has enacted it by stealing the crown of King Neptune (Jeffrey Tambor, The Hangover, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas). Mr. Krabs has been framed for the theft, and King Neptune isn’t a forgiving man/fish/whatever. So now, Spongebob, with the help of Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke, The Artist, The Babymakers), Neptune’s daughter Mindy (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy), and the ever-incredible David Hasselhoff (as himself, Click, The Devil’s Carnival: Alleluia!), needs to become a man to “Get the Crown, Save the Town, and Mr. Krabs!” But there is evil on their way as well, as Bounty Hunter Dennis (Alec Baldwin, The Departed, Blue Jasmine) has been deployed to stop them.

First of all, I love that this movie, much like the show, rides the line of batty and tragic. There are definite moments when our heroes face certain death and I honestly started tearing up. Spongebob is such a nice and caring character, and his friendship with Patrick Star is one of the guiding reasons he is able to keep going when he feels at his lowest.

The guest voices from Johansson, Tambor, and Baldwin are what helps create the atmosphere here. These are talented and seasoned performers delivering this goofy and lovable script.

The animation takes a leap in the movie as well, and still looks pretty good ten years later.

Let’s not forget the music. There isn’t a musical’s worth of musical numbers, but when they do pop up, they are incredible and rattle around in the brain long afterward.

thespongebobsquarepantsmovie2004a

All in all, I’ve seen a lot of people give Spongebob Squarepants, his series, and his films a lot of flak for the lack of lessons and learning, and I say to them, no, there are lessons and warm characters and just a lot of good ol’ wackiness to keep one happy. Don’t fault the show for trying to have fun. Same thing here, this movie is a ton of fun.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror – Extra Bits: That time Monsters Inc. Premiered a Trailer in Front of Harry Potter

monstersinc2001a

Earlier this month, I took a look back at Monsters, Inc., a perfect Pixar film in every way. Well, in researching the film further, I came across a teaser trailer for Monsters, Inc. that played in front of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. After watching it, I completely remembered seeing it over a decade ago in the theater.

I love Pixar for several reasons, but one of them is that they craft teaser trailers that feature material not in the film. They premiere a trailer that shows the tone of the film without ruining all the best scenes. It is something simple that people don’t often appreciate but it does a lot for a film.

Here’s the trailer. Enjoy:

31 Days of Horror: Day 4 – The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)

the human centipede first sequence1

Director: Tom Six

Cast: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura

Screenplay: Tom Six

92 mins. Rated R for disturbing sadistic horror violence, nudity and language.

 

If Monsters, Inc. occupies one end of the horror movie spectrum, then The Human Centipede (First Sequence) exists somewhere at the completely opposite end. It is the story of Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser), a fringe experimental surgeon who decides to test the bounds of human emotional and physical pain by surgically stitching together three people from anus to mouth creating, he coins, a “human centipede.”

The Human Centipede [First Sequence] (18)

This is definitely one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. The idea came from a conversation that director/screenwriter Tom Six had with some friends where he exclaimed that child molesters should have their mouths sewn to the ass of a fat truck driver. Now, that idea’s genesis into whatever this thing is has to be an odd metamorphosis of storytelling (Six consulted with an actual surgeon in order to get his 100% Medically Accurate tagline for the movie). The plot is at least mildly intriguing, more so than the performances, with Laser occupying the entirety of the performances. The other three actors (Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, and Akihiro Kitamura as the centipedes three contributors) merely do not act, but instead react in much the same way that I think anyone would, and in that way, the performances are on point. Not great or engaging, but on point.

Tom Six’s film is thought to be one of the more visually disturbing pictures of all time, when in all reality, the actual grossness of the film comes from the ideas laid out and the tremendously gruesome use of sound work. The ideas are presented, the surgery is for the most part off camera, and the resulting images are shown to the audience. This is one film where what you don’t see is much more horrific than what you do. The actual visual gore is pretty tame by comparison to most other horror films these days.

I can completely see the comparison between Heiter (first name Josef) and Dr. Josef Mengele as well, and it raises the level of horror on this movie, creating another implication. The fact that he chooses a Japanese man at the front of his centipede is interesting as it creates that language barrier.

Human Centipede still3

The movie isn’t all that well put together, but it remains a test of one’s abilities as a horror film. Worth a viewing, but little more than that.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

Godzilla (2014)

MV5BMTQ0ODgzNjg2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDkxMzc3MDE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_

Director: Gareth Edwards.

Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Straithairn, Bryan Cranston.

Screenplay: Max Borenstein.

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence.

 

Back in 2010, relatively unknown director Gareth Edwards released Monsters, a technical masterpiece of hard work, mostly completed by Edwards himself. His handling of a difficult workload in post-production proved that he was capable of controlling a film shoot. Now, he has his hands on one of the most important releases of the year: the second attempt at an American Godzilla franchise. A daunting task to be certain, but not impossible.

Edwards’ film isn’t exactly the no-holds-barred masterpiece we have hoped for, but it isn’t 1998’s Godzilla either. This film comes in somewhere in between, with both pros and cons but still capable of triggering a follow-up. In fact, it already seems like Godzilla will be the first of a (so-far) trilogy, with two sequels on the way from Edwards himself. He seems like the kind of filmmaker to learn from his mistakes, so let’s hope for the best.

Anyway, back to this film. This incarnation of the mythos is centered around the Brody family and the effect that these kaiju, have had on their lives. The patriarch, Joe (Bryan Cranston, TV’s Breaking Bad, Argo), survives an initial event back in 1999 that takes the life of his wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche, The English Patient, Cosmopolis). Flash-forward to present day Tokyo, where Joe has slowly slipped into madness by the many conspiracy theories he has pursued involving the destruction of his home. He quickly pulls his estranged son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kick-Ass, Anna Karenina) into the mix chasing creatures nicknamed MUTOs. Who will come to the rescue? Cough. Cough.

Godzilla. Godzilla does.

Godzilla is a far different creature than the one introduced to American audiences in our previous flimsy attempt. This Godzilla is a heroic one. Now, Godzilla has been seen as a hero in many installments of Toho’s three series (Showa, Heisei, and Millenium).  He is a protector, and pretty damn awesome.

maxresdefault

Let’s talk performances here, because this is where the failings begin to manifest. We have some pretty big actors here: Taylor-Johnson, Cranston, Binoche, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, Ken Watanabe, and David Straithairn. The problem? The only characters with any development are Joe Brody (who doesn’t have enough screentime to carry) and Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa. The rest of these are wasted on character the screenwriter (Max Borenstein) didn’t bother to actually develop. Bryan Cranston carries a powerhouse performance with limited time. This is a character that delivered the most important moments in the film.

Ken Watanabe also delivers a unique performance here. As Dr. Serizawa, we see a character reminiscent of many previous characters in older Godzilla films. The doc is designed to create ambience around a creature who we largely don’t see until at least an hour in.

Who’s the star of this film? It certainly isn’t Godzilla. The beast itself doesn’t take up much screen time. I didn’t mind this approach, reminiscent of older monster movies, like The Wolf Man or Jaws, if the main characters were developed enough to make up for it. They weren’t.

The cinematography  here is gorgeous. The editing of the shots, though, drew me out of the film. Every time the MUTOs or Godzilla show up, they cut away to the aftermath. Now, I find reservations with this, as this is one of the big things about Godzilla: Destruction!

The visual effects are also top notch here. Godzilla being modeled after komodo dragons and bears makes for a beautiful creature.  I’m almost certain we will see Godzilla on the shortlist for Best Visual Effects at next year’s Oscars. Quote it.

images

After reviewing all the individual pieces here, I can say that this film was far from perfect, but it showed a lot of potential in creating a franchise, which I hope happens soon, as the ending was completely left open! Give us more, Gareth! More!

Have you seen Godzilla? What did you think? Was it enough Kaiju-on-Kaiju action or were you squirming in your seat? Comment below!

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑