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Friday
Jul282017

BOND. JANE BOND // A FILM REVIEW OF "ATOMIC BLONDE"

BY MATEO MORENO

For years now, people have been clamoring for a female James Bond. Well look no further. ATOMIC BLONDE has arrived. Based on the Graphic Novel The Coldest City written by Anthony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart, Atomic follows Lorraine Broughton, an American spy working for M16. The backdrop is set against the end of the Cold War in 1989. We begin with Broughton being interviewed by her commanding officer (Toby Jones), the CIA chief (John Goodman), and a member of M16 (James Faulkner). She's covered in bruises, battered but cool as a cucumber. She tells her crazy tale to them which, as the best spy thrillers do, has many twists and turns. She arrives and is immediately ambushed before meeting a David Percival (James McAvoy), a British Spy. There's a informant named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) who wants to get a one way ticket out of Berlin for him and his family. There's a French Spy Delphine (Sofia Boutella) that may become more than just a contact. The Berlin Wall is about to come crashing down and there's a mole within the ranks. But before she figures it out, everything around her will come crashing down with the wall in a very frenzied and stylish way.

Director David Leitch (John Wick, Deadpool 2) aims to make this stylish thriller a female "John Wick meets Bond" and for the most part he succeeds. But the plot and script does get bogged down in a few too many confusing or layer upon layer moments. But his eye knows stunts (he himself also being a stuntman) and the action is beautifully chaotic and thrilling to watch. However, the real reason to see Atomic is Charlize Theron. She elevates every scene from beyond a stylish thriller into something with more heart, with more soul. She also knows how to throw a punch and kick, as is very evident in her stunt scenes (which she performs most of). She's a badass but one who's not a Terminator killing machine. She can, and does, get hurt. She makes the right and wrong decisions. And her magnetism is magnetic. She shares great chemistry with both McAvoy and Boutella and even when the film falters her commitment with confusing arcs, she pulls us back in with her commitment and presence. ATOMIC BLONDE is a stylistic, non-stop action thrill ride. Earlier I said she is the female James Bond but I now correct myself. She's one better than that. She's Lorraine Broughton, and her performance is a damn original one.

 

MATEO'S GRADE: B

Based on the Graphic Novel "The Coldest City" by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart Screenplay by Kurt Johnstead Directed by David Leitch Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sophia Boutella Now Playing in Theatres Everywhere

 

OFFICIAL RESTRICTED TRAILER:

 

 

Monday
Jun052017

AN AMAZON CALLED WONDER // A FILM REVIEW OF "WONDER WOMAN"

BY MATEO MORENO

WONDER WOMAN is by FAR the best film in the DC Extended Universe. Which on its own isn't saying a lot, given their recent track record. The last truly great (hell, even good) film based on a DC property was 2012's The Dark Knight Rises. Unlike Marvel Studios, Christopher Nolan's films weren't connected to anything else. They were its own universe and once the third film ended, so did that universe. Cut to the following year when Warner Bros released the first film in the "DC Extended Universe," a new series of connected films to directly compete with its rival Marvel. Zak Snyder's Man of Steel was not only launching the new connected Universe, it was relaunching the Superman property. And the response was...not great. Both critics and audiences complained that the tone was off, that Superman was unnecessarily dark (He of all heroes is the opposite of that). The plot was muddy, dialogue was clunky, and felt far too long.

Snyder returned to the directing helm with 2016's Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and the critical and audience response was still not good. Audience were jazzed going in, and not so enthused going out. But Warner Bros had an ace in their sleeve: Suicide Squad was next up and it was unlike anything else. It was about the bad guys! The trailers alone had audiences proclaiming "Finally! Here's the movie we've been waiting for." And later that year it was released and again was met with disappointment. The DC Extended Universe was in trouble. Where Marvel Studios took their time to build their franchise, Warner Bros seemed to rush everything into production, and their first three efforts showed. One small glimmer of hope in this cinematic mess was Gal Gadot's surprisingly rousing performance in BVS. She isn't in the film a lot, but when she arrives she energizes the film completely. Could her solo film, the first superhero film focusing on a female hero, be the one we've been waiting for? The trailer came out and again, it looked great. But we've been burned before. Finally, opening day and disappointment was again...hang on wait a sec. It's good? Scratch that, it's great? Critics AND audiences are loving it? Well hot damn. As they say, fourth times the charm.

Patty Jenkins (Monster, The Americans) steers the blockbuster into a crackling good time, with Gal Gadot returning as our Amazonian Princess. The story starts in present day, as Diana/Wonder Woman receives a package from Bruce Wayne. In the package is a picture of Diana as Wonder Woman, standing alongside a group of soldiers. From there we flash back and the film tells us of her Origin, from her childhood in Themyscira, a hidden land comprised of only women, Amazonian Woman. They are fierce fighters, training and preparing for the day that an attack might hit their shores. Diana's mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants a different life for her daughter. She doesn't want her to be a fighter. Quite the opposite is her Warrior Aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), who begins to secretly train her and eventually Diana  becomes the fiercest warrior on the island, eventually even besting Antiope.

One day a WWI fighter plane comes barreling through the sky, somehow breaking through their invisible shield, protecting the island. The passenger is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) an American Spy on the run from German soldiers and from that moment on, everything changes. Diana learns of the war (World War I) and heads to our world with Steve to find Hades, God of War, and stop the endless amount of destruction causing this "great war." Besides her kick ass fighting skills, Diana also has two bulletproof bracelets & shield, a sword called "The Godkiller," and a glowing, golden lasso of truth. Alongside Trevor they head straight into the war, both with slightly different ideas of how to end the bloodshed.

Director Jenkins sets up the entire film masterfully, staging the battles scenes with unique flair. And each one has its own rhythm and style. The Amazonians versus the German army is a thrilling first fight scene, the claustrophobic "No Man's Land" is stunning (and arguably the best sequence in the film) all the way through the final battle, which does tend to lose a bit of originality but is still exciting nonetheless. Gadot is a powerhouse of a star. She shines and brims with excitement and fierce talent. Not only does she look the part but she can, oh what do you call it, oh yeah, she can ACT. Her comic timing is great too, especially in the "fish out of water" sequences when first arriving in London (a true great comic moment is when she tastes Ice Cream for the first time and tells the vendor, "You should be very proud."). Her chemistry with Pine is also electric, and Pine himself is a crackling good time. Besides the two of them the cast is filled with great supporting characters: Diana & Steve's back up army is made up of Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock and each have great small moments, never feeling wasted. Lucy Davis is a suffragist and secretary to Steve and showcases her finely tuned comic talents. The always great David Thewlis is, well great in a supporting role and chewing up delicious scenery are Danny Huston & Elena Anaya as the very vile baddies. WONDER WOMAN is finally the movie DC has been hoping for, and the Wonder Woman movie the world has been patiently waiting for.

 

MATEO'S GRADE:  A
Screenplay by Allan Heinberg Story by Zak Snyder, Allan Heinberg, & Jason Fuchs Based on a character created by William Moulton Marston Directed by Patty Jenkins Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya Now Playing in Theatres Everywhere

WONDER WOMAN OFFICIAL TRAILER

 

Saturday
May132017

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017 // A REVIEW OF "THE CIRCLE"

BY MATEO MORENO

Social Media has taken over all our lives, for better or worse. We all are seemingly attached to our devices and social media accounts and as we chide others for overusing theirs we can't stop using ours. It's a worldwide addiction. Ads pop up on all our browsers and strangely, they are ads of exactly the kind of things we are interested in. Or shows that we've already searched. How does it connect us? When is too much information, well, too much information? Dave Egger's 2014 novel THE CIRCLE took on these concerns and now Eggers has adapted the film with director James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) for the big screen, with three thrilling starts attached. All the right ingredients, so it should soar. So why does it feel so earthbound?

Emma Watson plays Mae Holland, a young girl working a dead-end job in customer service. Her friend Annie (Karen Gillan) does her a solid and bring her onboard the company she works for, "The Circle." It's a social media titan that has a lot of obvious parallels to "Facebook." It's the kind of company where it seems to double as a college experience: employees hang out together on the lawn, eat lunch, do Yoga, talk about how they're going to rule the world one day. You know, just like your day job. Mae starts off at the company a bit rocky but rises quickly. And each week, "The Circle's" CEO Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) gives a speech to enforce that they are a loving company and have nothing but the best interests in mind. He's invented something called “SeeChange,” which are tiny cameras the size of a small rubber ball that can be placed anywhere, transmitting Super HD images and give information such as weather and atmosphere conditions and information on anyone in the frame. Sure, that's not creepy at all.

As the days go on, the stress of the job becomes very visible among the face of her best friend and a cult-like mood begins to sift through the air. She also meets Ty (John Boyega), a coworker who seems to think that "The Circle" is not all fun and games and goodwill towards men after all. And you know what happens when you dig around for the truth? You end up...in a mediocre movie asking great questions but only skimming the surface of answers.

Emma Watson does a good job with her character and she's charming, but Ponsoldt has her just looking around most of the time, looking "concerned." And her character shifts rather abruptly without a true sense of why and how. Tom Hanks is an inspired casting choice for the head of the company and turns what could be a thankless one dimension character into something more intriguing. The film isn't terrible, but it doesn't strike any real compelling moments either. The cinematography is interesting and Eggers asks interesting questions but not enough of them and he doesn't dig anywhere close to deep enough. The ending of THE CIRCLE is an interesting start to something darker and more interesting. But it takes until the very end to make it there.

 

MATEO'S VERDICT: IF YOU HAVE TIME

SCREENPLAY BY Dave Eggers, based on his novel DIRECTED BY James Ponsoldt STARRING Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly, Bill Paxton COUNTRY: USA

 

The Tribeca Film Festival, running April 19-30th in New York City, offers an assortment of riches when it comes to films. Documentaries, Feature Films, International Films, TV, VR technology, and more. As stated on their website, "Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2001, following the attacks on the World Trade Center, Tribeca has evolved from an annual event to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan to a gathering place for filmmakers, artists, innovators, and the global creative community." The ArtsWire Weekly has been covering the festival since 2013 and this year, Mateo Moreno and Danielle Beckmann will be our voices on from the fest.