Review: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Stars: Charlize TheronJames McAvoyEddie MarsanJohn GoodmanToby JonesSofia Boutella.

Director: David Leitch

The plot:

Set in 1989, around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow MI6 operative and to recover a list of double agents that has fallen into the wrong hands.  Given the contact name of David Percival (James McAvoy), Broughton is warned to trust nobody as she sets about her mission.  Thrown into the mix is “Spyglass” (Eddie Marsan), who brought the list to MI6 in return for a safe defection and titular blonde has her work cut out to complete her mission and stay alive.

IGN.com

The cast:

One of the few things that can be described as good in this movie is Charlize Theron she does her very best to hold the movie together but even that can’t save this movie from the disappointment that it is.   James McAvoy is just plain irritating throughout; he seems to consistently offer the same performance he does in a movie of this kind.  It’s a far cry from his excellent performance in last year’s Split.  It’s almost like Ewan McGregor turned the role down and he seems to be the go to guy in that event.  Toby Jones and John Goodman lend some assured supervisory performances and there is a nice appearance from Sofia Boutella as a French agent and love interest for Theron.

Odeon

The movie:

I really don’t know what this movie was trying to do.  Was it a nostalgia trip? Perhaps; the soundtrack would certainly suggest so and it is an excellent set of tracks to make up the movie’s theme but if you have to talk about the soundtrack more than the film itself then there’s a problem with the film.  I wouldn’t even say that it was a pleasant hark back to the cold war movies of the era when this movie is set despite it even lifting the plot directly from the first Mission Impossible film, there’s always a list isn’t there?  I noted in the opening credits that this was based on a graphic novel.  It was not something I had heard of but my blanket reasoning of not being able to compare movie to comic book that stands for Marvel movies for example applies here too.  The main problem is that Atomic Blonde was built up to be a big action hit for Charlize Theron and it just failed to raise its game.  It was tedious for long periods and the action sequences were really stretched apart.  They were violent when they did happen but by then I’d kind of lost interest.  As for the way the story unfolds it becomes a very contrived and frustrating tale that you just want to switch off.  The film also carries an underlying feeling that it was much cleverer than it was when it really was not even achieving a bog standard level within this genre.

The verdict: 2/5 Stars – Promised a lot. Delivered little. Very contrived.

Atomic Blonde on IMDb

Atomic Blonde Official Website

Hope and Glory Festival Liverpool 5 August 2017 RIP Part 2

It was left to James to bring the day to a close and try to salvage some final pleasure from the chaos.  A band that carry the song “Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) as a theme, opened with that very track as if to reference what had gone before.  Despite being clearly frustrated with the whole event, Tim Booth and company strived to put on a good show.  Saul complained they’d had to drop songs from the set list and had to be calmed down by the band’s lead man.  They still smiled all through the show and the sense of relief they actually got on stage was obvious within the James faithful.  Tim got close to the crowd on numerous occasions but there was to be no crowd surfing despite the inclusion of Curse Curse in the set.  They made the best of, you can rely on them for that.  Tim was due to return for the Sunday evening with Hacienda Classical but the cancellation of the festival for the day put a halt to that.

 

Hope and Glory Festival Liverpool 5 August 2017 RIP Part 1

As I write this piece The Hope And Glory Twitter account is in meltdown as the aftermath of yesterday’s calamitous events and the subsequent cancelling of its second day today continued to rankle with its attendees.  People are understandably unhappy at being turned away or suffering overcrowding within the venue.  Acts were running a good two hours behind schedule on the main stage which meant that Charlotte Church was axed from the line up and other acts had their set time drastically cut.  I was lucky enough to fully enjoy the day, not being a drinker anymore I had no queues to contend with for my tea and doughnuts.  Still, the music that was on offer was of the highest quality both from well established acts and some more less known artists.  The acts I caught below were Badly Drawn Boy, AbiChan, Embrace, , Chris Helme, Lucy Spraggan and Razorlight.

 

Hope and Glory Secret Special Gig – St George’s Hall Liverpool 4 August 2017

As a prelude to what was to become a doomed first Hope & Glory festival in Liverpool’s city centre, a special event was held at St George’s Hall.  Featuring new local acts and sets from Black Grape and Liverpool’s own Cast, this show was probably the high point of the whole weekend, such as it was.  Shaun Ryder was on good form ribbing his fellow front man, Kermit, and Cast certainly put all their energy into their set.  Both acts presented classic tracks and new tracks alike.

Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Stars: Tom HardyKenneth BranaghCillian Murphy

Director: Christopher Nolan

The plot:

I’m not sure I should really need to explain the premise to this story but in brief this is Christopher Nolan’s telling of one of the most significant events of the second world war.  Allied forces have been forced back and are surrounded upon the beach.  This film tells the story of how the combined efforts of the Royal Air Force and civilian boats managed to bring home as many of the trapped soldiers home as they could.

Iamag

The cast:

It’s an interesting one to talk about the cast.  I’ve listed Tom HardyKenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy but in reality they are only small parts in a grand tale of heroics and bravery.  Perhaps I’m under valuing Hardy’s input but only to try to not take away too much from the rest of the cast.  Hardy and Murphy are well established in Nolan’s movies and, alongside Kenneth Branagh, they bring the big names to the movie to apply some familiarity to the cast list.  The support, not that they’re really just the support, is of an impressive standard and should be recognised equally in terms of Nolan’s direction.  The fear and sense of desperation shines through in a truly perilous fashion as these young men face their impending deaths or imprisonment whilst at the same time the bravery and valour shown by the rescuing forces goes a long way to showing how much the human spirit can achieve when used as a force for good.

Screen Rant

The film:

Dunkirk is excellent.  It’s a dark and harrowing tale from one of the darkest periods in European history.  Unlike Saving Private Ryan, for example, it does not resort to extremely graphic scenes to get its message across.  Nolan, instead, prefers to emphasise the very real element of peril and hopelessness of what confronts these soldiers.  This is matched by the optimism and dedication shown by saviours both airborne and sea-faring.   In particular the score presents a pounding back drop to the early events within the movie and moves into a more Vangelis-like moments of euphoria as scenes move towards the climax.  Nolan usually likes to make his films to run for a serious amount of time but here we’re at quite a shorter running time but it’s just about a perfect amount of time to tell the story he was trying to tell.  Visually it’s stunning, in particular the ariel photography is incredible.  Personally, it wasn’t quite up to the standard of a couple of war movies I hold in such high esteem, those being Full Metal Jacket and Platoon but those films are from a very different war and are completely different kinds of war films.  It’s definitely a film worth seeing, however, and it’s certainly a better choice than a lot of the mindless dirge to hit cinemas this summer.  You will still be able to hear the sound of those diving planes for some time to come after you’ve left the cinema.

The Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars – Well worth your time and money.

Dunkirk on IMDb

Dunkirk Official Website

Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Stars: Andy SerkisWoody HarrelsonSteve ZahnKarin KonovalAmiah Miller.

Director: Matt Reeves

The plot:

After an attack on their hideout amongst the woods, Caesar (Andy Serkis)offers a ruthless military Colonel a way to bring peace amongst humans and apes.  He returns, unharmed, the soldiers who survived the successful defence by the apes but rather than accept the offer, The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) attacks again and Caesar and his kind suffer terrible losses.  Caesar begins to feel the hate Koba felt towards the humans and orders the remaining apes to make for the desert whilst he seeks out The Colonel in a bid to end the war.  Caesar tries to carry out his mission alone but is joined by his closest allies and they pick up a human stray along their path to find the military base and The Colonel.

20th Century Fox

The cast:

What can you say about Andy Serkis?  He’s cornered this kind of role and the amount of work he must have to put in to these roles must be incredibly arduous.  The same goes for all the actors in Ape roles.  This must be one of the most and physically draining ways to play a part and they should be applauded for it.  Caesar still dominates the screen and only shares it when Woody Harrelson marks his arrival during a firefight.  Woody is the only one who gets close to the sort of presence Serkis’ Caesar has on-screen.  This was an ideal role for him and his manic portrayal of the determined Colonel serves the film exceptionally well.

Vox

The film:

This is certainly THE blockbuster of the season so far, for me, and I don’t see that changing as the summer goes on.  Even from the trailers you could tell that this was going to be something a bit special.  It’s certainly not your brain-dead blockbuster akin to a Transformer movie and it certainly doesn’t give off that smug aroma that many of the Marvel movies give.  It’s a well thought out, often poignant, often sad and very gritty movie.  For a large period of the film it’s almost a road movie as Caesar and his companions traverse difficult conditions to reach the military base.  Ultimately it’s about who would claim the planet for themselves and it’s a very tense journey to reach the conclusion.  Usually for me the effects are secondary to the film itself and that fact remains but this films is so good that to say that the effects match it stride for stride is the highest praise I can give.  It feels authentic throughout.

20th Century Fox

As I arrived early I plumped for the 3D showing.  I can’t really say whether that added anything to the movie but it rarely does.  What I will say is that the film itself was so immersive that anything the 3D brought to the film was not really a very striking effect.  This is very much the best film in this particular series of Apes movies and credit should go to the director for making this film work so well from start to finish.  If there’s anything to criticize it’s simply the running time of one hundred and forty minutes.  The film went slightly off pace in the middle period and probably about twenty minutes of film could have been kept for the DVD extras making it the perfect two hours but that’s a very small issue.

The Verdict: 4/5 Stars – Only the finest monkey business.

War for the Planet of the Apes on IMDb

Planet of the Apes Official Website

Live: New Order @ Old Granada Studios 15 July 2017 (NO, 12k, Lg, 17 Mif)

What an immense show from New Order last night at the old Granada Studios in Manchester as part of the Manchester International Festival.  It was also the final night and what a triumph the residency has been.  Full credit must also go to Royal Northern College of Music students on synths and Liam Gillick for they all contributed to a marvellous spectacle.

There were tracks not played live since the 80s and other less accessible tunes, each one a classic, not one of them a hit.

Think what you like about Hooky but back on home turf NO still have it in spades.
Truly amazing show. I even smiled, but that may have just been wind.  Tony Wilson, certainly, would have smiled.

I have a full video of “Plastic” which I will post when I have it in a format Word Press likes.

Full Set list:

  1. Elegia
  2. Who’s Joe?
  3. Dream Attack
  4. Disorder
    (Joy Division cover)
  5. Ultraviolence
  6. Behind Closed Doors
  7. All Day Long
  8. Shellshock
  9. Guilt Is a Useless Emotion
  10. Sub-Culture
  11.  Bizarre Love Triangle
  12. Vanishing Point
  13. Plastic

    Encore:

  14. Heart and Soul
    (Joy Division cover)
  15. Decades
    (Joy Division cover)
  16. Your Silent Face
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