Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Toby Jones, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, and Sofie Boutella
Synopsis: It’s been a good summer for the ladies. Currently, the hottest comedy in theaters, and the most successful this summer, is the female-fronted “Girls Trip.” And arguably the best and most successful film of the summer is “Wonder Woman,” the realization of a long-awaited solo film for the DC Comics hero. “Atomic Blonde” is a film that has similar ambition around doing something different with a female character front and center. The film is based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City,” and revolves around a female spy sent to find a missing list of spies in Berlin just prior to the wall coming down. Some early marketing likened it to a female James Bond, and the trailers featured the star Charlize Theron kicking a lot of butt. While the film has an interesting period setting, a great performance from Theron and some captivating visual style, the story leaves a little to be desired. It’s an interesting film, but it might not be the revelation some people were hoping to see. This film had one of the coolest trailers of the year. It featured a hot visual style, a kicking sound track and plenty of action. So if that’s what you went into this film looking for, then you were likely pleased with what you saw. If, however, you bought into the female James Bond hype, then this would have been a disappointment. I read one quote that suggested Theron is great but the film around her doesn’t live up to that. I guess I agree in part. The story doesn’t live up to the performance and some of the other elements, but the film is still a lot of summer fun. The story was adapted by Kurt Jonstad (“300”), and either the script as constructed throws in plot to string together action sequences, or that was a decision made by director David Leitch, a long-time stunt man directing his first feature with “Atomic Blonde.” However it happened, that’s the end result here. And that makes “Atomic Blonde” a fascinating film to dissect. I thought Theron was great in the lead role, and quite enjoyed the work from McAvoy opposite her. He, in particular, seems to be having a lot of fun. The rest of the cast is OK, but they essentially don’t really have a three-dimensional character to play. That’s a problem. Also problematic is the somewhat confusing story that features a few too many twists that seem to come out of left field and a main story that’s hard to understand. That’s the bad part. But at the same time, I thought the film had some fantastic action sequences. In addition, I liked the visual style of Leitch, particularly in the action sequences, and the way the film makes the most of its period through costumes, setting and a rocking 1980s soundtrack. That all worked for me. In the end, I appreciated “Atomic Blonde” for what it is – a fun action film during the dog days of summer. Was it a great film? No. But it was a fun and watchable film, and the kind of movie I could see being on an endless loop for years to come late night on cable. That’s not a bad legacy for a film. And you could certainly do worse – and find worse – at the Box Office this summer.
Rating: R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity. Enter with caution.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
To The Bone
Starring: Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Alex Sharp, and Lili Taylor
Synopsis: Netlfix has been a prolific content producer the past few years. First it was original scripted series, but lately it's been with films. "To The Bone" is one of its latest releases, and is now available on the streaming service. It comes from writer/director Marti Noxon, and focuses on a young woman (Collins) who struggles with anorexia. This is a different and interesting film. I loved the role and performance from Reeves, who does something different here. I also thought Sharp, who plays a key role, was very good and developed an interesting character. But the real star here is Collins, who delivers a difficult and beautifully layered performance. This isn't an easy film to watch, but it's a fascinating take on an important subject, one that's deeply meaningful to Collins, and it shows. This is well worth checking out.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, and Ethan Hawke
Synopsis: To whom much is given, much is expected. Director Luc Besson has had a long and varied career, and clearly saw something remarkable in "Valerian," based on a comic book series. It was the most expensive film ever produced in France and even from early trailers, people weren't sure what to make of it. I, personally, thought it looked like the left over footage from "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Then came some scathing reviews, and folks calling it an early contender for the Razzie for worst picture. The film is, by any metric, a Box Office flop. But is it really that awful? The short answer is no. It's not a great film, but it's a semi-entertaining film. Sure, the story is weird and hard to follow. And, yes, the performances aren't the great. The film is mostly centered on a love story between DeHaan and Delevigne, who have no chemistry on screen. That's not great. But the film is visually interesting and moderately compelling. Perhaps it's because I went in with low expectations, but this isn't even in the five worst films I've seen this year. It's not great, but it's OK. That, sadly, isn't enough given the weight of expectations and cost. But that might be some consolation to those involved.
Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.
Friday, August 4 - "Wind River," "The Dark Tower," "Detroit," "Kidnap"
Friday, August 11 - "Annabelle: Creation," "The Glass Castle," "The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature"
Friday, August 18 - "The Hitman's Bodyguard," "Logan Lucky"
Friday, August 25 - "Polaroid," "All Saints"
Wednesday, August 30 - "Leap"