SXSW Review: Atomic Blonde

You know what’s a great feeling at a festival: Knowing nothing about a movie and maybe not even being that interested and then suddenly needing to see it. That was the case for me with Atomic Blonde since even just reading the description slightly I didn’t think I was interested until the trailer showed up a few days before the premier. Seeing a crazy action movie with Charlize Theron and directed by David Leitch who co-directed John Wick had me waiting in line 2 hours during SXSW to see this one and to be able to give you this review now.

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Reel Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

I went into Kubo and the Two Strings knowing nothing more than that it was the newest film by the amazing Laika studios and that it was set in ancient Japan. It’s rare that I get a chance to enter into a film with that much potential behind it basically blind so I was certainly excited. Even the crowd of children in the theater didn’t dissuade me since Laika’s films are generally for kids, even if they aren’t the best movie theater companions.

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Reel Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Poster

Welcome to the world of Mad Max, where he who controls water is king and warlords can be found seething throughout the rest of this barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland. When a dictator’s prized possessions flee, terror, mayhem, and debauchery ensue. George Miller’s, Mad Max: Fury Road opens with the capture of road warrior, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy). We are quickly introduced to the war boys, a pasty, rabid group of men who are brainwashed to serve their gruesome leader, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Joe’s power lies in the restriction of water and food and the war boys want nothing more than to prove their worth to Joe through their own death during combat. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) creates the war by aiding in the escape of Joe’s treasured breeders (5 women also known as, The Wives). Max becomes the blood bag for Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a war boy who leads the pursuit until Furiosa exhibits her strength. Determined to reach her homeland deemed “The Green Place”, Furiosa, the breeders and eventually Max barrel through their own path towards humanity.

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Reel Review: Prometheus

  Written by: Ben

<Source: Filmofilia.com, image property of 20th Century Fox>

Sorry its a bit late guys, but I saw this late on Sunday then was busy as I just moved and I’m in the process of unpacking and actually still finding work, but either way I wouldn’t leave you 2 weeks without reviews. Anyways, Prometheus is kind of the 2nd big movie of the summer (of course after Avengers) but its also Ridley Scott’s prequel to his 1979 horror/sci-fi classic Alien which spawned a much loved franchise. We all remember Ripley and the chest bursters, face huggers and black alien creatures with huge heads, with teeth and tiny inner mouths, dagger like tails and acid blood. Well, this is the same universe but also quite a long time before and while we may not get all the questions answered (and a sequel to Prometheusis of course in the planning stages already) we get a lot of answers and a really good sci-fi flick to boot. But that’s enough hype let’s get to it.

The connection to Alien is really hard to ignore, I mean that first trailer had the same feel and some intentionally similar shots to the original amazing trailer for Alien and is just as ominous and menacing but also just gets your blood pumping. This film takes place 33 years before the events of Alien as a crew of scientists go out seeking the alien race, the “Engineers” who created humanity, on the dime of the Weyland Corporation, a series mainstay. We start off by seeing one of these Engineers killing himself as his race leaves, but through doing so releases his DNA leading to the creation of the human race. We fast forward to 2089 as Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), two Archaeologists, find a cave in Ireland with a marking they’ve seen before and getting excited. We then find ourselves upon the scientific research vessel Prometheus with the android David (Michael Fassbender) as he monitors the crew in stasis, as well as keeps himself busy, until the ship arrives and everyone comes out of stasis. Here we meet the rest of the crew, most notably the independent representative of Weyland Corp. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) who’s very cold with David, but we also meet the ship’s captain, Janek (Idris Elba) a jovial and untrusting seasoned captain. After a meeting with a holographically displayed by the now evidently dead founder of the Weyland Corp, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in good old age make-up) the intrepid scientists Shaw and Halloway give a speech to the rest of the science team and ships crew that they are looking for the Engineers, and then we’re headed to the surface of the storm covered world they found.

Sorry if a little plot heavy there guys but I swear that’s maybe the first 20 minutes and I kinda needed a refresher myself but its all important. I will say though, something you get from the very beginning, and progressively throughout is that this is a gorgeously shot film. I saw it in 3D because seeing the aforementioned trailer in 2D was great, but in 3D was jaw dropping and this movie doesn’t disappointed. From the earliest shots there are gorgeous views of the landscapes in truly great cinematography, and all the digital effects are beautifully laid in so as to not take away from each scene. The 3D is among the best I’ve seen, at least in live action, and once again the digital effects are laid in perfectly so the layers in 3D feel right and natural and you are truly engaged. Also, as in the other Alien films, the creepy set design, props and creature design are amazing, believable and at many times scary. We are treated to an ancient stone facility with huge carved ceilings, runic doors, ancient corpses of the massive Engineers and haunting sets. The shot in the trailer of the team in a large room with a giant face statue and little canisters, that is a main set we see quite a bit of but its truly a haunting atmosphere and does properly elicit those memories of the egg room in Alien as its meant to, but we have that worry of the unknown there which hasn’t been felt in the series since the first time. I won’t get into why there are so many corpses here, or even potentially why as they hypothesize but their carcasses are certainly ominous set dressing and you really feel unsafe here and even with them. Despite knowing them as man’s creator you kind of feel like you shouldn’t trust them from the start for some reason, just as you start to wonder if you can trust David as he’s so unemotional as an android and yet seems very determined and on a task of his own. As things start to go to shit and some creature problems happen that your brain starts to race as your heart pounds as you try to will the scientists to not be idiots as you try to connect this to the Alien we know. Either way, its evident that H.R. Giger, the designer from the original Alien films came to do the work on this film, still with a firm grasp of how this universe looks, feels and terrifies its audience throughout the film.

But that’s getting into spoilers, I mentioned David and maybe its a good time to get into characters. David and Elizabeth Shaw are actually our two main characters to follow, even if they are very different, and not just because one is human and one is an android. David, again payed by Michael Fassbender is honestly kind of my favorite character and amazingly well acted throughout the film. Fassbender is probably most well know for playing the young Magneto is X-Men: First Class but he’s had a nicely diverse career and does a great job as David. As an android he supposedly has no emotions, and in truth he doesn’t really show them, but he has passions, like an early seen love of the film Lawrence of Arabia (a film that in a viral promo for Prometheus is seen to be like of his “father” Peter Weyland) and as I said he’s motivated and dedicated and says things that give way to believing he may have a personality. Next is Dr. Shaw, the intrepid young archaeologist, who loves her partner Charlie Halloway, but is also clearly intended to replace Ripley in this film, and the planned sequels. Noomi Rapace does a solid job breathing life into this dedicated, passionate character which is great because while she’s lauded for her work in the original Norwegian Girl the Dragon Tattoo series, she does have a fairly small body of work to judge her on. She does an admirable job and you get a strong feeling for this woman, a scientist looking for the alien race that made humanity and yet still holds a faith and her father’s crucifix, but I also feel the attempts to show her like Ripley are misguided and weaken the character as she is no Ripley. Her romantic interest, Dr. Holloway is well enough played Logan Marshall-Green as a more brash and quick to anger, and other emotions, young archaeologist. He clearly loves her, but also is passionate about his work and doesn’t handle the “failure” of not finding living Engineers well and goes to the bottom of a bottle quickly. I find that much more interesting then him is Ms. Vickers and Captain Janek. Theron plays Vickers as very cool, controlling and kind of heartless, something she has lots of experience with from past films, but she still adds in hints of emotion and a history she hides, namely in conversations with David whom she doesn’t like. Her actual connection to Weyland is hinted throughout the film and I find it to be abundantly obvious if you spend the time to think about it. Idris Elba as Captain Janek is very different, he’s light hearted, warm and committed to his ship and its crew, whether it be the main ship’s crew or the scientists. He has a love of 20th century music and will stay with the ship most often, partially because its his ship and a good captain stays with it, and because god only knows what’s out on that planet and just as Elba is always very charismatic, you quickly grow to love him. Yes there are more people both on the ship’s crew and science team, but they are little more then comic relief, or canon fodder, both of which they do and are used well for but isn’t requiring more of your reading time.

Overall the writing and direction are solid throughout the film, but that can be expected with Ridley Scott at the helm and Damon Lindelof writing. Lindelof, for those of you who don’t know, was one of the main writers/producers for Lost and a producer on a producer J.J. Abrams’ other notable work Star Trek and is truly a skilled writer. The original draft(s) of the script were written by Jon Spaihts who came to Ridley Scott with an idea in 2009, but in 2010, after saying the script was done, Scott went to Lindelof to have him review it. Its reported that Lindelof, as a producer generally liked the script but felt it directly related and connected to Alien to much and used the Alien monster a lot, so the script was changed to phase them out, under Lindelof’s direction giving him a main writer credit. This is to be put to Scott’s credit as well for listening to him, as seeing new things in this film really is what made it as good as it was, as to focus a lot on the Alien almost defeats the purpose of making a prequel. Scott’s direction is likely why we have such quality cinematography planned and executed, quality effects, defined characters that stick to their personality and solid performances. The movie has good flow, and only one person would I actually call fairly stupid, but you kinda need at least one in any horror movie which this film, much like Alien truly is.

Now I know you guys want to know how this relates to the rest of the Alien series, and I don’t blame you, that’s half the fun, even if Scott claimed it would be loosely connected, which it is. I’m warning you now:

*NOTHING THAT FOLLOWS IS TRULY A SPOILER BUT MAY BE READ AS SUCH!*

*PLEASE DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY HINT TO ANYTHING IN THE FILM!*

The most obvious, aside from the attempt to shoot scenes that are reminiscent of the rest of the series, is the Engineers, known as the “Space Jockeys” found in Alien. The race we’re out to find in Prometheus is the race in the first Alien film, so point there. Now I’m sure you’re wondering if we see an Alien, well I can’t spoil that, I can say there is some things that we learn about the universe and maybe the creature the Alien itself, but nothing is directly stated as fact in those regards and is mostly implied. Again, I don’t want to say to much else but I found it to be good to get any enlightenment on the universe. Ok, that all said, I liked the film, so lets get to the score and the Reelization to sum up my giant wall of text for you nice people.

Rating: 4/5

Reelization:

Prometheus is a really good outing for Ridley Scott who hasn’t delved into sci-fi in a long time but clearly still has got it. Its pure sci-fi/horror and not a bad addition to the Alien lexicon at all, and most certainly a damn good summer blockbuster. Is it as good as Alien, or the (at least in my opinion) better Aliens? No. It is a solid 4/5 and totally worth a full price ticket, but it isn’t likely to go down in movie history like Alien and Aliens have, but I could be wrong, or maybe much like Aliens did, the sequel to Prometheus may be even better and go down in history. I will say its not at all a better summer blockbuster then Avengers but for all we know now, despite it losing to Madagascar 3 at the box office this weekend, it could still take the summer, or at least 2nd place this summer, against the remaining super hero blockbusters. But only time will tell, but if you want a good sci-fi scare or are just a big Alien fan, I recommend you fit this into your viewing schedule.