Atomic Blonde (2017): An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.
This movie is so frustrating. On the one hand, it is a wonderful film in the technical categories. It takes place in 1989, and the crew did a great job on the set design with this time period. The set designs are great, the costumes are fantastic, and the score is awesome. Additionally, the fighting sequences are incredible, highlighted by a 5 or 6 minute long take as Theron fights for her life against a bunch of baddies on a flight of stairs. This is definitely one of the coolest moments in film so far this year. Charlize Theron herself is also great, going all-in with portraying this character. I just wish the story was better. Because it's TERRIBLE. Character development is non-existent, even with the main character, and the story takes you on a series of twists that aren't earned at all. Like the ending! So much happens in this film's final 20 minutes.....it felt so, so rushed and it sunk the entire film. I was bored at various points with the exposition, and just wanted the film to get to the next action set piece. Yes, we have a female power lead here, which is great, but it doesn't mean much when the rest of the film falls into the same sexist stereotypes that many action films do. This film's victim is Sofia Boutella. She is completely wasted as the only other female character in the film and is sadly only there to be hot. It's so frustrating because she is an incredibly talented actress, too! But not here. Here she just has a random, out-of-place sex scene with Charlize Theron and then looks frightened the rest of the film. Also, why does this film look like a Zack Snyder flick? Was the dreary filter on the entire film really necessary? I don't know. Just didn't quite do it for me. Ultimately, while there was a lot to like here visually and stylistically, the story and characters just sunk the film for me. There's plenty of other good content out there to watch, but there's something to be had if you want to watch a film just for its visuals and style.
My Number: 6/10 Above Average
Annabelle: Creation (2017): Twelve years after the tragic death of their little girl, a dollmaker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home, soon becoming the target of the dollmaker's possessed creation, Annabelle.
A lot of people like this movie. I wish I was one of them . While this movie does provide a pretty decent origin story for Annabelle, my issue lies with the scares of this movie. As in they just aren't really there. Yes, the doll is extremely creepy, but.....it's just so formulaic! The film moves from one pop scare to the next, without trying to do much else other than go "Boo!" I just really wanted more with the scares here, and that is easily the most important part of a horror flick. That said, there's a lot else to like about this movie. Lulu Wilson (from Ouija: Origin of Evil, which I liked a lot) and Stephanie Sigman lead a strong cast, though arguably the most high-profile actor on the bill, Miranda Otto, spends most of the film in a bed and off-screen. What a waste of the extremely talented Otto. There are some cool moments, though! That seems to be the overall trend of this franchise: one moment the movie's awesome, the next it sucks. It's very polarizing. Beyond that, there's not much going on here. There aren't many innovative visual scares, but the effects are good at least. The moment you saw over and over in the trailers of the little girl transforming into a demon was pretty creepy, but there were a lot of lame scares to compliment that. See the trend here? So, at the end of the day, Annabelle: Creation is an average horror film, and again falls into many of the same tropes that has made the genre lose its way in recent years. Go see it if you're a fan of the genre, but temper your expectations.
My Number: 5/10 Average
Logan Lucky (2017): Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.
THANK YOU for that simple and easy IMDB description. You see that Annabelle: Creation? Why can't you make your plot description that simple. Actually, (to make a good segue) that's about the best word to describe Logan Lucky: simple. The brainchild of the great Steven Soderbergh, and a daring example of what a movie can look like with minimal influence from the production studio heads, Logan Lucky is a simple, funny, and (relatively) enjoyable heist film set in the world of NASCAR and the deep south. While there were quite a few great moments, like Daniel Craig's show-stopping performance as Joe Bang, there was just too much crap here for me to really like this film. Too many times did I find myself saying "Oh, c'mon...." during the heist to find it even somewhat believable. I know, I know, the movie is called Logan LUCKY, but c'mon. Luck only takes you so far and can only serve as a valid plot point for so long. At least Soderbergh's classic Ocean's Eleven is somewhat believable because it's quickly established that that heist crew in that film are all the best at what they do. Here, the Logan brothers are clearly nowhere near the best of the best, (Joe Bang at least shows moments of genius but he's the only one that does) so too many times did the film have to rely on luck to get our heroes out of various situations. Also, why the heck is the awesome Katherine Waterston even in this movie? Her character, a nurse that I....guess(?) Channing Tatum has a crush on (?), has so little screen time I couldn't even figure out why we wasted any screen time on her at all. But she has a major billing on this movie! Fans of my blog know I love Katherine Waterston, (see: Alien: Covenant) so this frustrated me to no end. I'm spending all this time hating on Logan Lucky because I REALLY wanted to like this. And there were definitely some great moments throughout the film! Once it hits Netflix I'd definitely say there are worse ways to spend a Friday night, but for a film that got one of the great directors in Hollywood to come out of retirement......I was definitely expecting more.
My Number: 5/10 Painfully Average
Wind River (2017): An FBI agent teams with a town's veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation.
Whoa! Where did this film come from? I went into this expecting a run-of-the-mill whodunit murder/mystery, but Wind River is so much than that. It is an edge-of-your-seat thriller from writer/director Taylor Sheridan (who will officially be a household name for me after this movie as he's 3 for 3 with great movies.....he's previously the writer behind Sicario and Hell or High Water) with incredible performances from both Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. There are a few problems with the movie, most notably Olsen's character definitely could've been stronger, there's a completely unnecessary forced romance between the two of them, (despite the fact that Renner is old enough to be Olsen's father) and in a movie about Native Americans, the two leads are white, (though almost the entire supporting cast outside of Jon Bernthal is Native American) but besides those three negatives this movie is incredible. It's anchored by Renner and Olsen, both of which undoubtedly put in the performance of their respective careers. (I NEVER thought Renner would top his performance in 2010's The Town too) In addition to them, the story here is incredibly engaging. It is filled with unpredictable, but viable, twists and turns, with very fleshed out and developed lead characters. When the final twist came I did not see it coming at all, but it both awesome and harrowing to see. This film is also beautifully shot, (though the handheld camera in ordinary dialogue sequences can be annoying at times) and I loved the overall grittiness of the film. At the end of the day, despite a few faults, this film is a gem to find in movie theaters in what is traditionally one of the slower parts of the year for Hollywood. See it with confidence.
My Number: 8/10 Great