Archive for category Fantasia

Late Fantasia Film Review: Atomic Blonde

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If you’ve been waiting for Charlize Theron to follow up her action movie star creds earned in Mad Max: Fury Road, you’ve probably had your sights in Atomic Blonde for a while now. Directed by David Leitch, the feature has drawn comparisons to the Bourne films although I found the film closer in fighting style to John Wick. Granted, there’s less gun play, but here’s where the movie breaks a female action taboo: our heroine gets hurt and bruised.

Perhaps hurt is the most outstanding thing about Lorraine Broughton. She can look like a million bucks, but she’s not doing the catwoman-in-leather thing. She goes physical and gets attacked right back. She gets hurt, she gets punched, she kicks back and it shows. Bruises are left over from one scene to another. Her fights are not damsel fights, they’re rough and physically tiresome. The combatants are not elegant and not every punch connects. Lorraine doesn’t land on her feet every time. She still looks very much like she’s kicking everyone’s ass from here to the moon though.

The music is very much her co-star, I’d dare say even more than James McAvoy who plays David Percival. The Berlin station chief and Lorraine’s contact in the communist city is another bigger-than-life character, running cons left and right and selling jeans in East Berlin. The 80’s soundtrack is just a notch above him, complementing every scene and nostalgically setting us up in the good/bad ol’ years of the Cold War with the music scene of the 80’s (Nena’s 99 Luftballoons was expected and didn’t disappoint).

The plot does get a little contrived, to the point that I felt like just drowning it out. The spectacle is visual, musical but you’re going to the wrong movie to seek out a fully logical explanation. That being said, it is still a spy movie through and through as alliances are made, deals are broken, and there’s an ubiquitous list of spies that must not fall in the wrong hands somewhere around there.

Highly recommended for action film enthusiasts. Don’t expect an art film and don’t expect Bond. But do expect a new standard for the anti-hero who happens to be female. The movie is elegant where it wants to be and brutal where it needs to. In a day and age where some spies just brush off dust and join the party, Atomic breaks open the door and goes for the jugular. Beautiful but damaged, elegant but savage, the movie looks and sounds a lot like its main lead. She will break your heart. And your arms. And your legs.

That will do for now.

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Late Fantasia Film Review: Death Note 2, The Last Name (2006)

There was no way we wouldn’t get a sequel & conclusion to the story of Death Note. Shusuke Kaneko directs again, in a storyline that finally puts Light Yayami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and the brilliant and eccentric detective L (Kenichi Matsuyama) face to face in what becomes a showdown of masterminds.

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Obviously, a lot of the plots that “Kira” and his pursuer make up for each other have to be simplified for the screen, but you’ll hardly notice the changes. Most things have just been speed up. This time Light must share the stage as he’s not the only one with a Death Note. Meet Misa Amane (Erika Toda), another Death Note owner with her own Shinigami, Rem. Luckily for him, the wannabe-Kiras are eager for his guidance… and his instructions.

You’d think a second film on the same subject might adolesce of too-much-of-a-good-thing fatigue, but the constant guessing and double-crossing between Light and L are just too good to miss on live action film. It’s really hard to guess who is on going to come out on top – unless you’ve seen the anime. Even if you have, you want to see how this plays out. And it does, beautifully complex.

The pacing does increase towards the end, so there’s a lot here for the audience to grasp before we get to the finish line. There’s obviously more characters involved and a lot more pawns in the game for Kira/Light to play with, but you’d be careless to believe L is outmatched.

Extremely recommended for the fans of the source material, who will have a field day with the mind games. However, with the fans knowing the outcome the real surprise goes to the casual viewer who will see it all unravel. I must confess that I was hoping the movie would dare risk a different ending, but the original one is so iconic that it was really hard to improve upon.

That will do for now.

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Late Fantasia Film Review: Death Note (2006)

This is the review for the first live action movie adaptation of Death Note (2006). It was part of Fantasia back in 2007. I wasn’t familiar with the source material back then. That changed a couple of years ago, and I’ve wanted to go back and watch this film ever since. Now that I have, it’s time for a way overdue very late review.

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Shusuke Kaneko directs the first full feature film for what will be a series. However, I preferred trying to see this as it was first intended: a standalone film with only a hint of a possibility of a sequel. Tatsuya Fujiwara takes on the role of Light Yayami. Kenichi Matsuyama is the enigmatic detective L. After a few moments on the screen, you won’t be able to imagine anybody else in those roles.

The plot, in case you’ve never heard of the series, is centered around the Death Note, a notebook where any name written down while thinking of the person’s face causes their death. The vagueness of some of the rules allow Light to craftily manipulate them to his advantage. As the body count rises, the public notices how the deaths are all criminals and a following for “Kira” (a Japanese pronunciation of “killer”) begins. However, the enigmatic detective L is only one step behind. Several parts are lifted directly from the anime. I can’t quite judge how they stand on their own since I saw the anime first

The Shinigami of Death, Ryuk, also appears in CGI form. It’s been a few years, and this CGI incarnation is not without its flaws. At the same time, you rarely care as the movie’s true strength is the battle of wits between Light, who becomes increasingly devious, and L who slowly closes in his prey.

Highly recommended with reservations. The movie does seem to move at a slow pace, never quite building up to the finale. That being said, this could be a side effect of the transition of the story from animated form to live action. Some people won’t be able to move past the older CGI, but you really should see if for the performances of the lead cast alone. For the fans of Death Note, it’s a milestone that they shouldn’t ignore.

That will do for now.

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