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 Movie Review: I Am a Hero (2015)

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Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi) is ironically named. His name means “hero” in kanji. He’s anything but that. He works as a mangaka, creating manga for his boss. He dreams of being the idealistic hero but he’s more often than not, the one who fails. He tells his girlfriend he will try harder next time. She doesn’t want to hear it. She just wants him to sell his skeet rifle, the one object he treasures, along with his official permit.

Director Shinsuke Sato directs the live adaptation of I am Hero, based on the manga by Kengo Hanazawa. The result is a gory horror comedy where our would-be-hero wants nothing to do with his role. Strangely enough, he’s got one very desirable shotgun on him in a country with gun laws so strict, he’s the only with a firearm. That makes him a target for the living as well.

So when shit hits the fan, we learn what variety of zombies we’re dealing with. The scary, spasmodic, walk on all fours kind, with dead eyes and droopy heads. Worst of all, these zombies repeat the actions and the phrases of the things that defined them in life. Hideo is running to find a safe haven, and he’s not alone. Hirumi (Kazumi Arimura), a young schoolgirl, ends up following him. However, she’s been bitten by a baby. That causes a rather singular infection, where she’s still able to recognize him somewhat.

Salvation seems to be altitude, so Hideo and a rather out-of-it Hirumi head to Mt. Fuji. They’ll soon run into a survivors group. Hideo must hide Hirumi’s infection while all eyes covet his rifle. With provisions running scarce and a revolt forming within the ranks, Hideo is going to be outnumbered by threats both alive and dead. His only ally is Tsugumi Oda (Masami Nagasawa), a nurse that believes in him.

Highly recommended for fans of the zombie genre. It’s both serious horror and comedy flick at the same time. Filled with gory special effects and the scariest zombies you’ll see, it rivals a lot of current entries in the genre. How this film didn’t end up as part of Fantasia, I’m not sure. It’s definitely worth a watch.

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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