Tag Archives: Toby Jones

Atomic Blonde 


Atomic Blonde is the annual adrenaline shot the action genre gets every year, if we’re lucky. Amidst carbon copy superhero extravaganzas, increasingly ridiculous Fast/Furious hemorrhages and head scratching animation ventures, the multiplex is a frustrating realm these days, but sometimes we are blessed with a good old fashioned hard-R action blitzkrieg that turns out to be a pure banger, lighting up the summer movie roster like neon fireworks. Blonde rides the wake that John Wick left behind, a refreshing, stylistic, no-holds-barred form of action storytelling that cheerfully pisses in the face of all things glossy and PG-13. Set in a frenzied Berlin days before the wall comes down and the Cold War freezes over, Charlize Theron is a breathtakingly sexy super spy with a very particular set of skills and a borderline nihilistic approach to espionage, as well as a massive bone to pick with certain factions of the enemy, who stay fairly hidden until the wicked chess game of a plot rounds it’s final curves. Tasked by a sneaky British intelligence honcho (Toby Jones) and a mysterious CIA Agent (John Goodman, excellent as always) she’s caught between all kinds of warring assets including the KGB, roaming German euro trash punks and a British rogue agent (James Macavoy) playing all sides at once. The plot serves action, to be sure, but it still takes itself seriously amidst all the punches, flying kicks, icepicks to the jugular and careening vehicular destruction. Theron is a primal piston of wanton violence and slinky sexual virility, throwing herself headlong into every action sequence with the kind of reckless abandon that makes you believe those bruises for real (apparently she busted a few ribs for real filming this, the absolute champ). The highlight is a bone shattering one take wonder of a staircase fight, a hapless Eddie Marsan bandaging a bullet wound with swaths of duck tape while Theron furiously dispatches several enemies using any means within arms reach, a spectacle that leads to glorious cringes once the hits get hard and critical and sharp objects start getting close to eyeballs and major organs. The soundtrack must be noted too, the filmmakers employing nostalgic melodies straight out of the 80’s to evoke time and place nicely, with everything from Nina’s 99 Luftballoons to The Clash’s London Calling and Queen’s Under Pressure coming into play. There’s also pretty much the hottest movie sex scene I’ve seen in years, as Theron and a bombshell of a French agent (Sofia Boutella) get slippery under the sheets in a neon soaked Berlin hotel room. This is an action film made by folks who are head over heels in love with the genre, and the passion shows. We never feel cheated, chaperoned or short changed, every ounce of this piece charged up to please the crowd and keep pulses thundering. 

-Nate Hill

Morgan: A Review by Nate Hill


Morgan is one of the slickest genre flicks I’ve seen in recent years, finely tuned like a barbed wire tightrope, full of nasty surprises, throat ripping action and that ever present ethical turmoil that hangs about in any films that deal with artificial humanoid beings. It’s only weakness is exactly that stylistic strength: it’s so tight and streamlined that one occasionally feels like the scales tip in the favour of style over substance, but it’s a minor quibble when you take a step back and look at just how entertaining and fired up this piece is. The filmmakers are minimally concerned with the moral grey areas that cloning wades into, and subsequent philosophical pondering, but more than anything they just want to pull the ripcord and blast full throttle into an adrenaline soaked, R-rated sci-if tale with vague aspects of a character study. The title refers to Morgan (The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy in a performance both terrifying and heartbreaking), a genetically engineered humanoid girl held at a secluded facility alongside researchers, one of which she has just had a violent incident with. The corporate honcho (Brian Cox in a sly, all too brief honcho) dispatches a cold, clinical asset in the form of Kate Mara, sent to assess the situation and implement any measures necessary. She is an outsider, a callous bicep who flexes at the whims of the company. The researchers and handlers, however, are not. They have grown up around Morgan, invested time and, somewhat unwisely, emotion into her and will stop at nothing to ensure her survival. Paternal Toby Jones, opinionated Jennifer Jason Leigh and compassionate Rose Leslie prove to be a formidable armada against Mara’s evaluation, and tensions arise. Morgan has her own cloudy agenda though, and whether by flawed design, ghost in the shell syndrome or pure survival instinct, proves to be the greatest danger of all. She experiences people at their best, worst and most enigmatic, and her startling behaviour is a reflection of all of it, and a sobering example of humanity’s pitiful inability to perfect the creation of artificial life, at least in this film’s universe anyway. From Mara’s threatening presence, to an intense evaluation from a particularly nasty psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti overacting so hard he almost sucks the set dec up into his orbit), it’s no wonder Morgan snaps. Now when she snaps, the film more or less whips all its chips on the table, flips said table and hulk slams it two floors down. All subtlety and thought provocation kind of get left in the dust as everything careens towards an especially visceral climax, and that’s okay, as long as it doesn’t leave you feeling underwhelmed. I kind of had the intuition it was going to take the rambunctious root overall, and took comfort in the fact that it at least somewhat focused on the delicate aspects earlier on. It’s a well oiled machine, impeccably casted, given just enough pathos to keep our sentimental sides invested, and more than enough visceral hullabaloo to get our pulses dancing, all set to a score both thundering and graceful. Great stuff. 

The Hunger Games: A Review by Nate Hill

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I have never read the Hunger Games books, and didn’t rush out to see this first installment when it was released. I have this thing where I sometimes resist a largely popular project simply because it’s buxzingwith so much hype. There’s a word for that that I resist even more, which starts with H, but good luck getting me to admit to that. Anywho, I did watch it one day on netflix, loved the hell out of it, and have seen every subsequent entry, up til last year’s final one. It’s damn great storytelling that soars on a brilliant extended performance by Jennifer Lawrence, who is the actress of her generation and a genius of the craft no matter what anyone says. People called this a slick version of Battle Royale, and while that may be true, it’s certainly not a bad thing, and not the sole extent of what the franchise achieves. There’s stinging social commentary which both condemns and makes satirical light of modern North American culture. It examines the power of propoganda for both good and bad ends. It looks at the abuse of power, and the potent rise of fascism and fear tactics, and how quickly they can become commonplace. And this is all in a young adult orientated film that stars a strong, unhindered female protagonist. Gives you hope for the world. Lawrence is powerful as Katniss Everdeen, a young woman chosen from her district to compete in the much celebrated and very violent Hunger Games, a death tournament which serves as a purge and reminder to the citizens what it cost them to rebel against their oppressors years before. This is all at the behest of mega villain President Snow (Donald Sutherland oozes quiet malice with every articulate and icy syllable), who lives in the wealthy and decadent capitol city of Panem, a dystopian version of North America. Along with Katniss there’s also Peeta  (but no hummus) a local baker’s boy played by Josh Hutcherson, who really struggles to match the skill level of almost everyone around him, especially Lawrence. They are thrust into the posh and stylized razzle dazzle of Capitol life as they train for the ruthless games, watched over by previous Victor and proud alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), as well as preening diva Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks channellig Marie Antoinette crossed with a poodle). The film takes some time to ramp up to the games, but as soon as it does the events unfold in breathless fashion set against a lush wilderness background, each and every member fighting tooth and nail to stay alive against both each other and the obstacles which gamesmasters have placed in their way. Anyone with an intense fear of wasps will want to be warned. A clever riff on the talk shows of our climate is shown, as the competitors are quizzed by Ceasar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) a manically hopped up pop personality with a hairstyle that would make a samurai jealous and teeth so white they get accused of stealing oscar nominations. Tucci is truly a well of energy and the proceedings go electric whenever he’s around. Watch for Paula Malcolmson, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones and Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, a kindly fashion guru who takes a shine to Katniss and designs her a dress to end all dresses. Lawrence carries the entire thing on her mockingjay wings, making Katniss a spirit of unrest, a true symbol of hope and above all, a scared girl tossed into events she can’t possibly imagine navigating. Her performance is most of what makes these films so solid, and they couldn’t have made a better casting choice. Be sure to stay fpr the credits to hear ‘Abraham’s Daughter’, a fittingly grandiose original song by Arcade Fire.