Atomic Blonde

"Mr. Gorbachev. Tear down this wall!" It's June 12, 1987 and we join the turbulent anarchy that soon follows President Ronald Reagan's historic demand. The Berlin wall is coming down and the world's super powers are in play.

MI6 sends a top operative to Berlin to investigate the murder of one of their own and recover a list of double agents in order to protect them. One is already embedded in the city.

Antony Johnston and Sam Hart created a graphic novel, "The Coldest City" which Kurt Johnstad used for this screenplay. Director David Leitch, a former stuntman, brings us a complex actioner set in a dreary, dismal city where EVERYBODY smokes!

Part of his cast:
  • Charlize Theron ("Mad Max: Fury Road") Lorraine Broughton is our eponymous heroine, strong, fearless and resourceful. She's smart, multilingual, and can kick butt with the best of them. She bathes in a tub filled with ice cubes. Watch her use that hot plate!
  • James McAvoy ("X-Men: Apocalypse") David Percival is the deeply embedded agent. There are times he loses track.
  • Eddie Marsan ("Their Finest") Spyglass has been exposed, so he has to get out of Berlin, NOW!
  • James Faulkner ("Game of Thrones") "Chief C" is the Agency Chief. I mostly mention him because he has the most resonant speaking voice I have ever heard.
  • Sofia Boutella ("Star Trek Beyond") French intelligence agent Delphine has something Lorraine wants.
  • Toby Jones and John Goodman are with MI6 and the CIA, respectively. Their focus is on Lorraine's debriefing.
This is R-rated, so expect profanity, gunfire and lots of fisticuffs. You will also see vehicular mayhem, riots and some blowie uppie stuff, plus just a tantalizing bit of tasteful sex. And, as I said before, it's 1987 and EVERYBODY smokes!

Oh! Be sure to suspend disbelief!
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Check out this award-winning trailer:
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Any time Christopher Nolan makes a movie, we pay attention. He doesn't stick to one genre and is fearless in his choices. This time he picked one of the most thrilling stories to ever come out of a war but is little-known in much of the world. He wants to fix that. And I concur! By the way, Nolan cast actors who were the same age as the soldiers in that campaign. He was shocked to see that they were just boys!

In World War II, Belgian, French, British and Canadian soldiers were trapped by German forces in a little French town called Dunkirk, situated on the English Channel. The Germans were advancing and nearly 400,000 soldiers were sitting ducks. If you've ever seen the classic wartime drama "Mrs. Miniver" you know what happens next: the civilian English fishing fleet came to their rescue! Just typing this gives me goosebumps!

Here is part of Nolan's excellent cast:
  • Fionn Whitehead (in his first movie) is Tommy, the young soldier who becomes the eyes and ears for us in the audience.
  • Aneurin Barnard ("A Perfect Plan") Gibson pairs up with Tommy in a moment of desperation.
  • Damien Bonnard ("Staying Vertical") is a French soldier who is mistaken for the enemy because he doesn't speak English.
  • Harry Styles ("One Direction") Alex is a judgmental but resourceful soldier, always keeping an eye out for the best chance to survive.
  • Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies") Mr. Dawson is the man we most admire. He sets out with his two sons in his modest boat, on a perilous mission he is determined to complete.
  • Tom Glynn-Carney ("The Last Post") and Barry Keoghan ("Trespass Against Us") are Mr. Dawson's sons, Peter and George.
  • Tom Hardy ("Mad Max: Fury Road") Spitfire pilot Farrier; is practically a one-man RAF.
  • Cillian Murphy ("Free Fire") This soldier is shivering from the cold, from fear or from something else entirely. Mr. Dawson understands.
  • Kenneth Branagh ("Wallander") Commander Bolton is responsible for the lives of his Royal Navy men; he has never felt so helpless. He had thought they could "make terms."
  • James D'Arcy ("Broadchurch") Colonel Winnant will do whatever it takes, unless it's impossible. And this looks impossible.
The scope of this epic drama is breathtaking. Nolan was reluctant to use Computer Generated Imaging, but the budget could only stretch so far... 400,000 soldiers!

The PG-13 rating means there will be some profanity (it is wartime in the armed forces... c'mon!), so expect some of that (but you probably won't be able to make it out), a LOT of gunfire, some blowie uppie stuff and some hair-raising situations at sea. There are no grisly wounds, we see blood, but it's on bandages. Even the dogfights over land and sea are fairly bloodless. Mostly expect chaos; the chaos of fear, the chaos of desperation, the chaos of war.

It's high time you learned this story!
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Here is a preview:
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Spider-Man: Homecoming

I'll bet this third time's a charm. At least this ebullient PG-13 version is my favorite. I like to experience an upbeat story, an upbeat character, and an upbeat ending, so this is just the ticket. If only they would cut down on the endless blowie uppie stuff and mass destruction; I find myself yawning.

Director Jon Watts ("Cop Car"), working with a script by a committee, has crafted a satisfying action/comedy that is a cut above the average super-hero rubber stamp. Oh sure, there will be plenty of Computer Generated Imaging, but c'mon... It's Spider-Man! What sets this one apart is the spot-on depiction of a teenage boy who has a powerful adulthood staring him in the face. His exploits and bungles are the product of his youthful exuberance, nothing more.

Here is part of Watts' cast:
  • Tom Holland ("Captain America: Civil War") is back again as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, a typical high school kid who had an accident with a nasty spider and life would never be the same. We saw his first cameo in "Captain America" and he is eager to become a fully fledged Avenger.
  • Michael Keaton ("The Founder") Adrian Toomes/Vulture is the perfect villain. He felt ignored, exploited and helpless, so he has taken matters into his own hands. "The world is changing and I will change, too."
  • Laura Herrier ("4th Man Out") Liz is the object of our awkward hero's affections. She turns him into a tongue-tied buffoon, even though she is gracious and kind.
  • Robert Downey Jr. ("The Judge") Tony Stark/Iron Man is, by turn, intrigued and frustrated by this näive upstart. He sorely felt his own father's presence (or lack thereof) when he was growing up, so has some idea of what Peter might need. Kind of a tough love.
  • Marisa Tomei ("The Big Short") is Peter's Aunt May. Tony Stark starts to flirt with her but quickly realizes that is inappropriate.
  • Jon Favreau ("Chef") Happy Hogan keeps Tony's life on an even keel. He handles messy details and would really appreciate a promotion.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow ("The Avengers") Pepper Potts keeps coming back, if only in a cameo.
  • Jacob Battalion ("North Woods") is Ned, Peter's burly high-school chum. Ned is the indispensable friend every teenager needs and dreads.
  • Stan Lee (All the Marvel movies) This time he is a crabby neighbor shouting out of his tenement window.
The set pieces on the Staten Island Ferry and the Washington Monument are too long and waay over the top, but the recorded public service announcements Captain America delivers to high-school students are a stitch. This ensemble is guaranteed to dazzle and entertain. Make no mistake, this is Entertainment, NOT Art!
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Take a peek. It might cheer you up!
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The Big Sick

I recently read Judd Apatow's book, "Sick in the Head." It is a paean to the world of standup comedy and to the men and women who labor in it. His affection for these unique comics was never so apparent as in in this recent production. Of course, it's a bit off beat: a romantic comedy that centers around a young woman in a coma. Don't worry. She lives. That is not a spoiler, you learn it in the trailer.

Director Michel Showalter ("Hello, My Name is Doris") working from a script by Emily V. Gordon (Lots of TV) and stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani ("Silicon Valley") brings us a romance about the relationship between Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (yes, they are not only writers, they are a real couple) set against twin backdrops of standup and family. Apatow is the producer.

Some of Showalter's cast;
  • Kumail Nanjiani ("Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates") plays himself, a young man caught between cultures: His American culture which brings him the woman he loves, and the Pakistani culture in which his doting parents stubbornly try to arrange marriage to some young, and to him, less-than-appealing Pakistani woman. They do NOT understand standup comedy, either!
  • Zoe Kazan ("Ruby Sparks") plays Emily, the American woman who has won his heart. Their chatter is witty and reflects their growing affection.
  • Holly Hunter ("Batman v. Superman") is Emily's mother Beth, she has some opinions concerning this man her daughter has told her about. This is a terrific showcase for Hunter! She and Romano have a great scene together that was a joy to watch. Sort of a master class in comic acting.
  • Ray Romano ("Men of a Certain Age") is her husband Terry; his first awkward attempt at conversation with Kumail is "9/11." Naturally, as a standup comic, Kumail's immediate response is completely wrong (but made me laugh out loud).
  • Anupam Kher ("Silver Linings Playbook") Azmat and his wife have carefully selected bridal candidates for their son. If only Kumail wasn't so Americanized! (Kher gets to sing!)
  • Zenobia Shroff ("When Harry Tries to Marry") Sharmeen is positive that she and Azmat are doing the right thing. At least it has worked for the last 1,400 years.
  • Velia Lovell ("Crazy Ex-Girlfriend") has the unhappy task of playing Khadija, a young Pakistani woman who is just trying to do what's right.
  • Linda Emond (Lots of TV) It was good to see her playing Dr. Cunningham. I first remember her stage work in Seattle decades ago when she attended U of W!
As you might expect in a modern R-rated film, we encounter anatomical humor, a number of F-bombs and some inappropriate behavior, but at its core beats the heart of a good man who loves his family, his sweetheart, and standup comedy.
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As promised, here is the trailer:
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