28 July 2017

Atomic Blonde or the Emoji Movie...A REAL SOPHIE'S CHOICE THIS WEEK

Well folks we're swinging towards the last weekend in July, which is typically about when the Summer Season is at a standstill. Sure, there are August releases I GUESS, and often there's one or two decent hits out of that, although this August is damn pitiful, with a few probably exceptions. Then again, this whole Summer has been a dumpster fire, again with a few exceptions, but generally pretty damn awful.

So we come to this weekend, which is crazily polarized. On the one end we have The Emoji Movie (2017) whose existence I can barely comprehend. On the other we have Atomic Blonde (2017) which looks like a fucking spectacular original action film we seem to get less and less of these days. Let's take these apart starting with the spawn of Satan shit:

This makes me want to fucking kill some children.
I haven't really even bought into the marketing material for The Emoji Movie. I watched the trailer once, immediately forgot about it and moved on with my life. The film was literally inspired by the director wanting to rip-off Toy Story (1995), then getting inspired when someone texted him an emoji. It feels like the sort of instantly-dated cultural cash grab that also inspired such non-starters as The Angry Birds Movie (2016) or Hackers (1995). That's right, we've been making terrible dated technology movies for twenty years.

Emojis are popular, I guess, but a bit thin for a feature screenplay, right? True, studios have made more out of less, particularly SONY, who for every Hotel Transylvania (2012) creates a Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) that totally works. Their animated track record, thanks to an onslaught of Smurfs movies (including one this year! Did you even fucking know that?!), is generally in the toilet. It's clear that Meatballs was mostly Phil Lord and Chris Miller doing their typical shtick, which involves treating an impossible property with enough meta-commentary about its impossible-ness that it becomes a hilarious piece of art.

None of this is apparent in The Emoji Movie, which feels like it will be followed up in a few years with The Fidget Spinner Movie (2018). Spinning a story out of this feels so completely desperate and hackneyed. Maybe it'll do well. There hasn't really been a great animated film yet this summer, with Despicable Me 3 (2017) doing garbage. That is of course what I said the weekend that Despicable Me 3 came out and of course, that did terrible. Emoji is at least original, sort of, and possibly free of fatigue. People might go watch it just out of infantile curiosity, but when that's your best hope, that's none too great, is it? Critically unless it's REAL cute or something, I don't know, I can't see this as anything more than an insignificant blip on the cultural radar before we all move on.

Atomic Blonde. Now here's a damn movie. For all her badassery, Charlize Theron hasn't had too many action titles under her name, probably because Æon Flux (2005) was such a disaster. Even though she's a well-liked Academy Award winner I kind of feel like she's been underrated her whole career. She does a lot of shit, but the big films she appears in are totally big for non-Charlize reasons. These are your Hancock (2008), your Prometheus (2012), Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014). Even The Fate of the Furious (2017)! See, you forgot Theron was even in any of those.

This scene alone - holy balls
As a companion you have monumental performances in Monster (2003) and Young Adult (2011) amidst a ton of other crap no one has seen like The Burning Plain (2008) and Dark Places (2015). These are terrible movies. But of course there is one performance that has capitulated the actress to the top recently and I'm sure the only reason why Atomic Blonde is happening and that's Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), or as it may as well have been called, Mad Max & Imperator Furiosa Go to the Green Place. She's spectacular here in every way and it feels like she's finally back to the kind of badass action heroine roles she started and stopped because of a slew of terrible films. No more MRF for us.

Atomic Blonde also comes from David Leitch, who was half of the team that created John Wick (2014), and more importantly, has done stunts in every great action film of the past twenty years. This is his first solo foray, so there is some trepidation in his grasp of story, but as long as it's simple (it appears generally so, albeit with some Cold War intrigue), it ought to at least have a fantastic clarity of rhythm and action that's so lacking in every single action and adventure film out there these days. At the very least, Atomic Blonde ought to be another building block towards this hopeful new resurgence of pure action films, fueled by Leitch and pushed forward by John Wick: Chapter Two (2017) and even Logan (2017) just a few months ago. Leitch is also helming Deadpool 2 (2018), so we ought to get a good idea of how he can handle action and comedy in this flick.

There's also a scene where Theron gets it on with the chick who played the Mummy in that terrible Tom Cruise movie from last month! It's as if Leitch thought to himself, "You know what, I want to film the sexiest scene in movie history. Way sexier than when Zorro cuts off Catherine Zeta-Jones' dress in that barn." The attitude on display here just feels awesome.

Commercially the bar isn't incredibly high for Atomic Blonde to clear. Dunkirk (2017) ought to hold well since it's more of an adult film with a solid cinemascore, I'm betting it gets $25 or $30 million. That's the bar for #1. Second place is probably going to be like $15 million - if Valerian and a Bunch of Neon Shit (2017) could do that, Atomic Blonde ought to hit that. John Wick: Chapter Two opened to $30 million back in February, which somehow earned itself third place behind The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) and Fifty Shades Darker (2017). The Emoji Movie may rise up and nab the #1 spot, and I'm probably wrong about this because it's based on Hope for Humanity and nothing else, but I just think it'll bomb. Kids aren't that unruly this summer yet, right? Fuck. Fuck, they definitely are. Atomic Blonde only has a $30 million budget, which is also a big boon, but it'll probably be like third this week, but eventually make its money back. I don't see it being a runaway hit because it's just not that kind of movie, but it ought to do fine.

Critically it's already gotten a lot of love and a lot of people have been waiting a while for it, ever since it was called The Coldest City in my 2017 preview. Atomic Blonde really is just such a snappier title, right? What do you think? You going for Theron and McAvoy this weekend or are you watching Patrick Stewart voice a giant shit?

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