Movie Review: ‘Climax’ Kicks Off Euphorically And Then Descends Into Chaos

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CREDIT: Couramiaud -Laurent Lufroy and Fabien Sarfati/A24

Starring: Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude Gajan Maull, Giselle Palmer, Taylor Kastle, Thea Carla Schott, Sharleen Temple, Lea Vlamos, Alaia Alsafir, Kendall Mugler, Lakhdar Dridi, Adrien Sissoko, Mamadou Bathily, Alou Sidibe, Ashley Biscette, Vince Galliot Cumant, Sarah Balala

Director: Gaspar Noé

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: R for A Party Going Wrong in Every Which Way, What With the Drugs and the Nudity and the Peeing on the Floor and the Stabbing and the Punching

Release Date: March 1, 2019 (Limited)

For the most part, Climax is as challenging and painful as the reputation of its director, Gaspar Noé, would suggest. But it also demonstrates that he is capable of great ecstasy. Its tight focus is on a troupe of dancers who are kicking back with a party after a series of intense rehearsals. The cast is made up of non-professionals and first-time actors, as well as Sofia Boutella (whose dance background is plenty bona fide). After starting with a bit of fun with cinematic chronology and some character intros, Climax really kicks into gear when the crew shows off the routine they’ve been working on in an extended unbroken shot to the tune of Cerrone’s 1977 disco hit “Supernature.” The totally uninhibited physicality on display is one of the best examples I have ever seen of the communicative and restorative power of dance. Unfortunately that joy does not last long.

It turns out that somebody has sneakily spiked the sangria with something, supposedly LSD, and nobody is reacting favorably to that punch. The party quickly descends into a blood-red neon mess of paranoia that is unpleasant enough to almost make you forget how you felt while watching that transcendent dancing. Noé appears to be saying something about the fragility of society, with this night of horrors serving as a believable microcosm of how humanity as a whole can be seized by myopia and worst-case-scenario obsession. But that understanding of people’s darkest impulses has been utilized in the service of a cinematic endurance test. I could appreciate the unpleasantness if it achieved full-on unnerving terror. But instead it is mostly irritating.

Climax is Recommended If You Like: Instant Gratification, Followed by an Hour of Suffering

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Bad Trips

This Is a Movie Review: Hotel Artemis

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CREDIT: Matt Kennedy/Global Road Entertainment

I give Hotel Artemis 2.5 out of 5 Rules: https://uinterview.com/reviews/movies/hotel-artemis-movie-review-an-intriguing-premise-can-only-carry-this-thriller-so-far/

This Is a Movie Review: Charlize Theron is Masterfully Icy Enough to Overcome ‘Atomic Blonde’s’ Shortcomings

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CREDIT: Focus Features

This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2017.

Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan, John Goodman, Toby Jones

Director: David Leitch

Running Time: 115 Minutes

Rating: R for Bullets, Knives, Punches, and Kicks

Release Date: July 28, 2017

At its best, Atomic Blonde is like a cool music video. That description may sound useless in its simplicity, but when a film’s pleasures are its simplest ones, such pith is justified. I believe most people understand inherently what makes a music video cool, but to deconstruct it into its concrete components and how it relates to Atomic Blonde: it is about the combination of recognizable beats and imaginative imagery. Most action films have style, but not all of them have distinct visual wit that you won’t find anywhere else. Spray paint-strewn opening credits give way to an aesthetic dominated by icy blues. 1989 Berlin is filled with cloudy, low-lit neon clubs, and a new wave-heavy soundtrack that tends towards the robotically impersonal. Charlize Theron, the atomic blonde herself, is even introduced waking up in an ice bath.

For some godforsaken reason, Atomic Blonde also cares just as much about its plot. Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent sent to Berlin to kill German spies. There is no need to remember her name – I am not sure anyone ever calls her by it – but it is useful to keep track of all the other byzantine details. Broughton teams up with a loose cannon station chief (James McAvoy) with some trepidation, eventually they have to extract a German operative (Eddie Marsan), and it all goes pear-shaped, leading to the frame device of the (consistently amusing) exit interview with her superiors (Toby Jones, John Goodman). The twists keep turning all the way to a somewhat exhausting near-two hour running time.

But do your best to trim through the fat, because we’re all here to see Charlize – as they say – “kick ass.” Director David Leitch offers hectic set pieces that are much easier to keep track of than his work on the first John Wick. Broughton is impressively skilled in all forms of combat, but she is not invincible. Just about every character suffers puncture wounds, so be prepared to wince. (2017 Trend Watch: improvised slicing weapons to the face, as one baddie gets a set of keys stuck in his cheek, just as John Wick utilized a pencil in his second chapter.)There is also a little bit of time to kick back and relax. A detour with Sofia Boutella as an undercover French agent is kind of cool partly because you do not often see queer relationships in this type of movie, but more so because a Theron-Boutella tȇte-à-tȇte is a solid attraction. The whole affair is a little more distressing and less intellectual than it probably means to be, but Atomic Blonde gets the job done.

Atomic Blonde is Recommended If You Like: John Wick: Chapter 2, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Raid: Redemption, Dark New Wave Soundtracks

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Keys to the Face

This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Mummy’ Reboot is Lifeless Except for the Rare Moments When It Embraces Its Goofy Side

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in June 2017.

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Russell Crowe

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Getting Ur Freak On with Death

Release Date: June 9, 2017

I laughed derisively when the Universal globe logo spun around and gave way to the “Dark Universe” logo, but the joke was on me, as the best parts of this new interlocking cinematic franchise are the ones setting up its upcoming entries. More fundamentally, the reason the joke was on me was because I held out hope throughout The Mummy that something unique or especially thrilling might happen.

As far as reboots go, once again resurrecting the Egyptian tomb-dwellers is far from an outrage. This undead crew is part of the cinematic and larger cultural collective unconscious, so there is plenty of room for new generations of storytellers to add their spin. But this particular version of The Mummy is maddening because it never establishes a convincing reason for why it should exist in the first place.

There is a fairly clean setup in which the Ancient Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) makes a deal with Set, the god of Death, but then is defeated and laid to rest thousands of years to become the title villain. Then Tom Cruise swoops in as low-rent Indiana Jones Nick Morton and slips open her tomb, thus unleashing the Pandora’s box of the Dark Universe. So far, so reasonable. But then the story gets bogged down in mythical mumbo-jumbo about daggers and prophecies and whatever. Universal so obviously wants to copy the success of Marvel, but it is not going to do that by following its worst habit of focusing way too much on the MacGuffins. Are there mythological nerds out there who actually care about this minutiae?

All this plot-centric gobbledygook can be forgiven if The Mummy can provide the genre thrills, but the results in that department are mostly meh. Cruise is as game as always, but the action, while competently shot and coherently edited, is not especially memorable. The one mildly saving grace comes from the stabs at horror. Boutuella’s snake-like body and shadowy face provide a canvas for some decently scary images, as her pupils split into two pairs and her corpse decomposes into a dusty pile of bones (reminiscent of the effects of drinking from the wrong grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).

Alas, that is all inconsequential, because the real purpose of The Mummy is prologue to a series of tales in which Dr. Jekyll is the de facto Nick Fury. Russell Crowe plays the good doctor with a motivation apparently split between defeating monsters or assembling them. That dichotomy is potentially interesting and fits the character, but it is a distraction from the actual movie it is in.

At the beginning of this review, I said that I was somehow excited for the rest of the Dark Universe, but mulling everything over, I should probably temper my anticipation, though I still hold out a smidgen hope. The Mummy’s conclusion indicates that the next entries might actually kick back and have more fun by giving extra screen time to characters like Morton’s partner Chris Vail, brought to screeching, howling life by Jake Johnson (New Girl fans will be confused every time he calls Cruise “Nick”). For its lead character, The Mummy could have really used with more off-kilter energy. Cruise can be edgy, but he is too straightforward to match the hysterical, almost Abbott and Costello-esque vibe that Johnson employs to intermittently resuscitate this DOA franchise to life.

The Mummy is Recommended If You Like: Tom Cruise-related schadenfreude, Jake Johnson (though you must be able to endure long stretches without him)

Grade: 2 out of 5 Decompositions