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Miss Atomic Blonde and the Weight of Violence

Miss Atomic Blonde and the Weight of Violence

Rating: ***1/2

Far too often, directors waste the potential of an R-rated action film. The "300s" of the world use their R-rating for sex, graphic violence and all-too-predictable setpieces that serve neither plot nor audience. "Atomic Blonde" won't be accused of possessing a tight script, nor anything resembling a coherent plot, but it uses its violence in a breathtakingly effective way. Oh, and Charlize Theron steals scenes; but, you saw that coming. 

"John Wick" similarly wears his battle scars — and you'd expect no less in the follow-up picture from stunt coordinator turned director David Leitch — but this is 2017 and skepticism is warranted in any and all action pictures. Yes, even the ones of the low-budget variety. Especially ones based on graphic novels, even ones with the pedigree of "The Coldest City."

Look no further than "300," right? We know exactly how that went down. Certain stunt pieces almost reached comedy in both "300" and "Atomic Blonde," but for different reasons. While in "300" the machismo of the action became absolutely ridiculous, "Atomic Blonde" offered almost breathtaking realism in scenes that could never happen in our world. That's ... kind of brutally awesome.

In one scene, we were greeted with the Berlin Wall. In another, Theron dismembered six men while being bloodied, bruised and reminding us all it's criminal she doesn't get the kind of work Tom Cruise does. Remember: this is Hollywood, and men get fifth and six chances while Theron works on a film with a $30 million budget. Ah, sweet, sweet progress. 

Still, while the film is brutally pessimistic (a film about a spy during the Cold War? Pessimistic? Perish the thought!) — there's room for optimism. The first Wick film spawned something of a franchise; and there's no reason to believe "Atomic Blonde," fresh off an $18 million debut weekend with a $30 million budget, won't do the same. That is, if you all go see it. 

It's a breath of fresh air in a landscape dominated by films with false violence. That's not to say every PG-13 film should be swapped out with an R and Spider-Man should be brutalized by Vulture at every turn. I don't have the answers here; what do I look like, a child behavior specialist? But it's nice to see a film aimed at adults use its rating for more than a portal for sex aimed at the gaze of men. 

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