Charting Charlize Theron’s Quiet, Steady Rise to SFF Stardom

Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron, is an adaptation of the excellent graphic novel The Coldest City, by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. Along with its prequel, The Coldest Winter, it’s one of the best period espionage stories you’ll read. The movie, directed by David Leitch, is stylistically very different, but both versions of the story complement one another. Atomic Blonde also provides explosive, highly entertaining proof that action movies have finally begun to evolve again. After years of the hyper-caffeinated shakycam approach pioneered by Paul Greengrass in the Bourne movies, things have begun to change. That change pretty much boils down to three steps:

  • Get excellent fight choreographers and stunt drivers in.
  • Train your leads to do as much, safely, as they can themselves.
  • Sandbag the camera down and let them have some fun.

The fight choreography, in Leitch’s John Wick movies especially, warms the bruised knees of ...

The Spirit of the Rebel Alliance is Defined by Rogue One’s Jyn Erso and Bodhi Rook

Rogue One is possibly the most thematically chewy Star Wars movie so far. Whether you loved it, hated it, liked it but thought it needed fixing, or are simply pining for a prequel starring the best Gay Asian Space Uncles EVER, there’s a lot to digest. What I found most interesting, though, was the way that two characters can be seen as responsible for shaping not only the tactics of the Rebellion, but its entire character—as well as the price they paid for doing so. First off, Sergeant Jyn Erso herself. The heart of Rogue One, Jyn is also one of the characters who has attracted the most controversy. There’s a legitimate reading of the movie that has her buried under a mountain of daddy issues. There’s another that paints her as entirely reactive and sees her emotional journey as truncated or unearned. Truncated, I think, is fair. Unearned ...
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Paying Tribute, Long Overdue, to Horror Icon George A. Romero (1940-2017)

George A. Romero, the father of the modern movie zombie, passed away last night. Modern horror, of every stripe, has lost a Titan. A Titan who ultimately fell victim to the ubiquity of his own biggest, most successful idea. Romero got his start directing commercials and short segments for TV, one of the earliest being one for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. That adaptability and versatility stood him in good stead as he prepared to direct his first film. Released in 1968, Night of the Living Dead was Romero’s debut feature film and remains one of the all-time great horror classics. The movie opens with a pair of siblings in a cemetery, visiting their father’s grave, and takes a sudden (now iconic) turn as they’re attacked by a mysterious figure. Only one, Barbara (Judith O’Dea) manages to escape, fleeing to a nearby farmhouse. Locked in with a group of strangers, she struggles ...

The Moment Has Been Prepared For: Jodie Whittaker and the Future of Doctor Who

As I write this, the announcement has just been made that Jodie Whittaker will be the Thirteenth Doctor. She’s the first woman in the show’s history to (officially) take on the role, and as I mentioned earlier in the year it’s a change which, now more than any other time in Doctor Who’s run, is desperately needed. That’s the intellectual response. The emotional response has involved jumping up and down, typing in ALL CAPS, and getting slightly weepy. Because here’s the thing: change is hard. Always. And for a show that’s based around the twin concepts of change and mortality, Doctor Who has been very reluctant to embrace change in terms of its casting philosophy. While the idea of the Doctor being female has been in the show’s DNA from the start, it’s never been seen on screen. Until now. Of course, the “But is she the best ...

Laura Lam on Flawed Utopias, Sun-Drenched Noir, and the Future of Publishing

Laura Lam’s newest novel, Shattered Minds, is a journey to the exact sort of utopia that I like—namely, a complex, untidy one. Her Pacifica novels explore a future that’s ideal but not idealized and what happens when people fall, or sometimes, jump, between the cracks. I talked to her about Shattered Minds, Pacifica, the Micah Gray books, and more… Alasdair Stuart: How did you get started writing? Laura Lam: I grew up one of the biggest bookworms, and I kept starting various things but never finished. The furthest I got was about 30,000 words of a fantasy based on feudalism. The first line was “The sunset was as red as blood.” It didn’t improve from there. I started it at 15 at the same time as I met a Scottish boy online in 2002. We fell in love while discussing books and writing those somewhat awful early ...

Transformers: The Last Knight Isn’t Good, But There’s Still Some Hope for the Franchise

Let’s cut to the chase up front—Transformers: The Last Knight isn’t very good. At all. It manages to sidestep the stultifying narrative incoherence of Age of Extinction and a good dose of the weird cruelty of Dark of the Moon, but runs headlong into the massive racial stereotypes of Revenge of the Fallen and the bloated running length of the entire franchise to date. There’s a three headed robotic dragon in the movie. Somehow it’s still dull. But, in a weird way, it’s also a really interesting movie. Because this looks, and feels, like the end of an era. A mere four films late, Michael Bay is (probably, hopefully) finally stepping away from the franchise he’s been exploding in slow motion for a decade now. And while he leaves vast, and vastly photogenic, damage in his wake there’s some hope for the future. But we’ll get to that. ...

Idris Elba Is So Damn Good in Genre Roles

With The Dark Tower hitting cinemas this year, his directorial debut Yardie having just finished principle photography, and John Luther set to fight London’s most twisted crime in an upcoming fifth season, Idris Elba is in the middle of a very prolific year. Elba’s always great, but some of his very best work to date has been in genre films, where he never fails to bring authority, humor, and intelligence to the role. Here are some of my favorites. First up, a few honorable mentions. His work in RocknRolla is ridiculously good fun; in fact, the entire movie is. Gerard Butler, Elba, Tom Hardy, and Toby Kebbell as gloriously incompetent criminals must represent some kind of Brit actor singularity, and they’re all fantastic in the film, especially Hardy as Handsome Bob and Elba as the endlessly laconic Mumbles. His work as Heimdall for Marvel is also impressive, as is his array ...