The Americans (Season 4)

This is sadly the first season I have seen that has slid backwards.

The acting is still great, so no problems there. However the storylines were a lot less interesting. Maybe its because the renowned character actress Margo Martingale didn’t have as big an influence this season.

Let me say that Frank Langella was a high point in the season. He is older now, but still able to push through with his acting and make me feel like he is a real person.

The low points came once again with Paige, the daughter. Now that they have told her who they are, they waffle around telling her no when she throws temper tantrums. That whole situation sucks and I try and fast forward sometimes through those scenes.

The other areas overall was Phillip’s fascination with EST, and more focus on the Rezidentura. None of those were entertaining and I don’t really care to know the people.

Pros: Frank Langella is still keeping it real.

Cons: Slower stories with no payoff, and the whole daughter situation. Can we please move on yet?

 

The Americans (Season 3)

I should just slap my review for season 2 here, but multiply everything by five.

The story is still really good. The writers are obviously hitting their strider. Phillip and Elizabeth are even more interesting to watch, along with Frank Langella who is back as a handler for them.

During the season it covers how Nina may be able to get out of prison in Russia, Stan deals with his divorce and with both Phillip and Elizabeth pushing back and forth over what to tell Paige.

While everything positive is great, I am absolutely hating the Paige stuff. That was almost enough for me to stop watching. Her fits may be “teen” for tv, but in my experience in hard circumstances that would have been done by now.

Pros: writing, most of the acting (honestly all of the acting) and just overall still getting better.

Cons: The angst has been kicked up to an 11 for the teenager… Not liking that.

 

The Americans (Season 2)

Not only is it still a good series, it got better as well.

The series continues with following their family as Philipp and Elizabeth continue spying. It starts with a horrific death of another “illegal” couple they are friends with, and wraps the season up with finding out who and why the murder happened.

They got over the whole “will they, won’t they” situation and established the two main protagonists (are they protagonists if they are the Soviets?) who love each other. We get a bit more of a larger overarching story and the plots run together well.

The only real negative I have is not the actress playing Paige, their 14 year old daughter, and not the actual writing, I just hate the whiny self-entitled privilege that she works from. That is a good writing thing, but its the part of the series that drives me nuts.

Pros: This is still better than Homeland, and a great thriller.

Cons: I still hate angsty 14 year old drama.

 

The Americans (Season 1)

A top notch spy movie set in a perfect time period.

“The Americans is an American period drama television series created by Joe Weisberg for the FX television network. Set in the early 1980s during the Cold War, it is the story of Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), two Soviet KGB officers posing as an American married couple living in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., with their children Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati). Their neighbor Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) is an FBI agent working in counterintelligence.”

Unlike other conspiracy series such as Homeland, The Americans focuses on my favorite time period, yes the same time period as Atomic Blonde, the 1980s and the cold war. I do realize this is my nostalgic teen years so I do have a feeling of connection, but I do believe it is good even without that. The acting is very good, the story is compelling and the chemistry between the actors is perfect. The series keeps moving forward, and while sometimes it is like watching a slow motion train wreck, things don’t always go the way you think they will.

I do like the fact that show doesn’t portray either side as evil. The agents on both sides have feelings, relationships and believe in their own ways of life. I think it is this part that really allows someone to just immerse themselves in the show.

My only issue with the first season is the “will they, won’t they” dynamic that happens between Phillip and Elizabeth. I understand that they have to work things out. After all, they weren’t actually ever married, they were two Soviet KGB agents who started their life together 20 years before as a cover. It is nice to see how they react differently to the situation, but the almost fully commit as real spouses, and then to back off is annoying. The same with Jennings and his wife, the relationship drama is sometimes more than I prefer.

Pros: If you like spy thrillers, the 1980s nostalgia, or just good acting it is all here.

Cons: A little too much relationship drama.

Season 2 is in my Amazon queue as we speak!

The Foreigner (2017)

The best Jackie Chan movie I have ever seen.

The trailer lies a bit. It gets the basics right. Jackie Chan plays a father who lost his daughter in a bombing and who wants the names of the people responsible. Pierce Brosnan is the Irish governmental member whom he goes after.

However, the trailer is misleading in how it portrays the movie itself. The trailer relies on Jackie’s known acrobatics, insinuating its another “John Wick” style action movie. It is not that at all, it is closer to a spy thriller.

There is a lot more drama, emotion and realism in the movie. People get hurt, the fight choreography seems more realistic and grounded. What you see in the trailer is the only real Hong Kong action you get. The movie does a fairly good job following Jackie Chan, but it also focuses a lot on the IRA, Pierce Brosnan and the UK police. Definitely has more of that spy feeling, with political manipulation and intimidation.

The good: Jackie Chan does great in this drama, and Pierce Brosnan is the most interesting I have seen him in a decade. The story is tight and keeps moving forward.

The bad: The view of the IRA is a little black and white for me, not really portraying why they fight, but just that they are killers. They do mention “the Troubles” but then again this is probably how western media portrays other groups that are believed to be resistance fighters/heroes to one side, and terrorists to the other.

I am glad I saw this, and I hope they stay true to the story and don’t make it a “franchise”. Some stories are better off being told once.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Not as good as the first, but still very entertaining

Recreating the exact feeling of the original movie will never be possible. It was a new take on old things and that is what made it different. However, this movie was pretty darn good anyways.

There were new characters introduced, and while I personally wasn’t as enticed by the American brand of Kingsman, overdone cowboys with even worse names then the Kingsman. Even so I felt it was fairly funny. The storyline itself was similar to the first movie, but did have some interesting twists that included implying the horribleness of capitalism and a very pessimistic view of our government.

There was a sex scene I was uncomfortable with, but I don’t think it was rapey or as bad as others  have talked about. The other item I disliked happened at the beginning of the movie and involved two close friends of Eggsy. I don’t want to spoil things so I wont say anymore, but I was disappointed we didn’t get to see more about them in this movie.

While I said it isn’t the same height of fun as the first one, it was a good, solid, funny spy movie. Not in the same class as Atomic Blonde, but they weren’t trying for that anyways.

The good: Funny, great fight scenes and I am fond of the Eggsy/Merlin interaction.

The bad: The American stereotype was pretty basic, I wish they could have done more to either make the Statesmen from somewhere more traditionally Old West, or switch the character types out to something more Southern.

I am definitely in for future movies for this series.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

So close to being great, but that said it is still a good movie.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS!

The good parts overall are the actors. Charlize Theron is great in it. I think she makes a great action star. I think it is far past the time that they put women in those same roles. She outdoes the last several James Bond movies. The supporting actors are great too, even Mcavoy, whom isn’t my favorite actor. The story itself is a good one. However, it is a lot more “spy” movie then John Wick type action movie the trailer lets people see. I was happy to see Sofia Boutella in the movie as well, I liked her playing the Mummy in the Mummy earlier this year and it is good to see that movie won’t be an albatross around her neck.

The action itself is good. It is gritty, dirty fighting. Ms. Theron is beaten, and in turn beats people back. I felt the slow exhaustion as a fight wears on seems about right. As the movie progressed her bruises didn’t go away, her aches didn’t stop and even makeup couldn’t cover it all up. Also, her and the use of keys is pretty awesome and gross at the same time.

It feels weird to see a “period piece” movie that involves the same year I graduated high school. I guess that just shows me how old I am getting. However, the period piece may be the problem a lot of people have. The setting was East and West Berlin in 1989, the Soviets and the Allies are in constant struggle in the shadows. The problem I see for others (I didn’t have it myself) is connecting with the time period, the wall, and just the overall ambience. Like I said, I liked it. I just suspect the period might not be everyone’s style.

The pacing however was the part I didn’t like. This could be once again because the trailer was cut in a way that this was a John Wick style fight movie, when it was paced differently. I couldn’t even say the pacing was good for the story it was trying to tell. There were times that the movie felt way too long and slow. That is the part of the movie I think dragged everything else down. Maybe the most recent spat of movies has made it harder for me to enjoy this, but I think it was probably just not pacing well for itself. It would have lulls in weird spots, then bits of action, then back to a slow period.

The good: The acting was great, finally time to see another kick ass female main character.

The bad: The pacing dragged everything else back. Reduced it for me from great, to merely good.

I would see a sequel, but hopefully they would learn from that pacing.