The Coldest City vs Atomic Blonde

***Spoiler Alert***

If you haven’t watched the movie or read the graphic novel, come back later.

Lorraine Broughton is an MI6 spy tasked with unmasking the secrets of double agent Satchel/Stachel in Cold War Berlin. Set during the days leading to the fall of The Wall in 1989, our heroine must locate a list with the names of the secret agents in the area. When the British lose control over the material, they fear it will pop up in Moscow or the Black Market. Satchel/Stachel may be the broker of the information but he/she may also be the reason for the leak. Who can you trust in a city full of duplicitous intent?

Atomic Blonde borrows from the original story to give us an action packed, girl power romp, full of suspense, 80s cosplay, and intrigue. However, the original character was not blonde, was not associated with the CIA, and is not involved in as many car chases and staircase hands on combat as Charlize Theron’s version. The graphic novel is in black and white, blending the environment in the background without having to be bothered with the music and cultural accoutrements of the times. Whereas the movie is all 1980s neon noir, the novel is dark, crisp and sleek. It is about the narrative, not the visuals. The spies should blend in, not stand out, to perform their jobs successfully.

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For the most part the story flows in the same direction. Perceval is not a punk/counter cultural young gun but rather an old and distinguished station leader. With a more subdued demeanor, it is neither hard nor easy to read malicious intent in his words. Not enough info is there to pass judgement early on and claim he is a double agent, much less leader of any gang or Ice Men. If Lorraine ever had physical proof that he was the leak, she burnt it or disposed of it, just like in the movie. We learn of this after the briefing ends and closer to the end of the book with no further action or interaction with the Russians. It ends with the twist, which may be hard to understand if you haven’t seen the film prior to reading the material.

The entire Spyglass storyline is used as a distraction in the novel but has a bit more meat in the screenplay. He knew the names, proof that the list was real and tangible, vs in the novel where he never actually confirms he even handled it. The character fades into the background quickly, and is assassinated to prove a point: Lorraine and Perceval have been made. French agent Pierre Lasalle comes into the fray claiming to have proof of Perceval’s betrayal, but we soon we are shown that the perpetrator of the double cross had been our Atomic Blonde all along.

It is worth mentioning that Delphine’s character was supposed to be Pierre but it was updated to make the story a bit more unique. Again, the movie was about the visual component of the story, and it needed a bit more flair to stand out from the pack of love stories that accompany the 007 rhetoric. Also, there is no apparent romantic link between James Gascoine (the agent that is killed during the opening sequence) and Lorraine in the novel. She isn’t ties down to a man, family or any other element that would explain her origin story or motivation. You are not given any information about who she is and what drives her. The director had carte blanche to develop her on screen as he saw fit, and he made her three times more fierce than drawn.

There are other minor differences that don’t change the storyline too much. Some of the extra conspirators, like the kids in East Berlin are added to expand on the atmosphere of the times and provide some historical commentary. They also provided a means to add German actor Til Schweiger into the plot which is always a treat for the movie buffs and nerds. (See the blog post on Atomic Blonde for more info on the movie.)

In the end, both versions are entertaining in their formats. Overall, an avid reader and movie buff as myself can get through both in an evening. I was not disappointed by either nor have reserved criticism for the sake of argument. I found both formats entertaining and relevant. Girl Power all the way. Enjoy Atomic Blonde, The Coldest City and prequel The Coldest Winter if you are interested in researching the subject further.

Happy hunting! 😎

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, the screenplay focuses on the sexual awakening of 15 year old Minnie Goetz during 1970 San Francisco. Armed with her cassette player and recorder, she chronicles the ups and downs of sex, her need and desire to explore the subject fully, while documenting her escapades for posterity.

The story starts with Minnie’s declaration that she wants to have sex. Her targeted paramour, her mom’s 35 year old boyfriend Monroe. Despite their 20 year age difference they embark on a journey to find love and happiness between the drugs, alcohol, lies and insecurities of the times. When Monroe isn’t available, our protagonist looks for other means to feel touched and wanted, showing us how emotion and desire can make or break us. Through it all, she faces slut shaming and rejection from the ones she loves as her secrets are revealed.

Forty years ago, this type of work was unheard of, even in the underground comix scene, were the author gained respect and notoriety. Women then found a voice, shaping the medium to express their concerns about life, love and gender roles, reaching a broader, more receptive, audience. Even though Phoebe was part of the zine and underground movement it wasn’t until 2002 that she combined her notorious prose and graphics to share her take on the life of a teenage girl amidst feminism and the sexual revolution. Her work is admired by her peers and held in high regard. (See the She Changed Comics website for more info.)

The movie stars Bel Powley (Minnie), Alexander Skarsgård (Monroe) and Kristen Wigg (Charlotte, Minnie’s mom), with appearances by Christopher Meloni (Pascal) as Minnie’s ex-step dad. Watch On Demand, or stream online.

Enjoy!

Ozark (Netflix)

“Their last resort.” A clever tagline for a show that keeps painting its main characters into a corner. It isn’t enough that the Byrde family had to flee Chicago to save their lives from Mexican Cartel lord Del Rio; their arrival at the Ozarks got them more drama than they could handle.The bad luck never stopped following them, and as a family, now they have to figure out how to launder 8 million dollars to save their own hides.

MV5BODIyNzk5NDg5M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE5NjA5MjI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Marty (Jason Bateman) made a deal with the devil and now his accounting skills can’t save him from his own ambitious plans. Thinking that the vacationing town could provide a decent money laundering front, he sets for the promise land only to find it was a bust. The local poppy farmers have cornered the illegal business market forcing Marty to change his approach. A hotel, strip club, a church, and a funeral home later, his scheming is so convoluted that even the FBI can’t figure out his strategy.

Ozark also stars Esai Morales as Del Rio, Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde. It is streaming now on Netflix.

Gone (Investigation Discovery)

Gone is a different take on true crime murder and disappearance mysteries: by the end of the show we are left with a closed case. These one hour documentaries aren’t trying to solve a crime but rather show the humanity of the victims and their loved ones, who faced the cruel reality of waiting years, even decades, to know what happened to those taken too soon.

What is refreshing about this brand new show is that not all cases have a suspect; some missing folks turned out to have disappeared due to freak accidents. In its storytelling, the show attempts to communicate the sorrow and helplessness of waiting for a loved one to return while knowing that there is a chance that they have been long gone. Even though the relief is palpable when they recount the ending of each missing person’s case, they make sure you understand why their pain is relevant.

For those who are not well versed in these types of cases, the episodes refer to the laws of the time to explain why officers handled the missing case report information in a particular manner. Failures to rescue victims in time resulted in new procedures that enhanced how we all react to abductions. Amber Alerts, security cameras and other tools have been deployed to speed up the process of finding those who have disappeared into thin air. Every report, for an adult or a child, is taken seriously.

Watch Gone on Mondays at 9/8 pm, or at 6pm in PST on ID, Investigation Discovery.

Cold Justice (OXYGEN)

Kelly Siegler is a retired Texas prosecutor who dedicates her time to help solve cold cases. For three straight seasons, she has helped evaluate over 50 cases, with more coming in season 4. In what Wikipedia and IMDB tout as a mix of CSI and Cold Case, the investigations are furthered to a point where new and old suspects can be presented as prime candidates for Grand Jury indictments. They leave the families and communities sighing a sense of relief whenever they find out who is the murderer amongst them.

It was refreshing to see a woman investigator at the helm with the credentials to conduct the best possible analysis of the facts. Helping local law enforcement isn’t easy, but her know how and success rate as a prosecutor (show opening speech claims 100%) make her indispensable to solving these cases. So far, most episodes have resulted in good leads, and I wish they had the episodes on Xfinity On Demand to assess how the show was presented prior to its move to Oxygen from TNT.

New episodes of Cold Justice air Saturdays at 8pm.

7 Things To Consider When Watching Game of Thrones (HBO)

The world of Westeros and the fourteen seas is unique in nature. Whatever occurs in that world is guided by a few misunderstood or overlooked principles. To be able to introduce magic, dragons and the undead, George R.R. Martin had to forgo traditional concepts, which was easier to do by using a medieval setting for his fantasy horror story. Such as:

1. The physics of A Song of Ice and Fire are unlike our own.

For winter to come and stay so long, the planet’s path around their sun is nearly impossible to calculate and ponder. When only half of the world is under snow, and in the reach of the white walkers, you have to realize it is only convenient for the storytelling. Therefore…

2. Magic exists in Westeros and Essos, and beyond its borders.

The Lord of Light being just one example of how faith and it can intersect to form powerful religions and rebellion. Traditional norms become a hindrance for the populace. Even those in chains now have a chance to be free. Which makes sense because…

3. The rulers of Westeros are men, thus patriarchal in nature.

The rise of Daenerys and Cersei as ruling Queens, and the presence of Oleanna, Margery, Arya and Ellaria as strong strategists and warriors, challenges the status quo. In a wat, George decided to bring the patriarchy down by employing women in power as the antidote to the quarrels of men. Ruthless and cruel, their methods surpass those of their male counterparts and inspire fear and respect in ways never considered for the women of that world. Even Gilly has surprised viewers with her awareness of the situation, leading Sam down the right path. Which reminds me…

4. Because there is magic, unexplained, the medical progress and technology are still behind the times.

Salves, prayers, forbidden books. Medicine in Westeros is not existent. Short of Maesters experimenting with techniques, there is no cooperative effort to further healing or treatments of ailments with magic or science. Education is left to the men and elite only, which is why it takes such a long time to come up with saving graces. Sam’s initiative may have saved a Lord, but so many more could have been saved if the people of the Seven Kingdoms were better acquainted with the science of their world.

5. Dragons can be commanded by more than one person.

Assuming Drogon stays loyal to Dany, Viserion or Rhaegal can abdicate and join forces with another dragon rider. It was common in the olden days to have both male and female riders, and depending on the training, the dragons could be used in battle to coordinate tactical attacks. There is a chance that there could be a dragon with the Night King’s army but so far, that is only a fan theory.

6. Don’t forget that George promised death and destruction as the end of the series.

For years, George has declared that in the end everyone dies, which either results in all folks becoming white walkers, or a few people escaping to Essos if winter doesn’t extend over there. Expect the death and gore to escalate, until we are more horrified than content with the subject matter.

7. The prophesy of the Prince was ammended to keep the ending open to any possibilities.

In the books there is talk about one of Rhaegon’s children being left alive. The story arc there was to marry the surviving nephew with Daenerys, way before it was revealed that Jon Snow was a Targaryen. The problem here is that Jon is very much a bastard either way, so he has no claim to any throne. Most likely Sansa will have to assume the role of Warden of the North, while the rest of the women fight to rule without a king by their side. The ultimate feminist dream. A world ruled by women.

Note: With no wildfire or care for the White Walkers, Cersei will play a role in getting everyone distracted from the real issues. It will be interesting to see if women are the cure for the strife in Westeros and beyond or if under their thumb it will burn and consume itself.

Enjoy!

“A Girl Can Do That…”

Atomic Blonde was a labor of love for Charlize Theron, who had to produce a female lead action movie at 40 because not one single worthy project had fallen in her lap. As a producer, she grabbed the opportunity to search for the hero she wanted to portray as an actor and she found it in Lorraine, a true Atomic Blonde.

During the 2017 San Diego Comic Con, Charlize addressed her journey to become this iconic bad ass character and bring her to the silver screen. Her 4+ hour work outs made her so confident, the movie was recorreographed to be more physical. She was so good at picking up the martial arts and action sequences that she didn’t even need a stunt double for most scenes. Her presence as an actor makes her actions grand and flawless. You believe she is an MI6 agent, one as excellent or better than the best 00s. Her past is as mysterious as her motives, playing by the same rules as men.

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EW sponsored the Womem Who Kick Ass Icon panel and Charlize delivered, even demanding  Women can rock the world and don’t need some tragic origin story to do so. Lorraine, like Charlize, doesn’t need an excuse to be a bad ass. They are both fearless and unstoppable. About time humans realized how amazing and awesome women can be when given free rein to color and exist outside of the lines. Go watch Atomic Blonde and support all female written, directed and led by women actors. The myth that women can’t command the box office ended as Wonder Woman being the most grossing film of the 2017 summer has put it to rest!

Atomic Blonde opens July 27th.

Oh, and next time: SDCC volunteers and staff, make sure the questions in a panel for women are asked by women. Charlize’s demand of “We cannot end without a female question” was proof that she means business. GIRL POWER!!!

Comic Con Bound!

Sunny San Diago, as Ron Burgundy would say, is the perfect summer getaway for the geeks and nerds. Why? The San Diego Comic Con, the Mecca of all things derived from graphic novels attracts the best of the best: actors, writers, cosplayers, entertainment studios, and fans from all over the world. The nice sandy beaches and weather don’t hurt either, especially if you can spare time to visit Petco field, the zoo and the Embarcadero.

Flights get booked months in advanced but the popularity of the convention usually results in additional last minute flights. My family flew ahead of me, with a layover, but I managed to grab a direct flight two weeks prior to departure. Skywest and Delta FTW! There is no entertainment on the E175s which is not a problem for me. Books, comics and the inflight banter usually occupy my time and the free upgrade I scored definitely gave me a couple of extra 21+ choices to savor. 😎😛😇

So many things to see, so little time…

seaQuest DSV (NBC)

If you ever wondered about what things hardcore nerds treasure is cult classic shows. Although Netflix and other sources aren’t blasting that they have the episodes of this undersea drama, my hope is that they bring them back soon. It has the best of both worlds, the real science of deep water exploration with the fantasy of monsters, civilizations and talking dolphin crew members. Never did I imagine a fictitious submarine and its crew would teach me so much about compassion, adventure and friendship. Having hot teen idol Jonathan Brandis was a plus that enhanced the experience and drew an audience to the content that wouldn’t have made much waves otherwise.

SeaQuest DSV / SeaQuest DSV

Roy Scheider (Jaws) plays Captain Bridger, a character that mirrored the best of all the Star Trek men at the helm. In similar fashion, his group of rag-tag voyagers sets to fulfill missions for the United Earth Oceans Organization (UEO), accompanied by Darwin the talking dolphin. Set in the distant future of 2018, 25 years from the first air date in 1993, the intention of the show was to entertain using drama and veritable scientific advances to exalt the importance of conserving our planet and discovering the treasures of the depths of our own planet. At some point they pick up Dagwood (Peter DeLouise), who is of an alien looking genetically engineered lifeform.

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Even though the episodes eventually devolved into SyFy channel worthy material, cheese and out there, I recall it was a worthy endeavor. Spielberg was attached to it during the first two seasons and the main crew changes kept it interesting. Many of the episodes had meaning and social criticism morsels that garnered the series some awards and consideration among scientists and sci-fi organizations. As the series ventured into the realm of the ridiculous, Michael Ironside replaced a disappointed and mad as hell Roy Scheider as the captain during the last season. Set in 2032, after the deep submergence vehicle, DSV 4600, was feared missing for 10 years, the crew returns after being abducted by aliens, X-Files style.

If this synopsis doesn’t convince you. Check out Playtime, one of the episodes I do remember fondly. Its story touched on the perils of virtual reality, taking the ship on a land mission into a society in which only two people remained. The kicker? The two people didn’t realize they weren’t the last citizens because they were strapped to their virtual reality machines. It resonates to this day: put down your phone and recording devices and start living life people!

Enjoy!

P.S. I just recalled I had a 1:24 scale DIY model of the DSV. Man, you could tell I was well on my way to become and engineer and this show exponentially accelerate that drive and passion.


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