OPENING THIS WEEK:
Atomic Blonde Every few years, rumors circulate that the role of James Bond is about to be recast as a woman. It never happens, and it's never going to happen, because maleness – for better or for worse – is an essential part of the character. Reimagining 007 as anything other than a dude is asking like when we're going to get a female Don Draper; whatever would be the point? But the rumors do what they're designed to do, which is keep the franchise in the public eye by giving Rush Limbaugh something to harrumph about in the even-numbered years when the story isn't that Bond is about to become a black guy.
The notion of a female counterpart to Ian Fleming's core creation, however, is one that's indulged rather frequently, and often within the franchise itself: All the way back to 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, we've been promised a leading lady who is 007's equal in every significant respect. Usually, the closest we get is an otherwise standard-issue Bond girl who has slightly more to do in the third reel. Which means it's left to outside franchises to fill in the gaps. Enter Atomic Blonde, a graphic novel adaptation that stars Charlize Theron as an ass-kicking secret agent assigned to protect various Western operatives as the Berlin Wall comes down in 1989. (Boy, how much more estrogen could you ask for? This thing is literally a period piece!)
As helmed by John Wick co-director/stunt guy David Leitch, the movie is getting better notices for its outrageously choreographed fight scenes than for much of anything else, like characterization or dialogue. Hey, but you don't need those things anyway, right? Just ask Christopher Nolan!
At least the film shows some daring by reportedly giving Charlize Theron's Lorraine Broughton something extra in common with Bond: They both sleep with chicks. Yes, what we have here is an actual lesbian 007, which should provide endless fodder for all manner of grad-school theses and think pieces. Except that it's a Charlize Theron action picture, which means nobody's going to give a shit. Bring on that Muslim Jack Bauer! (R)
The Emoji Movie Hey, remember Wreck-It Ralph? It was that cute animated feature of a few years ago in which a bunch of old-school video game characters were depicted as members of a mutual support system that hinged on them never being able to leave the arcade. (Basically, what your life was like when you were 15.) Well, there's a sequel in the works, and it's going to show what happens when those same characters are able to leave their customary environment and dive deep into the internet, perhaps never to return. (Basically, what your kid's life is like now.)
While we wait for Ralph Redux, we'll have to make do with The Emoji Movie, which introduces a similarly insular community of digital protagonists. Dedicated to the proposition that nobody should have to use actual words when a tiny pile of shit will do, these happy visual shortcuts find their highly regimented existence threatened when one of their number – Gene – discovers that he can convey far more emotions than he's supposed to. (Basically, what your kid's life was like before Xanax.) Will Gene be able to suppress all those extraneous expressions and become a nice normal Meh? And boy, don't some negative reviews just write themselves? (PG)
The Exception Now here's a concept: a World War II movie with actual talking in it! It's so crazy it just might work. Christopher Plummer plays the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm in this melding of actual history and dramatic license, which speculates as to the safety and security of Germany's former leader during the Third Reich invasion of Holland. Things get even more complicated when the head of the SS arrives for a visit. Working title: Guess Who's Coming to Himmler. (R)