Hieroglyphics was an ancient Egyptian writing system that used approximately 1,000 different little pictures to communicate important cultural ideas and stories. The earliest discovered Egyptian hieroglyphs date to around 4,000 BC, and the art form was so complex it didn't fully phase out even after less complicated writing systems were developed.
In fact, hieroglyphs still exist in contemporary communication and they're more popular than ever, except instead of a falcon/basket/snake combo we use an eggplant shooting water drops over a chocolate donut. And we call them emojis.
To many people (especially my age or older), emojis are the stupidest f*cking things on Earth and a true sign that human civilization is not only circling the drain but actively diving in. This is, of course, a knee-jerk reaction to a natural language cycle, but unless you think a joke about poo emojis not having to wash their hands after taking a crap is funny, you may want to skip The Emoji Movie, opening this week at the Whistler Village 8.
There were no pre-screeners for this one (bad sign), but it appears to be about a world that exists inside our phones, where emojis are anthropomorphized and have to leap up and do their thing every time someone in the "real" world uses one. Or something. It's also aimed at children so you can bet there's a message in The Emoji Movie about "being yourself" or something equally valuable.
The talent involved here is not confidence-inspiring. Director Tony Leondis' biggest hit thus far is Lilo & Stich 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, and the lead emoji is voiced by B-list stand-up comic T.J Miller, who has been in a lot of successful animated features (Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon), but is also currently mired in controversy for maybe saying women comedians aren't as funny as men. He claims he was misinterpreted, but none of it makes the movie sound more appetizing, does it? Poo emoji, indeed.
Fear not movie lovers, because there's also a solid dose of crash-bang throat-punching mayhem on the movie menu this week. Atomic Blonde stars Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Italian Job) as a takes-a-licking-and-keeps-ass-kicking MI6 spy tasked with taking down who or what is killing undercover spies just like her. The narrative sounds a bit standard, but there is so much to love about this movie, starting with Theron herself, the most legit and viable action star this side of The Rock.
Theron has appeared in more than 40 films since 1995's Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, and while not all have been amazing (Reindeer Games!) it's never her fault. She won an Oscar for Monster in 2003 and is equally proficient at comedy (A Million Ways to Die in the West), drama (The Road) and pretty much anything else you can throw at her. Basically, Charlize is the best thing on screen these days and Atomic Blonde pairs her with stunt-wizard-turned-director David Leitch (both John Wick films) in a highly stylized orgy of exit wounds, beatdowns, a bit of sex, and some mind-blowing, ballet-like stunt work.
Does it have the emotional punch of Mad Max: Fury Road? No, few films do, but Atomic Blonde is a hyper-stylized celebration of baddassery that reaffirms that the most important ingredient of an action movie is action. Certainly, it's 10 to 15 minutes too long, and the plot (based on The Coldest City, a graphic novel from Antony Johnston) could use a bit more motivation, backstory, and hubris, but Leitch accompanies his trademark wide-shot, long-take, highly choreographed fight scenes with a heavy film noir visual aesthetic set in an uber-Cold War Berlin with a whole lot of neon awesomeness. It is style over substance and roundhouse kicking over arthouse meaning, but it's good enough for me. James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones and Sofia Boutella adequately round out the cast, but Atomic Blonde is Theron's show, and she high-heel stomps the hell out of it.
Also playing, space opera Valerian¸ and speaking of high style, Baby Driver is a love story musical that replaces the cheese with incredible car chases. And Spider-Man: Homecoming is still the most fun superhero movie since Deadpool. It's a good summer for movies. (Less so for emojis: scientists are tearing Apple apart for its "wildly inaccurate" T-Rex emoji. Mainly, because it's green and you can see visible bottom teeth. Also, it's one centimetre tall, which is totally off.)