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Posts Tagged ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

We have spent a lot of the 21st century gazing at the stars, or at least CGI versions of them.  The century started with the second and third movies in the Star Wars prequels trilogy, Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005).  A series of films that are constantly being revaluated, I’m not sure if they are officially good or bad at the moment.  Star Trek ran out of steam, with the last movie from the Next Generation Crew Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) not being very good.  But then in J. J. Abrams came along and with the help of some wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff (if I may quote a TV series in an article about movies) created a new timeline to retell the story of the original crew of the enterprise.  The first film Star Trek (2009) was excellent, the second Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), then Abrams jumped ship and the third film Star Trek Beyond (2016) directed by Justin Lin was a partial return to form.  There may be a fourth film in the series eventually, it keeps getting pushed back or going into turnaround.  There may also be a further film in the universe that by Quentin Tarantino, that is looking less and less likely. Star Trek Wars

The reason J. J. Abrams jumped (space)ship, was to go and work for the enemy, Star Wars.  The director of the first and final movies in a new trilogy, a third and final trilogy to bring the Skywalker saga to an end.  The films came about after Disney’s acquisition of Lucas Film (for a staggering amount of money).  All three films have their fans and detractors in a hugely polarized and quite amusing social media battle among a certain type of fanboy.  For me, the middle film, The Last Jedi (2017) written and directed  by Rian Johnson is the best (and the most controversial).  The Force Awakens (2015) is the safest of the three, but good fun and it introduces some great characters, and brings back some old favourites.  The Rise of Skywalker (2019) is certainly the weakest but is still good fun and gets to a satisfying end (except for that certain group of fanboys).  Along the way, we also got two Star Wars Anthology films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) tells the story of the events leading up to the origonal 1977 film, and for me is the best film outside the original trilogy.  The flipside to that, Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) is totally unnecessary origin story of fan favourite Han Solo.  it isn’t terrible, just pointless.The end of the Skywalker sagaNot satisfied with just Star Wars, Disney went to space with their other big acquired property: Marvel.  They started in 2014 when they took a less well know Marvel property Guardians of the Galaxy and had a smash hit with a more, fun and comic take on the superhero genre.  a sequel Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017) followed.  To be fair parts of The Avengers movies were also set in space, and Thor is from another planet.  It wasn’t until Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Taika Waititi’s brilliant but bonkers take on the character that you would call it a space adventure.  After a decade, and about 20 movies Disney finally gave a woman a leading role in a Marvel movie.  While a lot of the movie is based on earth, Captain Marvel (2019) is an intergalactic character, as is Marvels big bad Thanos.  All the characters of the MCU came together to fight an intergalactic battle with the big purple one in Avengers Infinity War (2018) and the biggest film of all time (if you don’t adjust for inflation) Avengers Endgame 2019.  That brings us nicely onto Avatar (2009), with an even higher boxoffice if you adjust for inflation.  James Cameron’s first movie since 1997 when he made a little film about a shipwreck.  As you would expect from Cameron, it made great advances in effects and technology, especially in 3D.  I am not a fan.  As yet he hasn’t made another film yet, but understand he is filming about 100 sequels back to back with the first due for release in about two years. Marvel goes to spaceDC’s ventures into space were less successful.  The Green Lantern (2011) about a group of intergalactic supper powered policemen was rubbish.  Man of Steel (2013) was a reboot of a 1970’s movie about a man called Kal-El who is sent to earth as a baby before his home planet is destroyed.  He ends up fighting against bodies from his home world.  It isn’t bad, but not as good as the 1978, and 1980 movies, and like those movies, all subsequent sequels are terrible. DC and AliensRidley Scott decided that we were all wrong, the most interesting thing about his Movie Alien (1979), and James Cameron’s sequel to it Aliens (1987), wasn’t the Xenomorph, or Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.  It wasn’t the brilliant world building of the story where corporations are more powerful than countries.  He decided the derelict alien ship, and how the Aliens got there was more important.  He then gave us two extremely average films, Prometheus (2012), and Alien Covenant (2017).  There are some excellent characters that aren’t used very well, and some who don’t know how to run to the side.  almost realLets not be too tough on Ridley Scott, he has given us an excellent movie in the genre, The Martian (2015).  The story of a man left behind on Mars.  This is part of a crop of Sci-Fi movies that feel more realistic and closer to where we are now than Star Wars or Star Trek.  The pick of these for me was Gravity (2013).  A film so spectacular in IMAX 3D (the only good 3D experience I have had) that I have not re-watched it again, it just won’t be the same on TV.  Other films in this sub genre could include Christopher Nolan’s excellent Interstellar (2014), Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine (2007), Claire Denis bleak but brilliant High Life (2018), and James Gray’s disappointing Ad Astra (2019).   A film doesn’t have to be fiction, or particularly outlandish to be compelling, providing it is told well, and there are two such examples from the last two years: Damien Chazelle’s telling of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong in the film First Man (2018), and the documentary on the same subject: Apollo 11 (2019).  The latter is breathtaking look at the mission using stunning NASA images, no talking heads, or voiceover. smerfs monkeys aliens and the sunI wouldn’t include Passengers (2016) in the list of realist sci-fi movies, as it is too glossy and Sci-Fi, it is however worth seeing for the interesting plot, that is more disturbing the more you think about it.  Part of the premise of the film is people in hypersleep on their way to a distant planet.  Obviously something always goes wrong in these movies.  Others worth watching are: Pandorum (2009) a film that takes these ideas, and gives them a horror and survival adventure spin.  Pitch Black (2000) is an even better take on the horror space adventure, possibly the best and most original since the first two Alien films.  It’s sequel The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), was terrible, but the third film Riddick (2013) isn’t bad, although its attempt to recreate the original are a little forced.  Life (2017) has the almost real world setting, a fictionalised version of The International Space Station, it rapidly turns into Alien when an alien life form gets loose.  It isn’t Alien, but it isn’t bad. Horror in spaceThe man who gave us The Fifth Element (1997) Luc Besson, was back this century, with another bold and bonkers tale: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017).  The film had mixed reviews, as Besson’s work often does, I liked it.  The title is a little misleading and under serves one of its characters, based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline; Laureline is the more interesting character and probably has a larger part in the story than Valérian.  That asside, it is bright and bold and like nothing else, except maybe The Fifth Element!a mix of fact and fantasy (1)Saving the best for last.  When I went to see Joss Whedon’s Serenity (2005), I had not seen (or even heard of) Firefly, I have since watched the whole (short) series more than once.  The movie is nothing short of a masterpiece.  It works whether you have seen the TV show or not.  It is all the more impressive, as it was Whedon’s feature debut as a director.  The budget was less than $40million or about a quarter of Revenge of the Sith that came out the same year.  This doesn’t show, as the film looks amazing, largely thanks to clever photography and practice sets/effects over CGI.  Ticking every box for a space adventure, and a western, the film is fun, and often very funny, but there is a far deeper message about society, about right and wrong, but it is far more nuanced than anything you will get from Disney or Star Wars, it isn’t black and white, or light and dark, The Alliance is not The Empire!SerenityI have probably missed lots, but these are the ones that spring to mind.  I pleased to say the genre is in good health at the movies, and on TV, but that will have to be an entire article in itself. 

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August has been another stellar month, eight trips to the cinema, most have them have been good, I have enjoyed them all in some way.  Only one can be movie of the month, here are the contenders:

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Two decades after The Fifth Element Luc Besson returns to space for a sci-fi adventure.  Adapted from Besson’s favourite comic strip Valerian can’t decide if it wants to be the camp fun of Flash Gordon, or something more nuanced.  Cara Delevingne should feel a little miffed as despite being the main character and best part of the film, her character  Laureline has had her name expunged from the comics original title.  The content of the film seems to divide opinion one thing that can’t be disputed is how fantastic it looks. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron proved with Æon Flux that she had a affinity for action, sadly the film wasn’t much good.  It wasn’t until Mad Max: Fury Road that she had a suitable vehicle for her talent.  Former stunt man/coordinator David Leitch, half the team behind John Wick has created the perfect movie for her talents.  Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, Theron gets to play a character somewhere between James Bond and John Wick.  There is a little more plot than the movie needs but the action is great and it looks amazing. Atomic Blonde

A Ghost Story – Director David Lowery reteams with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara.  Not much happens, and it happens very slowly without much dialogue, what should be terrible and boring, is actually brilliant.   A Ghost Story

Overdrive – Low rent rip-off of The Fast and Furious franchise.  The multiple twists and tunes in the plot are clearly signposted and are unlikely to surprise anyone. There is some good action and the survival rate of the classic cars is better than the aforementioned automotive franchise. Overdrive

The Dark Tower – Having not read any of the Stephen King sauce material I didn’t know what to expect from this adaptation.  The narrative is a bit of a mess and lacks the epic feeling I was led to expect, but I actually enjoyed it.  Idris Elba is excellent, Matthew McConaughey shows moments of brilliance but on the whole his performance is as disjointed as the film.  Not a disaster, but it could have been better.The Dark Tower

Annabelle: Creation – Prequel to the spinoff of The Conjuring.  Well constructed horror that is as enjoyable as the Conjuring movies largely thanks to the right balance of creepy build-up and jump scares; not to mention a supremely creepy doll._T2A7437.dng

American Made – Based on the true story of Barry Seal, an airline pilot recruited by the CIA to take reconnaissance photos, he soon finds himself working for the Medellín Cartel.  Tom Cruise makes a charismatic star as ever. Directed with verve and style by Doug Liman, one of the most underrated directors working today. Domhnall Gleeson is wonderfully slimy.  American Made

Logan Lucky – Steven Soderbergh returns from retirement with a blue collar Ocean’s Eleven. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are great in the leads but the best performances come from Riley Keough and Daniel Craig.  Not the best that Soderbergh has to offer but still a really good and enjoyable film. Logan Lucky

Ever since seeing it I intended the movie of the month to be A Ghost Story, a movie that has haunted me (pun intended) for weeks.  However, as is so often the case, my movie of the month, is the one I most want to see again: Atomic Blonde.Atomic Blonde poster

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Better late than never, I missed my usual first of the month slot, not through excessive cinema going; Today I saw Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, my first trip to the cinema for over a week, but you are going to have to wait until next month to see what I thought of it.  Today is all about July’s movie of the month, the contenders are:

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Do we need yet another Spider-Man re-boot? The simple answer is no, but if we are going to get a new version, this is the one we want.  I’m not sure if Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man we have seen to date, he is certainly the best Peter Parker.  It doesn’t do any harm that Michael Keaton is an excellent an more nuanced villain than we have come to expect. Spider-Man Homecoming

It comes at Night – Billed as a horror, actually more a character driven exercise in tension.  Joel Edgerton has again proved to be an actor willing to make interesting choices. It comes at Night

War for the Planet of the Apes – The weakest of the new generation of Planet of the Apes movies but still a step above the usual blockbuster.  Technically brilliant and supremely acted but a plot that lacks any surprises. War for the Planet of the Apes

The Beguiled – Sofia Coppola’s take on Thomas Cullinan’s novel lacks predatory seediness that made the Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood version so compelling.  Coppola’s version is however perfectly cast and stunning to look at.The Beguiled

Dunkirk – My first IMAX movie of the year, it was so worth it.  As you would expect from Christopher Nolan, this isn’t just a straight telling of the story, it is enhanced by a perfectly executed structure.  The tension never lets up and is only enhanced by the lack of CGI and the imposing score. Dunkirk

The Big Sick – Comedian Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in an autobiographical rom-com.  Both compelling and funny, it is so much more than I have come to expect from a Judd Apatow produced movie.  Nanjiani is good in the lead role, Zoe Kazan and Ray Romano are excellent in support, Holly Hunter steals the show as you would expect. The Big Sick

All the movies I saw in July were good, one stood out head an shoulders above the rest, Movie of the Month is:Dunkirk poster

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