Valerian And The City of A Thousand Planets (2017) Review

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (2017)
French: Valérian et la Cité des mille planètes

Directed by Luc Besson

Based on Valérian and Laureline
by Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

My Opinion:

I liked this. I didn’t really expect to. I do think I should just go into every movie with low expectations as I often end up far less disappointed that way. I went into this with low expectations as it looked like it could be a disaster. It’s a fun film.

Believe me, this movie is far from perfect. But if you like Besson’s The Fifth Element, I can’t see why you wouldn’t get some enjoyment out of this one as well. It’s visually impressive and I especially liked the gorgeous planet & alien race at the beginning of the film. I’m not sure if it’s really accurate to compare it to Avatar but I couldn’t help comparing them in my mind & I personally enjoyed this “science fiction movie with funny-looking aliens that some people won’t take seriously” film more than that one. The story itself & the look of the whole thing & even the comic relief all worked just fine for me. As I said, it’s a fun film & it kept me entertained throughout its rather long running time. I actually didn’t think it felt overlong, whereas I did feel that way about the film I watched before this one, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The only thing I can really fault about this film is its casting. Specifically its main stars: Dane DeHaan & Cara Delevingne as Valérian and Laureline. It’s a shame, as I think the lack of true leading character star power hurts the film. I know nothing whatsoever about the source material but they seem like two pretty cool characters and I imagine that they don’t really do them justice in this film. The surprising thing is I think DeHaan was almost weaker than Delevingne (who I really don’t like), although I’ve thought he was pretty good in the past in things such as The Place Beyond The Pines. Even more surprising is that Rihanna was pretty good in a small role but also as one of the better characters in the film overall. I liked her dance routine, which was pretty unique (but a little saucy if you bring your kids to the movie). Well, it’s no more saucy than her videos. But I may be the only one in my cinema who kept picturing the girl from Home every time she talked (my kid really likes that movie so I’ve seen it several times).

So. Where were we? A fun movie with weak stars that let the film down a little but lovely to look at and filled with wacky characters & some comic relief that you’ll either love or hate. The film is definitely not going to be for everyone but, hey – if you’ve seen The Fifth Element, you should know what to expect. If you like this genre (it’s my favorite) and if you’re happy to just enjoy a movie without overthinking things & being too judge-y, you may like this one just fine.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Predestination (2014) Review

Predestination (2014)

Directed by Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig

Based on ‘—All You Zombies—’ by Robert A. Heinlein

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.

My Opinion:

Of all the mindfuck time travel movies, this is one of the mindfuckiest. And I love a good mindfuck time travel movie so this was exactly my sort of thing! I’ll discuss it a little but promise to remain entirely spoiler-free.

I absolutely love sci-fi above all other genres when it comes to movies but I’ve read very little of it. I figure it’s all way too over my head, especially the ones involving complicated time travel. Therefore, I’ve not read ‘—All You Zombies—’, the Robert A. Heinlein short story that this movie is based on (or anything by Robert A. Heinlein for that matter). But it’s a great story! Bizarre & a bit mental but thoroughly entertaining. I’d love to actually read it now. From what I read about this movie afterwards, as it’s one of those where you immediately go online for some explanations, it’s very faithful to the story so Heinlein fans seem happy with it. From what I can tell, one element has been added which was probably to make it a little more “exciting” for a movie audience? But I don’t think it was a necessary addition as the main story is strong enough. I need to track down the actual short story now…

As I said, I’m going to remain spoiler-free but that will make this a very short review. I believe this movie is one where it’s best to know nothing about it beforehand in order to get the most enjoyment from it. However, I’m going to include the trailer at the end for anyone who needs further convincing to check this one out. Which makes no sense as I just said you should know as little as possible… 😉 Basically, only watch the trailer if you’re mildly interested but skip it if you already know that this sounds like your sort of movie.

The Spierig Brothers have made very few other films but I’d be interested in seeing them make more based on how they handled this one. The only other movie of theirs that I’ve seen in Daybreakers (they clearly like Ethan Hawke). I really liked Daybreakers but I don’t think it was hugely successful. I have to say Predestination is a lot better, though, so I don’t know why it seems to have gone fairly unnoticed. The movie it most seems to get compared to is Looper but I think it’s a stronger story with much better performances (especially from Sarah Snook, who I’ll talk about in a minute). I wouldn’t say the two are very similar other than that they’re both about time travel & have a similar sort of mood. Otherwise, Looper is more of an action movie whereas Predestination is an introspective film that’s more about the characters than about trying to capture a criminal (making the above plot synopsis a bit misleading). You could be disappointed if you expect a lot of action from this one: Predestination is somewhere between Looper & Primer. However, I think I understand Predestination after reading explanations of parts of it online & I think I could follow the timeline if I watch it again whereas Primer will never, ever make any sense to me whatsoever (I attempted to review Primer HERE).

Summary:

Will someone please watch this & discuss it with me?? My hubby fell asleep ten minutes into it! (He was tired…). I really enjoyed it but there’s one bit that’s all “Whoa… Whaaaat?!?!?” so I’m not sure if everyone could move past that bit & fully appreciate the film. If you can, you’ll be treated to one heck of a bizarre story. You’ll also experience a truly fantastic performance from Sarah Snook. Why hasn’t she been in more films?! I don’t know her at all. All I’ve seen her in is a small role in Steve Jobs. Hawke is also very good in this (I love him but don’t always think he’s the best actor) but Snook is the one who truly makes this movie. Without her intense performance, I think the story would be harder to accept.

As for time travel accuracy, I’m no expert so can’t say how “possible” this story is but those who know more about that sort of thing have written about this movie (and short story) so there are plenty of more well-informed scientific opinions you can find online. I learned all about a specific time travel paradox that I won’t name as it might give too much away to any sci-fi people but, once you’ve watched this movie, HERE is a good link I found at astronomytrek.com when I Googled “Predestination explanation“. Obviously, don’t click that link unless you’ve seen the movie! And don’t watch the below trailer if you now desperately want to see this based on my amazingly worded review. Stay in the dark unless you’re one of those who must feel all your Christmas presents.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Boyhood (2014) Review

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Boyhood (2014)

Directed by Richard Linklater

Starring:
Patricia Arquette
Ellar Coltrane
Lorelei Linklater
Ethan Hawke

Running time: 166 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Boyhood is a 2014 American drama film written and directed by Richard Linklater and starring Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater and Ethan Hawke. The film was shot intermittently over a twelve-year period, as Coltrane grew from childhood to adulthood; filming began in the summer of 2002 and was completed in October 2013.

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My Opinion:

I’ll get straight to the point: This movie is NOT for everyone. Unless you’re already a fan of Richard Linklater’s style, it’s very unlikely that you’ll enjoy this film. This is long (2 hours, 46 minutes). There’s a lot of talking. Not much happens. If you don’t like this type of movie, don’t go to it. Luckily, I saw this movie during the day with only a few other people in the cinema. My poor hubby saw it in the evening in a packed cinema. As soon as the movie ended, all he heard around him was people bitching about the movie. (“That was way too long!” “Nothing happens!” “Who would ever want to sit through that again?!”). This is where the general movie-going public gets on my nerves. Do a little bit of homework before going to a movie! There’s this thing called the Internet where you can find out what a movie is about. And when you looked it up to see the showtimes? Well, guess what: the length of the movie is listed there as well! Shocking, I know. Maybe look on IMDB & see if you like other films the director has done? If you can’t be bothered to do any of these things, either stay home or shut the hell up. Okay – rant over! Maybe I’ll talk about what I actually thought of Boyhood now…

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I went into this movie with very high expectations. I’m a Linklater fan – I love the “Before” films and Dazed & Confused is one of my very favorite movies. To be honest, I was kind of hoping for one of those “life changing” films. Fellow movie bloggers should know what I mean by that – You know how some movies really “move” you and make you want to be a better person & all that shit? Things like The Shawshank Redemption, Cinema Paradiso & WALL-E do that for me. Anyway, I didn’t really get that sort of experience from Boyhood. Watching a boy grow up before your eyes like that is a pretty cool experience, though, and you certainly have to give Linklater credit for taking on such a hugely ambitious project. To make a movie out of 12 years’ worth of filming is a hell of an achievement. Does it all come together as an enjoyable “movie”, though? Maybe not quite. In a way, it’s more of a “social experiment” than a film. As a social experiment, it works & it’s pretty amazing. As a movie, it falls a little bit flat.

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Boyhood is very much like Before Sunrise, etc, with the talking and the improvisation and the feeling that you’re just watching normal people going about their daily lives. The characters don’t work together quite as well as Hawke & Delpy did in the Before films and the banter feels a little less natural than it did in those. Plus, it feels like there’s even less of a “story” in Boyhood. I’m not really going to fault Boyhood for a lack of story, however, as that’s not really the point of the film. As much as I wish it was, life isn’t a movie. It’s filled with long, boring days. It’s how you get through those days and the relationships you have with others that really matters in life. And blah blah, yada yada… We all know this although very few of us choose to “seize the day” and all that (I know I don’t live that way). Boyhood attempts to show us this but, for me personally, it didn’t quite connect with me in the same way other films with a similar theme have.

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Summary:

I don’t feel I’ve done a very good job explaining my feelings in this review. I think Boyhood is very good. It’s unique & a great piece of art. Watching the character of Mason (as well as the real-life Ellar Coltrane & all the other actors in this film including Linklater’s own daughter) literally age 12 years in just under 3 hours is, well, pretty damn special. I did genuinely care about the characters (especially Mason but also his mom, played very well by Patricia Arquette). Boyhood is very much a Richard Linklater film – it’s all about the characters & their relationships. I sounded slightly negative in my review as I KNOW some people will hate this movie if they’re expecting something other than a Linklater film & I suppose I wanted to let those people know what they’d be getting themselves into if they choose to watch this. No, it’s not a movie I’m likely to watch again anytime soon but that’s because it’s not really that type of movie. It’s more of an experience and I’m happy I managed to see it in the cinema. I recommend Boyhood but probably only to Linklater fans and/or those who are interested in filmmaking in any way.

My Rating: 8/10

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Before Midnight (2013) Review

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Before Midnight (2013)

Directed by Richard Linklater

Starring:
Ethan Hawke
Julie Delpy
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
Jennifer Prior
Charlotte Prior
Xenia Kalogeropoulou
Walter Lassally
Ariane Labed
Yiannis Papadopoulos
Athina Rachel Tsangari
Panos Koronis

Running time: 109 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
We see Jesse & Celine nine years after they met again in Before Sunset. Now in their early 40s, life is a lot more complicated than when they first met almost twenty years ago.

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I love Before Sunrise & Before Sunset. I’ve always liked that these two feel like a REAL couple, which you don’t always get in romantic movies. Plus Hawke & Delpy have proven that they’re great working together & have wonderful chemistry. I also love Richard Linklater films. I love films where nothing much happens but the characters are really rich and talk and talk and talk about all kinds of interesting but also plenty of boring things just like we all do in real life (wow – I’m describing the exact type of movie that someone I know would hate. Lol). Well, I love this sort of thing! (Dazed And Confused is my favorite Linklater film and the exact type of movie I’d love to make if I was a filmmaker).

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Anyway – I’ve only just finally managed to watch Before Midnight as it was of course not showing in any cinemas near me for very long. But, also, I kind of had some trepidation about watching it and still didn’t rush to see it once it was available to watch at home. My review will, as always, try to be spoiler-free. I won’t say how this ends but, before seeing it, I had a feeling it would be the end of Jesse & Celine and I really didn’t want to see that. I liked them as a couple & wanted them to stay a couple. They’re made for each other!

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This movie is just like the first two in that we see some intelligent people sitting around and talking about the things intelligent people talk about. Jesse & Celine are in Greece staying with a friend and a few other couples. Over a meal they all talk about love and marriage & I enjoyed this part of the movie quite a bit. One woman whose husband has died talks about how she misses him and she was probably the biggest highlight of the film. As it’s Jesse & Celine’s last night in Greece, they’ve been given a gift of a night in a local hotel while their friends watch their twin daughters for the night.

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Throughout the movie we’ve been seeing the strain the marriage has been under due to Jesse having a son living so far away from him in America and a difficult ex-wife and Celine considering a career change plus both of them, but especially Celine I think, realizing that they’re in their 40s now and things are very different from when they first met. I’m the same sort of age as this couple which is probably why I’ve always been able to relate to them so this one was a difficult watch as, to be honest, life is hard enough at this age so I prefer to watch movies as a form of escapism from reality. It’s probably why my favorite genre is actually sci-fi. Hawke & Delpy give great performances as always but don’t expect the lightheartedness of the first two films. What I did like a lot is that sometimes I could relate to Celine whereas other times (and probably more often) it was Jesse I could relate to more. I think a lot of couples watching will feel this way. They’re a very “real” couple in this one with real problems and the movie is pretty fantastic. But it was all just a little TOO real for me and I think I’ll choose to remember Jesse & Celine the way they were before life got in the way.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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The Purge (2013) Review

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The Purge

Directed by James DeMonaco

Starring:

Ethan Hawke
Lena Headey
Max Burkholder
Adelaide Kane
Edwin Hodge
Rhys Wakefield
Tony Oller
Arija Bareikis

Plot Synopsis:

In 2022 America, all crime is legal for one night of every year. Unemployment & the crime rate are at an all time low thanks to this annual 12-hour period, known as The Purge, when people are allowed the opportunity to get out all their aggressions.

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My Opinion:

First of all, it actually wasn’t until looking for the images to use in this review that I saw the poster saying “from the producer of Paranormal Activity & Sinister”. I’m glad I didn’t know that beforehand because I’d have skipped The Purge. Luckily, it’s better than those. Paranormal Activity was… Meh. Sinister actually started out very promising and I found it pretty creepy at first but then it got extremely stupid & left me very pissed off. The Purge has the same eerie feel & tension that the start of Sinister has but manages to maintain that throughout the whole film.

I enjoyed this movie more than I was expecting. It’s kind of a weird one, though – it’s somewhere in between “suspenseful thriller” (like Panic Room but nowhere near as good) and “horror” (like The Strangers – it felt VERY similar to this movie). I can see people not liking The Purge if they’re expecting it to fit nicely into just one of those two categories. It’s actually considered “science fiction”, however – I guess as it takes place in a dystopian future? It just doesn’t feel like “the future” as it’s only nine years from now so I guess that’s why it doesn’t feel like science fiction. (Did you notice how I used the word “dystopian” there? Look at me using big words & stuff!). 🙂

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I’m not sure what to say now. I’m not entirely sure why I liked this film. I went to it only because I heard what it was about and really liked the concept. With so many sequels and remakes and the rehashing of the same old stories over and over again these days, it was great to hear about a movie plot that felt like a fresh new idea (although I’m sure it’s been done somewhere?). All crime legal for one night- It’s a great concept for a film! Very simple yet with SO many possibilities. There were so many ways this movie could have played out. Is it as good as its concept? No, unfortunately not. It tries to demonstrate the (obvious) moral implications involved in people going around and doing any horrible thing they desire for one night each year. But it never really manages to be “deep”. The Purge feels like a wasted opportunity – a high concept that’s not explored in depth. However, I did still enjoy it. I mean, it’s only 85 minutes and it’s from the producer of Paranormal Activity & Sinister – you’re not going to get something too deep & meaningful. As long as you don’t go to it expecting that, you might enjoy it. It’s a popcorn movie that happens to have good original concept. I think this is one of those that’s easier to discuss by breaking it down into the “good” and “not so good” bits.

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The Good:

– The concept

– The moral implications involved in a night of purging (although only touched on a little bit in this film)

– The creepy masks & the “baddies”. I’m not going to go into the plot too much as I try to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible. The trailer gives away a lot more about this movie so I can say the story centers on one family (Ethan Hawke & Lena Headey and their son & daughter) in their secured home on the night of The Purge and the people who are trying to enter their house. The masks were creepy. There’s just something about faceless strangers committing acts of evil – I find that frightening. Yes, it’s VERY similar to The Strangers, which I liked but I know not everyone did. If you liked that, you might like The Purge.

– The doll’s head. It’s creepy. What’s creepier than people in masks? Freaking DOLLS.

– The “haves” vs the “have nots”. Naturally, in a future where a night of legalized crime exists, it’s those who have the money to arm themselves and secure their homes who have the least to worry about. Again, though, this is something that could have been explored more fully but I thought they did a decent enough job of getting this point across in 85 minutes.

– The suspense. It’s pretty good through the whole film. Things are always pretty tense.

– The boy looked like Skrillex. Especially when wearing his glasses. (Can’t find a picture with the glasses).

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The Not So Good:

– A great concept not explored in depth

– A few things were WAY too obvious and predictable. But I can’t discuss them without spoilers.

– The daughter is unnecessarily in her school uniform (with the shortest school uniform skirt EVER) the entire time. (And the male readers are now wondering why this is listed under “not so good”. Lol). Because, like the underwear scene in Into Darkness, it doesn’t make sense. There’s no reason for it.

– The characters of the central family & their neighbors. They just came across as very “sheltered” from the realities of the nights of The Purge (other than the son who actually questions things a little). I know the point is that they’re rich so they don’t have to worry about it. It’s not their “problem”. But this is only nine years from now. It just seems a bit weird that The Purge has been so readily accepted as a necessary thing. It just didn’t feel QUITE like how people would actually behave if this was reality. (But the scary thing is that I may be wrong). I think this movie probably would have worked a bit better set a little further into the future.

– The genre.The feeling that the movie doesn’t quite know where it “fits”. Thriller? Horror? Science fiction? I just feel like, in the right hands, this concept could have been turned into an absolutely brilliant film. It makes me wish the central idea could be reused and turned into a suspenseful thriller that also explores all the moral issues. Done by David Fincher? I think he could make something great out of this. Christopher Nolan? Heck… Maybe even Lars Von Trier – he’d make something interesting out of this concept. (Look at me trying to sound like a smart film person – I think I’ve only ever seen one Lars Von Trier film. Lol!). Cronenberg might be a good one too… Oh, he’d make an awesome movie out of this. Dammit – I want someone to completely remake this now!

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Summary:

The Purge is a movie with an excellent concept that’s never fully explored in depth. It feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity but is still enjoyable enough as a simple 85 minute popcorn flick. There are moments that are actually pretty tense & frightening and I stayed gripped until the end. It doesn’t quite know which genre it’s aiming for or maybe even what kind of an audience it’s aiming for, though. Some will like it, some will hate it. I enjoyed it quite a bit even though I was a little disappointed when thinking about how great the movie COULD have been in different hands. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone but I would if I thought it was someone’s sort of thing. But I’d definitely recommend going to it with an open mind and not expecting to learn anything deep and meaningful about the human condition that we don’t all already know.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Rating upped after watching the final film, The Purge: Election Year, as I think this is a very solid trilogy & the first two films have gone up even more in my estimation.

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Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke Break the Fourth Wall in Don’t Talk or Text Alamo Drafthouse PSA

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Ha! I love it. But can’t they just throw their (empty) drinks at the heads of annoying teenage girls chatting, texting & giggling like my hubby does?? 😉

I can’t wait to see Before Midnight. I love Before Sunrise & Sunset – they’re one of my favorite romantic movie couples.

Link: SlashFilm