Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, 2017

Directed by: Luc Besson

Starring: Dane Dehaan, Cara Delevigne

IMDb

Valerian and the City of a Thousand was a pretty crap movie and I had a great time watching it.
 
To be clear, there are actually some solid points to the film. The visual direction and style is pretty stimulating, a bunch of the ideas pulled from the source material were pretty unique and very neat, and surprisingly not totally played out as far as hollywood sci-fi movies are concerned. Dane Dehaan’s performance was pretty good when the script allowed him to be, and I’d be lying if the film didn’t manage to get a few laughs out of me, even if it didn’t mean to in every case.
 
The dialogue, and indeed the writing as a whole, was cringeworthy and hilarious. I didn’t buy the banter/romance between Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevigne for even a second. Still funny though.
 
Speaking of funny, Cara Delevigne’s performance was amazingly terrible. There were points where it looked like she had to struggle to remember her lines, her accent slipped between british and american liberally, and I swear the majority of her line delivery was in the style of a sitcom. I’m not sure why hollywood is so insistent on making her an actress but if this kind of performance is going to become her standard I almost hope to see her on screen more often.
 
The CGI was at an interesting level, particularly with the alien creatures. It was at a level of competency that these creatures would look fantastic if they were featuring in an animated film, but unfortunately we, the audience, are meant to buy that they exist side by side with live action human characters. It’s honestly kind of hilarious how jarring the differences are. Early on in the film there’s a jump cut from a fully CGI rendered world to a close up on Dane Dehaan and I actually laughed from how silly it looked.
 
Rihanna has what amounts to an extended cameo in the film despite how heavily the marketing focused on her presence in the film. Of the approximately 10 minutes of screen time she gets, about 2 of those are dedicated to a shapeshifting pole dancing routine, which ends up being a highlight of the film if only for the awkward reaction shots of Dane Dehaan. Her implementation into the film was incredibly dumb, and despite her evident lack in acting talent (I never saw Battleship so as far as I’m concerned this is her debut) she still ended up being one of the most endearing elements in the film.
 
 
 
One last comment is that this is one of the most explicit offenders of telling rather than showing in order to translate as much of the source material as possible. Literal minutes straight of nothing but exposition plague this film. Some of it, especially towards the end, was absolutely hilarious. Trust me. This movie is actually a great time if you have 0 expectations.
 
It tries its best to have actual tension but it never quite makes it. It has half hearted attempts at emotional moments and never comes close. No, the best parts of this movie are the laughs and some of the visuals, in addition to some neat ideas which can’t even be attributed to the film, as they were from the graphic novel.
 
It’s bad, but the good kind of bad. If you’re into that kind of thing, go ahead and enjoy.
 
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The Mummy, 2017

The Mummy was a bad movie, but not entirely unenjoyable. Tom Cruise played Tom Cruise with startling precision, the story was predictable and didn’t really leave room for any surprises, and the movie is gonna make me talk about feminism for the second time in a row. The movie takes one step forward by having the typically male role of the titular monster taken by Sofia Boutella (who does a great job for what she’s given), and then leaps backwards, somersaulting through the air in a spectacular fashion, by making her primary method of killing people kissing them, turning them into zombie-slaves. Imagine if Loki enslaved people in The Avengers by giving them a good old pash. It’s honestly pretty embarrassing. Not helping is Annabelle Wallis’ character, who acts as Tom Cruise’s love interest/damsel in distress who displays just about every cliché imaginable, and to top it off is the most boring character in the entire movie. Yet, the marketing touted the movie as ‘progressive’. It’s not. It’s shit.

The number one thing giving the movie any intrigue is that it’s supposed to kick off a cinematic universe with Universal Monsters, an idea which genuinely gets me pretty excited. The potential for a battle royale style romp with like 6 or 7 classic monsters makes me want to believe that this franchise will work out. This concept manifests in the inclusion of the best part of the movie: Russel Crowe playing Dr Jekyll. He was, fun, interesting enough and his inclusion was the only element breaking the usual shitty formula. I get the impression he’s supposed to be the Samuel L. Jackson of the franchise, and the way that they set that up works well enough for me that I’ll inevitably watch the Bride of Frankenstein movie in 2019.

For now though, this is an aeroplane movie at best. There’s no reason to check it out in cinemas.

Wonder Woman, 2017

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine

IMDb

Wonder Woman was a bunch of things. It was the first actually good DC extended universe film. It was the first actually good Superhero movie with a female lead. It was also somehow the first ever Wonder Woman movie. It really is baffling that despite being such a ubiquitous character, it took over 75 years for her to get a live action film.

There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of a movie like this in establishing female heroes/role models into the cultural psyche, especially for little girls. Thankfully the film pulls off this aspect of its existence very well. Starting the film with Diana as a little girl: brilliant. Not only did it work well in fostering a connection between young girls and Wonder Woman, but it worked well for the character. It fit seamlessly into her motivations and character traits. Also, it doesn’t fall into the trap of confusing ‘strong independent woman’ with ‘perfect, infallible badass’. What we have here is an actual character with flaws, who makes mistakes and has to learn from them. She is independent, but not beyond asking for/needing help, even if it is from a man. Incidentally, she is a total badass. It’s pretty clear that the filmmakers knew they had to handle this aspect of the film carefully, and I applaud them for taking a few risks for the cause of enriching the character. They did well.

Cultural stuff aside, the movie is overall pretty good. The story is not going to blow anyone away, but at least it was simple and enjoyable. It also had colour, both visually and tonally. Given DC’s track record, this is greatly appreciated. It’s actually a pretty funny movie. The action scenes were pretty exciting and had a nice aesthetic to them. There was a bit too much epic slow-mo for my taste, but I feel like this won’t bother most people. I also quite liked the way the film depicted WW1. It was a clever way to tie into the protagonist’s arc.

I quite liked Chris Pine in his role. In fact, I quite liked all of the supporting cast and their characters. Without spoiling anything, knowing what I know about how the main villain of the film is portrayed in other media, I am thankful for the depiction that we got. It really could have been much more generic and mundane.

This was a fun one. I’m curious to see what the overall reception will be like. The current level of praise it’s getting (based on IMDb and RT scores) would imply it’s phenomenally good, which it isn’t. It’s not even the best superhero movie this year (Logan). I’m anticipating some minor backlash to some of the ‘risks’ I mentioned. Hoping I’m wrong.

Anyway, go check it out. DC finally did it. They took their damn time, but they actually did it.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2017

Directed by: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker

IMDb
I think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 bares many similarities to Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both films had a lot to live up to, both tried valiantly to outdo their predecessor in every aspect, both are very entertaining movies. Both don’t quite live up to the impossible expectations.

How does one outdo Guardians 1? Apparently the answer is take the aspect most praised and play them up tenfold. As a result, the soundtrack is back and more prominent than ever. The humorous tone was praised, so the sequel was given many more jokes. To be perfectly clear, each of these aspects taken individually make for a really good time. The issue is balance. The first film worked so well because it managed to balance its own quirky style with the typical marvel movie formula. Guardians 2 feels overloaded, unbalanced.

Not helping in the slightest is the story, which I feel is Guardians 2’s biggest shortcoming. Instead of one story, the film opts to tell about three or four, and none of them are really all that original. Honestly, they’re all pretty predictable. The first film wasn’t really anything all that special when it came to story, but what I can give it is that it was one thing, it was pretty tight.

All this said, I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I’m still working on my ability to communicate my feelings towards movies, especially while criticising them. To be as clear as I can: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t even a bad movie that I enjoyed bits of à la Batman V Superman or Suicide Squad. It’s a good movie, that entertained me thoroughly, but I couldn’t help but feel a tad let down. My expectations were a bit too high, and I criticise because I care.

The film did better its predecessor in a few respects, however. Depictions of much of the peripheral cast was much better. I really enjoyed spending more time with Drax, Yandu, and Rocket. Also, in its attempts to out-scope the previous film, it actually succeeded in setting up some awesome scenarios. Overall, the cinematography was also better, some really beautiful shots. The movie was really colourful and was overall really enjoyable to look at.

If you were planning on see Guardians 2, I say go right ahead, you’ll enjoy yourself.

Top 10 Scenes in Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy

So about a year ago, long before the existence of this blog, I made a youtube video outlining what I think are the 10 best scenes in the original Spider-Man trilogy. I was surprised to find that there didn’t already exist such a video, only to find that the same is true for most movies. In the public conscience, moments are prioritised over scenes these days, so I suppose it isn’t really surprising.

I recently had to edit and re-upload the video due to a copyright claim (I basically played an entire scene in the original video), so I thought I’d share it here.

Enjoy!

Moana, 2016

Directed by: Ron Clements, Don Hall

Starring:  Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House

IMDb

The fact that I’ve spent nearly two weeks forgetting to write a review about Moana probably says something about the impact it left on me. It was actually pretty good, and I’ve caught myself humming a couple of the songs, but I can’t help but feel a lack of ambition in its production. I suppose it just felt a little ~too~ by the numbers, with its only real stand-out feature being its setting and cast. I mean good on them for going for such a little represented setting and for casting appropriately, but that alone wasn’t really enough to make Moana feel special as a whole.

I know it has excellent ratings, but I’ve always found the current ‘Walt Disney Animation Studios’s films to be a little overrated [i.e. Frozen, Big Hero Six, Zootopia]. The truth is, everything in Moana is enjoyable, but I don’t see myself buying the blu-ray or anything. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s definitely worth seeing at least once. Definitely show it to your kids, they’ll love it. I, however (just like every Disney Princess ever) was left wanting more.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 2016

Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk

IMDb

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review:
Recently I’ve been getting more and more behind the idea of spin-offs; they allow for more creative freedom than main-series franchise films while simultaneously giving us a new perspective on a world which we’ve grown to know and love, the most notable recent example being Fantastic Beasts.
Rogue One, I feel, struggles in that it tries to have its cake and eat it too. It clearly wants to be its own story with its own interesting and original characters, but it’s weighed down by tonnes of fan service, references to the other films and too many of the admittedly likeable characters. Before anyone jumps to conclusions; this is not a negative review, I quite enjoyed it and think it’s worth seeing, but it is lacking in a number areas.
The story had a very simple goal to accomplish: tell the story of how the Death Star plans were retrieved prior to episode IV. It got too convoluted. For example, the first five or so scenes all took place on different planets with different characters and I got so lost so fast. That said, like I mentioned earlier, I really liked all of the new characters, my favourite being K2-SO, (he’s so snarky I love it), with a really good design, good animation and excellent writing. The cast all did a great job and I’m sure that among these characters will be some people’s favourite Star Wars characters overall.
Speaking of animation, they computer generate a couple of characters to make them look the age they would have back in ’79 and they just don’t quite pull it off. I can’t put my finger on what exactly makes it unconvincing, but it’s there, and it’s distracting. Also, Vader looks wrong too. Hard to put my finger on it, but it just looks like some dude wearing a Vader costume, as opposed to the badass villain we all love making his triumphant return to screen. The visual style overall is phenomenal however, closely following the composition and attention to detail in the world’s exemplified in The Force Awakens.
Ultimately, this looks and feels like a Star Wars spin-off, but it simply doesn’t have the expert construction and care that the likes of The Force Awakens had for me to call it great. It’s fine, with moments of true greatness sprinkled about, and with very memorable and likeable characters and a couple of really grand and epic scenes. It was clearly made to be seen on the big screen, so if you’re going to see it, do it right.
It’s not the best Star movie of the year (Arrival)
It’s not the best Wars movie of the year (Hacksaw Ridge)
It’s not even the best Star Wars movie shown this year (TFA)
But it was certainly entertaining and if you like Star Wars I’m sure you’ll love it.

Doctor Strange, 2016

Directed by: Scott Derrickson

Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

IMDb

Doctor Strange is a real treat. It follows closely in the footsteps of Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man in the tradition of taking a lesser known, more strange (forgive the pun) property and transforming it into a super fun time, with great creativity, meanwhile not taking itself too seriously. The action scenes are wildly creative and there are some great performances. I highly recommend it, not only to marvel fans, but all moviegoers. I had a big grin on my face very often while watching.

I’m going to go a little more in depth than usual on this one. I won’t be spoiling the story, but beware reading on if you want to go in with a clean slate for some of the specifics.

The world-bending action scenes seen in the trailers are more than a gimmick, they allow for some of the most breathtaking and exciting action scenes I can think of. The fight choreography, the planning around the shifting environments, the camerawork, all brilliant. I never ever got tired of them. I want more.

The tone was perfect for this kind of story; silly enough to get us to buy the whole sorcery thing, and serious enough to make it look really really cool. This tone is embodied fantastically by the smart-ass, egotistical performance by Cumberbatch. He was great. He was funny, compelling and relatable (as a fellow smart-ass myself). He also pulled off the accent well, which I was a little dubious of at first.

The Ancient One played by Tilda Swinton was amazing. I recall initial backlash that the character would not be played by a Tibetan actor, which I feel is a much more complicated issue, but honestly, after seeing it: no complaints here. Cool, intriguing, bad-ass and complex, I loved every second of screen-time she had. She also hosts probably my favourite scene of the movie, where she shows Steven Strange the world of magic. The entire sequence plays like the most fully realised and intense acid-trip ever put to screen. My jaw literally dropped for the entire scene.

Unfortunately, the film did have it’s share of weaknesses, and unfortunately they were all about what you would expect of a modern Marvel movie. The story was sub-par for me. Despite my usual distaste for origin stories, it was necessary here, as we needed to be introduced to this world step by step along with the protagonist. That said, it was fairly predictable and employed too many storytelling cliches.

Also, like most Marvel movies, the villain was weak. We never really got a great opportunity to know, despise or even potentially sympathise with him. He’s basically Ronan from Guardians again. A shame. There’s also a romantic sub-plot, like in most solo Marvel movies, and it was completely unnecessary and uninteresting. I believe her character could have been genuinely more interesting had she not been the romantic lead. In fact, most of the supporting cast was poorly utilised, despite strong performances.

Despite its weaknesses though, Doctor Strange is so good. I’m obviously very excited about it, and I think you should go see it. In my top 5 Marvel movies for sure.