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Valerian and the city of a thousand planets (2017)

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Summary

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.Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Genre : SF
Country : France/China/Belgium/Germany/USA

Cast :
Dane DeHaan : Major Valerian
Cara Delevingne : Sergeant Laureline
Clive Owen : Commander Arun Filitt

Director :
Luc Besson

My opinion on “Valerian and the city of a thousand planets”

“It’s our mission that doesn’t make sense, sir.”

After watching “Valerian and the City of a thousand planets” I can imagine how someone sees his surroundings while being under the influence of psychedelics. This SF-opera based on a comic is a cacophony of surrealistic and grotesque images from an immeasurable universe where all sorts of extraterrestrials make their appearance. Believe me, it really didn’t take long before I realized I no longer knew what it was about. The only thing left for me was to lay down in my cozy couch and marvel at the spectacle Luc Besson fabricated.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Visually overwhelming.

Visually, this SF is really overwhelming. Color tones splashing off the screen. And an infinite collection of aliens. Already during the opening scene you get a concatenation of delegations arriving at the space station Alpha. Then the spectacle moves to the planet Mül inhabited by a peaceful civilization whose daily life consists of strolling over idyllic-looking beaches with a deep blue ocean and producing magical spheres which have an unseen power. The image of a sensual extraterrestrial beauty (who wouldn’t look bad on the centerfold of an alien nude magazine) is in stark contrast with the images of destruction of this planet afterwards. And so it goes from a virtual market in a cork-dry desert, with a trillion bazaars and shops you can only see and touch with the help of a special helmet and gloves, to the bizarre space station Alpha. A place with more than 3000 life forms living in different territories, each with their own specific characteristics and expertise.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

A lot happens around a simple storyline.

I don’t know how many parts there are from the French comic book Valerian, but it seems as if Besson attempted to put the entire series in one film. The different characters and side-plots follow each other with a breathtaking speed. In such a way that you go from one surprise to the next. Perhaps the aim is to use this oversupply together with the sensational visual material, to divert our attention from the simple storyline. The story itself is far from impressive. I’m not a connoisseur when it comes to the stories about Valerian. That’s why I thought it was rather confusing after a while. The storyline remained disappointingly minimalistic, despite the huge budget.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Willy and Wanda save the universe.

The biggest mistake Besson surely made, was the choice of actors responsible for the roles of Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline. Was it the intention to create cartoonish characters? Well, he succeeded in that. For the rest, I thought they were annoying and childish and they didn’t have the looks of real heroes. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne look like two minors who ended up in a loaded, mature story. A sort of Willy and Wanda saving the universe. That’s why the so-called romantic part, full of flirtation and nonsense about commitments and being faithful, doesn’t come across as credible. I’m not claiming that they are bad actors because DeHaan was formidable in “A cure for Welness“. And Delevingne’s interpretation in “Paper Towns” was of a different caliber.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

A flood of titillating images.

“Valerian” looks like a mishmash of fragments taken from other large-scale SF epics. Everyone will notice something that looks familiar to him. It sometimes looks like a futuristic painting full of bombastic elements. The images vary from “Star Wars“-like to that of a PC game. The view of the planet Mül, for example, resembled that of what I saw in “Myst”. An old PC adventure game I used to play ages ago. But titillating images aren’t good enough to call a film successful. You can compare “Valerian and the city of a Thousand Planets” with an amusement park with an abundance of attractions. It’s fun to be there and you’re trying to do as much as possible, but afterwards you’re stuck with a feeling of disappointment because you haven’t been able to fully experience it all. And this thanks to the overwhelming (and exagerated) number of activities.

My rating 6/10
Links : IMDB

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Comedy

Happiest Season Review

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It’s that time of year again, and even though its only November, Christmas movies are starting to be released as everyone puts up their tree and starts counting down the days. Now I’m not normally a fan of Christmas films nor am I really fan of rom-coms either, so, as you can imagine, I was very pleasantly surprised by how good Happiest Season is and by how much heart this film has.

Happiest Season follows Abby (Kristen Stewart) who plans to propose to her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) on Christmas at her parents’ annual holiday party but things don’t quite go to plan when Abby learns that Harper hasn’t come out yet to her parents. Abby and Harper have to pretend to just be friends to Harper’s family which creates problems for the couple.

The whole film is full of charm and joy but it also contains a lot of substance, which is very refreshing for a Christmas rom-com. At the film’s heart is Abby and Harper’s relationship, perfectly captured by the performances from Stewart and Davis. Stewart shows the frustration she feels about keeping Harper’s secret so well and she manages to shine in both the comedic scenes but also in the dramatic and sensitive scenes as well. Davis is very good too, but it does feel much more like Abby’s film than Harper’s. Whilst the film is anchored by Stewart and Davis, the supporting cast is filled with great actors; Alison Brie is so much fun as Harper’s older sister Sloane and Schitt’s Creek’s Daniel Levy is on great form as Abby’s best friend John. Aubrey Plaza, Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber also shine and provide lots more heart and laughter to the film.

As well as the impressive cast, the writing from Clea DuVall (who also directed) is really good too, with the film providing so many great quotable moments and many moments that made me laugh out loud. But the film also feels really tender and human as well and DuVall manages to juggle the comedic and sensitive scenes of the film really well and she handles the lesbian relationship at the film’s centre very well. Happiest Season can definitely join the list of fun, worthy Christmas rom-coms.

It’s just a lovely film and you can’t help but smile and laugh along with which is just what you’d expect from a nice straightforward Christmas film but Happiest Season has much more to offer than that as it grapples with ideas about sexuality and acceptance and family, thus creating a film with a lot of meaning and a lot of heart. For the first half of the film, it did feel a little bit generic and there was nothing too special about it as it shifts between some rather OTT comedy and trying to set up some really emotional and sincere moments but it was in the final act where the film really hit the mark and it really went somewhere and achieved something really strong and powerful.

Overall, Happiest Season is a nice, fun Christmas film with heartfelt performances and a great message that leaves you with that warm, bubbly feeling that you expect from a Christmas film.

3.5/5

Happiest Season is available on Hulu or available to rent or buy in many other countries now.

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HORROR

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula Review

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After 2016’s hit Train to Busan wowed audiences around the world, the highly-anticipated sequel has finally arrived, and it doesn’t disappoint. Whilst it’s not quite as sharp as the first film, it still very entertaining and there’s still plenty of great zombie action to keep you engaged.

Peninsula is set 4 years after the zombie outbreak and after the first film. It’s a standalone sequel so you don’t need to have seen Train to Busan– although you really should seek it out because it’s great and it’s probably the best zombie films ever made by someone other than George A. Romero. Peninsula follows soldier Jung-seok played by Gang Dong-Won who receives an enticing offer to return to the quarantined peninsula to retrieve an abandoned truck filled with money. The mission goes wrong and Jung-seok and his friend get ambushed by a mysterious militia called Unit 631. All sorts of zombie chaos arise as Jung-seok must find a way to escape the peninsula once and for all.

Let me get straight out there and answer the question that’s on the minds of all Train to Busan fans, “Is Peninsula as good as the first film?”. No. Peninsula is definitely a step down from Train to Busan but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, far from it. The 2016 film had set the bar so high that it was very unlikely that Peninsula would be better. Train to Busan is one of my favourite zombie films of all time and whilst Peninsula isn’t as good, I still had a great time with it and thought it was very good.

The sequel definitely isn’t as sharp as the first one and it does suffer a bit from sequelitis as it feels like it must be bigger and bolder than its predecessor when, in fact, it doesn’t need to be. Train to Busan had lots of great zombie action scenes as well as scares but it was also very character-driven and had much more to it than zombies and blood. That’s where Peninsula falls down unfortunately. Whilst this isn’t a problem if you just want to watch an entertaining zombie film, the film is slightly disappointing if you were hoping it to be on the same level as Train to Busan. It gets a bit ridiculous in some of the action scenes, particularly in the final act, with it almost turning into a Fast & Furious film; perhaps a more appropriate title for it would have been 2 Train 2 Busan.

Saying that, the film doesn’t need to be compared to its predecessor. If you don’t expect it to be as good as the first film, you’ll have a great time with it. I definitely preferred Peninsula to the 2016 animated prequel Seoul Station and even on its own, I really enjoyed Peninsula and was very entertained by all the great action scenes. The film goes all out on trying to up the spectacle on the first film and if, like me, you love some good zombie mayhem there’s no reason you won’t really enjoy it. There’s action throughout and even though it’s more cartoonish this time around, it’s really good entertainment and great fun.

Overall, Peninsula isn’t as tight a film as Train to Busan but that’s alright, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with the zombies here and I had a thrilling time and it’s probably one of the best zombie films since its predecessor.

4/5

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula will have limited cinema screenings due to cinema closures but it will be available on digital download from November 23rd and on all other formats from November 30th in the U.K.

 

 

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HORROR

FrightFest 2020 Review: Don’t Look Back

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For the second time in 2020, the Arrow Video FrightFest has gone online after cancelling the physical event that was planned to take place in Leicester Square from October 21-25. Despite not being in person, FrightFest still has plenty of films and scares to be had.

Don’t Look Back is the directorial debut from Jeffrey Reddick who’s best known for creating the Final Destination film franchise. Reddick’s directorial debut has many similarities to Final Destination; in Final Destination, we see a group of people cheat death and so death comes for them. In Don’t Look Back, it’s karma that comes to kill them. Despite the similarities, Reddick manages to show that he’s got a lot to offer in the director’s chair.

Don’t Look Back follows a young woman called Caitlin, played by Kourtney Bell, who is still overcoming her traumatic past when she, and a few others, witness a man being attacked in the park and none of them do anything to stop the attack. The witnesses including Caitlin then start getting targeted by someone, or something out for revenge.

The film begins with phone-footage of witnesses watching people being attacked. Instantly the film starts to make you question what you would do in these situations and if you would just stand and watch or would you be the one to intervene and to help the victims?

Don’t Look Back gets straight into it as very early on we get a scene that gets straight into the action and sets up the trauma that Caitlin then experiences for the rest of the film. Whilst the films does get straight into it at the start, it does go a little quiet for some time. One slightly disappointing thing about the film, particularly when compared to Final Destination, is that there are very few scares in this film. There isn’t much blood or gore or actual horror to it which is a shame, but the film is still entertaining without any of that.

The film plays a lot on the idea of karma ad it’s an interesting concept to play about with although at times it can be a little too on the nose. Sometimes all of this, in particular the film’s opening, and the idea of karma is just waved in the audience’s face far too explicitly and perhaps a slightly more subtle approach would have been better.

Overall, whilst Don’t Look Back isn’t anything too exciting or different and it could do with a few more scares, it’s not bad and fans of Final Destination will definitely enjoy it and have a good time with the film.

2.5/5

Don’t Look Back is in cinemas and available on-demand in the US now

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