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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

Action

The Silencing | Great Cinematography From A Low Budget Film

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I need to see that girl.
She could be my daughter.

 

It’s always nice to see how actors from a successful television series cope in a feature film. And especially if the genre is quite different from what they played in that series. Here Nikolaj Coster-Waldau makes a decent attempt to show that he has more to offer than playing a king’s son who prefers to perform gymnastic exercises with his sister between the sheets. His performance here is on a similar level to that of Jaime Lannister in “Game of Thrones”. Convincing enough, but not exactly of exceptional quality. A role that doesn’t annoy you. But every time you see his face somewhere, you have to think for a moment where you know that face from. This is also the case here in “The Silencing”. I was like, “Damn, where do I know this guy from?”. Only after fifteen minutes or so, I could figure it out.

 

 

Where there’s grief, there’s booze.

The Silencing” itself is of the same level. Certainly not a bad movie. But also not a movie that’ll blow you away. The story felt a bit incomplete to me. There were some improbabilities (not to say completely nonsensical decisions). And the denouement with the disclosure of the perpetrator and his motivation, I personally found a bit far-fetched. The film had something “Silence of the Lambs“-ish but then set in an extensive, forest-like nature reserve. An area managed by Rayborn Swanson (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that has been given the name “Gwen Swanson sanctuary”. A reference to his daughter who has been missing for 5 years. It’s a place where animals can live undisturbed and protected, far from hunters and poachers. Rayborn lives an isolated life far from the civilized world. A way to silently grief about the loss of his daughter. Usually by consuming liters of alcohol. A bit strange because that’s exactly what caused that disappearance.

 

 

There’s a serial killer on the loose.

The story gets a little bit more exciting the moment a serial killer comes into the picture. Someone who probably watched “The Hunt” too much. What follows, is a cat-and-mouse game with the participation of the local female sheriff Alice Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis, series-loving fans will recognize her from “Peaky Blinders”) who herself has her hands full with the stupidities her little brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a drug addict with a traumatic past.

 

 

Ridiculous things.

Without a doubt, this could have been a much better, coherent movie, provided the script was changed a bit. It’s linked together with hooks and eyes. Full of coincidences and ridiculous twists. Decisions are made that are too ridiculous for words. Alice’s surprising action at one point is understandable on the one hand. But on the other hand completely unreal. And the indifference that those involved show afterward as if nothing had ever happened, made me frown for a moment. Rayborn’s paint pot trick seemed so absurd and stupid that I spontaneously burst out laughing. Not exactly applicable to a serious thriller about a serial killer.

 

Mediocrity rules.

The Silencing” isn’t so great. A mediocre piece of movie. Actually, you could say that you’ve seen it all before in other movies. And much better movies too. Cinematographically it looks professional (despite the low budget) and the general mood is also good. But, when you love watching exciting flicks with nerve-racking suspense, you’ll be disappointed. The only thing I can’t say anything wrong about is Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s acting. Solid and constant. Just like in “Game of Thrones“. Again a pitiful persona. But I’m sure I won’t recognize him in his next feature. Once again.

 

 

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB

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Tenet – The Movie Mind Puzzle Of The Year

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There were times during ‘Tenet,’ that I wanted to perform a most heinous code violation by ripping off my face mask and declaring to all that “I bloody love Cinema”. Some of the action set-pieces in this film have to be seen on the big screen to do them justice. One particular sequence on an Estonian motorway is the sort of action that makes cinema such a magical and wondrous place.  I realized at this point I had missed cinema enormously over the past 6 months and it was wonderful to be back.

As for the film itself, I was quite nervous going in. I had read from one reviewer that it was “obnoxiously complex”, that a lot of the dialogue was mumbled or drowned by an omnipresent rumble of a score and that the film was incredibly difficult to follow. I won’t pretend that I understood everything that was going on, but it definitely wasn’t the mind dump that several claimed. I certainly followed it better than I do with the average David Lynch film. The sound is an interesting point, and I’ll come back to that shortly. It certainly is easy to write a “spoiler-free” review as I wouldn’t know how to spoil it for people.

The film charges along at a staggering pace, with the 2 and a half-hour run time zipping by. Performance-wise, John David Washington surely can have as good of a leading man career as his father,  while  Robert Pattinson continues to prove all his naysayers wrong with a charming yet enigmatic performance. Kenneth Branagh manages to keep the panto villainy just about under control, but the stand out for me was Elizabeth Debicki, who added a level of grace to the proceedings.

The action never lets up, and more importantly, it all has a purpose. It is not just thrown in there to demonstrate the techniques that Nolan possesses, it is all plot-driven. From the electric prologue at the Kyiv Opera to a Mission Impossible-style raid on an art warehouse at an airport, to the aforementioned Estonian motorway to the climactic showdown at a Soviet “closed city”, this is all part of the topsy-turvy narrative.

People have claimed that they struggled to hear all of the dialogue, which makes a confusing film even more of a challenge to comprehend. I do agree, there were some scenes where dialogue was often drowned out by the surrounding wall of noise. I don’t think this is anything new with Nolan films. I have a theory that Nolan makes films if you take Inception and Interstellar before Tenet, that is designed to have repeat viewings. His films are puzzles that can’t necessarily be understood on the first watch, some trails and thoughts perhaps are designed to make people come back to re-watch. You could argue, why to make a film that once watched can be dispensed with.

I didn’t find the occasionally intrusive score spoiled my enjoyment of the film, as the spectacle more than made up for it.

This is a hugely ambitious, occasionally baffling piece of cinema, packed with some of the most audacious action sequences (all shot with practical effects btw) I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, the plot is convoluted, yes there are sequences where you genuinely need a moment. About three-quarters of the way in, Pattinson asks Washington “Does your brain hurt yet?”, the audience answers for him with a knowing “a little”. It is a feast for the eyes, which is also quite humorous in places.

It’s films like this that make me appreciate the wonder of cinema, an original, standalone, non-franchise piece of searing entertainment. I’m glad I didn’t understand all of it, as it just encourages me to go watch it again.

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Adventure

Artemis Fowl: Confusing And Chaotic With Good Looking CGI

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Who do you think you are?
I’m the next criminal mastermind.

 

I’m afraid you need to be as intelligent as “Artemis Fowl” to understand and keep up with this movie. What a confusing chaos this was. I get it that they are looking for a sort of Harry Potter successor and already started drooling while thinking of the box-office with every new sequel. But they should have spread this single movie over a number of sequels because now you cannot make heads or tails of it. Let me remind you that I don’t know the book series written by Eoin Colfer, on which this film is based. Let alone read one of them. A kind of introduction of the characters would have been helpful for the uninitiated viewers. And that’s a big difference when you compare (and there will be a lot of comparisons) this Disney film with the Harry Potter films. Even if you hadn’t read one of the Harry Potter books, you were sucked into the wonderful story about this mini wizard from the start. All the leading protagonists were carefully introduced and gradually you got to know them, appreciate them, and quickly one of the leading characters became your favorite. With “Artemis Fowl” you better keep focused because before you know it you have missed a whole storyline and a number of important characters. The amount of facts and things of importance is so immense that it’ll make you dizzy.

 

Artemis Fowl

 

The making of “Artemis Fowl” on its own deserves a motion picture.

It also took an awful lot of effort before the film could be released. The film rights were bought in 2001 by Miramax Films (in the middle of the fantasy film period when Potter and Frodo ruled). Next Disney announced in 2013 that they were going to make the film in partnership with The Weinstein Company. The creation of this feature film was very different from what had been expected. First of all, you had the disappearing trick of some directors. Then there was the Weinstein affair with Harvey waving his wand too much apparently. Next came the disgruntled fans and last but not least the Coronavirus. In the end, it was decided to stream the film on the Disney + platform instead of screening in the cinema. For sure this was the best decision they could have ever made. No one would be inclined to watch it in the cinema after reading a few reviews. Unfortunately, the revenue from Disney + platform subscriptions is not enough to bear the price tag of a sloppy $ 125 million.

 

Artemis Fowl

 

The acting wasn’t impressive.

What else went wrong besides the fact it’s a very confusing story? Well, to be honest, I wasn’t really charmed by the characters themselves. Artemis Fowl Jr. (Ferdia Shaw) is an annoying kid without any charisma and totally insensitive (A kind of MIB version of Richie Rich). A deadly serious little brat with an attitude. Admittedly, his intelligence is lightyears beyond normal and he obtained a series of diplomas at a very young age. Plus he comes from a wealthy family and probably took everything for granted during his young life. The magic of a film doesn’t only depend on the magic of the story itself, but also how amiable the main characters come across. No one could resist the charms of Harry Potter (I know. There’s the comparison again.): that poor little fellow living under the stairs, with his roguish smile and lightning bolt on his forehead. I really didn’t find Artemis that charming. And even the more famous actors made little impression. Colin Farrell had a depressed and sulky expression throughout the film as if he already saw the potential for disaster. Judi Dench was actually the only one to stand out in her green leather fairy outfit. But that was more because of the charismatic nature of her character Commandant Root. And Lara McDonell looked adorable as the brave fairy Holly Short. You also had a centaur who could join Milli Vanilli. The dwarf Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), who also took on the role of narrator at the same time, who’s actually not a dwarf and resembles Rubeus Hagrid. And there was even the suggestion David Bowie was an elf (Talking bout humor). That’s about it what I can remember from all personages. In general, however, the performances were not impressive or grand.

 

Artemis Fowl

 

Visual spectacle.

There’s also something to be said about the footage. They’ve put a lot of energy into it (maybe a little too much) and the film is packed with generally good-looking CGI. But a film about fairies, trolls, and dwarfs, who live in an underground hidden world, must look fairy-like and enchanting to me. They’ve decided to create a futuristic-looking fairy world full of flashy vehicles and modern buildings. And stuffed with a bunch of extras, busy decors, and an infinite number of props that you’ll need an extra pair of eyes to take in all the wonders. But don’t panic. This magical place is soon abandoned. Most of the film is set in the residence of the Fowl family. And there you can expect even more CGI (slightly less well developed). Perhaps it was quite an exaggeration when you consider the number of special effects. The only thing that impressed me was the jaw joints of Mulch Diggums.

 

Artemis Fowl

No sequel needed for me.

No, I’m not a new fan of “Artemis Fowl” and I don’t feel the urge to discover the books. All in all, I found this movie version confusing and chaotic. I sometimes had the feeling that I was watching a new episode of “Kingsman” for young viewers. I didn’t fully understand the principle of the time bubble and was amazed bout how Artemis could unravel everything so quickly (But yes, extremely intelligent. Right?). Maybe me being a grownup has something to do with it. I guess youngsters will like it. Although, I think my two kids, who aren’t real book readers and never heard of Artemis Fowl, will be lost after 20 minutes. A re-watch might help better understanding the whole thing. I imagine fans of the books were very curious how Fowl’s world would look like on the silver screen. Anyway. I won’t wait for the sequels of this vague film. To put it mildly, I think the movie “Artemis Fowl” is a perfect fit for the current summer vacation that has become a disaster due to COVID-19.

 

 

My rating 3/10
Links: IMDB

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