Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

valerian and the city of a thousand planets

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Dan DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Sam Spruell, Kris Wu, John Goodman, Ethan Hawke, Rihanna

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. – IMDB

Adapted from a French comic series titled Valerian and Laureline, Luc Besson’s latest piece takes us on a sci-fi adventure to Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets where we follow the adventures of two young agents and partners, Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline. Luc Besson heading back to a sci-fi premise and seemingly calling back to The Fifth Element days is an endearing thought. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a visually stunning adventure full of new aliens and characters to discover, perhaps more so for those that have not read the source material. While filled with great performances what does let  down the overall experience is the story itself being adventurous and fun but slightly predictable.

The performances here focus mostly on Cara Delevingne’s Laureline and Dan DeHaan’s Valerian. As a team, they work together well and while on missions, there is a friction and conflict they have as Laureline fights for her recognition and importance. While some of their dialogue feels cheesy and oddly out of place, they have a certain chemistry that helps in certain ways. It adds in some laughs here and there and their bickering while overused in movies does help ease in some relaxing moments between the action. There are some bigger names here as well such as Clive Owen as the Commander who gets taken by an alien race that was deemed to have been destroyed. While not a huge role, he excelled at commanding his scene. What is also a nice face to see here is Kris Wu, a young actor that appeared earlier this year in XXX:The Return of Xander Cage, who gives a good performance while in a supporting role as well. Aside from that, Ethan Hawke has a cameo role that draws similarities to Jack Sparrow’s free spirit and this leads to Rihanna who is really showing off as a performer more than she is an actress as she dazzles us with a beautiful on-stage transformational dance which is followed shortly after with an emotional scene that falls short from its intentions.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets does lack depth in its story. Perhaps the length of over two hours did more harm than good, as there was a certain level of suspense in the beginning however, the ending became increasingly predictable. What does make this flick worth your time is how Luc Besson brings this world to life in every single way. The City of a Thousand Planets is fascinating to discover at every corner and the effects are done incredibly well. While some may complain about the drawback of having too much CGI, this is a strength in creating this fictional fantasy world. The action and technology here makes those moments feel like we are immersed in great adventures as Valerian and Laureline go on their own mission. It almost feels like we are in a video game. The best example is when Valerian’s gun can shoot platforms as he vaults through a gap with all these fantastical creatures that are both beautiful and dangerous simultaneously.

Overall, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has its flaws. It is meant to be a popcorn flick that will dazzle its audience visually with its beautiful and mesmerizing world along with its action-packed sequences. There is no doubt that this one has decent cast that delivers even with a story that lacks depth however it is a fun and entertaining flick.

Netflix A-Z: The Purge (2013)

We’re at our P selection! I just realized that I had picked back to back 2013 horror films.  Oh well, that’s okay.  The Halloween marathon will be a lot more scattered in the choices.  Different horror subgenres and different years that it was released.  A lot of 2013 horrors got mixed reviews and they were rather lukewarm in many cases.  I guess that was what had me interested in checking our last selection, Oculus.  Honestly, The Purge wasn’t much of an intriguing option, not because its premise wasn’t good but that we don’t particularly like masked home invasions culprits. We may be the minority but The Strangers really turned us off on that however You’re Next did regain a bit of that so I was ready to give this a go especially since it did get a sequel. It must have some redeeming qualities 😉

Let’s check it out!

The Purge (2013)

The Purge

Director and writer: James DeMonaco

Cast: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield

In the future, a wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.-IMDB

 The futuristic world of The Purge is set in America 2022 and while it is a good world such as low unemployment rate and low crime rate, it gives the citizens a day to release their urge for violence.  That is assuming that our future world is full of suppressed anger. I would think that is a frightful thought that everyone needs to fulfill the urge to kill except in reality The Purge is really just a 12 hour time to “cleanse” the society which means most of the poor will be the victims.  I guess the concept does work in a twisted way and has some sort of socio-economic message being brought up.  It also does show that every society no matter how good does have a balance.  With that said, the ones who benefit from The Purge and usually are the crazies out killing would be the rich and feel it is their right to do it, making them above the poor.  I guess a theme of the vision of being wealthy is in there somewhere.

The Purge

Does The Purge work? I think that in terms of messages it does.  Also, the acting and cast are rather talented along with the atmosphere and build-up of the events.  Of course, I think its a little ridiculous of how this all started.  I’m not saying I won’t help a beat-up man but considering the circumstances of the society they live in, it shows that someone has to stand up and do something about what doesn’t seem right.  Is it believable that a boy would do it? I guess it does since maybe its the naivety of kids that can see the discomfort of having a day that illegal acts are waived of their consequences. And that humans are equal no matter how rich or poor, their status and all deserve the right to live out their lives.

The Purge

I’m a huge fan of Ethan Hawke.  I haven’t seen a lot of movies by him but whatever I’ve seen is rather impressive.  Even with the underwhelming Taking Lives that I saw ages ago and probably should revisit to see how I feel about it now.  Either way, Ethan Hawke seems like he fell off the scene for a while and now he’s back with a lot of horror.  Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey are great leads along with the main villain here, which is a crazy young guy played by Rhys Wakefield. The masked accomplices were pretty creepy with their actions and pretending to be innocence for the ladies and then they would just turn.  I found the daughter slightly annoying and the son incredibly perceptive.  Somehow, I started connecting with the characters without even knowing it especially when certain dangerous events approached and I could feel myself tense up a little and even yelped and startled a few times.

The Purge

That’s not to say that there were faults to The Purge.  While the concept is fresh about the futuristic world and it wants to be a home invasion movie, it does make some decisions that causes it to lose a little intensity.  For one, the intensity and dread of the group threatening to invade the house loses a bit of steam after they find reinforcements to come in.  Is that a spoiler? I mean, its home invasion so you know they will invade.  There were some parts that you knew would happen of how they’d enter and whatnot.  I didn’t really understand why they didn’t just bust through the front door and go in instead of everyone using multiple entry points.  Is it to cover more ground? Its not exactly a fault but you do expect some of the kills and it does turn much into a thriller that does lose steam.  We all know now that all horrors nowadays have a twist and The Purge is no different. Except it feels like the twist was a little expected and kind of destroys it in the end.  It feels so overused. I won’t talk about what the twist is because if you saw it, you’d know what I’m talking about. Its just so meaningless…

I feel like I’m nitpicking now.  The Purge is a decent thriller. At least between some good and bad, I enjoyed it.  It had a little tension and some jump scares.  I yelped a few times and liked some of the characters without even knowing about it.  There were moments I was at the edge of my seat and during this review, I started thinking a lot about the whole concept of right and wrong and the ethics and morals of the whole situation of a society in 2022 like in The Purge.  Its not great but definitely watchable and I’d probably watch it again 🙂 I guess what I’m saying is that lukewarm is where I’m at with this one.

Have you seen The Purge? What did you think about it?

**A few weeks break and Netflix A-Z resumes in November! Meanwhile enjoy the upcoming Halloween marathon!!**

Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood has had a lot of talk for the whole production level dedication and even on the radio this morning, they were talking about how Boyhood is most likely to win Best Picture in Oscars.  Obviously, I didn’t choose to watch it because of this because I watched it last night from a Google Play rental.  I’m starting to really like putting those Google play credits to good use.  Still, one more movie rented for the Oscars that’ll go up tomorrow some time, hopefully in the morning. I’m a little bummed out that I didn’t get as many as I can but since this was a last minute decision (in a way), I only can get in one movie a night and carry on with my personal life.

Either way, I’m rambling so lets check out Boyhood! 🙂

Boyhood (2014)

boyhood

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater

Mason and his older sister, Samantha is raised by her single mother.  Their father has always been a free soul that never settled long enough to take care of them.  Thats until, their mother decides to go back to Houston so that their grandmother can help take care of them while she goes back to school to get a college degree so that they could all have a better living.  As he grows up, he learns through the many experiences his parents and his sister go through while trying to find who he is and who he wants to be.

boyhood

I’m not exactly sure how to review this but let me take you a little on something I woke up with this morning and I thought would structure the perfect post.  Not sure its so perfect now that its 5 hours after I’ve woken up but I’ll try to retain most of my thoughts. First, lets ask ourselves a question (or let me ask you this to reflect on): What is a movie and its purpose? Take a moment or two to think about that…

boyhood

Okay, we’re good.  Is it to live adventures through someone else like Indiana Jones or Marty? Or is it to sneak and unveil evil plans and put a stop to them like James Bond? Is it to watch someone cope with a common dilemma that you may have or haven’t experienced like Juno? Not great examples but my point is, we watch movies to experience excitement that we don’t usually experience or to just watch someone else’s life.  In the case of Boyhood, we’re literally watching the 4 main characters grow.  The focus is on Mason but we’ve grown up as well, or some of you younger bloggers are still growing up, we learn from the people around us, their experiences and thats why this 12 year project deserves a whole lot of respect from me because its a huge bet to put together a movie that just shows the entire growing up process of a boy who eventually tries to learn how to be a man. We, as the audience, are watching the life of someone grow up with a span of experiences that has to somewhere sometime make you connect with him.  Plus, whether its Mason or Mom or Dad that you can relate to, their decisions make up who each of them become. You know why this is an ambitious project because its set assuming that for a change, we would like to watch life’s ordinary moments.  Thats what makes it great for me.  Maybe for some, this is long and boring.  I don’t blame you, I thought that would be the case for me as well, but then, I wonder why, because I like lots of movies like these.  A lot of times, watching a real person experience life and learning from it is about the most thoughtful and insightful movie experience there is.

boyhood

 All that ramble up there really just means how much I loved Boyhood.  Whats great about is that it doesn’t need fancy effects or intense chase scenes or jump scares.  I’m not sure whether changing actors and doing this in a smaller time frame would have the same effect but the thoughts and efforts shows a great deal of enthusiasm and belief in the project and it just boosts the movie up.  Boyhood does have moments where we need to readjust to figure out that Mason’s grew up a little and things have changed because its a subtle transition and most of the time its done really well.  However, what spanning over 12 years does is that it gives the characters a chance to live in actual events that happen.  I’m not American but everyone knows about big American events, like presidential elections, plus adding in the whole Harry Potter thing was pretty cool as well.  Aside from that, there’s the whole music influence where we experience it as the music changes as the years move along and man, is that soundtrack great!!

boyhood

I guess, to keep this in line with a review, I should look at the performances a little.  Mason Jr. is played by Ellar Coltrane.  This guy hasn’t really been in anything but he does take the role very well. Seeing as he grew up with this movie, there is a really nice touch to seeing him grow up.  But, his role bases on not only his growth but also the growth of his parents and their decisions. Both supporting roles, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke playing Mom and Dad respectively. I used to be a huge fan of Ethan Hawke and then he kind of vanished (or I just never saw his movies around?). I really like the contrast that Mom and Dad’s personality was here.  Mom tries to be responsible and give a complete family for her kids but in the end, they are her priority, also being the reason for wanting to go back to school and making everything better but she only gets credited with her bad life decisions.  Whereas, Dad never had a lot of expectations in the first place and he was the no bs guy.  As a father, he needed to grow into that role and if anything, Dad’s growth was a lot more, making his role really insightful.  Both Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke did an impressive and convincing job as Mason’s parents.

Overall, I love Boyhood a lot more than I had thought.  Richard Linklater deserves a lot of credit for putting together a film that strings ordinary moments in the life of boy who we watch grow up.  Its always powerful when a movie can touch its audience (if its their type of movie) that really emphasizes on that quote up there.  The moments seize us sometimes and that life may not have a clear point to it but everyone’s winging it so its okay to step out there and embrace the good things we feel. With movies like this, sometimes I overthink so maybe I’m deciphering something that isn’t even the point. Thats when I ask you what Mason asks his dad, “So, what’s the point?” 😉

I haven’t seen much of the other nominations but honestly, I would love to see this one win Best Picture just because its such an ambitious project.

Have you seen Boyhood? Thoughts? Did you like it or maybe you found it boring?