*NEW* VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS REVIEW *NEW*

Dull-Erian.

Trust me, that pun was as clever and witty as the dialogue and plot.

Sheesh. What has happened to Luc Besson? The man who gave us The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional, Taken, The Transporter.

Okay, yes. He also made Taken 2, Taken 3, Lucy, Transporter 2, Transporter 3 – you get the idea. To say his recent endeavours have been poor would be an understatement.

I really hoped this mega blockbuster would be a return to form but alas it was not to be.

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

The iconic French comic book series that spanned over 40 years and influenced Star Wars and Besson’s very own Fifth Element. A series that inspired Besson to personally fund and crowd source one of the most expensive independent films in Europe.

The iconic comic book series . . . that I hadn’t even heard of until this movie. I won’t be seeking it out after watching this. Fo’ sure.

It wasn’t all bad. In fact, Valerian was actually quite watchable.

Cara Delevigne was very good. The high browed model has done it again. She had already won me over in Paper Towns. The less we say about Suicide Squad the better. I can still picture that weird dance.

Anyway, contrary to reviews that I’d read, I thought there was good chemistry between the pair. What didn’t help was the dreadfully corny exchanges and flat lines.

Dane DeHaan really has been getting a bad wrap. He didn’t do a bad job. It just didn’t help that his Keanu-esque delivery managed to make the flat lines sound even flatter. I think he took the airhead persona a little too literal. Only Wick himself would have made that work.

A shame. His lacklustre charisma made Valerian such an unlikeable (Well, I say unlikeable) and uninteresting character. A bit bad considering he’s the main man.

One thing I couldn’t fault was Thierry Arbogast’s stunning cinematography and the visual effects. Stunning.

That gif doesn’t do it justice BUT you get the idea.

The colours, the detail. The immersive galaxies and numerous planets. A feast for the eyes. I just wish some of that detail could have been spent on the script.

The action set pieces were entertaining enough. BUT I wasn’t invested in the people.

All the jumping from interstellar galaxies and dimension guff was cool and an interstellar street market chase kept my grumbling at bay for a good 15 minutes. BUT that was only because I hadn’t got a clue what was going on.

The pace was as long as the ridiculous title. It dipped in and out and was far too sporadic. Ridiculously complicated one second, then dull and predictable the next. No consistency.

It didn’t help that the story was hampered by boring and pointless exchanges with flashbacks that highlighted stuff we already knew about. For example (NO SPOILERS);

CHARACTER: “I was following orders!”

*Cue a FLASHBACK of said character saying, “Follow my orders”.

Really? There were no real twists and turns. It was all too disjointed. And the “unravelling” made more plot holes by the frantic finale. BUT by the end, I didn’t care.

The sci-fi references and nods were a nice touch. The Millennium Falcon-esque ship, the Tron style hologram suits, the Battlestar Galactica Cylon style droids, the Blade Runner cityscapes. I knew Besson would excel in that field.

The supporting cast were disappointingly hit and miss with various cameos from unexpected actors popping up in this mad mess. I won’t spoil any. There were two I didn’t expect.

It was great to see Clive Owen back on the big screen. I just wish he wasn’t in this movie.

He did his best with the part BUT he was oh so laughable and old. My God. He didn’t need those silver patches on his sideburns (Ageing his character for a pointless flashback that had no relevance).

Rihanna was a welcome addition. And no, not just for the striptease with her numerous wardrobe changes (that will please any teen fanboy).

She was fun and entertaining as the changeling Bubble. I was more interested in her origin story than anybody else. And NO, not just because of that sequence! Naughty. A tragically small role.

And that’s what was missing.

We needed somebody like this guy;

Valerian took itself far too seriously for its own good. A bit of cheese and humour would have improved this by a country mile.

Besson tried to offer comic relief with some of the crazy and wonderfully animated characters. My personal favourite being the demented gargoyle hybrids of Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck.

Prepared to share information for a price, of course.

BUT it just wasn’t enough. It was watchable guff BUT enjoyable?

Meh. It just about killed the time BUT all I wanted to do when I got home . . . was find my DVD of The Fifth Element and stick that on.

Nothing to shout home about for me.

2.5/5

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*NEW* SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING REVIEW *NEW*

Spidey’s back! Third reboot’s the charm?

Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), with the help of his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York while fighting crime as Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture (Michael Keaton), emerges.

I was furious when I heard that Spiderman was being rebooted yet again. I grew up with the Maguire movies and thought he was the best Spidey. Plus he gave us all these incredible shots. I mean, come on . . .

 

 

Although I tried to watch the 2002 entry (15 years?!) the other day and thought it was pretty cringe inducing watching a bunch of people in their mid-20s to 30s pretending to be 16. Yikes. It already felt dated and far too corny for its own good. While Spiderman 2, on the other hand, is still fantastic.

I liked Andrew Garfield BUT felt the Amazing Spiderman movies did more damage to the franchise than Spiderman 3. Especially Part Two. Dreadful doesn’t come close to expressing my disappointment with that movie. Shame.

Civil War was one of the best Marvel movies. Surprisingly, the biggest scene stealer out of the ever-growing and incredibly talented cast was . . . Spidey himself. I was really impressed with Holland’s cameo. So much so that I was actually looking forward (and dare I say excited) to watching Homecoming.

So after that rambling prologue, did Holland deliver on his first full feature debut?

In a nutshell, he didn’t disappoint! Good fun all round!

The energy and quick witted humour was cranked up to 11. Holland’s fast talking and rampant energy was a much needed injection to a franchise (I feared) couldn’t be revived.

The opening didn’t mess about. It set up the baddie, brought in the hero and got down to business.

Homecoming was an origin movie without being one (if that’s possible). We didn’t have the spider bite. We’ve had 5 movies (and a vastly rich comic book backlog). We all know how he got his powers. And just in case, you didn’t; a passing comment was enough to suffice.

The producers have done their homework. Using the predecessors as a base to explore unmarked territory. Hardly a spoiler BUT there wasn’t even another soul destroying Uncle Ben killing back story.

If anything, this felt like, as Stark so rightly put it, “Spiderman in training wheels” mode. A much lighter effort.

The humour was fantastic as Spiderman tried to help his neighbourhood. Rescuing stolen bikes, giving people directions and swinging around the city. All to the beat of a cracking soundtrack.

The high school melodrama was a little tame for me. Watchable and fun BUT I want my superheroes battling something darker than popularity and a high school crush.

Zendaya was funny but her role felt a little unnecessary and out of place. Jacob Batalon was the scene stealer as Peter’s nerdy partner in crime, Ned. The clumsy duo delivered some of the better laughs.

Marisa Tomei wasn’t in this as much as I hoped. I always liked the relationship between Aunt May and Peter. They didn’t really get any proper screen time until near the end. Despite some nice moments, there are some things we don’t mind revisiting.

It helped having Tony Stark popping up as Parker’s mentor. The dynamic worked on so many levels; giving an extra depth to the pair. Parker with his naïve and eager determination to do more and Stark finally opening up and showing that he’s more than a mega rich ego-centrist.

I didn’t really have much time for Jon Favreau’s chauffeur Happy in the Iron Man movies. I thought it was a little pretentious for the Iron Man director to get in on the action BUT he really delivered as the miserable babysitter. His droll demeanour and frustration worked perfectly with the super peppy Parker.

The special effects were fantastic. A nail biting action set piece involving the Washington Monument left me feeling queasy. I’m not that bad with heights BUT even that sequence gave me vertigo. Bleurgh.

3D was a waste of time. BUT if you’re thinking of seeing it in 4DX, I would heavily recommend. Just don’t see it on a hot summer’s day. Trust me, you’ll be praying for Keaton’s Vulture (Steady now). Only if it’s just for the fans to come on. Phew.

And Michael Keaton, well . . . I can’t even begin to tackle the metatextual references. The guy who played a superhero, who then played a washed up actor playing a superhero called Birdman, who then played a super villain called the Vulture. My God.

He was brilliant. Chewing up the scenes. Not enough of him. I felt his performance and gravitas was wasted on the wrong villain. After having the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe’s NOT James Franco and DEFINITELY NOT Dane DeHaan’s Green Goblin!) and Doctor Octopus, the Vulture fell short by comparison.

Keaton was only really let loose in the chaotic finale. His “Walk away” speech with Parker was tense and unnerving. Perfect. I wanted more of that.

The pace did lag as we reached the 105 minute marker and I felt the final showdown with The Vulture was drawn out and a little repetitive with one agonizing explosion after explosion. The CGI and camera work was incredibly disorienting as the pair spiralled around in the night sky.

Holland delivered a stellar turn BUT I found, at times, his running commentary irritating. Now, I never read the comic books (Sacrilege! I know) BUT was Parker always so chatty that he came off as a mad teen with ADHD? Just a small grumble. I mean come on. He’s 15 with superhuman powers.

Despite its flaws, Homecoming was still a fun ride as Peter come to terms with the scope of his abilities and the morals of justice. With Holland at the helm and this production team, there’s still life in Spidey yet. And I can’t wait for more.

3.5/5

AND . . .  Of course, there is a post credit teaser. It’s a Marvel movie. Be PATIENT and the wait pays off.

THE DEVIL’S KNOT REVIEW

devils_knot_movie_poster

Knot for me, I’m afraid. What? Bad punnery aside, a star studded cast do their utmost to uplift an initially shocking case that leads nowhere and if not for the studded cast, should have been put on a crime channel as an one hour documentary.

Harsh but true. A slow burning opening leads to an inevitable if shocking murder as, of course, this is based on a true story. The initial murder reveal is haunting and suspenseful. It would be tough for anyone not to imagine that situation in which a loved one, especially a child goes missing. The build up to the event and the aftermath with the search parties and Witherspoon’s sheer fear is very good and very well acted.

However after the murder happens and the initial investigation subsides, it all fizzles out. The first hour is quite watchable, if a little long toothed. Witherspoon plays the manic mother to perfection which does allow for a couple of sad moments. Alessandro Nivola (Face/Off) plays her suspicious husband very well. His erratic behaviour does ponder questions.

The surprise turn for me was Colin Firth as Ron Lax. His southern drawl was nailed to perfection and he applied his charisma yet again to a character you couldn’t stop watching. The only problem is that after the film has finished, you realise Lax didn’t really do anything. Only putting the doubt in a literal witch hunt as the police go out of their way to arrest three lads suspected of dealing in black magic and participating in a cult. Kevin Durand (LOST), for me, played nothing more than a stereotype of a typical southern yokel. Terrible and a waste of a good supporting actor.

This was only the beginning, as the case continued to drag on and all the red herrings were played, it just seemed to go nowhere. The court case scenes that were supposed to be questioning and suspenseful, came off drawn out and long winded. Old Bill Compton himself, Stephen Moyer (True Blood) was bound to play the sly, slick toothed southern prosecutor but it took too long for him to get going. It seemed he and Martin Henderson (The Ring) for a good portion looked more like overacting extras with exaggerated face pulling and exasperated sighs. Bruce Greenwood (The rebooted Star Trek franchise) played the bitter and biased judge with aplomb, even if anyone could have played that part.

And that’s another problem. For most of these parts, anyone could have played them. Elias Koteas (The Haunting in Connecticut), Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spiderman 2), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and Michael Gladis (Mad Men) all pop up in this and do their utmost to uplift stocky characters that seemed to have been thrown in to stretch the film’s questionable running length. The finale was also so abrupt and open that I couldn’t help but feel what was the point of it all?

Reese Witherspoon’s character, who you originally felt sorry for, soon acts out of character and becomes a southern simpleton by the end, who is left sitting on the sidelines. Firth with his chiselled drawl complains about the system but again is only sitting from the sidelines and doesn’t really take any proper action. His back story with his wife felt nothing more than filler. Mireille Enos’ (World War Z) character came off so hammy and laughable that it was tough to take her shady character seriously. Her motives were so questionable and double bluffed that I couldn’t tell what was true nor did I care.

The only actor that may come out of this unscathed was James Hamrick. One to watch. His shady suspect who plays on aggravating the misconstrued public did create a little bit of intrigue that this film desperately needed after such a good opening. Hamrick had enough charisma to leave an impression on a subdued supporting role. But to what avail . . .

Now it is truly heart breaking what happened to those three boys that fateful day and the fact that it was never officially solved, despite it being clear that the police doctored findings, fabricated results and withheld crucial evidence and let the real suspects disappear. It is shocking that three suspects, whose only real crime was being a lover of a particular strange field, were innocently incarcerated for years. To be honest, it left everything too open, which is daunting as life can be that horrific. BUT as a film, I seek more closure and the fact the real suspect did get caught further down the line just irritated me.

We didn’t even get to see the arrest or capture just five minutes of credits explaining everything. In all fairness, some events surprised, others did not. To be honest, if you are interested in this, I would suggest watching the first hour then skip to the end credits. However, I would suggest scrapping this altogether and investing in Prisoners, instead. 2/5 for me.

Currently ranks 147 out of 186!

THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2 REVIEW

the_amazing_spider_man_2

The-Not-So-Amazing-And-Incredibly-Corny-Spiderman.

Stunning special effects and 3D trickery does not a good movie make.

Certainly made it watchable BUT with a gushy teen romance subplot dominating an overlong screen time, villains that hardly threatened or entertained and a plot that was nothing more than build up for another inevitable installment, you can’t help but question why they bothered rebooting it in the first place?

Now, I loved the Sam Raimi trilogy (well Spiderman 3 was watchable. Seen a lot worse. Let’s not forget Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin, guys).

Tobey Maguire was an excellent Peter Parker (although he has been subject to some hilarious memes for his infamous face pulling).

When I heard there was going to be a reboot, I was baffled. Why? No need. Just carry on from Raimi and replace the cast if they want to leave. However, Marc Webb’s first installment was actually quite good. For an origin story, it did something that quite a few comic book adaptations don’t and that’s go back to the source material.

Andrew Garfield was a very likeable lead and a cooler, more laid back version of Maguire’s Parker. For its two hour-odd length, I could have happily watched more. My only qualm was that the villain was a little naff and the story was rushed. BUT I wanted to see more. And here we are . . .

An exhilarating (if mental) opener delving into Peter’s parents “accident”, and Spidey dealing with a crime spree, delivered high hopes. Cheesy, watchable and entertaining. BUT that soon spiralled into mediocrity.

Garfield and Stone had great chemistry and were a likeable couple in the first part. Inevitably their chemistry turned out to be more and they’re a real life couple. However, this time, the teen angst and will-they-won’t-they?-back story felt repetitive, tedious and incredibly cheesy. The sort of syrupy stuff you’d expect to see in a Twilight movie.

The way the movie was promoted, I expected something bigger, darker, badder. Bigger? Certainly. Darker? Hardly. The pair do their best and the chemistry was still very much on. BUT it felt because of the teen gossip, Webb allowed a little too much time on them. I mean we had all that will-they-won’t-they? stuff in the Raimi trilogy with Dunst and Maguire. Been there done that.

This was supposed to be a reboot. Doing something different. I know Parker’s torn loyalty between the woman he loves and saving the city was always going to be at the forefront. BUT it felt slapped together. Even the uneasy tension between Parker and Stacey’s dad (Dennis Leary) went nowhere. He just kept popping up, grimacing menacingly.

The visual effects, the set pieces and 3D were fantastic with bits flying out (steady now) all over the place. The camera work as Spidey swung around the New York cityscape was fantastic. However when some of the bigger battles commenced, the CGI got a little much and cartoony in places.

Webb reduced Peter and Aunt May’s relationship to nothing. A shame considering he had Sally Field in the role. Anyone could have played her.

The lovely Felicity Jones (Chalet Girl/Cemetery Junction) was reduced to playing a stocky, generic secretary. The same can be said for Colm Feore (The Borgias/The Chronicles of Riddick). He made more of an impression BUT a nothingy role nonetheless.

The villains, on the other hand, in the words of George Takei, “OH MY!!”

Jamie Foxx did his best with the material. His nerdy counterpart Max Dillon was incredibly weird. If anything he reminded me of Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma from Batman Forever. His obsession with Spiderman, after a brief life saving encounter, bordered on creepyville.

However, once he transformed into Electro  (Fantastic visuals by the way), he got better. But memorable? The best villain in Spiderman history? Hardly. He came off more like a demented electrolysed Mr Freeze with a sore throat.

Don’t get me wrong. The fight sequences were decent BUT the dialogue and exchanges left little to be desired.

Marton Csokas’ evil scientist came off more like a pantomine villain. Paul Giamatti? What the hell? Legend that he is. His part was incredibly irritating and OTT. A change from his usual roles but really? The money must have been good.

Fair play to Webb for reworking the Osbourns. BUT Chris Cooper was reduced to a passing cameo as Norman. I know we had the talented Willem Dafoe BUT I would have been happy to see his portrayal. At least the origin of the Green Goblin was different.

Dane DeHaan (Chronicle/Kill Your Darlings) wasn’t a bad Harry. He looked shady enough with his slimy grin and slick back hair. BUT even ol’ squinty eyed Franco did a more menacing job. Plus the Green Goblin? Really? Again? I suppose he was one of Spidey’s biggest adversaries.

My main problem was that Spiderman was rebooted for its silly, OTT, ridiculous third installment. BUT this very film did the exact same thing. Bar a redeeming closing act.

I’m fed up of films building up for another one. The film I’m watching should make me want to watch the next one.

Garfield was still a likeable Spiderman that delivered some cheeky one liners. BUT the quick-witted banter was very hit and miss. It was all a little tame (Spiderman light) until the finale. An unexpected twist gave me hope. But it wasn’t enough.

I fear this franchise is heading for Schumacher territory. This ship needs moving into Nolan/Raimi waters or I fear it will sink. Get some better baddies and this reboot might just prove it’s worth.

At its best, watchable guff with some decent visual set pieces. At its worst, overlong, schmaltzy and all done before and much better. This Spidey fan is reaching for his bug spray.

2.5 out of 5!