*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

*NEW* GOOSEBUMPS REVIEW *NEW*

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Black is back!

Corny, frantic BUT highly watchable.

A teenager (Dylan Minnette – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) teams up with the daughter (Odeya Rush – The Giver) of young adult horror author R. L. Stine (Jack Black – School of Rock) after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

The opening 20 minutes was easy going enough as Minnette’s Zach moved to a new town and (even worse) a new school. And if that wasn’t bad enough. His own mother (Amy Ryan – Birdman) is the new vice principal! I liked the dynamic between Ryan and Minnette. It was a little disappointing to see that thrown out of the window for a cheesy little romance subplot between Zach and the mysterious girl next door Hannah (Rush).

Don’t get me wrong, the pair had good chemistry BUT it was all a little too schmaltzy for my liking. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before the obsessive Stine (Black) made his introduction. Welcome back, Mr Black. As soon as the big man kept randomly popping up at windows and fences, threatening Zach at every opportunity to stay away from Hannah, I was entertained.

It was a different side to Black. More subdued and obnoxious. Not quite as loud or in your face. BUT still on scene stealing form. He has been missed. And with Kung Fu Panda 3 fighting its way at the box office, we will be spoiled.

“If there’s danger, I will run the other way”. Ryan Lee (Super 8) was brilliant as social misfit Champ.

For fans of the real Goosebump books, all the little references were there. The whole magic spiel was a different take. Every creation Stine ever wrote coming to life. All the silly creatures that used to frighten you as a little ‘un (and may still do) were all there.

Slappy the dummy was the one that always freaked me out. And lo and behold, guess who made a special appearance? Black provides his sinister voice-over skills to bring the terrifying toy to life. Slappy’s movie makeover wasn’t quite as spine-tingling as his TV series counterpart. BUT I’ll let you be the judge.

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Shudder. Moving on . . .

The special effects were actually quite good. The 3D gimmick wasn’t missed so save your pennies. I couldn’t really pick any moments that would have better with it. The effects weren’t too cartoony BUT this is a kid’s film, let’s not forget. Can’t creep em out too much now. That’s not to say there weren’t a few jumpy bits that might have got the best of yours truly (What?).

The adorable BUT highly violent garden gnomes suggested a darker undertone and gave me that old Gremlins nostalgia as the gang fought wave after wave of them in the kitchen.

It was silly, a little cheesy BUT good fun as our dysfunctional heroes try to get every creature back in their paperback prisons. The endless statistics that Black spewed up about Stine’s career were all true. Believe me, I checked. Selling more novels than Stephen King?! A passing cameo delivering the perfect punch line.

BUT that’s not to say it was perfect. Just like Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paper Towns, Halston Sage was type cast (yet again) as another high school damsel in distress. Anyone could have played her and, by the end, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

Amy Ryan was cast aside and reduced to nothing more than a naff running joke with her character avoiding the awkward advances of Ken Marino’s (We’re The Millers) high school coach. Unfunny and a real waste of another actress.

My main issue however, was despite this being a mad little movie; it felt rushed. Not enough of Stine’s ghastly ghouls were brought into the mix. Too many of them were quickly thrown in at the last minute that you couldn’t tell what was what.

It just seemed to push for a frantic finale after all that build up. Veep’s Timothy Simons was heavily underused as dimwitted Officer Stevens. More gags could have made with the guy. He had me in stitches in the two scenes he was lucky to feature in.

BUT grumbling aside, coming from a GB fan, this was a silly little blast from the past. It wasn’t perfect (and didn’t quite top the iconic TV series that ruined my childhood) BUT I could think of worst things to kill the time with the little ‘uns.

3/5 (Just)

*NEW* SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE REVIEW *NEW*

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Stupid, OTT, juvenile and absolutely hilarious!

Three scouts, on the eve of their last camp-out, discover the true meaning of friendship when they attempt to save their town from a zombie outbreak.

You knew what you were getting yourself into from the crazy opening sequence with Blake Anderson’s janitor (Workaholics) singing away to Iggy Azealia’s Black Widow while a zombie outbreak was brewing in a lab.

It was a brave move to have a virtually unknown cast running the show BUT the lads certainly delivered and will be ones to watch for the future. The feeble story line was a little predictable and formulaic. The camp fire shenanigans and petty squabbling about high school and quitting scouts was a little boring. BUT once the undead entered the mix, things got going and I was sniggering to the end.

The pace zipped and there were some genuine laugh out loud moments. A scene involving a zombie and a trampoline delivered an unexpected and outrageous gag. This was very much in the crazy style of Zombieland BUT the best way to sum up Scout’s Guide would be “If American Pie was a zombie flick . . .”

A group of horny teens trying to save the day. It was exactly what you could expect. Logan Miller’s quest for the perfect apocalyptic selfie with a pornstar looking police officer. A casual Britney Spears sing song with a zombie. A dodgy gum job from Cloris Leachman’s (Young Frankenstein) zombie neighbour. Yup. That sort of movie.

Tye Sheridan and Halston Sage’s (Paper Towns) love subplot was weak. If anything, I thought his character was going to hook up with Dumont’s sexy tomboy stripper (Sorry, cocktail waitress). So there was one surprise. Dumont may have stole my heart (What?) BUT Joey Morgan was definitely the main scene stealer as the over enthusiastic Augie.

The gore was brilliant and used quite inventively. Especially in the stripper club slaughter scene. Miller’s Carter using a bottle to smash in a zombie’s skull, only for the blood to pour out of the bottle neck and spill all over his face.

A blood-fuelled rave sequence delivered carnage a-plenty and a fitting homage to Peter Jackson’s cult classic Braindead. The nerdy saviors kitted out with an arsenal of weaponry; paintball guns, golf clubs, lawn strimmers! Perfect.

The biggest star that I could clock in this mad little zom com was Anchorman’s David Koechner. He certainly delivered as the deluded scout leader with a strange obsession for Dolly Parton. It was just a shame that he was reduced to only a few scenes.

It may have been in the same vein as Zombieland BUT it fell short by comparison. It was never going to match my favourite zom rom-com Shaun of the Dead BUT it certainly didn’t deserve the low Metacritic rating and panning that it has received.

Funny, mental, if a little flawed and predictable BUT fun. I think this one was unlucky to get lost in the SPECTRE and Hunger Games buzz. Shame. Definitely worth a watch for a quick laugh.

3/5

*NEW* PAPER TOWNS REVIEW *NEW*

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It may have had a paper plot BUT I was still able to enjoy this coming of age teen flick.

A light pace and a promising cast made up for a cheesy and predictable affair.

After an all night adventure, Quentin’s (Nat Wolff) life-long crush, Margo (Cara Delevigne), disappears, leaving behind clues that Quentin and his friends follow on the journey of a lifetime.

I’m not familiar with the novel so I can’t make comparisons. All I knew was that it was from the author who created ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. A film that managed to subdue the cynic in me. And, for the majority of this film, was able to do so again.

The film was easygoing enough as we follow the bookworm Q moping after the rebellious Margo from early childhood up to present.

Wolff played Quentin very well. I was a little anxious about all the hype surrounding Delevigne’s debut. Not every model can make the transition to acting. Naomi Campbell, I’m looking at you. We could all list a number of Playboy models that shouldn’t be popping up in movies (Just me? Oh, okay moving on).

BUT as soon as Delevigne graced the silver screen, she won me over. I thought she was very good. She nailed the accent and could actually act! If anything, she wasn’t in it enough. BUT then there wouldn’t be a movie if she was.

The first half hour chugged along. The night adventure with Q was silly, BUT funny in parts, as the pair pranked those who had hurt Margo. Innocent enough. Wrapping a car in cling film. Waxing a dude’s eyebrow off. Wiping vasoline on a door knob (Had to be careful typing that one). That is until one of the parents fired a shotgun.

BUT it was still entertaining as we watched the estranged pair reignite their friendship and something more. Delevigne and Wolff had good chemistry and made the hammy romance subplot a bit more bearable.

BUT things got a little bit more interesting as Margo disappears the next day. Leaving a variety of clues. Setting Q and his chums on a little road trip.

The clue searching and mini scavenger hunt broke up the insufferable teen melodrama as Q becomes obsessed in finding the girl of his dreams. Luckily, it got by with a little help with some friends.

Austin Abrams and Justice Smith were brilliant as Q’s pals Ben and Radar. Abrams came out with some cracking lines as Ben. His fantastic “social skills” putting the lads into more awkward situations. Smith was hilarious as Radar. I loved the quirky back story involving his parents and an eclectic collection of black Santas.

They were a great trio and kept the film moving. I wasn’t really that bored and that’s saying something after the duds I’ve had to endure this month. The whole journey story line reeked of Stand By Me. Be it a more teeny and cheesy one. Stand By Me Zero. Especially when *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* a young Margo and Q find a dead body, alarm bells started ringing.

I couldn’t help making comparisons as the film carried on. The school friends embarking on a journey. One that would inevitably change their lives.

It was a little too light for my liking. I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic when the guys chanted the Pokemon theme to pump themselves up before creeping through a dodgy looking tunnel. A guilty chuckle for me.

The journey was corny and I felt the introduction of Halston Sage and Jaz Sinclair’s characters hampered things a little. Only because the outcome was so obvious. Although I did laugh at Radar’s constant confessing to Sinclair’s character on every little thing.

I didn’t expect a cameo from a certain actor during the petrol station scene either. Keep an eye out 😉

It was all a little corny as you realise that the journey is something much more. It was merely a chance for the guys to come to terms with the fact that they are moving away and embarking on a new journey. College, life, etc.

They bicker and gripe BUT you just know that everything will be alright in the end. It’s just that kind of film. And the pace did dip in places.

The closing moments, however, took me by surprise. It’s tough NOT to write about it without spoiling anything. BUT it was handled brilliantly and left an upbeat message that the young whipper snappers should listen to and the older cynics (Like yours truly) as well.

A talented cast makes this easygoing, if predictable, drama highly watchable. I can think of worse ways to kill 90 minutes.

3(Just)/5