ValerianSo, as you will have noticed I haven’t been around here for a while (I was aghast to see my last post was in April so nearly 4 months have gone by). This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been watching movies. In fact, I have a backlog of 16 films that I want to write about, not including Valerian.

The reason for me not being around is that I left my job for health-related reasons (my last day on the books was 19 July) and spent the last few months getting ready for all of that so my mind wasn’t really on anything else. But now that I’m a retired person I have time to do something with my blog. But oh, that backlog is a bit of a killer, so I have decided to start afresh with the first movie I saw in August, and catch up with the others as I feel able.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets 

What’s it all about?

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.

Why did I want to see it?

It looked spectacular. I loved The Fifth Element and hoped this would be more of the same. My husband loved the comics and was champing at the bit to see this. If you have been here for any length of time you will know that I can’t resist this sort of thing.

What did I think of it?

Sorry to disappoint anyone looking for a takedown of this film (there seems to be a lot of that going on) but I loved it. It’s huge fun, glorious to look at, profoundly silly in all the right ways and so packed with astonishing visuals that your eyes don’t quite know where to look. The plot is the basic mismatched law enforcement partners summoned to investigate an anomaly but of course it’s not what it seems and of course they are being kept in the dark, and of course they do the Right Thing in the end.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne are really good in the lead roles and there is a lovely cameo from Rihanna. The bad guy is obvious but this is not about the story, it’s about bringing a comic book to life, and in that Besson has more than succeeded. Already looking forward to seeing it again!

Dazzling details: Luc Besson directed, it’s a 12A certificate in the UK {for moderate violence, sex references, language} and is 2hrs 17 mins long. I saw it in 2D because that is how I roll.

 

Advertisements

MV5BMjA1MTA4MzU4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjUxNjczODE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What is The Shallows all about then?

A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.

Why did I want to see it?

I thought the trailer look fun. I have a soft spot for Blake Lively. Shark.

What did I think of it?

I thought this was really well done, tightly directed and not expanded beyond the time needed to tell the story (under 90 minutes) which is refreshing in this day and age when everything seems to be over 150 minutes. Blake Lively is a very personable leading character and I liked the fact that she didn’t panic and wasn’t relying on a man to come and save her, using her intelligence and skill to deal with a horrible situation.

Of course a lot of it is nonsense. Would a shark really want to go to the bother of hunting and eating people when there is a huge dead whale just sitting there waiting to be devoured? And although I enjoy animal revenge movies, would one of the most efficient hunters in the sea really take stuff sufficiently personally to launch multiple attacks on a person because it’s bit miffed? But if you can swallow all of that then this is a nice little thriller. The shark is very well done. I don’t want to give anything away but there is a point where Nancy (Blake Lively’s character) is defending herself in a particular way I wanted to yell a warning about what had happened to Robert Shaw.

It’s not Jaws, but then we already have Jaws so who needs another one, but it is a good addition to this genre of movie. Worth some of your time.

MV5BMjA1MjYyNDkxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTgxODAwOTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What’s Morgan all about?

A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.

A very bald statement there, IMDb – no subtlety at all.

Why did I want to see it?

I saw the trailer on a visit to the cinema to see something else ages ago and thought it looked interesting, then a friend and I talked about going to see it and that didn’t work put, and so I forgot all about it. Then my friend Silvery Dude watched it on a flight back from Dubai and said I had to see it, so I got a hold of the DVD and presto, one Sunday night the Book God and I sat down to watch.

What did I think of it?

I thought this was a very good example of the good old sci-fi thriller, just close enough to what’s possible now to not seem totally ridiculous but still far enough away from what we can do to be disturbing and unsettling. Morgan herself is played by Anya Taylor-Joy, and actress I’m becoming very interested in, having seen her in (the disappointing to me) Split; she is very compelling to watch.

There’s a really good ensemble cast here, with Toby Jones being all mad-scientisty, and Paul Giamatti being all shouty, and Kate Mara being cold and calculating and totally up to the job of dealing with everything that goes wrong with this assignment, because of course everything goes wrong. Rose Leslie is also excellent, though it’s going to take me a while to stop muttering “You know nothing, Jon Snow” whenever I see her in anything these days.

I was rooting for Morgan as much as I was for Kate Mara’s character; it seemed very clear to me that she wasn’t the problem, but the humans around her who had forgotten what she was and treated her like a child/young person they saw as a member of the family. Because as you won’t be surprised to learn, the military-industrial complex was behind her creation.

There’s a reveal at the end which was a bit Basil Exposition and I had guessed 90% of it about three-quarters of the way through the movie but it was nicely done and quite satisfying. I only have a couple of quibbles with the film – insufficient Brian Cox and why do people keep on saying it’s a horror film? But still enjoyable and I expect to watch it again.

IMG_0587

What’s it all about?

A true-life drama, centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.

Why did I want to see The Lost City of Z?

Initially I didn’t, and by that I just mean that it hadn’t been on my radar even though I’d seen trailers and so forth. We went to see it because the Book God was very keen, and when I did some background reading (OK, looked it up on Wikipedia) I became interested in the story myself, so off we went.

What did I think of it?

I was totally bowled over by this film, surprisingly so. I had reasonable expectations going in that it would be a fascinating story, but I was unprepared for how invested I became in Fawcett’s quest, the relationship with his wife (an excellent Sienna Miller) and his son (Spiderman’s Tom Holland). Charlie Hunnam is not an actor I’ve paid much attention to in the past (even though he was in two films I particularly enjoyed – Pacific Rim ( which Autocorrect has just tried to turn into Pacific Rum, another type of film altogether) and Crimson Peak) but he is really really good in this, capturing the sort of stiff upper lip derring-do while suppressing emotions which will bubble to the surface attitude which I imagine all of these explorer types to have had.

I can’ explain why I loved it so much. It was a grown up film dealing with issues of obsession and honour and comradeship. It looked absolutely beautiful and I could quite happily have watched it again immediately.

I’m not sure how much of it is based on fact; I mean, it obviously is to a certain extent but the last section is clearly supposition because we know Fawcett and his son disappeared but not really what happened to him. And since then I have read a rather mean-spirited article by someone who clearly thinks that Fawcett is not worth the attention and there are “better” explorers on whom to focus. But I don’t care. I thought this was fabulous, and you should seek it out.

life-posterWhat’s it all about?

A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Why did I want to see it?

Impossible for me to resist nasty monster in space terrorising extremely good looking people. Plus Ryan Reynolds, obvs.

What did I think about it?

“It’s Alien, Jim, just not as we know it.”

It’s totally impossible to watch Life without thinking of Alien (which reached me out totally when I was a student back in 1979 and had to go home in the dark in a lonely part of Glasgow, but that’s another story). The similarities are more than obvious – thing that’s alive gets on board, picks crew off one by one, has to be stopped from getting to Earth. The main differences are:

  • the crew know they are bringing potential life on board and have protocols in place to manage it (or so they think
  • when things go wrong it’s very up front and everyone knows immediately
  • it’s taking place on the ISS so just a hop, skip and a jump away
  • there is a distinct lack of grunge

Having said all of that, Life is what it is and does a pretty good job of it. Yes, it has a cast that is that is too high-powered for a glossy B-movie, it has an ending that seems to have surprised some but the Book God spotted it coming just before I did, and why does everything want to eat us?

The effects are really good, the alien in particular is excellent, and it moves along at a reasonable pace with not too many “what are you doing, you’re a scientist for god’s sake” moments (though there are still some). The various deaths are nasty, I did jump a few times and squinted through my fingers at least once (apparently) so it was all good fun, except there really should have been more Ryan Reynolds.

MV5BODcxMzY3ODY1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzg1NDY4MTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What’s Lucy all about?

A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turn the table on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Why did I want to see it?

I like Scarlett Johansson. I (almost always) like Luc Besson. The trailer looked cool. It was a Saturday night and there was nothing else catching my fancy.

What did I think about it?

I actually quite enjoyed what is actually a deeply silly film because it was delivered with a bit of panache. But it is still silly. The 10% theory of brain usage has been debunked elsewhere but Morgan Freeman still makes it sound plausible, though his voice is so smooth that if I was present at him giving a lecture I would probably slip into a deep and comforting sleep.

So Lucy is meant to deliver a briefcase but it all goes horribly wrong as per, and she is captured and forced to become a drug mule for the bad guys, and when I say forced I mean knocked out an operated on, none of this swallowing packets stuff. And then she is mistreated and the bags burst and she is flooded with a substance which ends up making her only the most intelligent post-human you can imagine, although what you mostly notice is that she stares unblinkingly and speaks in a  very deliberate monotone to show that she is, you know, not one of us. Cue time-travel, metamorphosis and other wacky stuff.

It’s a film that takes itself a bit too seriously but I would be happy to watch it again, once I’ve checked my own brain at the door.

IMG_1198What’s it all about?

In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a new mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.

Why did I want to see it?

I have always loved Wolverine in the X-Men films, not so much in the standalone movies, so I was intrigued to see what a grittier version with an older Logan would be like. Also the presence of Sir Patrick Stewart, this likely being Mr Jackman’s last outing in the character AND an awesome trailer complete with Johnny Cash made this unmissable.

What did I think about it?

Awesome. Genuinely, this was an awesome film, exceeding my expectations which were, let’s face it, astonishingly high.

We saw this in the Picturehouse Central near Piccadilly Circus, which is a real cool cinema, with other members of the Film Club (for which we do not have a better name. Yet). This enhanced the experience considerably as it was so comfortable there were no distractions and we could all concentrate on the film.

It’s elegiac and beautiful to watch and tugs the heartstrings at all levels. It was totally emotionally draining, and I know that several of us felt a genuine sense of loss at the end. The performances were superb, which you would expect from Messrs Jackman and Stewart, but the young girl who played X23 (Dafne Keen) was a revelation. And of course it was lovely to see Richard E Grant at his villainous best.

This was a superhero movie for people who think they don’t like superhero movies and I loved it. Straight onto the to buy list 🙂

MV5BMTUwMzI5ODEwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjAzNjI2MDI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_What’s it all about?

A team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers unites to explore an uncharted island in the Pacific. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong. As their mission becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden.

Why did I want to see it?

Hiddles meets giant ape. Duh.

What did I think about it?

I had a good time watching Kong: Skull Island, which is exactly what you would expect from a giant ape vs humans film set at the end of the Vietnam War and starring at least two very good-looking human beings. As you can see from the poster above, there is a definite Apocalypse Now vibe to the setting and marketing, and when Samuel L Jackson goes off the rails seeking vengeance it is very much like a war film, albeit one with, you know, giant ape, assorted enormous beasties and the underground weird skull-headed nasties. And of course the stranded WW2 veteran who provides the necessary exposition to establish that Kong is not the bad guy here, people.

So the body count is high, Kong is enormous, the photography is great, the effects are very cool, the story is moderately silly but the characters are pretty sketchy and the script doesn’t give the great cast (Hiddles, Brie Larson, John Goodman, SJL) that much to deal with, other than John C Reilly who looks like he’s having a whale of a time.

But it is good fun and although I wouldn’t deliberately seek it out to watch again, I can very easily see myself being sucked in if I was watching it on TV. I’ll be very interesting to see how this fits into the wider giant monster world that will include Godzilla.

 

MV5BMjA3MjAzOTQxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTc5OTY1OTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What’s it all about?

European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defence of the Great Wall of China against a horde go monstrous creatures.

Why did I want to see it?

Monsters. In China. Say no more.

What did I think of it?

I really, really liked The Great Wall, much more than I anticipated. For all sorts of reasons this was absolutely the right film at the right time. Less focussed on the western characters than the marketing would have you believe. Tian Jing is my new girl crush as the Chinese commander, very cool and will pop up again in another context soon. It’s also a beautiful film in the way that only the Chinese can manage, with choreographed set pieces, gloriously coloured costumes and the obligatory break for some music. And the monsters are very very cool.

I learned several things:

  • Matt Damon (bless him) cannot sustain an Irish accent for more than 2 minutes at a time
  • do not trust Willem Defoe under any circumstances
  • bungee jumping in exotic blue armour while holding a spear is the only way to fight.

I will re-watch this at the first opportunity. Loved it.

 

JPEG image-5039E18BCB85-1

Another bunch of films where it’s been so long since I have seen them that full reviews may be difficult to write but I wanted to make a note about what I thought of them. There will be proper reviews of more recent films over the next week or so.

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice – Finally got around to watching this, without the benefit of having seen Man of Steel, but honestly I don’t think that was a problem. Superman caused the death of loads of people and Batman is extremely cross and decides to take him on, but something more significant comes along so they have to join forces, and then Wonder Woman turns up. Luthor is silly and annoying, no-one cracks a smile at any point, it’s too long & loud and dark, there isn’t nearly enough WW but it isn’t the total disaster lots of folk said it was. Supports my firm view that DC is better on TV than movie screens.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War – the sequel that nobody really wanted, but it was pretty good fun and had three of my favourite actresses (Ms Theron super-evil, Ms Blunt misguidedly evil, Ms Chastain being badass) and of course the Greater Hemsworth. The frocks are gorgeous, the effects are pretty cool but they should be arrested for the awfulness of their Scottish accents. Ends exactly as you think it’s going to.

Split – M Night Shyamalan’s latest is a multiple personality horror thriller thing with an amazing performance by James McAvoy but which in the end is pointless and confusing. I couldn’t work out where it was headed and became quite impatient. The much lauded cameo at the end was a real blink or your miss it event. Annoyingly disappointing.

A Monster Calls – I read the book on which this is based about a week before I saw the movie so I knew that it would be a two box of tissues movie. It’s so beautifully done, excellent performances all round and so, so sad. The monster is astonishing. I saw it with friends and we all cried buckets. Just excellent, and if you haven’t seen it please seek it out, it’s so, so good.