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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.

 

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.

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 🙂

MV5BMjM1OTMxNzUyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjYzMTIzOTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Which I keep on wanting to refer to as THE Suicide Squad because there can be only one, right?

What’s it all about?

A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated criminals to form a defensive task force, with their first case leading to a potential apocalypse.

“Their first case” – that’s really sweet.

Why did I want to see it?

I love, love, love the character of Harley Quinn. Viola Davis being badass as Amanda Waller. “We’re the bad guys. It’s what we do.”

What did I think of it?

Suicide Squad was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and if I’d written this closer to when I actually saw the film I probably would have had more to say, but to be honest it was pretty much a mess. I’m not going to say that it’s bad, because there was a lot in it to enjoy, but it could have been great. Mark Kermode (amongst others) has suggested that it was edited into oblivion and not in a good way. I just thought that the story didn’t hold up; the best bots were all about Amanda Waller introducing each of the Squad members at the beginning of the film.

The good stuff:

  • Viola – wonderfully nasty. Wish she was on Arrow.
  • Margot Robbie as Harley – gleeful with a manic edge
  • Will Smith reminding me why I used to like watching his films
  • reminding us all that Ballroom Blitz is a great song

The rest was meh. Didn’t like Jared Leto’s version of the Joker, but not sure it’s entirely his fault.

So a disappointment more than anything else. Wonder if they’ll ever have a second case…..

MV5BODkyNDQzMzUzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODYyMDEyOA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_What’s it all about?

In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

Why did I want to watch it?

Karl Urban. Wiping out the memory of the Stallone travesty. had heard good things about it. Needed something to watch on a Friday night.

What did I think of it?

I liked it. It was brilliantly violent. Silvery Dude suggested that was enough of a review, and I was tempted but…… that didn’t seem fair.

So, context – my kid brother used to read 2000 AD so I knew a bit about Dredd but have never really got into the comics myself. However, I think I know enough to realise that this was a pretty good adaptation; Mega City One was suitably cruddy and seedy and requiring of the type of justice meted out by Dredd and his colleagues.

It’s a classic cop buddy movie  – Dredd is given rookie Anderson to take out on assessment; she’s not done that well at the academy but she’s psychic so extremely useful. They head off to deal with three murders and walk right into (or actually provoke) retaliation from MaMa, nasty female drug dealer and all-round badass. Things do not end well.

Urban is brilliantly grim and the helmet stays on, so 1 million points to him. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson is superb – at one point I thought they were going to do the classic female gets kidnapped so hero has a reason to do his thing, but it’s so not like that (thankfully) – and Lena Headey plays MaMa in a style that makes Cersei look like a pussy cat.

Bloody and violent, but imaginatively so; like I said, like it.

MV5BMTU0ODk1MTIxM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTk3MTc5ODE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What’s it all about?

The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

Why did I want to see it?

It’s Star Trek. Why wouldn’t I?

What did I think about it?

This is a really good film. I mean, really good. Don’t listen to people who tell you that it isn’t as good as the two that went before because frankly I think it’s the best of the lot. The cast are all excellent and have really settled into their roles. As others have said, in many ways the strength of Star Trek has always been the characters and their values and interactions rather than the villain of the episode and accompanying dilemma, so it’s really cool to see that delivered in Beyond, but with different pairings. So we have Bones & Spock, Kirk & Chekov, and Uhura & Sulu. Bones and Spock are particularly enjoyable together., snarking away.

In terms of the villain Idris Elba is always excellent but in some ways is the weakest part of the story. There is a very cool helpful alien and the special effects and backdrop to the story (especially Yorktown) are fantastic.

There are lovely tributes to Leonard Nimoy throughout as Spock and at the end, along with the saddest thing of all, a short tribute to Anton Yelchin.

Totally absorbing. Enjoyed it so much that I’m going to see it again next week 😀

IMG_0437What’s it all about?

Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

Why did I want to see it?

I wouldn’t have missed this under any circumstances, but I was determined to shoe this movie some love after the drubbing it was getting online before anyone had even seen it. I was excited to see a sci-fi/fantasy film where all of the main characters were women. It brought out my 1970s feminist side. Yes, I am that old.

What did I think about it?

I genuinely liked this, it was huge fun. Yes, it was slight in some respects, and yes, the structure was a bit wobbly but the cast was uniformly excellent and I just loved seeing four women getting on with each other (mostly, and let’s face it, that’s what real life is like, nobody gets on with each other all of the time), making their own decisions and saving the world without a romantic lead in sight.

I may have fallen in love with Kate McKinnon. Melissa McCarthy & Kristen Wiig were relatively known quantities and McCarthy in particular was just lovely. And I thought that Leslie Jones was great, and had a lot of the best lines. I was already in love with Hemsworth Major but it was cool to see him make fun of himself, and he looked like he was really enjoying it. The use of cameos was nicely judged. I nearly missed the post-credit sequence, but a Facebook message from a friend (I was outside of the screening at the time before I’m accused of breaking the Wittertainment Code of Conduct) had me diving back in for the nice reveal.

And most importantly of all, I laughed throughout the whole film. On my to buy list. I would happily watch this one and over again.

dbacc1aedc6c6a0136f203876e51d9e9I’m catching up on reviews from films seen over the past couple of months, so these may be a little shorter than normal. When I get back into the habit of reviewing within a couple of days of watching then normal service will be resumed. Until now it’s basically what I can remember! 

Watched: 26 May 2016 (DVD at home)

What’s it all about?

Katniss Everdeen is in District 13 after she shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.

Why did I want to see it?

I’d watched the first two films having failed to get further than the original book in the trilogy, and just wanted to see how it would turn out.

What did I think of it?

I quite enjoyed this; it was well done though very clearly a bridging film into Part 2 where all will be resolved (I assume) so it did suffer from that a tiny wee bit. Something didn’t quite gel for me though; I can’t decide whether it was Julianne Moore’s hair, Donald Sutherland’s moustache-twirling villain or Stanley Tucci’s teeth. If I’m honest I think it’s actually Jennifer Lawrence herself. Don’t get me wrong, I think that she is a really good actress, but I think she’s just too old for the part. Most of the reactions she had seemed more fitting to a much younger girl. But like I said, it was enjoyable, mostly due to the presence of Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson, and of course the still much-missed Philip Seymour Hoffman. And I will get around to watching the final part if only to see whether the (slightly) tedious love triangle is resolved. Personally I hop she rejects both Peeta and Gale and runs off with Natalie Dormer’s character, but that’s just me.