The Wandering Earth ★★★★☆

Heading out of Hollywood for a moment, we take a look at one of the biggest movies of 2019 so far, hidden away on Netflix! Raking in a gigantic $700m, The Wondering Earth is a bold Sci-Fii epic produced in China, based on the novel of the same name. Don’t let the subtitles put you off! Managing to pull this off on a budget of $50m is hugely impressive!

Directed by Frant Gwo

Starring Wu Jing, Qu Chuxiao, Zhao Jinmai


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Downs of 2018

With half the year done and dusted, it’s an opportune time to look back at some of the low lights of the silver screen. What was awful, what simply just let us down? Let’s have a look!


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Pacific Rim Uprising

As a standalone movie, Uprising is not all that bad a film, but when you associate it with the surprisingly popular Pacific Rim, is where things collapse. By removing the creative & dark Del Toro elements, and removing a magnetic lead such as Idris Elba, you are left with a very underwhelming film.  Gone is the sombre and intense feel of the first, replaced by brightly coloured robots that can now be effortlessly controlled by teens, a la Power Rangers. Gone is the vast scale of grandeur and size, in comes the numerous product placements before the title card even shows up.


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Truth or Dare

Considering this was created from the critically acclaimed Blumhouse Productions, whose previous works include Get Out, Happy Death Day and Split. Truth of Dare is a step back to the cheesy horror flick full of jump scares and idiotic characters. The plot is horribly convoluted for a by the numbers horror film, the cast is clichéd, and an ending so shambolic you will leave you astounded by what just happened! And let’s not forget the laughable ‘possessed’ demon faces…….


Film Title: Breaking In

Breaking In

This really could be filed under ‘So bad, it’s good’, while it was nice to see Gabrielle Union play a role she really isn’t associated with, Breaking In starts off reasonable well, but as soon as the action begins, it loses all its tension and delves almost into parody. Where Union’s character got this military like experience, we don’t know.  Guy gets run over twice by an SUV, then just randomly appears later without any sign of damage, sure why not. The entire audience was laughing as the final credits rolled! Which I guess makes it………. a good movie?!


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The Cloverfield Paradox

‘’Stop trying to make Cloverfield happen……….It’s not going to happen’’

There was a reason why this convoluted mess was released on the sly on Netflix, at first, this was slated as an original movie, before studio intervention, The Cloverfield Paradox seems to be all over the place, floating between space horror, comedy and mystery, while never really sticking to one path. A shame considering the sheer talent of the cast involved in the project.


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Red Sparrow

At over 140 minutes, Red Sparrow is one drawn out, turgid spy thriller. The premise of this movie were spies that were trained to seduce. But her character is frankly useless as a spy, wondering why she was even releases to go on field duty!  The entire plot revolves around a mole in the KGB, which comes out of nowhere at the end with literally zero work leading up to it. It’s just……….boring.


So what movies this year let you down? let us know! 😀

Star Wars: Never tell me the spoilers!

Beware!!!

Stay away if you do not want to read spoilers.

See our spoiler-free review if you have not seen this film!!

(Though if you haven’t seen it by now, come on, what are you doing?)

Be sure to comment any points I may have left out.

So it is the long awaited arrival of the second installment of the new Star Wars Trilogy. There has been a large amount of hype for The Last Jedi and unfortunately for me I allowed myself to be dragged into the chaotic chorus of high expectations. After a nostalgic and interesting setup in The Force Awakens, an unrelated yet enjoyable Rogue One, and a tasty exhilarating trailer (with Porg goodness) I think we can all agree we were expecting good things. I, however, was less than fulfilled and found myself severely disappointed and close to anger on leaving the cinema. Probably not helped by the fact that my friends and I had been to the double-bill feature and had left the cinema at 3am after being there since 9pm!

Before I get into a laboured account of the negatives let’s start with something positive…

THE PORGS

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A Porg stows away on the Millennium Falcon

Yes they may be unnecessary and not at all relevant but it was an inventive solution to a problem and a creative reflection of the true location. Ahch-To, aka Skellig Michael, is just off the Southern Coast of Ireland and was the perfect location for the remote Jedi monasteries, what with the abandoned monasteries already present on the Island that were once home to Christian monks some 700-800 years ago.

Also present on the Island at certain times of year were PUFFINS! As the Island is a nature reserve, it would be wrong to remove the vast number of birds (not to mention logistically incredibly difficult), and to digitally erase the native birds would be hugely time consuming; so it was decided that they would have to roll with it and create a new indigenous species. Just like on the island, these birds get EVERYWHERE in the film (but thankfully not to an annoyingly obnoxious level) and even have an actually funny interaction with Chewbacca when he tries to eat one of them.

REY AND KYLO

This storyline was genuinely intriguing as you have a bridge between two characters who are still unsure of their paths and roles in the upcoming story (aren’t we all).

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Friends or Foes?

Each is trying to win the other to their side, while being slightly confused as to whether they are light or dark themselves. A mind bridge is created between the two characters by Supreme Leader Snoke, an ingenious plot to lead Rey to them and turn her to the dark side. Rey falls for this and seeks Kylo out as she still sees good in him. This plan back fires on Snoke, resulting in his death and an impressive fight scene between Kylo and Rey, and the Praetorian Guards. I personally enjoyed this fight, the style being a favourite of mine, mainly because of the way Rey and Kylo interact and fight alongside one another against the guards (however tentative the link between the two and how little they know of each other’s fighting style). Ultimately, they go their separate ways and leave the arc open to perhaps continue in Episode IX

YODA

I liked it! Some people said he looked weird but I was glad to see him, being my favourite Star Wars character. Not only that, he is still schooling Luke even after being “dead” for decades and pushes him past this nihilistic stage of his life. Still the most subtle and natural laughs in the film and humbly awesome.

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Forever the Master

Well that’s me being nice…moving on!

SUPERMAN/MARY POPPINS/LEIA ORGANA

Right, I get she is force sensitive and there may be precedent for this scene in other obscure pieces of lore, games or series. But COME ON? Really? Also, I get this was filmed before she passed away (RIP, love and respect) but I really thought this was going to be it for Leia in the film. And it could have been so beautiful! I could feel myself tearing up as she gracefully floated through space in a dignified end to a powerful and forever rebellious character. But then she reached out her hand and force pulled herself back?!!? To a door that was not an airlock!! Which did not seem to bother anyone?! Except shields blah blah. NO! Some may say that it was an interesting twist and wasn’t expected but I believe it was just Disney rubbish and I wholeheartedly disagree with this scene. Not only that, now Leia’s death will either be reduced to a minor mention in the opening scrolling text, or some hurried and heavily CGI’d scene in Episode IX. I just can’t…

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I know Carrie, I know

SLOWEST. CHASE. EVER

I think this was just a plot device whose sole purpose was to legitimise a pointless, convoluted and bloated sub-plot. I’ll get to this. A very long and drawn out plot device. Which also included an unnecessary deception from Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) again, purely a device to allow Finn and Rose to go on their redundant side-mission. They could have evacuated the ship and headed to Crait while the Vice-Admiral light-speed destroyed the First Order fleet, giving more time for a battle on the surface of Crait. This could have allowed more speeder vs. AT-AT battle, a ground siege of the base, and a more interesting utilisation of Phasma. Again, I’ll get to this. 

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Laura Dern does look stunning though!

I suppose Holdo’s light-speed attack came as a last minute realisation moment to save the fleet, and I will also submit that it was a visually impressive and made for an emotional scene. BUT even the prospect of an 18 hour snail-paced space chase when it was first mentioned made many people in the audience groan. It drew the pace of the film to a grinding halt and just seemed to me like a bit of a half-baked idea in order to give Finn a quest of his own. Speaking of which…

CANTO BIGHT SUB-PLOT

During the slowest chase in history Poe, Finn and Rose formulate a plan to find an individual named the Code-Breaker, stow aboard the First Order ship and destroy the tracking device inhibiting the Resistance fleet’s escape. Finn and Rose travel to Canto Bight for what turns out to be more of moral journey for Finn; as well as a display of the subtle effects of living under a fascist First Order and how easy it is to spread hope through the galaxy. I do understand the relevance of this scene and when Finn does take a closer look at his extravagant surroundings to the injustice lingering just beneath the surface it does pluck on a few heart strings. However, the execution felt forced, the message rushed and probably did not require as much dialogue as we were given, which collectively dampens the intended impact.

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Look closer

After exploring the casino settlement for a while, they manage to get themselves arrested ultimately due to a parking violation. In their cell they meet DJ (Benicio Del Toro) who they dismiss as some hack criminal. They escape with the help of children, fathiers (space horses), BB-8 and DJ who they then decide to bring along in place of the Code-Breaker. This backfires when DJ betrays them to the First Order, teaching them a valuable lesson about a) trusting strangers they meet in prison cells, and b) about the people who play both sides in war. The First Order Dreadnought is fortuitously destroyed seconds before Finn and Rose are to be executed, allowing a short face-off between Finn and Phasma. This is a gross misuse of both Benicio Del Toro and Phasma; who, although we were promised a grander role for this bad-ass Storm Trooper captain, was barely used and swiftly removed.

FINN AND ROSE

They had ZERO chemistry! And yet she decides to save Finn’s life and confess her love to him? No. Just no. He started out as a deserter and has a change of heart, wait…doesn’t that sort of happen in The Force Awakens? No, it’s all for Rey, always. Could we have a little character development please? The justification for most of his heroic actions is so that Rey is able to return to a safe and protected rebellion. Up until he calls himself “rebel scum”. I must admit I chuckled. Regardless, none of this explains why Rose would inexplicably fall in love with him. They never show anything resembling attraction to one another and yet she sacrifices herself to stop him from sacrificing himself. It felt forced and like so much of their storyline, unnecessary.

WASTED TALENT AND CHARACTERS 

I have touched upon a couple of these points already but I think I should re-visit them in a little more detail. As the sub-title suggests, this film has failed to utilise both actors and characters that were presented to it. Top of the list for me, personally, was Supreme Leader Snoke. He could have been an immensely superior bad guy, resembling the Palpatine/Darth Sidious kind of presence; and yet, we learned nothing of his history, back-story or motivations. What makes this even more disappointing is that Andy Serkis gives a great performance, typical for his calibre. The scene where he finally meets Rey is interesting, he was at least given the chance to display some of his own power and I liked that he had orchestrated the mind bridge between Kylo and Rey. He’s a more stable villain than Kylo Ren and is way more sinister in my opinion. But he is killed-off in an instant in a way that an all powerful being should have seen. No matter how sneaky Kylo was being. 

Speaking of Kylo Ren, I believe this character has so much potential but in both episodes VII and VIII he is a little whiny for my taste. I understand that he is conflicted about whether he is light or dark, but he could be played as a little less emo-teenager; having tantrums and hissy fits doth not make a Supreme Leader. I also understand that this is likely down to script and direction rather than Adam Driver’s portrayal, which is very good given the material he has received.

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Captain of Chrome

Another First Order character to lose out in this film was Captain Phasma, Rian Johnson has inexplicably risen her from the jaws of trash compactor only to give her an insufficient amount of screen time and a second apparent death. The new films are quite saturated with antagonists, what with Snoke (Darth Sidious), Kylo Ren (Darth Vader), General Hux (Grand Moff Tarkin), Phasma (Boba Fett?) is more in the background but then why hype up the character so much? Why put a prominent actress under the mask? And not just for the lulz like with the Princes and Daniel Craig. It was just a waste of quite a sinister, mysterious character, a great actress, and a waste of bringing her back.

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Still more screen time than in the movie

Moving swiftly through to the next underused talent, Benicio Del Toro as “DJ”. Firstly, DJ isn’t even the “Codebreaker” Finn and Rose were sent to find, they decide that it would be a GREAT idea to recruit a man they meet in a prison cell and are then SHOCKED when he eventually betrays them to the First Order. Showing once and for all that War is an endless cycle with an area of grey between the opposing sides full of indifferent people profiting from the spoils. Although this is a great a message and something we haven’t seen before in the Star Wars movies, the creators could have focused more on the character’s back-story, motivations and given Del Toro more room to actually perform, rather than the over-edited scenes of Canto Bight we were actually exposed to. Again, I get the relevance of Canto Bight in Finn’s development from “I must help Rey” to “Rebel Scum”; but this could have been done using DJ as the “Codebreaker” to perhaps further delve into the deference, corruption and greed seen in that Casino town. But then where would we fit in space-horse racing?

CONTINUITY DOES NOT EXIST

J. J. Abrams gave us a nostalgic return to the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens in 2015; although many people criticised it due to it’s uncanny resemblance to the Episode IV plot (doesn’t seem so bad now does it?), I very much enjoyed this instalment and many times found myself squealing and fan-girling in my seat. Unfortunately, Rian Johnson has decided to ignore most of what the previous film gave us and almost create a stand-alone movie.

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First Order be like… “Meh, didn’t like that base anymore anyway. Just gonna bring up this mega-fleet and Dreadnoughts we never mentioned”.

The fact that the Resistance destroyed the Star-Killer Base in The Force Awakens seems to be of little consequence to the First Order, as they are now chasing the Resistance to the ends of the galaxy. This is a recurring theme even within The Last Jedi, even though Holdo destroys much of the First Order fleet with her light-speed attack, the First Order still have an army with which they can launch a ground assault on Crait. Furthermore, we still aren’t really sure where the First Order have come from and why they arose. Sure we have the maniacal ramblings and speeches from General Hux in both films, and the Opening Crawl text describes them as “risen from the ashes of the Empire”, but no real explanation as to where they came from and how they have amassed apparently infinite numbers of followers in just 30 years since the Empire was destroyed. If you read a little bit deeper in to the story outside the movies, you find out that Hux’s father was part of the previous Imperial movement as an overseeing officer at Arkanis Academy. But you need to look online or watch the Star Wars Rebels series to find out any of this.

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It’s OK Rey, we’re sad too

This sort of comes under both continuity and characters but I decided to put it here as it’s another example of Rian Johnson’s complete disregard for the events of The Force Awakens. Rey’s parents. Her family was introduced as a mysterious enigma, a premise that had the fan theories going wild all over the internet. Is she a Solo? Is she a Skywalker? Is it going to be another obscure character from the numerous films, literature, games, or series? Nope. They’re nobody. But we all knew that in our hearts, right? I, like so many other people, hope that Kylo was lying so that he might destabilise her and draw her to his side. Please J. J. Abrams??

 

I wanna just circle back to Phasma for one second. A trash compactor?! But it’s OK! She’s fine! The chrome suit is just that strong! It will probably save from that fire too…

DO YOU REMEMBER EPISODES IV, V AND VI? DO YOU? DO YOU?!

There are quite a few of these so I’m going to bullet points these:

  • Rebels have been found by first order and are escaping their base aka Hoth
  • Ahch-Too aka Degoba
  • Black hole on Ahch-Too aka dark tree on Degoba
    • Rey sees her reflection, Luke sees himself in Vader
  • “I feel the good in you” spoken by Luke to Vader and Rey to Kylo
  • Obi-Wan, A New Hope – “If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”. Luke, The Last Jedi – Pretty much the same thing
  • The Emperor, Return of the Jedi – “Come, boy, see for yourself. From here, you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance and the end of your insignificant rebellion”. Pretty much the same as Snoke’s scene with Rey where he tells her to watch the destruction of the Resistance.

LUKE

Over the last few weeks we’ve heard a lot about whether Mark Hamill loved or hated the film. Also seen a couple of “Not my Luke Skywalker” posts.

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“What the hell did I just read?”

I didn’t hate the character entirely, again these points go across sections so I made a special section, but I didn’t appreciate the injection of comedy and the very uncomfortable space-cow scene. It also seems strange to me that he can be so trusting and sure of the good in Vader during the original trilogy, but toys with murdering Ben Solo (before Kylo) because he’s sees a little darkness. The real issue we’ve had is the inconsistency; in The Force Awakens, we are told that Luke left a map behind so that the Resistance can find him if they find themselves in great need. But now he acts stubborn and obstructive when he is found by Rey. I understand why he would be reluctant to train Rey (at this point I turned to my friend and said “Too old, yes, too old to begin the training” nearly right) but he should be more supportive of the Resistance. I see the shift from Hero to Hope they are going for in this film, but it doesn’t quite match up with The Force Awakens, and will it progress into Episode IX?

Last but not least SPOILER Luke’s death. It was very creative the way they hinted at his projection by not leaving the red indentations on the planet Crait; however, would it have been cooler if Luke had actually been there? Sure there might be a timing issue (how’d he get there so fast?! A la Batman in Dark Knight Rises) but if he’d have actually deflected that attack it would have been an incredible display of power! Or, if he’d had projected himself, then NOT died, that would also have been good. I think him allowing Kylo Ren to defeat him would have been way too similar to Obi-Wan in A New Hope.

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Overall, I guess you could say I was disappointed. The Last Jedi looks and feels like a Star Wars movie but lacks conviction, continuity and emotion.

Looking forward to the next movie, in the immortal words of Master Yoda: Failure is our greatest teacher.

If you agree, disagree, or think I’ve missed something, be sure to leave a comment and follow our Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Porgs story: Star Wars’ Official Site

 

The Last Jedi, It Disappoints

The Force Awakens was a nostalgic action packed throwback, that helped the franchise get back on track, following the thoroughly underwhelming Prequel trilogy from the Early 00’s. Since then, we’ve also had the well acclaimed spin-off, Rogue One. So expectations were sky high for the latest instalment in the saga, Episode VIII, The Last Jedi.

One of the biggest criticism of TFA was the fact it stuck pretty close to its guns, and essentially, it was a rehash of the story from A New Hope, with a fresh coat of paint. In all fairness, it was a safety first approach,  but it payed off, but with the sequel, the studio would have to be brave and shake things up.  To keep this spoiler free, this review will be pretty concise!

TLJ carries on straight after the end of TFA, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) tracks down the reclusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). In search for the guidance she requires to help the resistance fight off the imminent threat of the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), and a bemused Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), having suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Rey last time around.

What TLJ does right, it does supremely well.  The space battles as always are stunning to watch, the opening scenes of the resistance taking down a dreadnought,  not only shows us the underdog nature of this war, but also the morbid consequences that follow even after the battle has been won. The final act, that takes place on the salt plains of Crait is a visual treat. Star Wars is a franchise that rarely uses blood, so the red marks left on the surface of the plains makes it a great method to show the brutality of the situation without resorting to the red stuff!

The dynamic between Rey & Kylo is intriguing throughout the film, both of our characters are conflicted in their own ways,  and seeing them try to understand each others motivations adds a new layer to a story trying to play it different.  Luke is also another highlight of the show, Mark Hamill has always been the one who engages the most with his fans regarding Star Wars, even to this day he still loves the fact he is Luke Skywalker! The battle scenes are as strong as ever, though the light-saber action is a bit on the downside here, the show down in Snoke’s throne room is wonderfully choreographed and shot. There is also a surprising cameo from a well loved character from Star Wars past, which will have the fans smiling.

This movie has been controversial to say the least,  with fans having a far more scathing assessment than the largely positive critic reviews. To be honest, there are several flaws that really do effect the enjoyment of the movie. To avoid any big spoilers, these will be listed in a vague way, to avoid revealing too much of the story! The whole Finn & Rose arch feels very unnecessary, a way to simply pad out the already bloated run time. Finn is also reduced to very much a side character,  which is a shame, considering how charismatic John Boyega is.  There are several plot points from TFA that just seem to disappear,  Rian Johnson, taking over from J J Abrams, seems to have struggled to weave the two movies together seamlessly. There are also decisions made by the some characters that really make no sense,  seemingly only done to create another plot narrative, such as Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), whose peculiar decision making serves no real purpose apart from creating tension.

Overall, I found TLJ a bit disappointing, The usual Star Wars shine is there, with its outlandish characters, charm and familiarity.  TFA may have been some more of the same, but it still provided the audience with enjoyment, and a tidy plot.  TLJ is unfortunately riddled with plot holes, character motivations and frankly some bizarre scenes (to be discussed in the spoiler review!).

 

Throwback: Blade Runner (1982)

With the sequel releasing next month it’s about time we took a look back at the original, loosely adapted from the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick; who also wrote Minority Report and Total Recall.

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Hitting cinemas 35 years ago, Blade Runner was described as neo-noir science-fiction directed by the fantastic sci-fi pro Ridley Scott. Set 2019, we see a very different version of Los Angeles, a dark and dystopian city that has descended into decay. The Tyrell Corporation has manufactured androids known as “replicants”, indistinguishable from human adults, to work on off-world colonies. However, if any of these replicants attempt to return to Earth they are assassinated (or “retired”) by police operatives known as “Blade Runners”. Harrison Ford plays ex-Blade Runner “Rick Deckard” who takes one last job to hunt down 4 escaped replicants. During his investigation he meets “Rachael”, played by Sean Young, an advanced replicant who displays human emotion and makes him question the future, his attitude towards replicants and what it means to be human.

Replicants are made with a restricted life span, all Roy (Rutger Hauer), Pris (Daryl Hannah), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and Leon (Brion James) want is to live and love. Rachael even believes herself to be human until Deckard performs the “Voight-Kampff” test on her and is told that her memories are only implants taken from Tyrell’s niece. Though this story is interesting I was more intrigued by the way the story was told. I enjoy the noir style and luckily for this film Harrison Ford’s voice lends itself well to narration. The interactions between Deckard and Rachael made me a little uncomfortable, which I normally put down to being a different time period, though it could be another example of how humans believe they can use artificial intelligence for their own advantage and self indulgence.

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One of the greatest improvised lines in film

Honestly, my attention did dip at certain points during the film, mostly during dialogue heavy scenes; so I can see why the critics may have been split in their opinions when it was first released. However, I enjoyed this film and it includes a variety of themes that are ambiguous enough to invoke different perceptions; exploring humanity, empathy, mortality, the emotional capacity of A.Is, the disparity between the different societies and the new and decaying areas of the city, human manipulation of genetic engineering, the omnipotent corporate power, manipulation of environment, and apparently some religious connotations that I’m always oblivious to. Also, it has to have been a massive influence for 2004’s “I, Robot” and other A.I related films.

And lastly, this line:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” Roy Batty

Valerian, Got Style, Needed Substance

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planet is based off Valérian and Laureline, the long running French Sci-Fi comic series, that ran from 1967 to 2010. Director Luc Besson has been a fan of this franchise since his youth, and has long dreamed to bring the characters alive on the big screen. In a summer full of remakes and reboots, Valerian at least offers audiences something original. Will it be a breath of fresh air?

Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a Major within the Alpha space station. An enormous structure which has built up exponentially, since its early years as the International Space Station. Alpha is now a sprawling galactic community containing thousands of alien races and over a million different languages. Valerian is tasked to keep the peace and well-being of the citizens, along with his partner Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevinge). It’s soon revealed there is an imminent threat building up within the core of the colony and our heroes will need to find out what’s causing it & prevent the downfall off Alpha.

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Cara Delevingne stars in VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS Photo courtesy of STX Films and Europacorp

It’s always a gamble using source material that the general public are unaware off.  But Guardians of the Galaxy has proved if you do it right, it can work like a dream. Unfortunately, Valerian simply lacks any charm or charisma that made Guardians a huge hit. This is down to the two leads, who are vastly unlikable, nor do you really care about their journey. Neither DeHaan or Delavigne have the personality or gravitas to carry a franchise like this on their own. There is no real character growth, and their arcs are no cause for any interest. Considering the budget on this film, near $200m, the highest ever for a French movie, it’s a curious decision for the movie to cast these two to headline the film.

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Off the bat in Guardians, the audience immediately adore Starlord following the opening credits! Here, even after 2 hours, you still don’t care! We never get any background into the heroes, how long were they in the force for? What about their backstory? How long have they been a couple for? Their romance is put front and center of the movie, when it should have been a secondary plot. Why should we care about their relationship, when we hardly know who they are! Both characters have pretty much equal screen time, so it is a curious decision to remove Laureline from the movie’s title.

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While the leads may not be the most enthralling, Besson has created a visually stunning movie. It’s clear to see how much The Fifth Element, which he also directed, had an influence here! It’s obvious to see that he was a big fan of the comics, and he does his best to recreate the vibe of something he is a huge fan of.  From the bustling metropolis of Alpha, to the paradise beaches of Planet Mul, the movie is overflowing with gorgeous visuals. The entire Pearl’s species were a nice distraction from the grim space urban jungle the rest of the film is set in.  A lot of effort has been put in to make the comics come to life, and for that, praise has to go to the director. The scene involving Valerian breaking through walls and traversing several different landscapes of Alpha while in pursuit is a riveting scene. The movie has several concepts that could have been explored in more detail. Such as the alternate dimension that seems to exist, the vast collection of aliens and locations we could explore. But the film does not stray too far for its comfort zone. If there is a second film, they have so much to work with!

But we never see more of this fascinating world; instead we have to sit through a bickering couple and various side quests.

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The film suffers from random detours, which seem to solely exist to add to the films runtime. If its not randomly chasing a psychic jellyfish. It’s having to obtain a disguise to break into enemy territory. (When being a government official should be enough!). Though this is how we meet the most interesting character by far, Bubbles, the shape shifter played by Rihanna! In 10 minutes, her character gives us more reason to care about her story than our leading duo. The movie dropped the ball by not giving that character more screen time, rather than a side character. Ethan Hawke also has a blast as the ridiculously extravagant owner of one of the strip clubs Valerian finds himself in. The villain of the piece is Commander Filitt (Clive Owen), his actions are made clear early on, so it’s no surprise when the film reveals his history. His isn’t a truly evil person, more someone who sticks strictly to his military code. His revelation is not as shocking as they could have made it, and the final reveal is very underwhelming.

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planet is not a bad movie, if you love Sci-Fi, then you should consider giving this a watch. The film does offer something original, so you have to give it credit for that. That said, the film never reaches its full potential, with the miscast heroes, the lack of character development and a plot that drags on for way too long, it fades away into a generic but beautiful summer release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Covenant, Lacks Any Fear

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The 6th instalment of the iconic Alien franchise has landed in cinemas, Alien: Covenant. Picking up following the developments from 2012’s Prometheus, is Covenant a throwback to the original horror, or a follow on from the lore heavy Prometheus.

Covenant, is the story of the Covenant, a vessel travelling to a far flung planet, its mission, to find an alternate planet for colonisation. Each ship is overlooked by an android assistant, while the human crew are in deep sleep. The android maintaining the Covenant is Walter (Fassbender), but due to an emergency, the crew are forced to wake up. Following the loss of a fellow crew member, and with the reluctance to get back inside the pods, our team decide to respond to a distress call, from another potential viable planet for life, which is far more closer to get to then the remaining 7 years left to reach their original destination.

Upon landing on the new planet, things inevitable unravel and the blood starts flowing! You don’t really need to watch Prometheus to enjoy Covenant; the movie does refer back to the prequel, and does a good job in doing enough explanation to not leave anyone who hasn’t watched Prometheus, totally out of the loop.

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Director Ridley Scott has been accuse of losing his magic in recent times, but The Martian showed that he still has the ability to deliver great work.  Covanent follows that up with another strong showing here. By far the best aspect of the movie is the performance of Fassbender, who performs a dual role here. As already mentioned, he plays Walter, on board the Covenant, and also David, the older version of himself that was abroad the previous Prometheus mission. There are several scenes which involve both characters on screen at the same time, and he pulls it off with great intensity. He also plays the role of a synthetic being well enough to not sound completely wooden, which is a trap many who play robots fall into.

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The human crew on-board though, are a very mixed bag, and a majority of them come off as pretty unlikable. Katherine Waterston is Daniels AKA New Ripley, but she simply doesn’t have the presence to play a role such as this, she looks lost and confused for large parts of the movie, and being the supposed lead human, is overshadowed by Fassbender’s presence. The captain of the crew, Oram (Billy Crudup) is written to be somewhat antagonistic, and his traits are very dis-likeable, not even allowing his crew to mourn the loss of a colleague! It was strange to make him somewhat of a secondary antagonist, as the aliens are enough of a threat as it is. Everyone else of the team is largely bland or unremarkable, and make several stupid decisions throughout the film! The only real endearing figure is Tennessee (Danny McBride) as the pilot of the Covenant, surprising, as McBride isn’t usually known for these kind of roles!

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It’s down on the planet where the film really shines though, the opening 3rd seems to drag on for a long time, before we get into the nitty gritty, the Aliens! One thing to understand, is as this is a prequel to the original, this is the story of how the fiends known as the Xenomorphs came into existence, so the threats don’t look like what you expect them too! The film does not hold back on the violence and blood! It’s not just the chest the aliens surprise us from, and some of the deaths our crew suffer are pretty graphic. It may be slightly over the top, but it also empathises how destructive these creatures are. One of the criticisms of Prometheus was that it was very dialogue heavy, and didn’t have enough Xenomorph action, fair enough; as they are the main reason we go to watch these movies! Having watched Prometheus may help you enjoy the film more, but not watching it won’t ruin the experience. The alien saga is explained with careful detail, and it does get us curious in seeing where the next movie goes with all the revelations unearthed here.

The film though does lack the feel of the originals, there isn’t that build up that tension, that feeling of being alone and trapped. The film is very linear in that regards. It is very obvious which character will bite the dust, and the twist reveal at the end is so, so predictable, that it disappointed me they actually went ahead at did it! Also, the trailer pretty much revealed all the set pieces, a damaging habit most trailers seem to fall into nowadays. . It’s a shame that the movie just isn’t as scary as it could have been, as it’s all so telegraphed in its story. Yes some of the scenes can be rather brutal, but is it scary? Not really.

Covenant is no way a bad movie, if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise, or Sci-Fi is generally, it’s an entertaining ride, which gives more plot into how the Xenomorphs came to be, and has the usual Alien tropes. On the other hand there’s isn’t anything new and original to shout about. The film does have some homage to the original movies, but it very much feels like a part of the new trilogy, and not the old.

 

 

 

Life Thrills!

Life, follows a star studded cast, as a group of astronauts on the International Space Station. who happen to bring on a surprise visitor, who happens to be a lot more sinister than first presumed!

The crew on the ISS manage to recover a capsule, containing various samples from a recent Martian mission. Amongst all the specimen of rocks is one curious sample, it turns out that the crew have managed to successfully find life on Mars! With the news relayed back to Earth, they honour the new organism with the name Calvin, which seems innocent enough, before Calvin wakes up from his slumber!

 

On board, we have Dr Miranda North (Ferguson) & Dr David Jordan (Gyllenhaal) as the medical officers of the station, and also the main  characters the movie follows. Also on the team is Adams (Reynolds) the ISS pilot, Derry (Bakare) the stations British biologist. Murakami, the teams Japanese engineer and Golovkina, the Russian commander. It’s only fair the International Space Station has an International cast!

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It’s our biologist that develops a close affinity with Calvin, and it’s his curiosity that ultimately leads our Martian friend on its warpath! After some mild experiments to monitor the growth of Calvin, it’s the electrical stimulation that sets off its survival instincts, and from that point on, the movie becomes an intense thriller!

Calvin is most certainly the highlight of this well-made space chiller, as the film progresses, it gets more and more advanced, not just physically, but also its intelligence. Our astronauts have to get more tactical against its threat, as the crew gradually starts to get taken out. Speaking of the deaths, the film is pretty graphic at times, as our alien fiend starts absorbing its prey in various gory methods. It does feel a bit over the top at times, but it does well in showing how weak our crew is, up against this relentless threat. Could there be a greater fear than drowning…in Space?!

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As with most recent films set in Space, such as Interstellar, Gravity & The Martian, Life is incredibly beautiful,  the shots of Earth, the Sun, and various other scene out of the station are gorgeous, and makes the whole movie look so much more polished. If the CGI looks bad in a Space movie, it would have a hugely negative effect on the whole project.

It’s clear that the film takes a lot of inspiration from Alien, which is no way a bad thing! Daniel Espinosa directs a wonderfully eerie set piece. Where the movie excels, is in the stalking aspects of the film. As Calvin slips away, all our crew can hear is the various thuds as our predator crawls around the metallic interiors of the station. This is extremely well executed when Calvin is in its earlier phases, as its smaller body allows it to sneak around in all manner of places, and jumping out from the smallest of gaps! As it grows, it does get a bit more comical, as it grows a face and limbs, along with a cheesy ‘monster vision’ scene.

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So how do our crew preform here? Reynolds is obviously the most charismatic, with his jovial nature and comic relief. Upcoming British actor Ariyon Bakare is great as the Scientist who develops an almost family like affinity to his new discovery, his character also has a disability which plays well into the story-line.  Our two medical officers don’t’ really have much to shout about. Gyllenhaal’s character hates life back on Earth, and prefers the solitude of Space, though they don’t really go into too much detail on why this really is. His pretty much grumpy throughout the movie, where a bit more emotion would have been better, considering the situation they found themselves in. Rebecca Ferguson character is fairly bland, and probably shouldn’t have been the main focus of the film, her role in Rogue Nation was far superior.

As a whole, the movie succeeds in what it attempts to do, Calvin steals the show wherever it appears, the sheer terror the crew faces every time they are confronted with it is well captured. The nature of the deaths also makes the audience feel nervous and uncomfortable, which only helps build the suspense. The dull nature of of main protagonists does hold back the movie from being a truly memorable, and the utterly predictable twist at the end is so expectant, it’s almost funny when it happens! Life isn’t the perfect space thriller,  but it’s definitely worth checking out if you love Space movies, especially ones containing savage aliens on board!

Ghost In The Shell, Iconic

With the release of the live action remake of  Ghost in the Shell this year, I had the opportunity to watch the original 1995 anime at one of the few limited screenings at the cinema. Even though a fan of anime & manga, I’ve never got round to watching this film, so it was time to see what the hype was about!

Following on from 1988’s Akira, GITS follows on with the cyber-punk genre, with a captivating foresight into the future, with a movie that still holds up today. The film was such an inspiration, that the Wachowski’s showed the film to producers when pitching their idea for The Matrix!

GITS revolves around Major Motoko Kusunagi, an android who works for Sector 9, a branch of law enforcement; she is joined by Batou, her partner, and Togusa, the only human in the force, as they attempt to track down the manipulative ‘Puppet Master’ , but things are not as they seem, as they uncover a hidden government conspiracy!

Although I watched it last week, I decided to wait a couple of days before writing about it, as it’s a movie that requires some level of thought, and you may not grasp everything immediately afterwards! Similar to Your Name, it’s a movie that requires some time to go over the finer points!

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The film takes place in the not so future 2029! But considering this film was released over 20 years ago, it does manage to predict what society would be like, and frankly, what it’s like now! The central plot to the movie is that the entire world is interconnected by a computer network, which controls most things, and enabling the authorities to go as far as using wonders such as satellite tracking. Sound familiar? This was all before the internet was really a thing, where a concept of satellite tracking was pure fantasy! How people access this network is via their cybernetic bodies, their ‘shells’, via the ports in the back of their neck. A concept The Matrix franchise used as inspiration for its own lore! The film even inspired the ‘code rain’ that The Matrix films used to great effect, the falling screen of green numbers.

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The very concept of androids and life is the vocal point of our protagonist’s internal conflict, though the Major is an all-powerful robot, who very much looks and thinks like a human, she comes to realise, that at the end of the day, she isn’t. Her ‘ghost’, who is the term used to describe someone soul, is just something that has been programmed into her, and it’s this that eats away at her every night. The search for being human is so concerning for her, the she goes diving underwater in her free time, in order to feel human, knowing if there was any equipment failure, it would doom her in her metallic shell.

It’s important to understand that this is not an action film, though it may be emblazoned with guns on the cover! It’s very much a thriller, with its action set pieces. There are the standard police chase scenes, and stand offs, but don’t expect it to be all guns blazing for the entire run time.  It’s also a slow paced movie, and depending on your personal taste, this may be something you may not be a fan off. The film has a tendency to cut to scenes of the city, showing everyday life, this may not bother you, but others may find it abit too much.

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Let’s for a moment, discuss the sheer beauty of the movie. The animation is gorgeous, for a film made in ’95, it still looks lush now. The detail in the scenery is immaculate; the backstreets of the city are bought to life, simply due to all the signs and colours! The accompanying score is majestic; Kenji Kawai does a magnificent job in telling the story through music. The opening credits to the film are haunting and chilling, in which they depict the creation of the Major, without the music, the scene would be nowhere near as memorable. Showing the Major being created in a factory, gives the character a lot more depth, when it comes to her existential crisis.  It’s great to see that the Hollywood remake will use the same piece of music in its film, a tribute to how iconic the music is.

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The final act is very melancholic and  dialogue heavy. As our hero and villain engage in conversation, regarding their purpose of existing.  It does delve into some very engaging points such as requiring genetic variation, in order to survive. It does require intense focus; otherwise it may just end up as one big mess to the viewer. The ending of the film does film rather abrupt, as it sets up subsequent chapters to the saga. It feels like the movie could have run on for an extra half hour, just to make things a bit easier to grasp, just as you feel like the heroine is set up to make one final charge, it ends!

Ghost in The Shell is not the perfect movie, nor will it appeal to everyone. But the theme and motives of the film were far ahead of its time, and it’s gone on to influence several films since its release.  If you’re a fan of science fiction, even if you don’t have an interest in anime, this film will certainly give you a lot to think over!

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