Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Review

Valerian

I don’t know how many people have heard of the Velerian and Laureline comic series before the trailer of this movie started popping up everywhere. I certainly haven’t, but if you don’t know it’s a french sci-fi comic series that was allegedly an inspiration for Star Wars and other Sci-fi franchises. The trailer looked pretty cool so I figured I’d check it out on $5 Tuesday. Is this the next Star Wars or is it going to pull a John Carter?

Likes:

  1. The production design on this movie was top notch. There was a bit of Star Wars, Star Trek, Mass Effect that was really cool but ended up having unique designs that stood out from other franchises. The world and characters were truly realized and you can tell that this was what the filmmakers was hoping to do. It was a truly visual splendor to watch.

Dislikes:

  1. While the movie looked pretty, it was boring and directionless for most of the movie. My friend fell asleep near the beginning and I didn’t feel the need to wake him until he started snoring. The set pieces were exciting by themselves, but failed to push the overall plot forward. Which only lead to me asking “When are we getting back to the plot?!” several times during the second act. It really felt more like a video game that required you to complete several side quests before advancing the main story. Works great in a video game but not in a movie. The movie really needed structure that would allow the scenes to push the plot forward. Much like BvS, this movie is nothing more than trailerbait, with cool looking scenes but we could care less because they don’t drive the movie forward.
  2. The actors weren’t too bad but the writing for these characters wasn’t thought through. Valerian is made out to be a womanizing loose cannon that is full of himself but also very effective. He then only flirts with Laureline, whom he professes to love exclusively. Goes out of character to object to disobeying orders near the end of the movie. This is one of the many examples of characters acting out of character for plot convenience.
  3. It’s full of annoying cliches that keep popping up. Was the preachy message of the noble savage from Avatar too annoying for you? It’s here in this movie too. Hated the “love conquers all” from Interstellar? There’s a bit of that here too. Hate it when difficult decisions made in the heat of battle are turned into a simple “Because I’m war-mongering imperialist pig.” There’s that too. This is all in one scene by the way.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 2/5

There’s one scene where Valerian has to make a detour in the red-light district to find a shape-shifting working girl. The dance she does is impressive on a technical and visual level, but also rather suggestive. I don’t remember any strong language and the violence is PG-13 level.

Overall:

It’s pretty apparent that I didn’t like this movie that much. It’s a real shame because there was some clever and unique set pieces in the movie. But the story and plot didn’t hold it together at all and makes it difficult for you to care about what’s going on. Had they hacked a bunch of scenes, rewritten it to make a cohesive plot and fixed the character problems this would have been a fun sci-fi adventure. But you can skip on this one, which I don’t think needs to be said since the movie bombed over opening weekend. No one saw it, so I guess this is the new John Carter.

Dunkirk Movie Review

I’m always excited to see a new Christopher Nolan film out. He’s been using his popularity to direct a wide variety of films, with the Historical War Epic being the most recent. How does his style work in the war film? Does it live up to other war epics? Let’s sink into this, shall we? (Pun totally intended)

Likes:

  1. On a technical level this is a masterpiece of film. Shot on IMAX (which I highly recommend seeing it in if you can) cameras this film is gorgeous to look at. Some might be tired of the desaturated color palette that is common in war films, but this film truly deserves it as it fits the tone of the film perfectly. There is color at other parts of the film where it is needed too. But I must stress this again, if you have a IMAX theater near you playing this movie (or even better a 70mm film screening) it is absolutely worth it.
  2. The sound design maybe a bit on the controversial side as the focus of the mixing is on the chaos of war and visual storytelling, so the dialog is sometimes difficult to hear. That said, the dialog isn’t terribly important as the character actions are what drives the plot forward, not any exposition. The booms are loud, the bullets are deadly and it was truly am immersive experience as the sound really envelops you into the Beaches of Dunkirk.
  3. This is an unusual war film in the fact of how it shows war. The early WWII films were more-or-less action films with clear heroes and a glory that surrounds the conflict of war. The post-Vietnam war films were much more brutal and cynical as it depicted the dehumanizing effects on war. I don’t really think Dunkirk really fits in any of those paradigms. Firstly, this is a war movie about a crushing defeat of the allied troops early in the war before America gets involved. So there isn’t any glory or victory awaiting the troops on Dunkirk. The only victory at this point is survival. This depiction of war is unlike any war movie I’ve seen. It’s fresh and unique to this story where the only goal for most of these characters is to not die.

Likes/Dislikes:

  1. This is more of something I anticipate that people may struggle with than any personal criticisms I have. Like most of Christopher Nolan films, the structure of this film is not at all straight forward. This is something that I love about Nolan films is his use and mastery of structure is the best in the business today. However, some people might get lost as there are three distinct but overlapping story arcs that happen. First is a group of young soldiers on the beach trying to get off the beach and back home. The second is a English citizen and his two sons taking their boat across the English channel to Dunkirk. The final is the story of two BAF pilots fighting the German planes over the channel. Just know that the story is told on emotional beats of each arc and isn’t chronological.

Dislikes:

  1. There is a scene involving a lock that I won’t spoil for you. What I will say is that there was some buildup but the conflict dies down way too quickly. Didn’t really pay off for me.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 3/5

While the blood and gore isn’t nearly on the same level as Saving Private Ryan, this movie is really intense. Suspense is a driving force in the film and it might be much for kids to handle. There is also a couple ‘F’ bombs, but not enough to warrant an R rating.

Overall:

I really liked the film. Again, on a technical level is was a totally immersive and chaotic film that really justifies a large-format viewing like IMAX. The story is tense throughout the film and you can never predict what is going to happen. Especially since Dunkirk isn’t talked about often in WWII history (at least for Americans) as most of the stuff we discuss is the push back on and after D-day. So yeah, I guess this film is an unofficial prequel to Saving Private Ryan if you really want to look at it that way. That said, this is a worthy Nolan film, I can’t say it’s one of my favorites but good none-the-less.

Castlevania Season 1 (Netflex Series) Review

Now that Konami has abandoned many of it’s iconic video game series for Pachinko machines, the future of many beloved series have been put into question. Castlevania, one of the oldest and largest of these series may not have much of a future in video games but perhaps in other media. Netflex has produced an animated series based on the video games (particularly Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse). But is it even worth it, will the series suffer the same fate as other movies and TV shows based off of video games?

Likes:

  1. The animation is pretty solid. It has a bit of an anime vipe to it but I wouldn’t call it anime either. It’s sort of the same style as The Boondocks. They got the setting of gothic medieval Europe down really well too. It’s a very bleak and dark show, which is good for a Castlevania series.
  2. Considering this is only four episodes long, they did a good job at establishing the characters and their motivations. I would say this is more true for Trevor Belmont and Dracula than some of the other but as they are the two main players in the series, I think other seasons could develop them and the other characters further.
  3. Richard Armitage did a great job voicing Trevor Belmont. He was one of the things I really liked about the Hobbit series, and has such a great voice.

Dislikes:

  1. Speaking about the voice acting, the accents on many of the side characters were confused. Even then, it’s rather nick-picky as the geographical area isn’t clearly defined in the series.
  2. The season as I said earlier, is only 4 episodes long with a total run time of 88 minutes. I wonder why didn’t they just have it be a movie? I was definitely wanting it to be longer. Hopefully further seasons will be.
  3. I don’t know if the sound mixers forgot to compress Dracula’s dialog or what, but he was much harder to hear than the other characters.
  4. While the soundtrack wasn’t bad by any means, it was rather disappointing that they didn’t take any musical ques from the video games, which has some of the best video game music ever created. So don’t be expecting Vampire Killer or Bloody Tears to be playing.
  5. They didn’t break any candles or find pork chops inside the wall.

Likes and Dislikes:

  1. The action is really over-the-top, gory and fun. But there weren’t nearly enough action scenes in my opinion. Maybe it just comes down to me wanting more, which isn’t a bad thing. It felt like one episode only had one minor fight scene which is kinda disappointing.
  2. (Spoilers) Dracula isn’t even the main antagonist in the series, I would say that would be the Bishop and Priest of the church. The thing that bothered me is that slamming on a church for hypocrisy and backwards thinking is done so many times its become a cliche. The thing I did like is later in the show, a demon talks with a Bishop in the church and tells him that it was the hypocrisy and wickedness of the Bishops and Priests that made them lose the favor and protection of God. I liked how it was priestcraft and not the church itself that was evil. It is shown later that there were Priests in the city that was worthy enough to make holy water to fight the demons. So thank you for subverting the expectation and not using the “church is bad” cliche.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 4/5

This is rated TV-MA which is the equivalent of R. The show is really gory and bloody. You’d expect blood in a show about vampires but it’s pretty extreme. ┬áDemons are shown in graphic detail ripping people apart and leaving a gory mess everywhere. There is also a considerable amount of language including a bunch of F bombs. It’s rather light when it comes to sexual content but the violence and language is enough that you better keep the kids away.

Overall: If you’re a big fan of shows like Vampire Hunter D, you’ll fit right in. While it wasn’t a masterpiece by any means, it was a enjoyable show none-the-less. If you’re a fan of the Castlevania games, I would also recommend checking it out. Just be mindful that this show is not for kids and if you don’t handle gore very well you probably shouldn’t see it.

Spider-man: Homecoming Review

Spider-man: Homecoming

Spider-man has had many faces in the past. Each actor who has played him has had a different take on who Spider-man is. Who is this new Spider-man going to be? We have already had a little taste of who our new Spider-man is in Captain America: Civil War but as we really get to know him in Spider-man: Homecoming how will he compare to the others? Let’s dive in and find out.

Likes:

Adam

  1. This is the youngest Spider-man that we have seen. In Homecoming Peter Parker is a sophomore in high school and only 15 years old. The previous two Spider-men were seniors and high school grads. Having him this young with so many parts of regular life left to figure out and sort through was fun and interesting. We also get the youngest Aunt May as well.
  2. Spider-man doesn’t have all of the answers. He like any kid that age is really trying to figure every thing out. Tom Holland really sells that he is a 15 year old, he does the teenage rebellion, taking on more than he can chew, angst, and so much more so well. He deals with things that every teenager deals with on top of his super powers. It felt very real and relatable.
  3. The way Peter was portrayed as an outsider was way more realistic. In the past two Spider-man series, Peter is usually picked on in fairly exaggerated and violent way. In Homecoming he is more verbally and emotionally bullied which is, in my experience, far more realistic.
  4. The effects and fights overall were really cool to watch and looked great.
  5. It was pretty funny but not too over the top like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was.

Luke

  1. I would say that Tom Holland has become my favorite Spider-man. Not only does he pull of a geeky yet likable Peter Parker, he also has the energy and quips for a good Spider-man.
  2. The villains for the Marvel movies are usually fairly weak (except for Loki of course). I wasn’t sure how they’d pull off Vulture as he was a B-list Villain at best. But Michael Keaton pulled off a performance that made him much more likable and memorable than most other villains in the MCU.

Dislikes:

Adam

  1. There were a couple of times when Spider-man is climbing up walls, and running across rooftops where his movements are somewhat unnatural and it is clearly computer generated. But other times he looks great. It would have been better if they could have kept those effects more consistent.

Luke

  1. Yeah we get it, Aunt May is hot. You don’t have to have 3 jokes back to back at the beginning about it.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 1/5

Adam:

Spider-man: Homecoming was very clean and fun and the only thing that could be frighting at all is the peril that comes from Spider-man’s fights with the bad guys.

Luke:

Bullies have a nick name for Peter which is Penis Parker.

Overall:

Adam:

This movie was a lot of fun and in my opinion the best Spider-man yet. The humor was there as you would expect from Spider-man but it wasn’t over done. I felt he was way more relatable, and acted closer to how a teenager in this situation would really act. The story and arc for our hero is good. One major twist I did not see coming, and I’m happy that this one genuinely surprised me. Definitely go see this one and stay for the mid credit and post credit scenes.

Luke:

I think this may be equal to or even greater than Spiderman 2 in quality. It was obvious that Sony let Marvel do what they wanted and not ruin it. The humor was on point but still had a solid character arc about Peter learning what it means to be a hero. I was worried about Superhero fatigue until I saw Wonder Woman and Spiderman: Homecoming. So far 2017 has been a solid year for the comic book super hero films.