Father Figures (2018)

This is one of the first films this year where I knew absolutely nothing going in. Didn’t know who was in it, what it was about, didn’t even really know the title. After watching it, it turns out there’s a reason for that. It’s quite dull. Nothing about it really works, the performances are flat, the characters are badly written to the point where they’re basically just really annoying and easy to dislike, and the story takes too long to go nowhere. I mean, it’s technically a film, but only in the same way that a Pot Noodle is technically food. I mean, it has moving images which are projected, and there is recorded sound that goes along with it, and you watch it in a cinema. But in terms of emotion and storytelling, it’s lacking. You know what it reminds me of? There was a period in the 70’s where it seemed like every British sitcom (Porridge, On The Buses, Steptoe and Son etc) got a movie. Normally they’d contain sub-par writing and they’d just use an increased budget to do an episode with lots of exterior shots. The stories would basically be fluff and it would be hard to imagine it being somebody’s dream to tell that story. That’s this film. It also features an inexplicable cameo by someone who won’t be known by anybody outside of the one country the film is set. I mean, who is Terry Bradshaw? I’ve read his Wikipedia page and I’m still not entirely sure. It doesn’t help that they have him playing himself, then have Ving Rhames playing a fictional team-mate of his. For someone who knows nothing about American Football (from what I can tell it’s about them trying to put an egg in a really impressive Super Bowl, presumably to make an omelette later on) this is quite weird and takes you out of the movie.

Now, back to the performances. Ed Helms seems like he’s playing a character that was written for Ben Stiller that he turned down. He’s hinted at having anger issues but this isn’t really explored besides people saying “hey, remember your anger issues, stop being angry”. Christopher Walken seemed to be sleepwalking through his performance,  and similar accusations could be levied at Owen Wilson. There are two exceptions to this: Glenn Close has one scene in particular where you’re reminded of just how truly great an actress she is, and Katie Aselton is the highlight of the film by far. It’s not just her performance (although that is great, she plays her character perfectly), it’s the way her character is written too. There’s a five-ten minute scene of her and Ed Helms characters interacting drunkenly, and it’s full of warmth, emotion, and laughs. All of which are missing from the rest of the film. This is probably one of the only times I can think where a romance subplot in a movie saved it. It was the only period in the film where I was completely invested in the characters in front of me. Shame it didn’t last.

I could lie and say this movie had potential, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Outside of that one scene, there was nothing I really enjoyed about this. I suppose this is why it wasn’t advertised, and also why the release date changed from November 2016 to January 2017, and then changed again the same month as the intended release. Apparently, it’s the sixth worst opening of all-time for a film released in over 2,500 theatres. Never like to see something like that, and it makes me sad that it happened, but I cannot really defend this film. I can’t even really say it tried, as it’s so cliche and unoriginal that I don’t even think it did that. About thirty minutes into this film this couple sitting near me received a phone call saying their child had been injured at school and needed picking up, they were the lucky ones.

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Winchester (2018)

Imagine going to see a magician. You sit in the crowd watching, wondering whether he’ll be any good. She (for the purposes of this hypothetical it’s a female magician) comes on stage and for her first trick pulls a lion out of a hat. Wow, pretty impressive. Then for her next trick, she turns a bouquet of flowers into a Ford Fiesta, again you’re impressed. She then produces a hat, you’re excited to see what she’ll do, you anxiously await to see what will happen. Drum roll, lights dim, and she slowly reaches into the hat and pulls out……a lion. I mean, that’s still impressive, but less so than it was before.  But then she gets another bouquet of flowers out. You fear the worst, and she does the worst, transforming them again into a Ford Fiesta. She repeats those two tricks for the entire night. Now, no matter how impressive those tricks were the first time you saw them, would you still consider that a good show? No, you’d consider it a waste of time and ask for your money back. That, pretty much, is what watching this film is like. It runs out of steam after the opening scares, which, by the way, aren’t needed. You can cut the entire opening and it wouldn’t affect the film at all. Actually, it might improve it as it would save some of the creepy visuals for later.

I really wish this film was better. It has a great concept, someone has acquired vast sums of wealth but feel guilty by the deaths caused by it, so seeks to make amends to those who have died. That would be a great character-driven drama to have. It also wastes the location. It’s set in a house that’s constantly changing and with no real floor plan. That’s PERFECT for a horror film. A house that’s a maze, trapping people in there making you wonder if the house is genuinely set up like that or if the characters are losing their minds. Actually, that would be a great survival horror video game; you’re locked in an ever-changing house and need to escape before you starve to death and the longer you last the harder it gets as you start to suffer hallucinations.

And now back to the film. It has its good points. There’s a scene near the end where a room full of guns suddenly rise and point themselves at the main character, it’s a beautifully composed shot in an otherwise visually-lacking film. The story has potential but never really fully lives up to what you think it can do. The performances are……..okay. Helen Mirren deserves better than this. Jason Clarke continues to be a dependable “where do I know that guy from? Oh right, ALMOST EVERYTHING” guy. His performances are usually pretty good, but every single one makes it seem like he’s the guy they get in to replace the actor when a successful film franchise goes straight to DVD. I’ve never really found much to fault with his performances, but I’ve also never been overly impressed, he’s just been there, like the casting equivalent of white bread.

I think that’s the best way to describe this film actually; bland. When I come to the end of year list this will be really hard to write about and place as I don’t think I’m going to be able to remember much about it, in fact, if I didn’t keep a list I’m not sure I’d even remember I saw it. Helen Mirren deserves better, the story deserves better, and the audience deserves better. It kind of feels like a modern remake of a far superior film.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

*whispers* I think I liked this more than Coco. Now, obviously, they’re two very different films. But when a Pixar film is one of the first films you see all year it can sometimes seem like the cinematic year has peaked already. Thank god for this film then, showing that there is hope. Well, I say “hope”, this film isn’t one that really gives you that. It’s unrelenting in its bleakness, yet conversely is also incredibly funny. This is not a pleasing film, but it is a satisfying one.

This is the kind of film you don’t really watch as a film, you experience it. There’s no happy ending, good deeds go punished and bad deeds are rewarded. This does affect the way you watch it at the cinema. There’s a certain point in the film where a major event happens (not spoiling it as you REALLY need to see this film) and it feels like this is what the film has been building to. It felt like a natural crescendo for the film, where even if it wasn’t the ending it would be very close to it. I saw people quickly finish their drinks and food in preparation, then the film continued for like another half hour. The enthusiasm and the mood in the room deflated like a…..well, like a balloon being deflated. Kind of annoying, but also kind of wonderful. That’s basically the point of life, isn’t it? That there are no definitive endings and sometimes all you have is more questions.

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This is one of about three scenes in the film which are in contention for best of the year

The story wouldn’t be much though if it didn’t have the right cast to play it out. The cast that’s put together for this is absolutely superb, it’s been well documented how good Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell are in this. But the supporting cast is great too. Caleb Landry Jones is smug enough so that even he’s right you still kind of want to punch him and throw him through a window. Lucas Hedges continues to show that his work in Manchester By The Sea wasn’t a one-off bit of luck. Just generally a great ensemble cast. But I do need to point out the leads. I’ve watched a lot of films with Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell in, so it should be difficult for me to lose myself in a film starring them. It should be really difficult for me to not think of them as Woody and Sam, and to start thinking of them as the characters they are. But they’re so damn good that you do get lost in their performances, you buy into their characters easily. There’s one scene in particular where Woody Harrelson’s character is in an argument with Frances McDormand’s when he suddenly coughs up blood onto her. The way the actors play it is perfect, they instantly switch gears from an emotionally intense scene to a different kind of intensity. It’s a stunningly beautiful piece of acting, and a scene everybody should watch.

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“So how’s it all going in the nigger- torturing business, Dixon? “It’s ‘Persons of color’-torturing business, these days, if you want to know. And I didn’t torture nobody.”

I will admit I’ve struggled to write this review. It’s much easier to write reviews of bad films or films which could be improved. For this all you can say is “it’s really good”. Can’t point out problems, can’t point out weak links in it. I can’t even moan about it being underrepresented at awards shows. If it had M.Night directing it at least it would have had a twist ending where it turned out to be something to do with aliens. I mean, it would have been shit and ruined the film, but it would have given me something interesting to write about. Damn this film and it’s wonderful, brilliant greatness.

Downsizing (2017)

I wish this was better. I wouldn’t say I had high hopes, but I had medium hopes. I expected it to be average, and it couldn’t even manage that. The trailer intrigued me and when I saw mediocre reviews I assumed them to be wrong, kind of like Surburbicon last year. But throughout the film, I just felt that whenever the story was faced with multiple options it always picked the most boring one, kind of like Surburbicon. Multiple interesting side stories were swept to the side just to continue the story of Matt Damon, just like, well you get the idea.

Ironically, considering the subject matter, this film really needed to be cut down. It’s over two hours long and you feel every single second. I’d estimate the first hour or so can be cut down into about ten minutes. We don’t need the complete history of the scientific process involved. We also don’t need him to have a dying mother (who dies off screen after one scene and is NEVER mentioned again). You don’t need them going house-hunting or to a sales pitch for the process. You just need to set up that he’s bored as hell and is looking to change his life. Speaking of characters who just disappear (which I was, like a few minutes ago, not just now, but relatively recently), his wife. With the exception of her divorce leaving him with no money, her deciding to not get shrunk has almost no impact on the story and shows another missed opportunity. The film occasionally shows how people who haven’t got the procedure are acting slightly hostile towards those that do, saying they shouldn’t be able to vote as they’re not proper people etc. It does this for the opening, then again, never does it again. They could have had that play into the divorce settlement, have it so the court finds her more important because she’s an actual person and he’s not. But nope, they just show it as him signing a form and then he’s poor.

It isn’t completely without merit though. Hong Chau is amazing. Her performance is utterly heartbreaking. Actually, if the film was focused on her character from the start it would be A LOT better. She plays a Vietnamese activist who was shrunk against her will by the government and tried to escape to the US. But everybody she travelled with died and she lost her leg, leaving her in a lot of pain and having to work a menial job just to survive whilst essentially looking after an entire apartment complex of people; bringing them food etc so they can survive. She then meets a guy who can help her and they fall in love. It’s a very sweet story, but we see the dullest half of it. Think about it, her story contains a lot of political and social satire about the way the western world goes after other countries for the way it treats people, and then exploits those same people. It has basically everything you want from a story, so why wasn’t that one made?

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Depressingly I can guess the reason

Christoph Waltz seems to be having a lot of fun too, but then again he seems like that in most films. Every film I’ve seen him in he looks like he’s just having a blast making it, even when the film is terrible. Udo Keir, too, plays his role wonderfully, all the while looking like a mid-table Premier League manager who’s about to spend £40million on Andy Carroll.

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So in summary; as much as I don’t want to say this I would not recommend this film. Possibly the film I’ve enjoyed least at the cinema so far this year. The one highlight is Hong Chau’s performance, nothing else in the film makes it worth watching.

The Commuter (2018)

I first saw the trailer for this late last year. I wasn’t really taken with this, it seemed kind of unoriginal and like typical Liam Neeson fare, but not good Liam Neeson, bland Neeson. After seeing it I can confirm it is pretty standard. Liam Neeson plays a recently fired insurance agent who used to a cop but is now gun shy after years of dealing with gangs of New York. He has a lot of debts so is understandably not in high spirits when he gets the news he’s fired. He’s worried about how he will pay them all off, he’s used to being the big man for his family. He is approached by an unknown woman (played by Vera Farmiga from The Conjuring movies) asking him to plant a tracking device on a random person, but not telling him who, offering him a lot of money to do so. He finds this a bit suspect but then discovers that it’s genuine and he really is going to get a lot of money. He’s sworn to silence can’t tell anybody about the mission or bad things will happen. At first, he doesn’t believe them and he tells someone he knows. But then he watches him leave the train and suddenly the other man is killed. It turns out he is being watched by someone to make sure he does what he should, and if he doesn’t people get killed by some kind of phantom menace. He starts to realise his family is in danger when a monster calls his phone and threatens him, saying they’re going to take his family from outside their home. In the end it turns out his friend who’s still in the police is responsible for it. OMG who could have guessed that? Apart from everybody who has ever seen a film and knows something about storytelling, or anybody who saw the trailer where one of the final scenes was shown (seriously guys, stop doing this. What’s the point of attempting tension in your movies if every third person already knows how it ends due to the trailer?). The police think he’s responsible for all the deaths throughout the film and is holding everyone hostage, so he now also has to clear his name whilst he’s under suspicion. But luckily the truth comes shining through and it’s all happiness and joy from that moment on (apart from maybe for the dead people).

The fight scenes were okay. They didn’t play Neeson of as some invincible badass, instead, they showed him as kind of old, and dependent on his experience and knowledge. One thing that does let them down is the incredibly ropey CGI. It looks like the kind of thing you get on a PlayStation 2 game. One scene, in particular, features him taking a leap of faith and jumping from a moving train in a scene that looks so bad it’s hard to decide whether to respond with laughter or silence. In a year which the dead pool sequel is coming out, cinema has to be more inventive. Either that or you need non-stop action that never relents,

Yes, I am well aware this was not the easiest blog to read. That this was just one idea run into the ground, and not even an original one. But if this film can’t be bothered to come up with anything original, I don’t see why I should.

The Post (2017)

It’s Oscar season, which can mean only one thing…it’s time to feel bad about the number of films you haven’t seen. Time to look over the list of the best films made last year and realised how many you haven’t seen. If you’re British you’ve got a pretty good excuse, what with some of them not being released over here until February, which makes it hard to judge whether they’re worthy. Americans can sit there and be like “I know what that’s like as I saw that months ago, and it was deeply flawed”, whereas if you’re over here you’re dependent on either basing it entirely on other reviews or watching them illegally. Or just do neither and not mention them.

The Post was nominated for both Best Picture, and Best Actress (for Meryl Streep, obviously, who is seemingly allergic to not giving award-winning performances). It’s a weird dichotomy for me to say this but I both agree and don’t agree with them. It’s a weird realisation when you notice there’s a difference between award-winning films and films you love. Horrors and comedies for example never do well come award season, yet people love them. The Post was a very well made film, but I will find it very odd if someone says it’s their favourite film of the year. Essentially I appreciated it more than I liked it.

Maybe part of that reason is that it’s harder for British people to be invested in a journalism story than it is for Americans. American newspapers have a much more dignified history than British ones. The history of American newspapers are things like Watergate, Bloomingdale Asylum, The Color Of Money, and investigating the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal. They’re good things to have movies about, things that make you proud of the industry. What’s the British equivalent? Hillsborough, hacking voicemails of murdered schoolgirls, saying it’s impossible for straight people to get AIDs, saying MMR causes autism, and supporting the Nazi’s during World War 2, saying the Jews were all lying for attention. Don’t exactly have the same level of nobility to them. So it’s hard for us to feel that same sense of pride in journalism.

That’s enough about the circumstances, the film itself? It knows it wants to do and it does that well. It builds up to the “Meryl Streep moment” well. You know, that moment which happens in a lot of films lately, where she seems kind of meek and timid but then is like “no, I’m right and you’re going to do what I say because I’m Meryl Streep”. There’s a moment where everyone is locked in a room and panicking to get through a massive document before the print deadline, meanwhile they’re still debating whether they’re going to print it at all as it runs the risk of them being taken to court. It’s incredibly tense and nerve-wracking, and just all-around brilliant. If the entire film was like that I’d have loved it, but sadly the rest of the film couldn’t really match up to that one scene. It is an oddly relevant film for these times. A film about the president attempting to censor the media, a few years ago that would have seemed only slightly relevant, now it seems so relevant it’s almost scary how history is repeating itself (although this led to Nixon being impeached and shamed, so fingers crossed).

I knew nothing about the situation going into this film, I didn’t even know what the film was about due to cinemas not showing any trailers for this for some reason. The film should be commended for making a rather complicated situation simplistic enough for the audience to understand. You don’t sit there thinking “but what’s going on?” and feeling the need to check the internet mid-film to see what’s going on. Which is good, as if you check the internet whilst in the cinema you’re an asshole.

And that’s how I’m ending this review.

Oh wait, no, I’ll end it with this. Boss Baby is an Academy Award nominated film. 2018 Is weird.

Coco (2017)

No words can do this justice, which does not bode well for me having to review this, it turns out I can’t just upload emotions to a blog and use them as a review. Which is a shame as this would be perfect for it. This film plays heavily on emotions, and very often. People talk about how Up is so emotional it’s basically torture, and it is, for the opening. Outside of that, it’s just standard Pixar (which is still about 80% better than everything else out there but still), this is consistent. At least the beautiful visuals will cheer you up, you can distract yourself from the existential crisis the film is giving you by just looking around the wonderful scenery, and then notice the oddly high amount of children in the Land Of The Dead and the implications of that……Jesus Christ.

The story? Now, as you may have guessed from previous reviews I’ve done, stories are key to me, and usually, kids films are more focused on catchy songs and bright colours than the story. But this is Pixar, and they are Gods, so the story here is intricate, in depth, and will stay with you long after you leave the cinema. You can tell a lot has gone into this story to make it work and it’s been made with a real love of film-making, and also of Mexico and it’s cultural traditions.

Not entirely sure how much this film will resonate with kids though. The themes it deals with are aimed very much at a particular audience, it deals not just with the importance of family, but also about legacy, and the fear of being forgotten. I’m not really sure “when I die will I be forgotten? Will everything I do be for nothing?” are massive issues for young children (apart from super depressed ones). Oh, and with a slight note of dementia as well.

There’s a surprise heel turn which doesn’t really come off as too much of a surprise. People who have seen a lot of films will kind of guess that one person turns out to be a bit of a dick, but what will truly surprise people is just how evil he turns out to be. He doesn’t just go “slightly evil”, he turns out to be truly despicable.

I did mention earlier how this film is incredibly emotional, and it is, but it is also life-affirming. Yes, you’ll cry your eyes out, but you’ll also feel uplifted by the whole thing, which is nice. What else is nice is that it used a mostly Latino cast, they didn’t just hire a lot of white people and get them to do a mildly racist accent. Animated films are becoming more progressive in terms of casting, they no longer seem to be sold based on the voice cast, which is a remarkable shift from years ago where entire advertising campaigns used to be based around who was doing the voices, now it’s more concepts and visuals, which is a great sign for the future.

So in summary: go see it at the cinema. This film deserves to be seen on the big screen. But then buy it on DVD/blu-ray as well, because it deserves to be seen multiple times.

Also read: This review of Coco courtesy of another site we know.

Also watch: Kubo And The Two Strings

 

Blade Runner: 2049

Confession time; I have not seen the original film, and unlike Star Wars or Back To The Future it hasn’t really permeated pop culture that much. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the film, and it’s importance, and I understand a few references to it, but references to it aren’t quite as mainstream as they are to other films. This, combined with lots of people saying they didn’t understand this film and that it was too complex, made me think that I would hate this film. Not because of what the film is, but because I just wouldn’t get it. My response was going to be “it’s good, it’s just not for me, and I was really confused”. Well, I was confused, I was confused by the confusion. People are talking about it as if it’s a really complex plot where you have to pay close attention to everything in every scene and do a lot of research beforehand to understand, I knew nothing and still knew what was going on, it’s not that complex if you’re paying even the smallest amount of attention.

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“that fourth raindrop from the left is actually vitally important, if you miss that you miss everything”

Was surprised that Harrison Ford didn’t appear until MUCH later than I thought he would. I expected him to make an appearance at about the 1/3 mark. Nope, it was more like the 2/3 mark. Which was a bit strange as he was all over the marketing campaign and was the lead in the original, so a lot of people would have been waiting around him to appear. Although I suppose this did mean that by the time he did appear, everybody was already invested into the story, so he didn’t really take away from Gosling. Make no mistake, this is Gosling’s film, and he nails it. Although the supporting cast does a great job too, So many of your new favourite actress’s will be in this film. A lot of unknowns were cast, yet gave amazing performances. Ana De Armas and Carla Juri deserve special mentions. They both portray their characters with enough vulnerability to make them believable, yet enough determination that they fit this universe. Their characters were great too, you imagined they all had lives outside of this film, they exist on their own terms, not just related to the story.  It felt like you could write entire novels based around them.

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This scene is actually genuinely quite touching in the final film

The world itself was beautifully created as well, not just visually (although it was visually stunning), but also in terms of believability. Those of you who read the review of Valerian will know how important I consider world building to be, particularly in this genre, for films like this the universe it’s set in is almost a character in itself, so if you don’t do that well it really effects it. Done really well in this though, everything looks just dirty enough to be real, yet clean enough to be futuristic. On that note; this film looks SUPERB. You could pause this at almost any point in the film and use that as a poster. This, combined with Arrival last year must surely make Denis Villeneuve one of the best-regarded directors around.

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I also liked how the story threw a genuine curveball in the closing stretch. I do like a good twist if it’s well done. That’s the trouble with a lot of plot swerves, they come out of nowhere and make no sense. A good one makes sense, a GREAT one will be so logical you’ll feel stupid for not realising it sooner. So in summary, this is going to be one of those films that pretentious film buffs constantly try to show you, let them.

The Big Sick

After the craptastic double bill of Valerian and The Emoji Movie last week, finally I see something amazing (although I think it’s fair to say I didn’t exactly expect Emoji Movie to be anything other than bad): The Big Sick This film was as great as the combined awfulness of those two films. Incredibly funny, and with the right amount of heart. You’d need to be made of stone not to feel touched by this film. The characters are so well-written as well, every character seems fully fleshed out. They seem like they exist outside of the film.

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Probably because it’s based on his real relationship with his wife (pictured here)

I’ve seen a lot of films at the cinema this year (45 to be precise), and this has had the best instantaneous audience feedback I’ve seen. I’ve seen horrors where a few people have sat there not flinching or jumping in fright, I’ve seen spectacle films where people are bored, and I’ve seen comedies where nobody is laughing. Everybody in the screen I was at reacted to this. They laughed at every joke (to the point where the laughter in the room was louder than the laughter on screen, in a scene set at a comedy club), people “awww’ed” at the right parts, it couldn’t have been more perfect if the film studio paid them to react like that.

It’s not a perfect film though. As much as he nails the performance 95% of the time, there are a few heavily emotional moments where Kumail Nanjiani looks like he’s desperately hiding a smirk, robbing the scene of some of the emotion. It’s not helped by how great the rest of the cast are; Holly Hunter is superb, Ray Romano is perfect in this, and I really want to see Zoe Kazan in more stuff now.

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Also random appearance of Vella Lovell which made me happy. New eps of Crazy Ex Girlfriend soon 😀

This is definitely the best rom-com I’ve seen at the cinema all year. Not too difficult though, as it’s the only rom-com I’ve seen this year. There’s actually not been that much romance in cinema this year, the only films where the main focus of the film has been romance have been:

  1. This.
  2. La La Land (musical drama)
  3. The Space Between Us (science fiction)

That’s a shame though as despite being deeply cynical and incapable of love or any positive emotion towards others, I do have a soft spot for the genre. Definitely Maybe is the film that fully cemented my Ryan Reynolds obsession, and Chasing Amy did the same for Ben Affleck. I think it’s because they’re usually very people-based. Action films are about the set-pieces, horror films are about the effects, but for a rom-com to work you need two things:

  1. Believable characters.
  2. Great dialogue.

They’re basically my kryptonite, especially dialogue. I’m a sucker for great dialogue, it’s probably why I seem to be the only person who liked Table 19 (actually I didn’t like it, I LOVED it, genuinely one of my favourite films of the year). It’s also a genre that doesn’t really get affected too badly by the quality of the way you’re viewing it. Some genres are really badly affected by what you watch them on. Horror, for example, is not exactly something you can appreciate watching on a small television screen on an airplane. So many films are “you have to see this in the cinema!”. Think of Avatar, that film is the biggest grossing film of all time. When was the last time you watched it? Do you know anybody who has watched it at home?  As Scott Mendelson wrote in Forbes almost 4 years ago

“Kids don’t play ‘Avatar’ on the playground nor with action figures in their homes. There is little-if-any ‘Avatar’-themed merchandise in any given store. Most general moviegoers couldn’t tell you the name of a single character from the film, nor could they name any of the actors who appeared in it … ‘Avatar’ didn’t inspire a legion of would-be ‘Avatar’ rip-offs, save perhaps for Walt Disney’s disastrous ‘John Carter.’ It didn’t set the mold for anything that followed save its use of 3D which turned the post-conversion tool into a valuable way to boost box office overseas”

With advances in technology happening at an astronomical rate, spectacle fades, good writing doesn’t. The best rom-com’s; When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall etc, all have one thing in common; fantastic writing. You can watch them again and again and still love them. They also have a wide audience. As much as I do love odd films like Buried (Ryan Reynolds in a box), Bogowie (a Polish film about heart transplant) and Four Lions (a comedy about suicide bombers), I’m not stupid enough to think they have mass appeal. They’re too weird. Rom-coms are for everyone though. They have universal themes that almost everybody can identify with.

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So where does this film stand compared to the greats of the genre? It’s a little difficult to tell at the moment, but I have a feeling that if I was to sit down in a years time and watch this, I’ll still love it. It also has the best 9/11 joke you’ll likely to hear all year.

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

Ok, I’ll open this with the good: the opening for this is superb. It starts off with a (very) brief history of space travel in the past, then continues on to the future. This sets up the universe brilliantly. We see humans develop anti-gravity, set up a colony, then meet other species from the universe, all whilst Space Oddity plays. This scene is the highlight of the film, and the quality of it is never matched again.

I went into this with low expectations, and it couldn’t even meet those. I expected it to be the best looking film I’ve seen all year, but kind of bland in terms of story. Let’s start with the visuals; yes, I know it’s all very impressive what it looks like, it’s all very colourful and majestic, but you know what else it is? Sterile and cold. There’s no warmth to the visuals, nothing looks lived in. Everything in it looks like a computer generated movie setting, even the “seedy” areas of the spaceship don’t look quite dirty enough, they just have more neon than the other parts. As such nothing seems real, you can’t imagine anybody living in this world. They spent so much time making it look impressive, they forgot to make it look real.

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Okay it’s not quite THAT bad

Not just the visuals that let you down though. Their’s numerous devices and technologies which are used once then never mentioned again despite how useful they would be. For example; there’s a gun which when you fire it at someone, it means you can control them via remote control. This is used exactly once in the over two hours of the film. There are also two moments where someone’s mind gets read, both times by different things, which are never ever mentioned again.

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I don’t mind bad films, they can be amusing to watch, and can at least sometimes be fun. But a dull movie? That I can’t forgive. And this is dull. It’s not so much that “nothing happens”, more “nothing of consequence” happens. There are entire 20-30 minute sequences which could be cut completely from the film and it wouldn’t affect the story. You know how when you’re playing a video game, you get one door away from the final boss, then suddenly you get “now go collect all these scattered artefacts from around the world”, and you realise that was only done to increase the playing time so they can advertise it as being better than it actually is? That’s what watching this film is like. It’s a shame as it could have been good, maybe if it was released in the 80’s, so it would have had different lead actors. I like Dane DaHaan, a lot, I thought he was fantastic in Life After Beth, and near perfect in A Cure For Wellness. But he is woefully miscast in this. It doesn’t help that his character is kind of a dick; and not a redeemable loveable one. One where when you see him in danger you don’t think “oh no, save him Super Jesus”, you just think “meh”. It doesn’t help that the characters’ introduction consists of him in a weird “I think this is supposed to be sexual chemistry but just looks like sexual harassment” scene.

So, in closing; a film with potential, that is too long, too pointless, and just, well, just not good enough for the budget.