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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ✪✪✪½ Opened August 10
I have a love hate relationship with the director of this film Luc Besson. He's helmed some amazing films like The Fifth Element, Nikita, Leon: The Professional and then theres the Taken series and Lucy recently, which was okay but fell down at the end. He's prolific in writing and directing and has an incredible imaginative visual eye. Valerian is a passion project inspired by his childhood beloved French comic book Valerian and Laureline.
Think a cross between Star Wars and Avatar. I'm sure certain this will be criticized for being derivative of Star Wars and the like, however it's Star Wars which is derivative of all these early works, especially Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter. The comic book of Valerian was first published in 1967.
I took along a bunch of teenagers, including my nearly fifteen year old and seventeen year old. All the kids enjoyed the film. Harsh critic Mr. Nearly Fifteen said it was okay, which is code for good. The storyline isn't anything fabulous and the animated characters give a better performance than the young leads ... corny is the appropriate word ... but this is still an entertaining film and something different. The CGI is quite stunning and Rihanna's much publicized appearance is worth the entry price. Her song and dance routine is mesmerizing. To enjoy how far the human imagination can travel it's worth seeing this film. I'd be happy to see a #2 as long as they work on the script as much as the CGI.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is the visually spectacular new adventure film from Luc Besson, the legendary director of The Professional, The Fifth Element and Lucy, based on the ground-breaking comic book series which inspired a generation of artists, writers and filmmakers. In the 28th century, Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are a team of special operatives charged with maintaining order throughout the human territories. Under assignment from the Minister of Defense, the two embark on a mission to the astonishing city of Alpha-an ever-expanding metropolis where species from all over the universe have converged over centuries to share knowledge, intelligence and cultures with each other. There is a mystery at the center of Alpha, a dark force which threatens the peaceful existence of the City of a Thousand Planets, and Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.
Wind River ✪✪✪½ Opened August 10
The writer of Sicario, one of my all time favorite thrillers, and acclaimed Hell or High Water jumps into the director's seat as well as penning the screenplay for Wind River. We have high expectations of Taylor Sheridan and he half delivers here.
This is a good film with some interesting ideas but the pacing is off with long speeches that seem a touch unnecessary. It feels as though Sheridan wanted to give some depth to his characters and so instead of confidently believing he'd already achieved this, he serves up too many soul-exposing scenes. The photography is good and there's a few fun scenes with Elizabeth Olsen strutting her tough girl stuff. As it is, Sheridan lacks the discipline he showed us in Sicario.
With a little thought put into the pacing and ending, I think we would have had a real winner. As it is, you won't be disappointed, you'll just wish for more. Take a coat too. Lots of snow. Brrr.
WIND RIVER is a chilling thriller that follows a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams up with a local game tracker with deep community ties and a haunted past (Jeremy Renner) to investigate the murder of a local girl on a remote Native American Reservation in the hopes of solving her mysterious death. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan,
The Wall ✪✪✪½ Opened August 10
The Wall is produced by Amazon Studios. They are doing a lot of good stuff. This film is entertaining and reminded me of 1971 Duel, Stephen Spielberg's first film. Like Duel, The Wall is a contained story with basically only one actor for most of the film but with the omnipresent feeling of an unbeatable foe wearing down our protagonist. I can't say much without giving away the twists and intrigue of the film, but I found it clever.
The director knows his stuff, having directed Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow and Bourne Identity, among many other action/thrillers. This isn't a commentary on war, like many other films in this genre. The backdrop of Iraq is merely a setup for a tense psychological thriller.
These type of films are cheap to make but do well on streaming and sometimes at the box office. Certainly an enjoyable film to see on the big screen. Warning: There is one wound scene that is gory. I had to close my eyes. Yuk!
The Wall is a deadly psychological thriller that follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, with nothing but a crumbling wall between them. Their fight becomes as much a battle of will and wits as it is of lethally accurate marksmanship. Directed by Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, "The Bourne Ultimatum," "Edge of Tomorrow"), "The Wall" stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson ("Nocturnal Animals," "Kick-Ass," "Savages" "Godzilla," "Avengers: Age of Ultron") and WWE star John Cena ("Trainwreck," "Daddy's Home"), "The Wall" is written by first-time screenwriter Dwain Worrell.
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