Valerian And The Intense Special Effects

For weeks now, every time I’ve gone to the cinema, I’ve seen adverts for Valerian and The City Of A Thousand Planets. I feel like it’s been everywhere for ages now, so I decided to go and see what it was all about.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m still not entirely sure.

Valerian follows Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne), who are agents working for the space police in the future, and their adventure around Alpha. Alpha is a conglomeration of a thousand planets, who pool all their knowledge together for the greater good. But there’s a problem, according to the general, there’s an area in the centre of the station which is heavily irradiated, and it’s killed every agent who’s gone inside it.

At least, that’s the plot line I picked up on. There’s about four going through the film, to do with general, an alien species and their dead planet, and the fact that Valerian wants to marry Laureline, but she doesn’t want to, until he’s decided to grow up.

These plots weave in and out of each other, quite heavy-handedly at points, with fight and chase scenes interspersed throughout. I found it really quite difficult to pick out exactly what the plot was supposed to be,  it felt like there were so many things going on constantly, with no real cohesion, until the end.

For the most part, I didn’t feel much for anybody. The film threw it’s audience into the action, without giving anybody the chance to find out anything about any of the characters. Not that there was much to say about the characters themselves, really. I found both Valerian and Laureline to be stereotypes, with barely any padding on them, and any chance for them to become more was completely ignored.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that every chance for the story line to break away from stereotype was ignored. There was¬†so much¬†this story could have explored, the writers had an incredible play ground to play in, with so much they could have explored, and instead we got the same old tired space story.

The best part of this film was definitely the special effects. The special effects team deserve medals to say the least. Every alien, space scene, and chase looked real. I was utterly convinced of the special effects, which did so much more to transport me into this sci-fi world, than the story line.

If the writers had spent as much time working on the script, as the special effects team clearly did on their part, this film could have been amazing. Instead, it felt rushed, and left me wanting so much more than what I got. Maybe if I had read the comic book by Peirre Christin first, I would have gotten more from it, but personally, if you’re going to adapt a book into a film, it should be made for die hard fans, and complete newbies too. Without it, you lose half your audience’s interest.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Is Out Of This World

 

Alright, I’ve had 4 hours sleep, which was interrupted thanks to a lovely pounding headache, but I have to write this now because I cannot stop thinking about Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2.

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, as I do with all the films Marvel releases, but the Guardians have had a special place in my heart for a while. The first film was a triumph, and made me fall in love with how different they are from other superheros in the franchise, how the humour is kicked up a notch, and just simply how lighthearted this rag-tag team of misfits are.

But Volume 2 hit me sideways. I was not expecting the turns this film took, I was expecting a laugh out loud comedy action film, instead I got a funny, but poignant, film focusing entirely on one important thing: family.

When we left the Guardians Of The Galaxy had just learnt to work together as a group, and in this film, they still work together, but they’ve become a family. And by family, I mean a very dysfunctional one. Peter and Rocket argue constantly, Gamora is ignoring all of Peter’s advances, Drax doesn’t listen to a word anybody else says. Groot mostly stays out of it, because he’s just a tiny baby tree (and by just I mean the cutest thing Marvel have ever created), who is in essence a toddler who likes to cause trouble. The arguing is getting worse and worse, they all love each other in their own ways, but they haven’t learnt to live together, and they are getting close to tearing each other apart.

Meanwhile, Yondu’s crew have mutinied against him, The Sovereign are after the Guardian’s, and there’s a mysterious man hanging around with an alien claiming to be Peter’s dad. That’s right, Peter’s¬†dad¬†has found him, and we finally find out why Peter could hold an Infinity Stone without dying instantly.

I won’t say who he is for spoiler reasons, though if you’re on the internet as much as I am, you’ll know by now, as it was announced months ago. All I’ll say is that the man is full of mystery, and thanks to him, we find out so much more about each member of the team, things that we were desperate to know, some we really weren’t.

I’m making this sound like it’s really angsty all the way through, and it really isn’t. The essence of what makes Guardians Of The Galaxy is still there, the humour definitely more adult in places, but this is still as fun as the first one, if not more so. The plot is great, with some fantastic plot twists that hit me so hard in the chest I nearly wanted to cry. The stakes are higher, the bad guys are more powerful, and most importantly, the films heart got bigger. The Guardians have always been about family, and this time it shines brighter in the most beautiful way.

Volume 2 is like Volume 1, dialed up 100 notches, it’s brilliant, fantastic, just as mind-blowing as the first. I loved every second. I laughed, I nearly cried, I¬†freaked out¬†in places at references as to what is to come later in the MCU. Essentially, I loved it. Plain and simple.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2 is an awesome mix of fun, love, and consequences. A film I feel that everyone should watch. Marvel have once again hit the nail on the head, and made one amazing film.

 

Enchanting Beauty And The Beast

I have a small confession to make, I have never watched the original animated version of Beauty And The Beast, and to be honest, I haven’t watched most of the classic Disney films. I was a kid who was more into watching The Matrix Trilogy than Disney films, but now that I’m older (and having gotten¬†heavily¬†into Once Upon A Time) I’m giving Disney films a go, and seeing as this remake had just been released, I decided to give it a go.

Starring Dan Stevens, Emma Watson and an all star cast of wonderfully talented people, Beauty And The Beast tells the story of Belle, a bookish young woman who ends up trapped in a run down castle, owned by a prince, who has been turned into a monstrous beast, thanks to a curse. The Beast is a rude and terrible creature, and the only people who can stand him are his old servants, who have all been turned into sentient objects. Only a beautiful woman can break this curse and return everyone to their original human form, but she has to fall in love with the beast to break it.

It’s a tale as old as time, but it’s absolutely brilliant! I absolutely¬†loved¬†every moment of the film, from the incredible special effects (Dan Steven’s doesn’t just voice Beast, he actually motion captured his body and facial expressions throughout) to the wonderful songs, it all comes together so beautifully.

Of course, this is a Disney movie, so things do generally come together beautifully. But sometimes remakes can be awful, but this one wasn’t. It may be because I haven’t seen the original, and so can only compare it to the Once Upon A Time version of the characters, who are, in a lot of ways, wildly different. But to me, this films seems to be lovingly remade from the original animation, and done brilliantly.

Dan Steven’s Beast is so perfectly misunderstood at the beginning, and becomes a such a nice person, I couldn’t help but fall for him. I wasn’t expecting him to have such a nice singing voice either, or be such a wonderful dancer.

The same goes for Emma Watson, and she plays Belle brilliantly. Belle is an intelligent girl, one who can save herself, and she does so several times throughout.

And that is without mentioning Luke Evans, who plays Gaston. Somehow, he made the character likeable, yet easily hateable at the same time. I couldn’t take my eyes off him whenever he was on screen.

All in all, Beauty And The Beast is a wonderful remake, made by a talented cast and crew. I was easily swept up in the magic of it all, found the story enchanting, and everything to do with the film brilliant. I truly feel like I missed out as a child not watching the original, but I’m glad I saw this one first, at this age, so I could appreciate it as much as I did. The only thing I’d suggest as an improvement would be to see more the Beast as a human, or possibly more of a back story for him, so we as an audience got to see how Beast became to be so beastly a person. Other than that, this is a fantastic film, one I would highly recommend seeing.

Logan’s Swan Song

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Seventeen years ago, the X-Men burst onto our screens, starting a whole near era in superhero film, one that admittedly has it’s problems thanks to timeline changes, but still a very enjoyable one. Two of the lead roles, were Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman, and Professer Xavier, played by Patrick Stewart, who have now become iconic in these roles. Logan says goodbye to both, paying tribute to them, as well as giving them one last adventure. An adventure that’s unlike any other X-Men film before it.

Usually, the X-Men films are reasonably funny and lighthearted. But Logan is anything but lighthearted. It would fit more with the Marvel Netflix series’ than the rest of the X-Men canon. The story is dark, and gritty, not holding back on the character’s hardships, or how badly life had hit them.

Professor X is deteriorating mentally, barely able to control his powers, Logan is looking after him, working as a chauffeur to raise enough money to look after them both. There is no-one else that can help, the X-Men are gone, the mansion left unmentioned, mutants are dying out. The world thinks the professor is dead, a terrible accident killing him a year ago. And, possibly most importantly, Logan is also dying. His healing powers are failing him, poisoned by the Adamantium wrapped around his bones. Logan’s body is littered in scars, his wounds don’t heal as fast, he’s drinking to cope.

To say the least, things are bleak. Things get only bleaker when a nurse calls for Logan’s help, to take her and her daughter to Eden, a safe haven for mutant kind. A company is after them, and want to kill the girl, named Laura. Logan and Xavier get dragged into the fray when they discover that Laura is not human – she’s a mutant, one with some¬†very¬†familiar powers indeed.

What follows is still bleak, but brilliant. Despite this being a superhero film, it does not follow the usual tropes. This is more a story about a man learning how to care again, facing the worst adversity he has ever faced, despite the costs to himself. The audience is swept up completely in Logan’s struggle, routing for him more than ever before.

Logan is, in essence, one of the best X-Men films ever made. It’s beautifully shot, beautifully written, and beautifully acted. A bittersweet experience, as you never want this to end, but knowing it has to. Not only will the film end, but these characters are going to be gone forever at the end too.

Yes there were things left unexplained, and there were no appearances from any other famous X-Men, they weren’t even mentioned by name. But if things had been fully explained, if others were mentioned, it would have detracted from what this film is – Logan’s swan song.

While I did not want to see Logan ever go, the same with Professor X, it would do a disservice to this film to demand they bring these character’s back, through a timeline change, or by any other means. This was the perfect ending for the character, the last five minutes nearly bringing me to tears. By far, this was Logan’s best solo film. His ultimate goodbye.

I used to say that David Tennant’s regeneration was the day my childhood ended, but now that has been surpassed. I have spent most of my life watching and loving the X-Men, despite it’s faults and mistakes. Logan though may just now be my favourite, we saw Logan in his true form, in all of his glory. I loved every second.

Thank you, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, you and your characters will be dearly missed, and never, ever replaced.

The Assassin’s Creed Does Not Live On

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As of Wednesday, I’ve now seen the Assassin’s Creed film, starring Michael Fassbender, twice. And I’m still not totally sure if I enjoyed it or not.¬†I mean, it’s quite a cool concept, which is why the games have done so well, but I feel like there were some problems throughout.

For those who haven’t seen the film, it follows the story of Cal Lynch, who wakes up after his execution in a medical facility, and is forced into a machine called the ‘Animus,’ which essentially sends him back in time, into the body of one of his ancestors, so that he can help find the ‘Apple Of Eden.’ The Apple is supposedly the seed of humans first disobedience, and by obtaining it, the company can obliterate violence from mankind.

And that’s about all I understood to be honest.

The rest wasn’t really explained at all. I barely remember any other character’s names, can’t remember the company name for the life of me, and barely understood anything else going on.

For example, some of the other test subjects in the facility think that Cal will betray them, but it’s never explained¬†why¬†they think this. There’s very little explanation to Cal as to what the Assassin’s Creed is, or why they are doing this to him. And then some fight scenes are completely incomprehensible and utterly impossible to follow.

Sure, there was some explanation to some plot points, but mostly it was up in the air as to what was going on. I thought some research into the video games would help, and it did essentially nothing to help, as the games follow different characters and the plot has been changed for possible spoiler reasons. Then I thought a second viewing would help, and it still didn’t enlighten me any further, so I’ve essentially given up understanding half the film.

And yet, I sort of enjoyed myself. Despite the unexplained, I did mildly enjoy myself, not as much as I have done in previous films but it’s still reasonably enjoyable, if you’re into this kind of thing.

Fantastical Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

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Harry Potter is back! Well, at least his world is back, in this brilliant new prequel, which weirdly, has barely anything to do with Harry Potter himself.

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them follows the story of Newt Scamander, a young wizard who loves, and studies, animals, travelling to 1920’s New York. It would be a simple trip too, if it wasn’t for the fact that his magical animals kept on escaping and causing havoc in the city, which coincides with a dark force threatening to reveal the wizarding world to the Muggles (or No-Maj, as they’re called in America).

Now, I know I say this a lot, but I wasn’t sure about this film at first. Prequels can often be slightly painful to watch, and come across like studios trying desperately to get more money from a franchise. But this didn’t this came across a lot better than I was expecting to be honest. Fantastic Beasts felt more like a film set in the universe of Harry Potter, while being extremely removed from the story of Harry and Voldemort. Setting the film in the 20’s was a great idea, as it meant that there was no way to mention Harry, Ron, Hermione, Voldemort, or anybody really related to them, because none of them had been born yet. Their troubles hadn’t even begun.

This really helped to create an almost new universe, where this story could be set. It allowed Newt and his friends to be completely separate and new, there was no need to compare anybody to any previous character in this massive franchise. Everything was new, with just little points of conversation which reminded the audience exactly what they were watching.

And what they were watching was, if you’ll excuse the pun, rather magical. Newt’s shy, bumbling, animal-obsessed nature was actually quite sweet in places. From the clips I had seen previously, I was half expecting to hate Newt, but when the clips are given context, and the rest of the film allows his character to unfold, he’s actually quite lovable, and nothing we’ve really seen before in a Harry Potter film. The creatures he was trying to help were nothing short of extraordinary, and nothing like any of the things Harry ever encountered. His interactions with them spoke of true affection, which in some ways reminded me of Steve Irwin.

Newt’s friends were also great additions to the team, none of them even hinting at falling into the same slots as Harry’s gang. Not once did I look at one of the characters and say to myself ‘that’s the Ron/Hermione/Neville etc,’ all of them were entirely new, and still entirely part of the team. Even the No-Maj proved to be more than just comic relief for the other characters.

The story itself is also really all-encompassing. There’s hints of what’s going on in the wizarding world, specifying Grindelward and his terrible attacks, more information on those what happens to the magical children who slip through the cracks, and so much on the differences between the English and the American wizarding way. None of it is ‘info dumped’ either, it’s all revealed in timely places, and will doubt please every Harry Potter fan desperate for more information about the world of wizards.

The only thing that slightly¬†disappointed me in this film was the effects. Not that the CGI wasn’t amazing, because it was truly amazing, but because there seemed to be very little practical effects. With the original Harry Potter movies, creatures like Buckbeak were robots, or puppets, or actors with make up on. In this film, all of it is CGI, which was slightly disappointing. Of course, I understand that with some of these creatures, it just was not possible to make a puppet, or whatever else, that would look realistic. But some scenes I thought would have been greatly improved by some real life effects, to really ground the film in reality.

Other than that though, this film is brilliant, and perfect for every Harry Potter fan out there. With some very fantastic beasts, great characters, subtle grounding in the original world, and some whip-lash inducing plot twists, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a wonderful film. Between this and the Cursed Child play, Harry Potter is proving to be more than just The Boy Who Lived, his entire universe is slowly turning into The World That Stops Surprising. And I for one, am incredibly excited for what’s coming next.

Doctor Strange Mind Trip

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Anybody who knows me will tell you the same thing – I love Marvel, and I love Benedict Cumberbatch. So as you can imagine, Doctor Strange has caused a lot of excitement for me. And by a lot of excitement, I mean it’s been a huge part of my life ever since the casting was announced on this film. My favourite actor, and my favourite franchise combining? What could be more perfect? (Well, a McFly song somewhere in the film would have been wonderful, but hey, two out of three isn’t bad)

Never before in my life have I followed the production of a film so closely as I have done for Doctor Strange, so you can imagine how excited I was to finally see the film yesterday, after two long years of waiting.

And all I can say is¬†wow,¬†just¬†wow.¬†This film is brilliant, in so many ways. It’s an origins story, which could seem outdated and boring by now, but this film does it in a slightly different way.

I’ll start from the beginning. Doctor Stephen Strange is the best neurosurgeon around, he’s at the top of his game, working only on the hardest (but curable) cases he can find. He’s arrogant,¬†rich, and only out for himself. He has to be right, constantly, and does not hold back when he finds someone stupid. But it all changes when he has a violent car crash, which crushes his hands, leaving him with nerve damaged hands which constantly shake, and unable to do surgery.

After hearing that there’s someone out there who can cure him, he goes in search of The Ancient One, and that’s when his entire world is turned on it’s head. He’s introduced to magic and the mystic arts, and after some false starts, starts to train and learn everything he can about them, slowly becoming entrenched in this world of magic, albeit reluctantly.

Sounds like a normal Marvel origin story, right? Wrong. Because unlike Iron Man, Captain America or Thor, Stephen Strange doesn’t¬†want¬†to be a hero. He just wants to be a surgeon again, he doesn’t want to kill others to save the world, or anything like that. He wants to save lives in the operating theater, like he’s been doing his entire life. There’s several arguments throughout the film over this, and in the beginning he only fights when he¬†has¬†to, not because he wants to. It’s only towards the end of the film when he¬†changes his mind, unlike all of our other heroes in this universe.

Another thing that stands out in this film is¬†how¬†Doctor Strange battles. He doesn’t have a special suit, isn’t enhanced in any way, isn’t a Demi-God, or battling alongside aliens. He’s completely human, a human with magic, and mystical objects which help, sometimes hilariously, along the way, but he’s still¬†human.¬†And he gets hurt, a¬†lot,¬†in this film. Not just in training with The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), but in actual fights with the enemy.

His powers sometimes fail him, he loses important objects he needs to battle, he doesn’t fully understand the mystical powers that are working around him. For once, we saw a hero actually get¬†beaten,¬†several times over in fact, and in ways that made everyone wince in sympathy in the cinema.

It was a refreshing thing to see, and made the character more realistic in my opinion. I’m sure others are getting slightly tired of the hero winning battles without much issue their first time round, so to actually have someone get seriously beaten really grounded the audience in reality, despite all the magical things going on.

Even the magic seems sort-of grounded in reality. Of course, it’s as trippy as the old Steve Ditko comics, and it takes you on a wild ride through the weirdest of dimensions, but the characters make this all seem rather normal, because it’s normal to them. It’s their way of life, their way of protecting the world, and has been for centuries. The way it’s been done gives the audience just a glimpse at what’s out there, what Doctor Strange will go on to accomplish as the Sorcerer Supreme, while still making it accessible, and not making the whole thing seem too… well,¬†strange.¬†

All in all, Doctor Strange is possibly now my favourite Marvel film (sorry Civil War), it had all of Marvel’s hallmarks – great wit, engaging characters,¬†amazing¬†end credit scene (stay right to the end of the credits, there’s two end credit scenes) – but it was different from the classic origin stories we know and love.

It’s needless to say, but the acting was also superb, the casting on point, and the costuming/effects were done beautifully. Everything came together perfectly, setting up a sequel in the future, expanding the MCU even further, and changing up everything. It’s a must see film for any superhero fan, and hell, even if you’re not a superhero fan, go and see it anyway, because it’s possibly the best film I’ve seen all year.

To say the least, it was worth the two year wait.