‘Valerian’ is a visual feast for the eyes.

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‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ is the comic book adaptation of the same name by Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin. It tells the story of a dark force that threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

If you’re familiar with any of French director Luc Besson’s work, ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ holds a very similarly nostalgic style to that of ‘The Fifth Element.’ In saying this, however, despite its visual and stylistic similarities, ‘Valerian’ hardly lives up to it. Even with the sarcastic humour played adequately enough by English model-turned-actress Cara Delevigne (who’s still yet to prove that she can act) and the cameo from Rihanna, who wasn’t as painful as you might expect, the visuals are overstuffed to the max.

Besson, who’s known for his usual impeccable casting especially with the find in Natalie Portman with ‘Leon the Professional,’ was only to be doubted with this film. Dane Dehaan’s Valerian seemed unsuited to his personality as with Delevinge’s Laureline. In a film with such lush eye candy, it’s a shame that their relationship wasn’t as exciting and interesting. The film begs you to care about them but really, their characteristics were eye roll worthy at things we have sen before. There was nothing to love about them and occasionally makes you question how or why Laureline would fall for someone like Valerian.

It’s not a film that can dazzle us with it’s visuals, including more than 2,500 shots of visual effects, visuals and expect us to ignore the rather simplistic plot. The rich vividness of the film only brings to light the lifelessness of those leading us through the story. Valerian’s is one we’ve seen before and can only remind us of ‘Star Wars” Han Solo. Though the first half of the film was something that would be truly of interest, it soon fell flat into something that was more formulaic and proved to be far less exciting than it’s first half conceived it to be.

If it’s anything that the film got right, it was the visuals, but it’s not the only thing that a film can ride on. There are so many other elements that make a good film great and it’s a shame that ‘Valerian’ missed out on that. The story was undeniably predictable, making you say “well, duh,” though it did leave you to just be able to sit back and enjoy the visuals for what they were. It does make you want to know more about the world and head back to the original source material to read more into it.

Overall, the film wasn’t amazing but it delivers for what it is and much more enjoyable than the superhero nonsense that has plagued the marketplace.

Film-O-Meter: 6/10.

‘Atomic Blonde’ is the much watch film of the summer.

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‘Atomic Blonde’ tells the story of an undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

This is a film that proves that action films, especially period action films, are more than just Tom Cruise running away from things and pulling a vaguely shocked expression. It proves that not only women can hold their own, like that of the recent success of ‘Wonder Woman,’ and Charlize Theron’s Lorraine Broughton is a bisexual woman, but that more films like this should be made. It’s truly a film of the modern age, showing what we’re truly capably if we actually dare to make films like this.

It would be unfair to say Broughton is a female combination of James Bond and Jason Bourne because she’s so much more then that. There’s so much more depth to her character than the dazzling action sequences, especially the one shot on the staircase and the jump out of a window with the extension cord, drinks at the bar, and working as an undercover agent. Director David Leitch, one half of the directing team behind ‘John Wick’ and Deadpool 2, helps bring out her character on screen, showing not only her sensitive side but her strong independence.

What Leitch does, also, is stays away from any tricks with the camera and keeps everything steady unlike what the Bourne films do in making you feel nauseous in its use of hand held camera. Despite the film being a little cliche at times, it proves to be a film that’s ranks above many in it’s genre.

Berlin at the time of the wall coming down in the 80s is the perfect place to host for a spy-thriller and a film of ‘Atomic Blonde’s’ tone. While things are dark and moody, there’s nothing stopping it from bringing to light some comedic moments. This is added to by the plethora of music from the decade, matching up perfectly with the action on screen.

This film is not what it’s advertised to be and that’s the best part because you’re given something so much more amazing. It seems like another spy movie with a great cast and the such, but it’s very much unique. In its hyper-styalised manner, ‘Atomic Blonde’ is an experience in itself and one that won’t be forgotten.

If you’re looking for something action packed to watch with a strong female lead who’s not afraid to take any punches with a kickass soundtrack and costumes, this is for you. Forget about ‘Baby Driver’ with its supposed amazing soundtrack, ‘Atomic Blonde’ beats it in every way.

Film-O-Meter: 9/10.

‘Dunkirk’ is a brilliant film, though it may not be Nolan’s greatest.

dunkirk-poster.jpg‘Dunkirk’ tells the story of the allied soldier’s from Belgium, the British Empire, and France who are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

One of the best writer/director’s of our time in Christopher Nolan’s take on the catastrophe that was Dunkirk is a film that he should be proud of — it’s powerful and well crafted, which should be no surprised considering the team behind the film. It avoids “war porn” of any sorts, showing little to no blood whatsoever, and piecing together the events of what happened in the typical Nolan-esque way that he uses time.

What can be disagreed with, however, is many reviewers and members of the general public calling ‘Dunkirk’ Nolan’s best film so far. Yes, it’ is an amazing feat Nolan accomplished, managing to interweave multiple story lines occurring at different points over various lengths in time (one even over the space of an hour while others taking up to a day) while it all making sense, however, it felt that there was something lacking in it all.

Nolan employed the kind of editing that was used in ‘Memento’ and ‘Inception’ in the jarring jumps from midday to pitch-black instead of the cross-cutting that may be traditionally used. While strange at the beginning, it begins to make sense. If anything, even when it’s not as mind-bending as Nolan’s previous work, ‘Dunkirk’ is still something makes you think as you try and piece things together. Editing is supposed to heighten the tension of what the Allies face but instead, there’s no transition between seemingly linked images even in the same plot lines and becomes lost, without any real sense of structure whatsoever.

The film itself didn’t grow in tension and instead, was one steady line of drama with at times feeling eternally frustrating at how long it takes for some events to take place. In his attempts to create tension, there’s not enough time for us to be with the character’s or their respective story lines. What was most frustrating about Tom Hardy’s air pilot was in him not circling back to land upon the beach to then catch a lift back home or defend from the skies for a little longer before landing at Dunkirk instead of doing what he did in traveling further up the coast to land his aircraft and then captured.

The sound design is something that needed to be seriously worked upon as with the design paired with Hans Zimmer’s score, it got to the point where it was deafening and in dire need of earplugs.

‘Dunkirk’ is great in it’s own right but to be deemed as one of the best war films to date is a little much. Something that can’t be ignored is the amazingly brilliant five minute one shot from Joe Wright’s ‘Atonement’ on the beach of Dunkirk that encapsulated what it was like to be a soldier on that beach; or the classic ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ which, in any respect, would be a hard film to surpass in terms of brilliance and greatness.

While it may be his best in some respects, it still fails to be as brilliant, awe-inspiring, and a topic of conversation for years to come like his previous efforts in ‘Inception,’ ‘Memento,’ ‘The Prestige,’ ‘Interstellar,’ and ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy.’ Nolan’s films of the future are still something to look forward to and will be interesting to see what comes next.

Film-O-Meter: 6/10.

‘To The Bone’ only scratches the surface


To The Bone
tells the story of a young woman, Ellen (Lily Collins), who’s dealing with anorexia nervosa. She meets and unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves) who challenges her to face her condition and embrace life.

The thing withTo The Bone is that whenever a topic such as eating disorders, suicide, or mental illnesses are dealt with, there will always be an outcry and a triggering aspect to those who watch it, no mater how the topic is dealt with. WhileTo The Bone hardly takes itself seriously, there are crippling points that are truly traumatic, but it doesn’t take it too far, and thank God for that. Netflix have learned their lesson, unlike with ’13 Reasons Why’ where it’s portrayal and glamourisation of suicide was crippling to the point of outrage. With the writer/director Marti Noxon and protagonist Ellen/Eli portrayed by Lily Collins both suffering from eating disorders, there is a true authenticity to the story despite the unconventional methods that Ellen/Eli’s eating disorder is dealt with.

It’s no doubt that people will be sceptical going into this film, especially those who suffer or continue to suffer from eating disorders, and none the less trigger for some.To The Bone is something that should be approached with caution, though what’s seen isn’t particularly as damaging as some other comparison’s. This, however, shouldn’t be taken without a grain of salt. Each person’s experiences can affect the way they perceive the world and have their own triggers, with anything in this film being triggering for different reasons. For those who haven’t experienced the condition, or know of someone close to them who has, it could give potential insight into how someone with an eating disorder could be potentially going through.

To The Bone explores dark and complex issues while interweaving it with unexpected moments of humour, creating an empathetic piece of work. It’s not something that’s easy to sit through, and the situation the characters are going through isn’t exactly made entertaining, it lays anorexia out before us and tells it like it is while give the story moments of hope throughout. And this hope can be seen as a distraction from the actual treatment of the condition, displayed through the romantic sub-plot. Love may not cure all but it certainly helps was the journey.

Despite Lily Collins not being the strongest of actresses, a lot of her performances emotionless and dry, bringing up the question as to how she got here in the first place, there was a glimpse of talent and honestly in her performance. This comes from her actual experience with an eating disorder, something she clearly struggled with for a very long time. Collins still proves to be an actress that has a long way to go in her chosen profession if she wants to see any sort of change without a heavily reliance on her famous family.

Where awareness of disorders are becoming more promising, there’s still a stigma, and To The Bone only scratches the surface.

Film-O-Meter: 7/10.

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ is not just another rehash, it’s a film of it’s own.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming
 is set several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.

If you think it was a franchise that had been done to death, much like DC’s Batman, it’s the friendly, neighbourhood web slinger in Spider-Man. It wasn’t long ago that we saw Andrew Garfield’s incarnation in The Amazing Spider-Man
in 2012 and it’s sequel two years later in 2014. Before that, in the early noughties, we had the hilariously bad and over the top Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire and to be honest, nothing will be able to beat those incarnations of Spidey, from Peter Parker attempting to figure out his web slinging powers atop a New York City building or the ever hilarious emo dancing incarnation.

What makes Tom Holland’s take on the famous character is that he makes it feel fresh and new, without rehashing the “Uncle Ben” story, assuming you know the tale already. And going into this film, it would honestly be a surprise if you didn’t. With the effects up to the ever excellent Marvel standard, Holland brings a humourous new light to the character that’s a mix between Maguire’s and Garfield’s. The film has both it’s serious and humours moments, doing well to balance them out.

This new series proves that it’s going to be a winner and it’s so good to see that Sony has finally lent the character back to its original owners. Now, if only they’d do that with the X-Men franchise, we could finally get some more Hugh Jackman as Wolverine as Jackman has stated that if Wolverine was apart of the MCU, he would continue playing his character. I mean, who wouldn’t want that? He’s like the Robert Downey Jr. to the Tony Stark — Jackman isn’t just playing Wolverine, he is Wolverine.

Anyway, getting distracted here.

The good thing about Homecoming is that the MCU have had a good amount of time previously to get the ‘superhero genre’ right and with the successes of Deadpool and Logan proving that superhero films have grown so much into their own genre, Homecoming is amongst some of the first to becoming more interesting if they were more than ‘just another superhero movie.’ Homecoming also wasn’t as dark as it’s previous Spider-Man’s as well as many other superhero films of late, which was nice because we got to see a younger, more childlike version of the character really growing into his own skin and really acts as a coming-of-age film. It was a nice little break from all the seriousness of the MCU up until this point and now we have Thor: Ragnarok for a little more comedic relief before delving back into Black Panther and the Infinity Wars duology.

The film’s efficient and lets the actor’s act, which is a rare thing in blockbuster movies because it’s usually, for example, just Tom Cruise running away from things or an overabundance of effects driven sequences where where we don’t get any emotionality and when we do, it feels fake and forced. Homecoming is a definite step up in Marvel villains where Michael Keaton’s Vulture is as compelling and as complicated as he should be. And as the saying goes, you either die a hero or live long enough to a villain. Thank God Keaton did in his case.

It was also really nice to see some familiar faces like Chris Evans’ Captain America/Steve Rogers popping up in school training videos and in the *spoiler alert* post-credit scene where he mocked all of us who stayed until the very end; Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts appearing for a few seconds at the end of the film; along with Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan and Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark having no more than about ten minutes screen time in total.

Though it may feel like you’re tired of seeing that there’s another Spidey film, this one’s no doubt worth your money and time.

Film-O-Meter: 8/10.

‘The Promise’ is confused in what it’s trying to be.

promise_xlg.jpgThe Promise is set on the brink of the first world war as the Ottoman Empire stands upon its last legs. As Michael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) arrives in the vibrant city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) with the determination of bringing modern medicine with him to his ancestral village in Southern Turkey, he finds that Turkish Muslims and Armenian Christians have lived together for centuries. A photo-journalist by the name of Chris Myers (Christian Bale, The Dark Knight trilogy, The Prestige) has only come to cover the geo-political situation. Chris is mesmerised by Charlotte le Bon’s Ana, an Armenian artist from Paris who’s only just arrived after the sudden death of her father. When Ana and Michael meet, their shared Armenian heritage sparks a romantic attraction and rivalry between the the two men. As the Turks form an alliance with Germany, Turkey turns violent against its own ethnic minorities. The trio are forced to put their feelings aside as they fight for survival.

There’s no doubt that The Promise often veers into a cliche territory that we, as an audience, may have seen multiple times before and there are better historical romances set against the backdrop of war, but the one thing that The Promise does remind us of is the often untouched parts of the war that Hollywood hardly delves into.

Like many films that struggle with story and with the film overall, there’s at least a performance or two that make it somewhat worth it. In this case, it’s in Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, who continue to prove themselves to be amongst some of the best actors of their generation. The portray a story amongst many against the backdrop of the last days of Constantinople though the story hardly ever feels as epic as it tries to be. Co-writer and Director of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ fame Terry George does try his best but it’s no cigar. Story isn’t enough and all the technical elements can only do so much to bolster something that just isn’t there in the first place.

The Promise endeavours to educate us in a portion of history but honestly doesn’t take full responsibility for doing so. It barely skirts at the truth, the love triangle more of a hinderance than an aid, though this isn’t something that should be surprising. The film as a whole could barely decide if it was war film or a love story, confirming further that this film just doesn’t know what it is. The Turkish Government still denies the fact that the genocide that happened, despite all the proof. It was like The Promise was afraid to really pull off a confronting look at what happened.

Film-O-Meter: 5/10.

‘The Secret Scripture’ gets lost in translation.


The Secret Scripture
 tells the story of a woman who kept a diary during her extended stay at a mental hospital.

It’s no surprise that this is a film that holds a negative light — it could be considered a historical romance at its cheesiest, despite the performances. Rooney Mara is a brilliant actress, when given the right role to shine, an it was nice to see Theo James in something else than the Divergent films and Underworld: Blood Wars as the macho action star. However, in saying this, it blows any Nicholas Sparks novel to film translation. You’d much rather see something like this than drift off into sleep into another, almost generic, Sparks adaption.

‘The Secret Scripture’ is a film with a lot to say but as it delves deeper and deeper into the film, it really struggles to find a way to say it. Even with the multiple attempts the film tries to come across fails to really get across what it wants. Director Jim Sheridan (In The Name of the Father, My Left Foot, In America) lacks the subtly of his previous work, unable to find any stable footing to bring across the story despite the wonderful performances he helps draw out of the actors.

The adaption of The Secret Scripture can be seen as the classic case of an adaption from a novel to a film where the themes are lost in translation. It’s a film that looks nice on the outside but ultimately it’s foundation is on rocky ground. The more time spent with the film, the more you’ll see past the facade it holds. In the end, the ‘big reveal’ has hardly so.

Film-O-Meter: 5/10.