Friday, July 21, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a visionary science fiction film based upon a visionary 1970's comic book of the same name.  Beneath all the eye candy and rich atmosphere is an action plot that is about average, but there is so much going on that the movie might deserve a second viewing.

The two main stars, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, seem too young for their parts.  They look like teenagers.  They are not particularly charismatic and their acting ability is nothing exceptional.  Had the movie been made 25 years ago, it would have been perfect for Harrison Ford and Angelina Jolie.

So why only the 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes?  My favorite movie critic, Richard Roeper, calls it a bizarre and bloated and clunky pop sci-fi epic.  Actually, sometimes that is enough.  This is a visually stunning film that has much in it that is worth seeing.  Overall, it feels like an interesting movie that didn't quite live up to its full potential.  For this reason, I think that some critics are too hard on it.  It deserves more credit than that.  If it had just a little better story and slightly better actors, it could have been another Star Wars.

Some John Williams music would have been nice too.

I fell in love with these three little alien con artists:




Rating:  * * * 1/4.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Cars 3


The first Cars film had sentimental magic to it, and the second film had a certain comic charm by focusing on Tow Mater, but Cars 3 has really nothing new to add.  That's my problem with it; it feels recycled.  It tries to recapture some of the spirit of the first film, but it is predictable and just passable as entertainment.

I like the plot element of an aging Lightning McQueen trying regain his Mojo after being shown up by a younger, faster and more cocky rookie.  He tries to get some professional training to get back into shape.  The film takes a left turn half way through when we find out that his female trainer is a racing wannabe who never got the chance to compete.  This reminded me just a little of Jessie in Toy Story II lamenting over what she had lost.  The difference is that Jessie's song had everybody in tears, but here the story is barely interesting. This leads to a plot twist at the end, where guess what?  She does get her chance to race.

Rocky this isn't.  The story is interesting enough, but in no way special, and seems too familiar.  I expected more from Pixar. 

Rating:  * * 1/2.







Monday, July 3, 2017

Moonlight


Moonlight is the story of a gay black child, Chiron, growing up under the most difficult of circumstances, and his transition to adulthood.  It won "Best Picture" at the Academy Awards.

To me the story seems very thin and kind of depressing.  The movie is about personalities.  The ending is anticlimactic and leaves us hanging, but it is about people coming to terms with each other.  As such the entertainment value isn't extraordinary, but our hearts ache for the people having to struggle in a bad environment.  That makes the movie an "issue" film, and the Academy Awards loves issue films.  It is also a movie that we are not likely to forget any time soon.

The portrayals of blacks in this film are mostly unfavorable with the exception of a couple of good characters.

Another "issue" film that won best picture was Midnight Cowboy in 1969.  What the two films have in common are slow moving stories and controversial topics.  Now, Midnight Cowboy seems dated and barely qualifies as entertainment.  I am wondering how Moonlight will seem to us a couple of decades from now?

Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor for what is probably his best role yet as a drug dealer who takes Chiron under his wing.  In his previous roles he was always a little too understated.

Rating:  * * * 1/2.