Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Review

Jupiter Ascending is an objectively bad movie. The plot is convoluted, Mila Kunis is a strained lead actress, and there is a just something stupid in the ridiculousness of it. Yet, makers of The Matrix, the Wachowskis are so heinously full of passion and excitement that it feels more enjoyable and watchable, despite its faults. You’ll laugh a lot – intentionally and unintentionally – but with that much spirit, it is impossible to not be thoroughly entertained.

I’m no longer afraid to say it: I love Jupiter Ascending. 

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Oh…why am I talking about Jupiter Ascending? Oh, because I really wanted Valerian to be like that. But the pure and excitable energy of the Wachowskis cannot be replicated. Certainly not by a director whose heart has been seemingly lost in his recent ventures.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on a comic book series called Valerian and LL. The film revolves around Alpha – a developed space station called Alpha which is home to thousands of different aliens, working in harmony for centuries. When a mysterious unidentified race causes a ruckus on the spaceship, Valerian is enlisted to uncover their secrets…

Valerian is a pretty little film with spectacular visuals and is certainly a colourful creation of different creatures. The creator of The Fifth Element certainly has a hand at spectacular space craft and it is a highlight here. The imagery on the big screen is inventive and new.

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That’s where all the goodness ends. With a stiff story that can barely be stretched over the two hour run-time, hammy interactions with lifeless characters, and nonsensical ploys throughout, Valerian is a sloppy and agonisingly depressingly boring. Sleep inducing, in fact

I love Dane DeHaan, particularly when he is playing brooding and creepy villainous roles. He is a fantastic actor. However, despite his age and talent, DeHaan doesn’t seem to fit comfortably with the heroic grandeur of the character. Older, buffer, tougher? It feels wrong to swipe at DeHaan this way but the casting simply doesn’t fit here, no matter how DeHaan tries to make it.

Let’s talk about Laureline, shall we? Look, I’m all for kick-ass female characters as much as the next person but being able to punch someone in the face and then follow that with a smart quip does not equate to a strongly written female character. Especially when their dialogue is this:


Humans are unpredictable


LAURELINE (scoffs):

Clearly, you’ve never met a woman.

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I thought we had moved past this type of wooden talking. Also, irritatingly, she is immediately introduced as the love interest for Valerian. Their first scene together sees him passionately embrace her, against her wishes, on a hologram beach before she derides him for his past conquests (again, it feels weird, because Dane Dehaan just doesn’t fit the role.) It is sloppily written work. What’s worse is that Laureline’s dialogue and character isn’t the worst: There are outdated archetypes fitted into a story that feels like Avatar on acid.

The best summary I’ve heard for Valerian and the City for a Thousand Planets is “It’s basically about a creature that shit pearls.” If you are game for that, and roughly two minutes of Rhiana’s face despite her being a focus of the marketing, then Valerian is for you. However, it is a disappointing venture for Besson.

Soulless and heartless, but with very pretty visuals, this is a tedious space romp that could have done so much more.

I think I’ll stick with Jupiter Ascending.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

47 Metres Down – Review

Ever since the masterpiece that is Jaws graced our screens, big and little, many people have tried to replicate the magic that created a whole subgenre of film and left many people refusing to ever tip a toe in water again.

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47 Metres Down  is the latest foray into Shark infested waters on film and like so many others, harks back to Steven Spielberg’s 1975 epic – the tagline ordering people to stay out of the water this summer.

The film opens with two sisters vacationing in Mexico before they decide to make things interesting and go on an open ocean shark dive. An incident occurs and suddenly they are trapped at the bottom of the ocean, with less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby. This a tale of their fight for survival.

The plot, or general idea is a brilliant one. Anyone with enough balls to cage dive must imagine the nightmare of the cage breaking and plummeting the floor, trapped. And having two women in the forefront of a movie always makes my heart sing.

However, as much as it tries, it’s just not on par with other shark movies we’ve come to love. I, personally adore Deep Blue Sea for its utter, unashamed ridiculousness and no one can ever change my mind on that. But this suffers from a lacklustre script, it swings from dull to cheesy and back again, without ever deciding whether it will be serious or stupid. Without giving too much away there is a Marmite twist at the end – you’ll either love it or hate it – which enforces the indecision of tone.

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It’s also frustrating that for most of the film you can’t distinguish between the two lead actresses voices. You’ll probably just give up trying and as such don’t really connect with either. Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as sisters Lisa and Kate do their best despite the hurdles of filming in water for the majority of the film and being encumbered by a diving mask which, while essential, means emotions are somewhat obscured when you wish they weren’t.

One thing that the film does well is the claustrophobic feel. In one scene, Kate tensely tries to squeeze through the cage bars, knowing sharks are horrifyingly close. There are a lot of close ups, plus point of view shots from inside the cage and plenty of jump scares from those terrifying sharks which are fairly well rendered in CGI.

All in all, it’s an enjoyable ride as long as you don’t expect too much going in! You’ll no doubt be back in the water tomorrow, just with a firmer notion that getting into a rusty cage with uncertified shark divers is not a great idea.

47 Metres Down is out 28th July! 

33rd Independent Spirit Awards – Nominations

We try to celebrate independent cinema as much as we possibly can here, which is why The Independent Spirit Awards are always so exciting. It’s amazing to see the year’s most outstanding smaller pictures get the glory, and this year is no exception. This year’s nominations speak volumes of just how good 2017 cinema was.

Call Me By Your Name leads the pack with six nominations, including Best Feature, Best Director for Luca Gudadagino, and two acting nominations for stars Armie Hammer and Timothy Chalamet. Guadagino has stiff competition from Chloe Zhao (The Rider), Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Sean Baker (The Florida Project), who’s respective films will be up against the LGBT romance for Best Feature, as well as Benny and Josh Safdie for Good Time and Jonas Carpigano for A Ciambra.

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Rounding out the Best Feature category is Greta Gerwig’s coming of age hit Lady Bird, also bagging nominations for Best Actress for star Saoirse Ronan – Taking on the likes of Margot Robbie, Frances McDormand and Salma Hayek – and Screenplay for Gerwig herself. And as if Best Director wasn’t enough, Jordan Peele bags himself a well deserved Best Screenplay nomination for hit horror/thriller Get Out, which also sees lead star Daniel Kaluuya nominated for Best Actor. Up against Robert Pattinson, who’s exciting new film Good Time is up for Best Supproting Actor for Benny Safdie, and James Franco’s turn as bizarre filmmaker Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist, Kaluuya has his work cut out for him, but with one of the best performances of the year under his belt, he stands a good chance.

There’s plenty of a variety in the nominations this year; the makers of films like Ingrid Goes West, A Ghost Story, Patti Cakes, The Transfiguration and The Big Sick are all being celebrated for their outstanding efforts on their first features and for their extremely low budgets. As far as world cinema goes, some of the best films we haven’t had our hands on yet like A Fantastic Woman and I Am Not a Witch, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Despite some surprising snubs – Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water is noticeably absent – there’s a fantastic range of films up for contention, and we should feel lucky to have films like this being made.

The 32nd Independent Spirit Awards are being hosted on 3rd March 2018.

Check out the full list of nominations:

Best Feature
“Call Me by Your Name”
“The Florida Project
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“The Rider”

Best Director
Jonas Carpignano, “A Ciambra”
Luca Guadagnino, “Call Me by Your Name”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Sean Baker, “The Florida Project”
Benny and Josh Safdie, “Good Time”
Chloé Zhao, “The Rider”

Best First Feature:
“Ingrid Goes West”
“Oh Lucy”
“Patti Cake$”

Best Female Lead
Salma Hayek, “Beatriz at Dinner”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Shinobu Terajima, “Oh Lucy”
Regina Williams, “Life and Nothing More”

Best Male Lead
Timothee Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Harris Dickinson, “Beach Rats”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”

Best Supporting Female:
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Lois Smith, “Marjorie Prime”
Taliah Lennice Webster, “Good Time”

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Best Supporting Male
Nnamdi Asomugha, “Crown Heights”
Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”
Barry Keoghan, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Bennie Safdie, “Good Time”

Best Screenplay
“Lady Bird”
“The Lovers”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
“Get Out”
“Beatriz at Dinner”

Best First Screenplay
“Donald Cried”
“The Big Sick”
“Women Who Kill”
“Ingrid Goes West”

Best Cinematography
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
“Beach Rats”
“Call Me by Your Name”
“The Rider”

Best Editing
“Good Time”
“Call Me by Your Name”
“The Rider”
“Get Out”
“I, Tonya”

John Cassavetes Award
“A Ghost Story”
“Life and Nothing More”
“Most Beautiful Island”
“The Transfiguration”

Robert Altman Award

Best Documentary
“The Departure”
“Faces Places”
“Last Men in Aleppo”

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Best International Film
“A Fantastic Woman”
“Lady Macbeth”
“I Am Not a Witch”

Piaget Producers Award
Giulia Caruso & Ki Jin Kim
Ben LeClair
Summer Shelton

Annual Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award
Amman Abassi, “Dayveon”
Justin Chon, “Gook”

Truer Than Fiction Award
Shevaun Mizrahi, “Distant Constellation”
Jonathan Olshefski, “Quest”
Jeff Unay, “Cage Figher”

Annual Bonnie Award
So Young Kim
Chloe Zhao
Lynn Shelton



La La Land – Review

There’s a lot of detraction against the film industry. Many folks are dismayed about the industry and its state of affairs. Between over-inflated ticket prices, remakes and countless sequels, big movies telling the same story, and underwhelming blockbusters, it’s easy to feel uneasy about cinema and wane away from it.

Movie obsessives and critics will throw back their arms at this proclamation and scream: “No!” in loud dismay. That’s because since the beginning of moving pictures and glittering stars, there has been a whole plethora of online magic that has charmed, beguiled, and captured our little beating hearts.

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If you want to know what this feels like: To have cinema running through your veins with pounding delight, the glee of pure cinematography racing with colours, and enchanting music skipping alongside your merry spirit, changing the world into this bright and delicate place.

Then go watch La La Land.

The musical revolves around Mia, an aspiring actresses who serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions. She meets Sebastian, a jazz musician who is scraping by with his concerts. Together they navigate the world of their dreams whilst their relationship is strained.

There has already been a lot of hype revolving La La Land since its first screenings at Venice and TIFF. The hotly anticipated nostalgia film is a loving homage to the golden city of LA, the vintage era of movies, and the adoring marriage between music and the big screen. This all comes from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle who passionately crafts a beautiful sonnet to cinema and douses the story with romance, hope, and dreams the same way he drenches the scenery with colour.

Despite similar undertones of jazz, working hard to follow your dreams, and the battle with relationship balance, La La Land tonally differs from Whiplash yet doesn’t falter the excellence. What Chazelle has accomplished here is an aching testament to the power of movies and the essence of dreaming, floating upon a bed of stars and immersing into the cities sorcery. The story shifts and moves with the spectrum, allowing emotions to be mirrored in the backdrop or colour, enhancing every scene. All the while the musical motif taps gloriously on and in assured greatness.

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It helps that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are such a provocative pair and have the most insatiable chemistry together. Whether dancing greatly (despite limited talent) or are silent and still in the more engrossing moments, the pair feed emotions to one another and produce this gloriously realistic and visceral couple just emerged in the fantasy of Los Angeles. Whilst they may not have the greatest singing voices, they suit and match their characters. Highlights include City of Stars, broodingly sung by Gosling and What A Perfect Night as they pair toe-tap across an horizon. But, let me tell you, Emma Stone packs a punch with her timid vocals in one scene that goosebumps will roll alongside the tears. It even helped her scoop up the Academy Award.

The pair will cast a spell over you again, and again, and again.

Every sense of yours will thank you for the cinematic experience of La La Land. Not a second on the screen is wasted as Chazelle’s conjures splendour in pounding earnestness. You’ll leave the cinema with a song in your heart and a skip in your step, racing back into the world to follow that hopeful voice inside of you.

La La Land begs you to fall in love with the big screen, the fall in love with your dreams, fall in love with music.

To just fall in love.

La La Land is available on Netflix! 

Unpopped Kernels: The Overnight (2015)

The term sex comedy doesn’t provide good and warm fuzzy feelings inside (maybe down there, but certainly not inside.) Sexual based films that aren’t porn are either 50 Shades of Grey style of trash, a whimsical yet terrible romp like The Confessions of a Window Washer, or provoke moans (and not goods ones,) with awful entries such as  Sex Tape. The comedy end of erotica movies is often filled with gawky slapstick and awkward moments that never quite gel or work. Women are often overtly sexualised too and in this day and age, the nudity and hilarity often sit uncomfortably, nestled in a stiff toe curl.

So with an accomplished cast and a well-written script, Patrick Brice’s The Overnight presents a clever and poignant sex comedy.

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Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godreche, The Overnight revolves around LA newcomers Alex and Emily. Unsure about the neighbourhood and tentative to make friends, they are introduced to Kurt and Charlotte, an eccentric but friendly couple who invite the pair and their son over for a play-date. As the children fall asleep, however, the parents open-up to a crazed night of passion and some crazy encounters.

What works majorly for The Overnight is its confidence. I mean, doesn’t that just make everything sexier anyway? Brice’s assured script-writing cleverly weaves the story in a manner that twists throughout the night. This isn’t a case of instant steamy sessions for the couple: this is an astute unravelling where honesty, truth, and emotions are frittered out. Making the movie about the characters more so than the sex gives an element of depth to the proceedings. It’s interesting because we care. We’re not following them because we know they are all going to get it on, actually we want to see how the night unfolds, and that’s the best thing about Brice’s tightly written and witty script. There’s a lot of laughs to be had here too.

The cast tackle the set-up with furore. They have immediate chemistry with each other and it’s good to see many move beyond their usual archetypes. Pushing themselves and their characters beyond, Schilling, Schwartzman, and Godreche are part of this clever quartet, moving and moulding with the heat of the night.

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I may be biased in saying this because I love Adam Scott in everything he has ever done (with the exception of Hot Tub Time Machine 2...I mean…come on,) but he is the scene-stealing character here. He really has to be bolder than everyone to push through his straight man typecast and he definitely has the balls to do so, giving him the most interesting arc in the whole movie.

With sensual and stunning imagery, this wry and experimental sex comedy is equal parts entertaining and awkward. It has this air of realism that by the final moments, you are right there with the characters, yearning for a new experience with strangers who turned friends…well..overnight. A passionate but restrained piece, Brice has made an insatiable movie that utilises its talented cast for the better.

You’ll want to stay over and over again.

The Overnight is available on Netflix! 

Battle of the Sexes – Review

Despite the strides that we’ve made in the modern world, we are still unequal. Divided are we across the globe, whether it is sex, sexuality, or race, there are people who choose to segregate us. Even in modern societies, or first world countries, we still have discrepancies, particularly when it comes to women. In America or even the UK, there are still crevices of inequality, sexism, and more. We still have a long way to go.

That’s why movies such as Battle of the Sexes is so important.

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Starring the now quintessential Academy Award winner Emma Stone and the brilliant Steve Carrell, Battle of the Sexes tackles the  1973 tennis tournament between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.  King had separated from the US Tennis Organisation, to protest equal pay for women tennis players. Touring in her own league, and dealing with her awakening sexuality,  Bille Jean King is challenged to a match by known hustler Riggs and the result could change tennis forever.

There is not a player here who is flawed. In fact, every single actor and face within this sporting piece hits it over the net. Through their engrossing work, there is a triumphant spirit and it starts with Emma Stone. There are talks that she’ll garner another Oscar nomination, the third in a row with her wining Best Actress last year. There is no argument here: As Billie Jean King, Stone encompasses a woman determined, striving for her sport and her equality, whilst the turbulence of her awakening sexuality undercurrent an endearing performance. She is a character of emotion, whether it be on the tennis court or behind the scenes, but Stone’s personality equals King’s and it is so enriched that it is impossible not to fall in love with either of them.

Steve Carrell is great and portraying Bobbie Riggs as someone depicted in the media as a clown but a desperate and earnest competitor who  had a history of gambling and marital problems. Together the illuminate the screen but when the movie shifts the focus to King’s affair with hairdresser Marilyn. Played delightfully and delectably by Andrea Riseborough, the secret love is so wonderfully fleshed out. Stone and Riseborough have incomparable chemistry together that I’d easy watch them together in every movie ever.

Sarah Silverman, Bill Pulman, Elisabeth Shue, and Natalie Morales, every person in support hit’s their mark with excellence, making this casting an intriguing and amazing  collective.

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If you thought we weren’t going to use this image, you were so wrong.

Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris bring back the glorious aesthetic of the seventies in both look and sound  whilst framing certain scenes in fresh ways. Whilst there may beats of familiarity, the film never feels redundant or derivative as the dual directors keep a sharp rambunctious energy throughout.

No doubt that the sexism prevalent within the movie is maddening. As commentators, friends, and the Tennis organisations spout sexist bullshit, it’ll hit each and every one of your nerves (there’s even a patronishing hand on shoulder in one interview that will infuriate me as long as I shall live. . Especially because these are words still spoken today. Heck, you can’t even float this match out on the internet without the greasiest of trolls emerging from under their bridge to wail: “It was rigged.”  Smartly, the film gives them no grounding. In fact, every comment started in this manner is instantly ridiculed with seething chagrin. That’s how they have to be approached. With absolutely horror and rolls of laughter, because believing one gender is superior, even on a tennis court, is bemusing and wrong.

The only complaint to have with Battle of the Sexes is that it goes on a smidgen too long: Like a tennis ball landing a millimetre off the white line. Yet this is an interesting, brilliant show of sporting heroism that will make you love Emma Stone even more.

Battle of the Sexes is out 24th November