Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


Viewed – 19 December 2017  online-rental

I suppose we’re beginning to take for granted that pretty much anything is possible in the world of visual effects, only limited to a director or screenwriter’s imagination, and seeing such incredible worlds displayed on the biggest screens we can find, is becoming the norm.  So that is perhaps one reason why this incredible spectacle of boundless imagination and wonder didn’t fair all that well both with critics and the box office.  Oh, and the lack of a big name star probably didn’t help.

Valerian

In the far flung future, two special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) maintain order throughout the galaxy.  When the minister of defence (Clive Owen) sends them on a mission to floating, over-crowded metropolis … the discovery of a dark force lurking at the city’s core sets into motion a race against time to solve a mystery.

This is a visually spectacular and stylish experience from beginning to end, part Avatar and part director Luc Besson’s own earlier foray into sci-fi, The Fifth Element.  It retains that movies’ bonkers tone that’s decidedly French-European with a little far-east for good measure and well it gives everything a quirky infectiously-entertaining vibe that’s hard to ignore.  However it’s also a great deal to hang on the shoulders of two young leads who aren’t exactly Hollywood A-List or all that charismatic despite best intentions and well, a Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence type-combination would have worked wonders.  That being said, Besson can certainly direct action, understands his source material (a series of graphic novels) and is clearly having a blast introducing us to a rich, diverse and fascinating world, packed with endless possibilities.  The story although engaging fails to deliver on such potential, and like I said performances are serviceable, but as an example of true escapist entertainment … this did it’s job.

Verdict:  4 /5

Duplicity


Viewed – 08 September 2009  Blu-ray

As a growing fan of Clive Owen, this was another no-brainer following the enjoyable The International a couple of weeks previous.  This time Clive is teamed with Julia Roberts, another favourite of mine who seems to have been away from anything I’ve wanted to see for too long.  The pair play rival con-artists / corporate spies working for rival firms, eager to out do one another at every turn.  When it transpires that one company is on the verge of revealing a ground-breaking, money spinning new product, Roberts & Owen decide to team up to con both firms and come out on top. 

arts_duplicity_584

This cleverly written, sharply paced romantic comedy / drama (it seems to dip its toe in many genres) reminded me a lot of Clive Owen debut (?) film Griffters, and had the same atmosphere of smart-ass beautiful people trying to get rich as under-handed as possible.  Roberts & Owen make for an appealing on-screen couple even if their bickering and rivalry gets in the way of any real chemistry, despite lots of snogging and bed hopping.  The script is stuffed to bursting with knowing, clever dialogue that for me felt a little unnatural at times like the director or writer knew how cool his words sounded and didn’t stop to think if they sounded believable.  Still this is an enjoyably complicated movie, that although I almost lost my way a couple of times, leads to a genuinely surprising climax, is full of eye-catching, globe trotting scenery to show off the blu-ray’s beautiful picture and has some great scene setting music.  Yet ultimately this is a film a little too clever and smart for its own good, limiting for me the overall entertainment factor – and Roberts has been so much better in many other movies – sadly not the come back I was hoping for.

Verdict:  3 /5

The International


Viewed – 25 August 2009  Blu-ray

Clive Owen plays a swarve Interpol agent who witnesses the death of his colleague after meeting an informant during an investigation into the corrupt dealings of a banking organisation.  Teaming up with a gutsy district attorney (Naomi Watts), the two attempt to expose the bank’s role in an international arms ring, whilst at the same avoiding getting themselves killed. 

This intelligent, fascinating thriller plays very relevant to our current economical climate and I found it absorbing, shot stylishly from the director of the acclaimed Run Lola Run, with an eye-catching globe-trotting canvas.  Clive as usual for one of my faves is immediately watchable and carries the film effortlessly, with moments of Bond-like charisma that proves he would have been a brilliant 007.  Watts lends pretty support but has been better in other films, proving she’s one of those actresses that can still get by even when the role is limited.  Thankfully the film moves at a slick pace, has one stand-out action scene in a museum, but stumbles in it’s final act with not enough (or perhaps too much) information to prevent this viewer from loosing his way.  Saying that this also boasts some brilliant cinematography that bring the various locations to life, has a tough, gung-ho, violent atmosphere and kept me guessing (I’m still wondering now what was really going on), but anyone with the slightest curiosity about arms-dealing, corrupt banks and shady politicians should get plenty from this – just try and not get a headache figuring it all out.

Verdict:  3 /5

Children Of Men


Viewed – 31 May 2009  DVD

I had heard very good things about this, and as a growing admirer of Clive Owen, and hearing this was one of his best roles, well, that’s just a no brainer, isn’t it?  Based on the novel by P.D. James, this follows the gritty story of an ex-activist who becomes unwittingly involved in the deportation of a pregnant women, in a future London setting where the human race has become infertile, with no child born in eighteen years.

Alfonso Cuaron’s powerful film seems staged on  a battle field with everything ready to blow at any given minute.  The chaotic scenes of combat between immigrants, resistance and military is up their with battles from Saving Private Ryan, and just as heart-stopping.  Owen is the gravity at the centre of the chaos and his performance is assured, even if supporting cast are portrayed wafer thin, with only a comic-turn from Michael Caine really standing out.  What ultimately lets this down though, despite the wealth of acclaim I’ve heard is that the story although interesting, is a tad confusing and its hard to completely understand why some people are doing certain things.  Thankfully the cinematography and stunningly staged action makes up for such short comings, and this remains an incredible film to look at.

So maybe, although its a thinker of sorts, with its topical subject and believable portrayal of the future, sometimes its better to just switch your brain off and enjoy the fire works.

Verdict:  3 /5

Inside Man


Viewed – 21 May 2009  DVD

Now this ticks two boxes to my liking straight away … the always reliable acting talents of one Denzel Washington, probably my favourite African-American actor (yeah, even more so than Samuel L, folks), and secondly, the fact this is a Spike Lee joint.  Now this director has made plenty of celebrated films, not all of which have I actually bothered to see, but it has to be said, when I do take the time to take a puff on said joint, he impresses.  Do The Right Thing is a definite classic, and I also recommend Edward Norton vehicle The 25th Hour for fans of quality, no-holds-barred acting.

Now back to the feature in hand.  Lee has long since graduated from being the black-folks voice of a generation, and is now one of the most assured and skillful directors working today, and this very well done thriller is no exception.  Step into the breach one Clive Owen, another actor I admire but don’t always manage to see the best of, and here he plays a clever-ass bank robber with an ingenious plan up his sleeve.  On his tail is dapperly-dressed NYPD detective Denzel, ready to pitt wits with the criminals and hopefully save the day … but what he hasn’t banked on is just how damn clever this robber’s plan is, and not even a smug, shady government-type (Jodie Foster) can out smart him.

This is gripping, stylish and very well acted, even if a few of the cast-choices seem a little wasted (really, what is Willem Dafoe doing here?  And Foster, although beautiful and sophisticated, has handled much meatier roles than this).  But the story held my interest – I was eager to see how it all played out, and the timer on the DVD was not looked at once (a habit I fall into when a film looses me somewhere).  No fear here, and although the final, drawn-out pay off is a little ‘meh’, this was a solidly entertaining 2hrs.

Verdict:  4 /5