Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Luc Besson has a history of involvement in many action-packed fun movies. His movies are more concerned with moving the plot along than just pure logic. When he creates a new world, such as in “The Fifth Element”, it can be impressive and very detailed. When he has a strong emotional tie to the material, he treats it with great care. That is what is happening with “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”. He wanted to bring the graphic novel source material to life.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” makes a quick update on the state of human space exploration. In the first few minutes, it visually shows that an International Space Station is welcoming humans of every race up on board to make a new home. Soon there are non-human species that also arrive, so the station gets bigger and bigger. It soon has to be moved out to its own little corner of the galaxy, now that it is home to hundreds of species and tens of thousands of beings.

This place is called ‘Alpha’ and it ruled by large council. There is a Defense Minister (Herbie Hancock) and a leading General Filitt (Clive Owen).  There are two Federal agents working to keep the peace in space. Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is ready to defend the Federation laws in space. There he is joined by Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne). They are about to go on a super-secret mission, but Valerian has just had the oddest dream. He was captivated with a vision of a planet called Mül. This perfect world is destroyed by sinister outside forces, and the dying princess of the Mül people cried out to Valerian.

But first the mission needs to happen, so they meet a military team on a distant planet. Valerian and Laureline are disguised as tourists in a freakish bazaar. This multi-dimensional place has lots of gaudy visitors and gift stalls. There are also pirates selling stolen one-of-a-kind items. Items like the “converter” which is the same small armadillo-like creature from Mül. This is the last of its kind, and someone wants it bad. But Valerian gets into the deal and takes the “converter” before the aliens can buy it for the big ugly beast pirate (voiced by John Goodman). Valerian and Laureline get away, but the danger is just beginning.

But in Alpha, there is a growing danger in the planet-size spaceship-conglomerate. There is an area near the core that has become a dead zone. It is radioactive, and nothing that comes in will ever come back out. If it is not stopped, it could take over everything. General Filitt is now being guarded by Valerian and Laureline. The “converter” creature is being held by Laureline. Mystery beings break into the council chambers and kidnap General Filitt. Valerian gives chase and goes into the dead zone, so they lose contact. Laureline goes to try and find him. She finds Valerian, but soon Laureline gets kidnapped by some ugly monster type creatures.

Valerian finds a place called “Paradise Alley”. He meets Jolly the Pimp (Ethan Hawke) who sets him up with a shapeshifting entertainer named Bubble (Rihanna). Bubble agrees to help Valerian find Laureline and get her out.  Laureline is being dressed up to attend a fine dinner for the monster king, and is not pleased when she becomes part of the menu. Valerian and Bubble arrive to help her escape. Valerian and Laureline go on to find General Filitt and the mystery creatures that have been making a home in the dead zone.

The visuals created in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” are breath-taking. The various worlds created are amazing and the creatures are fantastic. The ease in which it goes from current time to many centuries into the future is interesting. But then the story gets wrapped up in the job that Valerian and Laureline must do, and it totally bogs down. Any sense of wonder and awe gets disrupted.

The direction is very broad and enveloping, because Luc Besson is caught creating these new worlds. But then the people who fill these worlds start to fail him. Dane DeHaan starts out in smart-alec mode, doing a Keanu Reeves voice over. Cara Delevingne has little personality to make her the smarter and more likable of the two. There is no chemistry between them, and the jokey quips feel too forced.

Clive Owen is a non-impressive bad guy. Ethan Hawke has little more than a cameo. Rihanna is good edition and her story has some pizzazz. Herbie Hancock is an odd choice, but does little more than appear as a concerned face on a screen. John Goodman has few lines in voiceover for a big ugly beast.

The 3D effects are helpful to bring more life to the great production design, but it gets wasted a lot during the long stretches in dark and dreary places. The story and the acting cannot come close to the efforts put into the visual aspects.

Overall, this is fine movie to see if you are a big Luc Besson fan, especially if you liked “The Fifth Element”. If you like a good well-visualized alien world, then go see this.  It is a fun little summer popcorn flick, but don’t work your brain too hard by trying to make any sense out of it.

Dunkirk Movie Review

I think that with Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan, writer/director of such outstanding films as Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar, will finally get his Best Director Oscar Nomination, if not win.  He could possibly capture gold from the Academy for Best Screenplay, as well.  This is a near perfect film.  It’s hard to find a flaw in the presentation of its visuals and its sound.  To find something, one would have to be really digging for it and if you are, you’re certainly missing the entire point of this beautifully crafted piece. 

Dunkirk is meant to enlighten you as to what people will do to help one another endure when pushed to the brink of survival; even if they themselves don’t make it.  People were willing to risk their lives to be sure others survived at Dunkirk.  These people were just every day British citizens and those they were rescuing were the 400,000 British soldiers, trapped on a beach in France just over twenty miles from the shores of England.  I knew nothing of their heroism but it is well displayed here and the only way to see how and why they were so desperately needed and welcomed is at your nearest IMAX theatre; THIS I can’t stress enough.

The story centers around three different points of view of this agonizing situation; by land, by air and by sea.  Prepare yourself because shortly after the opening, the story and the accompanying music is relentless as it crescendos to a crowning finish.  You’ll be clutching your seat and biting your lip watching these poor souls do whatever it takes to live through the night.  Tom Hardy is a pilot with an eagles eye look on the entire goings on.  It was interesting seeing a war film from this perspective and, once again as he did with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, he’s able to suck you into his character with just his eyes since his face is covered with an oxygen mask the entire time.

On the land portion, you’re with the most vulnerable in the attack; the soldiers who are stuck with nowhere to go.  These men are the last chance England has of fending off the advancing attack from the Germans.  If they fall they’ll lose the war.  Had things not happened the way they did, the history books would read very differently right now.  German soldiers are moving in on the town on one side of the beach.  The British and French soldiers are dodging their bullets to get to the beach where they are hoping to get onto a ship to sail to England.  The trouble here is that the ships can’t get to them because the water is too shallow.  With no other choice but wait, they are also having bombs dropped on them from the German Air force.  They are bona fide sitting ducks.  The cast of young actors, Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles among them, do a fine job of expressing fear as well as the spirit of duty to their homeland.  You will weep when you put yourself in their place, which you can’t help but do.  In the opening scene alone it becomes hard to peg this film a Drama or an Action.  The two genres work together from there to move you and they never stop their assault.

On the sea, you meet a few of the heroes who volunteer their vessel and their time to bring the boys home.  Mark Rylance does a beautiful job of explaining to his sons, and to one soldier he rescues, why it’s important that they go to Dunkirk.  It’s their duty.  The way he said the word Dunkirk still rings in my ears… the speech was so filled with passion. 

What Christopher Nolan did so well to bring this true story to life was to, basically, keep it as simple as possible so that the important and more meaningful events stood out most.  There was no narrative or unnecessary scenes explaining who the people in the film were. 
There was no need to overwhelm you or pollute the screen with names, dialogue, back stories and plotlines that led you anywhere but on that day, on that beach, in that ocean or looking down on it all.  This also keeps you in their skin and involved in their conflict at all times, maneuvering the plane, running from the bombs and dodging the bullets. 
When you see the boats come for them, you’ll remember the tag line on the poster that says, ‘When 400,000 men couldn’t get home, home came for them’ and a shiver will run down your spine.  Just try not to cry along with Kenneth Branagh who, if you didn’t love before this, you will after. 
Enjoy the film and remember, don’t cheat yourself out of seeing this on an IMAX screen; the way it was meant to be seen.

Wish Upon Movie Review

Wish Upon was not only predictable but sophomoric in its intention and style.  There wasn’t anything about this self-professed horror movie that would come anywhere close to startling even a new fan of the genre and definitely will not be surprising or shocking your average movie watcher. 

Often, the narrative seems to lack the discipline that’s needed to stay on track and be true to the characters, instead relying on the audience to grasp and accept what is being portrayed without a complete structure set up and we’re also asked to not mind the obvious stereotypes.  Most jarring of these would be the females being nothing but jealous of one another and decidedly empty between the ears.  This is used in a somewhat comedic way but to a ridiculous extent. 

The dialogue between the main character, Clare (King), and a senior boy, Paul (Slaggert), whom she has a crush on, is possibly the biggest example of regurgitating tired plotlines to the degree that they lose what could have been unique almost from the very beginning.  

What I mean by that is the use of the wish itself could have been so much better.  Not until the very end of the film are they even used creatively. 

To back up a bit, Clare is raised by her father, Jonathan (Phillippe) after her mother’s suicide.  She hasn’t had the best of lives but she has a few best friends who stick by her side and her father loves her very much.  Jonathan stumbles upon a beautiful box and gives it to her as a gift.  The box has Chinese writing all over the outside of it and, conveniently, the high school she’s in has a Chinese language class that she happens to be taking.  The box doesn’t open but she can read the script on the outside of it that reads, ‘seven wishes.’  She soon realizes that if she makes wishes upon it… they do come true.  How?  She wishes for something to happen to her mortal enemy.  This wish is quite awful and something that, if it were to happen, would baffle all medical science.  She’s shocked to find out it does happen.  Knowing that it was impossible and had to have been her wish, she tries again to see if she now possesses the power we’d all wish to have and it once again comes true.  After using several wishes and happy that she now has almost everything she has ever wanted, she all but abandons the person she was before getting the box and, oddly, doesn’t mind when she, at last, learns about the ramifications of using the box. 

I’ll let the movie explain more about that but if she is going to get a wish, the box, or what controls it, gets something in return.  What it wants is blood.  What it gets is blood.  So, what ultimately doesn’t work here is that you could have seen the wishes coming a mile away.  In fact, you see the entire story unfold in your mind before it plays out on screen.  Not even the consequences are original which adds the humdrum and stale to what was expected to be a fun flick.  The box that gives you seven wishes and how that came about is interesting but it’s counter productive to have a provocative idea and disappoint the audience by doing nothing avant garde with it.  Wish Upon instead plays it safe and uses a formulaic thread or technique that works.  Every step it takes has been done before and I believe the filmmakers missed a real chance to have something really memorable.

I feel I must admit that the acting wasn’t much better.  Joey King is excruciatingly awkward and somewhat too childlike for the role while Ryan Phillippe needs to be checked for a pulse.  There isn’t one performance that really stands out in a positive manner. 

In its defense, I would like to say that if you don’t watch many horror films, prefer not to or aren’t supposed to watch anything bloody or gory, then this may be perfect for you.  This isn’t a bad introduction to the category and isn’t much of a fright.  I would, however, suggest you catch it at a matinee.  There are some humorous moments and it does wrap up well but fans of horror and thrillers in general… this is not for you.  

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

When the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise restarted in 2011, the focus was on how the apes got started and how humans lost control of the planet. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” focused on Caesar (Andy Serkis) who become a genetically-enhanced ape. Then in 2014, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” moved forward with a large group of very intelligent apes fighting off the remaining humans, who had been killed off by a world-wide simian flu. The next movie is “War for the Planet of the Apes” and it brings the human/ape conflict to breaking point.

In this movie, the apes are gaining much more control. But there is a breakaway Army group that has a blood-lust for killing every last ape. Caesar is still in control, and the splinter military group is led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a sadistic monkey-killing machine. The Army group invades the apes’ nesting area, and Caesar’s wife is killed. He goes to seek revenge on The Colonel with his friends Maurice (Karin Konoval) and Rocket (Terry Notary). They meet up with an orphaned human girl, and decide she can come with. They call her Nova (Amiah Miller).

On the way they meet an escaped monkey from a zoo, who calls himself ‘Bad Ape’ (Steve Zahn). Bad Ape knows that The Colonel has camped in an abandoned weapons depot. The military has captured all the apes from Caesar’s village and are holding them as prisoners. Caesar is caught also, and he meets The Colonel who explains his plans. All the apes are used as forced labor to rebuild a defensive wall around the depot to protect the soldiers. Caesar correctly guesses that the wall is not being built to keep out the apes. The Colonel is building the wall to keep out the actual military, which are after The Colonel and his extremist ideas – and his radical followers.

The tiny group of apes outside the compound finds a way to get into the compound. Soon they are breaking out all the imprisoned apes, and even Caesar is let free, but first he must confront The Colonel one last time. He regular Army attacks, and all hell breaks loose. The apes have beaten the humans, and it may not be the last time…

This movie is the exciting conclusion of the rebooted ‘Planet of the Apes’ trilogy. The story is sleek and streamlined, with many references to other movies. There is a little bit of “Apocalypse Now”, “The Great Escape” and “Stalag 17”, along with shades of the Moses story from the Bible. Even with diverse sources, the movie ties it all together with a single sang. The motion-capture work done by the actors to play the apes is incredible. Andy Serkis would be an Oscar winner if they would give them out for “Best Performance as a Different Species”.  Woody Harrelson is perfect playing a bat-crazy loon that happens to control a large cache of Army weapons. Steve Zahn does a great job being a bit of humor relief in a tense and serious movie.

The direction is direct and to-the-point, and gets you into the story with no problem. The cinematography is beautiful in the wide-open shots, and it can be frantic and driven in the battle scenes. The movie score is quite good and does not overload the action on screen. But the way the actors can make a fictional ape come alive with all the feelings and emotions, well — that is worth even a second viewing.

The original plan was to make these three movies for the ‘Planet of the Apes’ reboot project. But seeing how much better each movie has become, and how polished the story is progressing – it would not be a surprise to hear of a new effort in a short while. So if you are interested to see if the third picture is a series can be any good, then see this. There are no little yellow minions and no little cartoon cars. There is only a great story with an amazing amount of acting that is CGI-enhanced.

The Journey Movie Review

This is an incredibly fascinating film.  It’s about the past without showing too much of it visually.  Their past is that the Catholics want Northern Ireland to be independent of England and the Protestants approve of England ruling over them.  The war that has been going on has caused many deaths due to bullets flying by and bombs going off.  Even children aren’t immune to the carnage.  Times have changed and the new Prime Minister of England Tony Blair (Stephens), wants to work to end this fight once and for all.

The Journey stars Colm Meaney, as former Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader, Martin McGuinness, who plays the role of the Protestant.  Meaney has worked in the film business since 1981 and in television before and since.  He has 117 acting credits which is quite a feat.  You’ve seen him in such films as The Dead, Far and Away, The last of the Mohicans and Layer Cake among others.  The man opposite him, playing the profoundly conservative British loyalist or Catholic, Ian Paisley, is Timothy Spall.  Spall started work in the entertainment business at virtually the same time as Meaney.  He has a few more credits than Meaney has though you may recognize him most for his work as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter franchise.  He has worked in films such as The Missionary, Love’s Labour’s Lost, A Series of Unfortunate Events and did voice work in Chicken Run and Alice Through the Looking Glass to name a few. 

These two people primarily carry the entire film without dropping character once.  The Journey is a story of two strong-headed men who have been keeping a civil war going on now for almost forty years. 

When they were younger, they were called as The Troubles; now they are referred to as politicians.  It’s 2006 and time to engage in what comes to be known as the Northern Ireland peace talks.  Maybe this war for Northern Ireland can end and if so, these two men are a big part of making that happen smoothly; if it can happen at all.  Getting them in the same room together is hard enough but, ‘talking’, as well?!?  That’s a ludicrous notion but it’s worth a try.  These two could continue a war or end it with just a simple handshake.  What happens once they’re in the limo together, however, is quite riveting indeed.

All of the performances in The Journey are outstanding but these two stood out because they were such a big part of the script.  I’d guess that at least ¾ of the film is just these two talking but don’t let this scare you away.  They’re so good that the dialogue they speak, how they’re delivering it and the information they’re serving you will have you feeling as if you had just been in an entertaining lecture.  It was mastery the way the story of these two men unfolded and I’m here to be a voice for a film that I might not have noticed by just the title.  I don’t want you to miss it.  Don’t be frightened by the fact that they are alone most of the excursion.  They’re absorbing and move everything forward with skill and precision.  I’m not certain, had the roles gone to other actors that it would have turned out as good, to be honest. 

Looking at the work they’ve done in the past might give you a sense of how good they are in this and thusly how good the movie will be.  If you like history, as I do, I’ll ask you to trust me about this and be sure not to miss this well-crafted gem.  Some history buffs may not appreciate exactly how the two characters get together because they weren’t going for historical accuracy but that aside, how their relationship unfolds is of little consequence when put next to the larger picture of the ultimate prize.  I don’t want to say what happens in the end in case you don’t know but do watch the credits for pictures of the real Martin and Ian.

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Live-action Spider-Man films have been around since 2002. The first set of movies starred Toby Maguire, and then later Andrew Garfield. But what did these five movies lack? They were not created with the involvement of Marvel Studios, as part of their ‘Cinematic Universe’. These other ones also did not have Tom Holland in the role of Peter Parker. Now things are getting better and better…

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” starts with a direct nod to “The Avengers” (2012), with the aftermath of the fight over New York City against the alien race of Chitauri. The clean-up crew is led by Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), and when he is pushed out of the job by the government, he takes much of the alien technology. Eight years later, he and his crew have an underground network of alien-based weapons sold to the highest bidder. Toomes has created a flight suit and calls himself the Vulture.

Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is in high school, and with no specific back story, he is an amateur crime-fighter called Spider-Man. He is noticed by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and he joins Stark on a mission in Germany. For details on that, see “Captain America: Civil War” (2016). Stark gives Peter a Spider-Suit upgrade. It is very high-tech, but it is limited by the “Training Wheels Protocol”.  Peter keeps his secret identity hidden from his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). But by accident, his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) finds out.

Peter and Ned attend a science-based high school in New York, and they are part of the Academic Decathlon team. Also on the team are Liz (Laura Harrier) and Michelle (Zendaya). Peter attempts to live as a secret superhero while also navigating high school. Peter wants so much to be part of the Avengers. He calls and reports in daily to Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), so that Happy will report this to his boss Tony Stark. Peter decides to live a little dangerously, and he and Ned disable the “Training Wheels”.

Perter Parker as Spider-Man has a couple of run-ins with thugs that have the Toomes alien-tech weapons. He even has a run-in with Toomes (as the Vulture). He tries to get the attention of Tony Stark, and he wants to let him know that bad things are afoot. There are some pretty decent fight scenes in a New York bank, and then at the Washington Monument. Spider-Man has a number of high-tech tricks up his sleeve, even when he meets up with the Vulture on the Staten Island ferry. However, things get out of hand. Iron Man has to come to the rescue, and Peter Parker gets demoted.

But later, when he gets a date with Liz to the school Homecoming dance, he finds that the danger has only begun. Peter Parker will need his strength and his will to beat the Vulture in a final fight. Little does he know that his school life and his secret Spider-Man life are about to cross paths. The events that lead up to this are a bit of a surprise, so you can find out when you see what happens…

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a welcome change to the Spider-Man movies, and now that it folds into Marvel’s Universe, that makes it even better. The addition of Tom Holland as Peter Parker is terrific. He is much more in line with what a high school nerd kid should look like. Just because he has super Spider-Strength and Spidey-Senses, he still is awkward asking a girl out to a dance. Or even worse, learning to slow dance with his Aunt May…

All the casting is brilliant, especially Michael Keaton as the Vulture. The Toomes character does not get much in the way of development, but Keaton is great with a sarcastic line or a flinty, squinty sneer. All the high school related characters are fine, and the criminal gang of Toomes is also pretty good. Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau are again doing the roles that they do so well. Marisa Tomei does not have a lot of time in the movie, but she still makes an impression…

Overall, because there were six writers, I guess that some ideas did not have time to get fleshed out. Adrian Toomes goes from a blue-collar worker to an underground super criminal in a matter of minutes. Peter Parker’s experience with the radioactive spider is glossed over, so you can watch other movies to get into his back-story. Because Peter is a high school kid, he does not have a car, so getting around is more difficult. But he does make it to where he needs to go.

However, the overall attitude of the movie is refreshing and self-referential. It is almost like a PG-13 version of “Deadpool”. It has a humorous side, but it also gets into a father-figure situation between Peter Parker and Tony Stark. Plus there are some nice little cameo performances every once in a while: Chris Evans as ‘Steve Rogers: School Fitness Adviser’ on the school TV. Also, there is cute segment with Gwyneth Paltrow again playing Pepper Potts, helping Tony Stark announce the latest Avenger.

It’s enough to make your Spidey-Senses tingle…

The Last Face Movie Review

I’m giving this film probably more praise than most because in its heart is such a good message and the performances are marvelous.  It’s so well cast.  Some scenes, though not many, are done staggeringly well.  Theron knocks it out of the park as an international aid organization director, Dr. Wren Petersen.  She hits a home run in this role!  She’s a scene stealer more than once when she shows how vulnerable she is yet how powerful she can be when pushed.  It’s downplayed but Bardem is sexy as Dr. Miguel Leon, a relief-aid doctor who has equal heart and hormones to give.  When Wren sees this dark haired, male version of everything she has always wanted to be, she has to know him. 

Sean Penn, two-time Academy Award® winner and the director of the film, loves a cause and this certainly fits the agenda, however, some of its significance may have been lost due to confusing the narrative of humanitarians and their work with a love story that seems out of place.  Don’t fret.  By the end of the movie, it does seem to come together but one shouldn’t have to put so much work into something to keep track of what the theme is. 

It’s beautifully shot and is compelling; this story of international aid relief, but it seems to fall apart structurally.  With this director, I can’t figure out why.  Perhaps because you can’t fit a love affair into the middle of a ferocious battle of a Liberian Civil War.  Are you losing your vision?  Yes, I believe it’s possible to fall in love in any circumstance but maybe when we want to make a certain statement, stay the course rather than wander off into La-La Land. 

When it’s on topic, this movie is brutal and hellish.  Penn doesn’t pull any punches when he aims for the target.  War is savage and in this very graphic film, he wants you to see it and maybe, for once, realize this is what people are living with every single day of their lives.  It’s quite shocking to see an infant killed in front of its mother for no reason, villagers running for their lives, with bullets ripping through bodies of the people they are trying to outrun and babies die because they dare be born.  It’s also horrific to see young soldiers being brainwashed and turned into monsters who can do despicable things without a thought. 

No training prepares doctors for what they’ll see in Africa but they try to only see that they are needed and Penn wants you to see that they are always needed.  Compassion is needed.  People are starving.  People are dying.  People should be able to just be… like we can.  Well, same goes for these two lovers.  With their work keeping them apart, they want a chance to just keep this incredibly difficult relationship alive while staying alive themselves.

So, it may be almost impossible for some to keep up with the back and forth between past and present with these characters.  The, ‘are they or aren’t they?’ gets a bit old when you aren’t 100% sure of the timeline you’re in but I think it’s worth a watch.  Is it a theater watch?  No.  Wait for VOD.  It’s worth it to see if this couple is a casualty of war. 

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 is fun in that it keeps with the theme and the intent of the original… Good vs. Bad and that sort of thing but it lost one key element that is so very important to the big picture; The Minions!  DM3 centers mostly around Gru and the girls.  One could argue they all do but not to this degree.  Minions have a finger on the pulse of why adults AND the children get tickets to see these films and to a large extent, they were absent from the third installment.  They did get their own movie so maybe they were out spending lavishly and weren’t quite available, but I asked their publicist and this wasn’t the case.  They weren’t included much, outside of Mel, for unknown reasons at this point.  Illumination and Universal Pictures would have done better to have had more Minions in the film.  They’re present, just not enough and at the end of the day, that’s the big takeaway here. 

However, do not fear!  DM3 is still very good.  Gru and his new wife Lucy are fired when they are unable to stop, Balthazar Bratt, a former 80’s child star who hit puberty and was never heard from again, from stealing a very big pink diamond.  Bratt is angry he has been thrown away by Hollywood and vows revenge.  He has a good catchphrase, is a good villain and is often followed by some ‘neato’ 80’s tunes that he likes to dance fight to.  The Minions would most likely take his side in a fight.  Hmm… maybe they do?  You’ll have to see.

The movie is full of cute and, of course, villainy.  The girls, Agnes, Edith and Margo are very much a part of the story with Agnes and Margo having more focus than Edith.  She pretty much ends up being more of the Jan Brady of the Trio.  Adorable Agnes’ story centers on her finding a real unicorn and Margo has her first taste of boy troubles.  The real meat of the yarn is Gru finding out he has a twin.  There was a custody battle with his parents and his mother, who had lied to him about his father’s death, got the rotten end of the deal.  Harsh.  Poor Gru. 

This angle smells of desperation a bit but it works and, to be honest, I’m looking forward to part four.  I’m thinking they’ll have a few things ironed out, get all the Minions back on and signing new contracts and settle into what works best with films like this… the extraordinary.  Give the people what they want!  They don’t necessarily want NICE all the time.  It’s cute when a Minion is sweet but let’s see the little stinkers for who they really are used more.

Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver is frenzied; just a CrAzY wild ride!!  It was written, directed and edited with schizophrenic prowess.  In the theatre this weekend, because I know you’re going to go see this, sit back and prepare to have your body attacked by an insanely high energy film where there will be no relief for you from the intensity of the madness playing out on the screen.  Your eyes and ears will be assaulted and your body will stiffen but when you walk out of that theatre you’re going to say (I know you will) ‘I gotta see that again!’  The cinematography, stunts and the special effects are just that good. 

The title refers to Baby (Elgort) who is an extremely talented driver of the getaway vehicles he drives for Doc (Spacey).  Doc is the big crime boss of Atlanta; even has some city police in his back pocket.  Not that Baby is long in the tooth, but when he was much younger, Baby did a stupid thing and took what wasn’t his; that thing belonged to Doc.  A bit eccentric and untrusting of people, Doc never works with the same crew twice and ever since except for this exceptional driver.  Luckily for Doc, Baby is paying Doc back by driving his bank robbing crew to safety until his debt is square.  Luckily for Baby, who isn’t a ‘bad guy’ that time is coming soon.  The film starts when he only has a few jobs left.  He desperately wants free of this obligation because the crews that Doc is hiring of late are getting worse and things are getting more dangerous.

What’s so exhilarating about this flick is that we don’t go into the bank with the crew and see the heist.  We’re inside the getaway car with Baby, waiting for them to come out and get them to a particular destination where they have yet another vehicle waiting for them to calmly drive away from the getaway car in case they were seen.  When Baby has his earbuds in, we are listening to the music with him and the music makes a lot of these scenes.  It’s a well-chosen soundtrack for us to jam to when he’s driving through the gorgeous city of Atlanta; running from cops at high speeds.  Why he loves cars and why he’s into music is because when he was a child, he was in the car when his parents were killed in an accident.  He was listening to music when the car rammed into the back of a truck and ever since, he has a ringing in his ears.  Playing his music is the only thing that momentarily gives him peace from this affliction.  That is until he meets Debora (James).  She gives him hope that there can be a life for him after his criminal behavior.  Debora wants what he wants and in their shared vision of the future, driving fast isn’t in the cards.  However, with Doc in the picture, is driving slow an option?

See Baby Driver… today!!  You’ll laugh, you’ll be shocked, and you’ll jump out of your seat.  Its fast pace will get your adrenaline running and its ending will surprise you… so will the appearance of Paul Williams!  Now, I KNOW you’re intrigued and I know you’re seeing it this weekend if not today, right?  Have fun and enjoy one of the best and most unique action films to be released in a long time.

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled is a film based on a film based on a novel.  The previous film is from 1971 and starred Clint Eastwood.  I haven’t seen the original but it is definitely in my plans for summer watching after seeing writer/director Sofia Coppola’s take on Thomas P. Cullinan’s written work.  Before getting into the film, I’d like to mention that I’m glad it was made.  Not only am I happy to re-enter the world of 70’s classics but this is another film that solidifies the reemergence of three of its stars careers, not to mention the director’s, as well.  The Beguiled earned Coppola some praise from Cannes this year which means more films from her for me to watch; pretty well always a good thing.  I had all but given up on Kirsten Dunst.  She has worked throughout the years, but she needed a film to introduce her as a grown up and this seems to be that film.  Nicole Kidman is always good but I want more of her.  She has this innate ability to weave in and out of characters and makes them completely believable; she’s flawless.  I applaud her work and with Lion and this, I believe she should be considered the new Streep.  Work more, woman!  Colin Farrell hasn’t been in much either but he seems to be choosing parts very selectively, of late.  His roles seem to be more developed.  With The Lobster, the best work he’s done in my opinion, and this, I think we’ll see him continue to play in the arena with the big boys. 

Now that I’ve let you know you won’t be disappointed in the cast, let me tell you a bit more about the film itself.  The Beguiled is set during the Civil War.  It’s the story of a Union soldier in the south, John McBurney (Farrell), who after being wounded badly in the leg, is found by a kind little girl who gets him help.  She takes him to her all-female boarding school.  The school is being run by two women, headmistress Martha Farnsworth (Kidman) and a teacher by the name of Edwina Dabney (Dunst).  They’re not too excited about a wicked man from the north being in their school but they are women of God and decide the Christian thing to do is to help him.  Luckily Martha is good with a sewing needle.

The ages of the girls in the school range from around 10 to late teens, Alicia, (Fanning) being the oldest.  The girls aren’t around men and are all aflutter when one so good looking is in their midst.  Some aren’t happy that he’s a yank and want to hand him over to the soldiers on their side but still are smitten.  This is incredibly delightful to watch play out.  I was ecstatic that the film was directed by a woman because Coppola really plays to her female audience with the way the girls fawn over him.  As he’s on the mend, each parades into his room to entertain him in every way they can think of.  They pay more attention to their wardrobes, too, as they fall in love with their charge.  It’s obvious to John, Martha and Edwina that the girls are batting their eyes quite a bit.  While watching some of these scenes, you’re propelled back to a time when you felt the flush of love in your young cheeks.  It’s adorable.  Martha and Edwina have also noticed his lovely face, very friendly character and that he’s in terrific shape; makeup and jewelry become the order of the day.

John is aware that the women are in need of company and begins to take advantage of that fact.  They entertain him in many ways as he plays to their affections.  Sexual tension builds which brings out the comedic aspect of the film but also many dark elements as it, in many ways, gets to the heart of humankind.  This being the case, you have a very well paced, well written, incredibly well-acted film that Coppola may consider her best to date.  Each girl is very accomplished for her age, plays to her strength and is genuine in her role, particularly Rice whom I believe is the best find since her co-star Fanning.

This is a see this weekend.  Take a wee small break from the summer actions or you’ll never forgive yourself.  This movie deserves your attention.  Okay, could the movie have ended better?  Yes.  It was so good but the ending does have some degree of disappointment, however, it’s quality work from awe-inspiring talent and you will not walk away unsatisfied. 
*Limited release in NY and LA today; nationaly release on June 30th!