A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Dunkirk,” the year;’s first serious Oscar Best Picture contender, Luc Besson’s retina frying “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and David Lowery’s eerie love story, “A Ghost Story.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies including “Dunkirk,” the year;’s first serious Oscar Best Picture contender, Luc Besson’s retina frying “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and David Lowery’s eerie love story, “A Ghost Story.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies including Christopher Nolan’s true-life war film “Dunkirk,” Luc Besson’s eye scorching “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and David Lowery’s eerie love story, “A Ghost Story.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Morning Show with host Bill Carroll to talk about the weekend’s big releases including including Christopher Nolan’s war epic “Dunkirk,” Luc Besson’s ridiculous space opera “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and David Lowery’s eerie love story, “A Ghost Story.”
To some director/writer/producer Luc Besson is the French equivalent of Steven Spielberg, a big-budget filmmaker with populist appeal. To others he’s a retina-frying, turbo charged fantasist whose films are empty calories for the eyes.
Movies like the high gloss crime thriller La Femme Nikita, the assassin mentor flick Léon: The Professional and outré sci fi opera The Fifth Element have come to define his outrageous style. Kinetic blasts of energy, his films make eyeballs dance even if they don’t always engage the brain.
His work divides critics. The Fifth Element, and its huge, Earth-destroying ball of molten lava, was simultaneously called “an exhilarating, visual feast” and “boring and idiotic.” One critic called Léon: The Professional, “a wonderful character study,” while another said, “The Professional is strictly amateur-hour.” Different strokes for different folks.
His latest, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is similarly polarizing. According to whom you listen to it’s either as “if someone projected an entire decade’s worth of sci-fi space epics on the same screen, at the same time” or “one of the best films of the year.” Based on a French comic book series and starring Dane DeHaan and Carla Delevingne, the story of special operatives Valerian and Laureline and their quest to save the universe is another wild, idiosyncratic ride from the director.
His movies may divide critics but there is no question his more-is-more style of filmmaking appeals to audiences. His Taken trilogy (he wrote and produced the Liam Neeson thrillers) has grossed near $1 billion worldwide and his Le Grand Bleu, a tale of love and friendship set against a backdrop of professional free diving, was so popular in France the International Herald Tribune called it a “film générationnel,” a defining moment in the culture.
More recently Lucy, a philosophical action movie starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman whose mind expands to ten times the usual capacity, grossed ten times its $40 million budget. It’s pure Besson. Imagine a mix of Limitless, La Femme Nikita, The Matrix and a Philosophy 101 textbook with half the pages torn out and you’ll get an idea of the film’s loopy feel.
Besson is a maestro at high-octane action but falls down somewhat in others genres. A rare comedy, The Family, is a basic fish out of water story with a gangland twist, starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer as a crime family in witness protection trying to fit in. Trouble is, they don’t blend. Besson is heavy handed with the paint-by-numbers story, the humour and the violence. It’s a movie without a genre, neither funny enough to be a comedy or interesting enough to satisfy as thriller.
Despite that movie hitting the box office with a thud, Besson seems to have the Midas Touch with audiences although he claims not to care much about money. He says people request sequels for two of his most popular turns behind the camera, The Fifth Element and Léon: The Professional. “If I was motivated by money I would have done it a long time ago,” he says. “But I don’t feel it.”
Instead, he’d like you to go see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets at least twice. “I’m sorry, you can’t watch the film once. It’s impossible,” he said at a recent press day. ”You have to go twice.”
Movies like the high gloss crime thriller “La Femme Nikita,” the assassin mentor flick “Léon: The Professional” and outré sci fi opera “The Fifth Element” have come to define director Luc Besson’s outrageous style. Kinetic blasts of energy, his films are turbo charged fantasies that make eyeballs dance even if they don’t always engage the brain. His latest, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” not only has one of the longest titles of the year but is also one of the most over-the-top, retina-frying movies of the year. Your eyes will beg for mercy.
Based on the French comic book “Valérian and Laureline,” a series that ignited the young Besson’s imagination, it stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as 28th century dimension-jumping space police and lovers Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline. When they aren’t cooing over one another the duo preserve law and order in the universe’s human territories.
Their biggest mission ever comes when the Minister of Defense (jazz star Herbie Hancock) dispatches them to save Alpha, an ever-growing space station nicknamed, “the City of a Thousand Planets.” Led by Commander Arün Filitt (Clive Owen) it is one of the most diverse places in the universe, a peaceful melting pot, home to 30 million inhabitants and thousands of species, who live in harmony, content to share culture and knowledge. Trouble is, sinister forces are afoot.
There’s more, like the Besson-ian touch of a wild red light district called Paradise Alley, an exploding planet, a shape-shifting burlesque performer played by Rihanna and a creature that that poops pearls, but the draw here are the eyeball-spinning visuals, not the story.
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is undeniably great looking, but Besson is a stylist above all, but it feels as though it is composed of influences from dozens of other better movies. It’s less than the sum of its parts. “Avatar” + “Tron” + “Dune” + “Star Wars” = “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.”
There are characters who look so much like the Na’vi you’ll think James Cameron delivered his long promised “Avatar” sequel years early, plus ectoplasm shooting guns, Lucas look-a-like creatures and Jessica Rabbit even makes an appearance. Laureline also drops one of the most famous space opera lines ever, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” without a trace of irony. Cowabunga! The movie brings with it a disconcerting feeling of déjà vu, made doubly strange because you’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
It’s all spectacle and the leads get lost somewhere between the art direction and the artless storytelling. DeHaan plays Valerian as a Han Solo type, cocky and quick with a line but his laid-back, off kilter demeanour—so appealing in films like “The Place Beyond the Pines” and “Life”—gets lost amid the noise.
Delevingne, the Meryl Streep of eye roll acting, delivers a speech about love being more powerful than any army that is destined to become a YouTube camp classic. A psychic jellyfish sequence recalls one of Delevingne’s high fashion modelling jobs come to life, is beautiful but deeply odd.
Both leads look like they reek of Redbull and herbal cigarettes and provide the film’s most interesting juxtaposition between the flamboyant art design and their blasé performances.
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” has some trippy space-time continuum stuff but otherwise it’s jammed with the hoariest of clichés, like a ticking clock counting down to doom and an ending right out of “Colombo” complete with flashbacks. There is a sense of fun about some of the creatures—and a wild allusion to eating live monkey brains—but oddly the movie isn’t much fun.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to discuss the weekend’s big movies including Christopher Nolan’s war epic “Dunkirk,” Luc Besson’s ridiculous space opera “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” and David Lowery’s eerie love story, “A Ghost Story.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Logan,” the latest (and greatest) Wolverine flick, the time travel teen angst movie “Before I Fall,” the animated “Ballerina,” the quirky “Table 19” with Anna Kendrick and the controversial Christian movie “The Shack.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Morning Show with host Bill Carroll to talk about the weekend’s big releases, “Logan,” the latest (and greatest) Wolverine flick, the time travel teen angst movie “Before I Fall,” the by-the-numbers animated film “Ballerina” and the quirky “Table 19” with Anna Kendrick.