Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with news anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” the devilish doll Chuck in “Child’s Play,” the tuneful coming-of-age story “Wild Rose” and the high-fashion assassin of “Anna.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including two very different movies starring toys–“Toy Story 4” and “Child’s Play”–the coming-of-age story “Wild Rose” and the runway assassin film “Anna” with CFRA Morning Rush guest host Matt Harris.
In a summer packed with sequels comes a movie that isn’t a sequel but feels like one. “Anna,” the new action-adventure from writer-director Luc Besson, is a new story but breathes the same air as fist-in-the-air Luc Besson thrillers like “La Femme Nikita” and “Lucy.”
Here’s the barest of outlines. Anna (Sasha Luss) is a former prostitute saved from a life on the streets when she’s recruited by the KGB. Her handler Alex Tchenkov (Luke Evans) admires her calm under pressure, smarts and the way she uses her anger. She’s also, he says, “a blank key that can open many doors.“ In other words she’s a beautiful unknown who is not in the radar of their enemies.
She signs on, becomes a killing machine and, in one elaborate mission, is scouted as a high fashion model by a prestigious Paris agency. Cue the modelling, mayhem and murder. When a job goes wrong she finds herself caught between the KGB and the CIA. Working one against the other she attempts to get the one thing she’s never had, freedom. “Is this my life,” she wonders aloud, “waiting to take a bullet between my eyes?”
“Anna” plays with time. The presentation of the story can’t rightly be called a broken timeline as much as a shattered, twisted and torn timeline. Besson loves his “Five Years Earlier,” “Six Months Later” and “Three Years Earlier” title cards to the point of distraction. H. G. Wells didn’t tinker with time as much as Besson does here. “Memento” seems linear by comparison. What is meant to be a playful storytelling device bogs the movie down to point of narrative puzzlement.
Besson, who was accused of sexual misconduct in 2018 (BTW he “categorically denies these fantasist accusations.”), has clearly tried (and failed) to address the #metoo movement in “Anna.” Anna gets violent with a fashion photographer who bears a striking resemblance to Terry Richardson and one of her KGB handlers tells her, “Never put your faith in men Anna. Put faith in yourself.” It would even likely the pass the Bechdel Test—does a film feature at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man?—but despite cursory acknowledgements it still manages to wring the misogyny out of what should have been a female empowerment tale.
Besson has a habit of making films about female assassins—see “La Femme Nikita,” “The Professional and “Lucy”—but “Anna” suggests he has nothing left to say on the topic.
CHIPs: It’s a remake, a comedy and an action film and yet it doesn’t quite measure up to any of those descriptors. It’s a remake in the sense that writer-director-star Dax Shepard has lifted the title, character names and general situation from the classic TV show but they are simply pegs to hang his crude jokes on.
The Circle: While it is a pleasure to see Bill Paxton in his last big screen performance, “The Circle” often feels like an Exposition-A-Thon, a message in search of a story.
The Fate of the Furious: Preposterous is not a word most filmmakers would like to have applied to their work but in the case of the “Fast and Furious” franchise I think it is what they are going for. Somewhere along the way the down-‘n’-dirty car chase flicks veered from sublimely silly to simply silly. “The Fate of the Furious” is fast, furious but it’s not much fun. It’s an unholy mash-up of James Bond and the Marvel Universe, a movie bogged down by outrageous stunts and too many characters. Someone really should tell Vin Diesel and Company that more is not always more.
Fifty Shades Darker: Depending on your point of view “Fifty Shades of Grey” either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. It’s a softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) that spanked the competition on its opening weekend in 2015. Question is, will audiences still care about Grey’s proclivities and Ana’s misgivings or is it time to use our collective safeword? “Fifty Shades Darker” is a cold shower of a movie. “It’s all wrong,” Ana says at one point. “All of this is wrong.” Truer words have never been spoken.
The Mountain Between Us: Mountain survival movies usually end up with someone eating someone else to stay alive. “The Mountain Between Us” features the usual mountain survival tropes—there’s a plane crash, a showdown with a cougar and broken bones—but luckily for fans of stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet cannibalism is not on the menu. Days pass and then weeks pass and soon they begin their trek to safety. “Where are we going?” she asks. “We’re alive,” he says. “That’s where were going.” There will be no spoilers here but I will say the crash and story of survival changes them in ways that couldn’t imagine… but ways the audience will see coming 100 miles away. It’s all a bit silly—three weeks in and unwashed they still are a fetching couple—but at least there’s no cannibalism and no, they don’t eat the dog.
The Mummy: As a horror film it’s a meh action film. As an action film it’s little more than a formulaic excuse to trot out some brand names in the kind of film Hollywood mistakenly thinks is a crowd pleaser.
The Shack: Bad things in life may be God’s will but I lay the blame for this bad movie directly on the shoulders of director Stuart Hazeldine who infuses this story with all the depth and insight of a “Davey and Goliath” cartoon.
The Snowman: We’ve seen this Nordic Noir before and better. Mix a curious lack of Oslo accents—the real mystery here is why these Norwegians speak as though they just graduated RADA—Val Kilmer in a Razzie worthy performance and you’re left with a movie that left me as cold as the snowman‘s grin.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: 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.
Wonder Wheel: At the beginning of the film Mickey (Justin Timberlake) warns us that what we are about to see will be filtered through his playwright’s point of view. Keeping that promise, writer, director Woody Allen uses every amount of artifice at his disposal—including cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s admittedly sumptuous photography—to create a film that is not only unreal but also unpleasant. “Oh God,” Ginny (Kate Winslet) cries out at one point. “Spare me the bad drama.” Amen to that.
Song to Song: I think it’s time Terrence Malick and I called it quits. I used to look forward to his infrequent visits. Sure, sometimes he was a little obtuse and over stayed his welcome, but more often than not he was alluringly enigmatic. Then he started coming around more often and, well, maybe the old saying about familiarity breeding contempt is true. In “Song to Song” there’s a quick shot of a tattoo that sums up my feelings toward my relationship with Malick. Written in flowery script, the words “Empty Promises” fill the screen, reminding us of the promise of the director’s early work and amplifying the disappointment we feel today. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, the Terrence Malick movie that put me off Terrence Malick movies. I’ll be nice though and say, it’s not him, it’s me.
EXTRA! EXTRRA! MOST COUNFOUNDING
mother!: Your interest in seeing “mother!,” the psychological thriller from “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky, may be judged on your keenness to watch American sweetheart Jenifer Lawrence flush a beating heart down a toilet. Aronofsky’s story of uninvited guests disrupting the serene lives of a poet and his wife refuses to cater to audience expectations. “mother!” is an uncomfortable watch, an off-kilter experience that revels in its own madness. As the weight of the weirdness and religious symbolism begins to feel crushing, you may wonder what the hell is going on. Are these people guilty of being the worst houseguests ever or is there something bigger, something biblical going on?
Aronofsky is generous with the biblical allusions—the house is a paradise, the stranger’s sons are clearly echoes of Cain and Abel, and there is a long sequence that can only be described as the Home-style Revelation—and builds toward a crescendo of wild action that has to be seen to be believed, but his characters are ciphers. Charismatic and appealing to a member, they feel like puppets in the director’s apocalyptic roadshow rather than characters we care about. Visually and thematically he doesn’t push button so much as he pokes the audience daring them to take the trip with him, it’s just too bad we didn’t have better company for the journey.
“mother!” is a deliberately opaque movie. Like looking into a self-reflective mirror you will take away whatever you put into it. The only thing sure about it is that it is most confounding studio movie of the year.
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.”
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.