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VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Writer & Director / Luc Besson (LUCY, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, LÉON: THE PROFESSIONAL)
Stars/ Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Sam Spruell, Ethan Hawke and Rihanna

Costing as much as €197.47 million (U.S $210 million) to produce, most of which was personally funded by director Luc Besson, VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is easily the most expensive film ever to be made in France.

Based on the French Science-Fiction Comic Book Series “Valerian and Laureline” written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières, the plot for VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS is loosely based on the sixth album in the series.

It is the 28th century in Alpha, a space station where millions of species, including humans, from a thousand planets all peacefully coexist. Special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), who belong to the human division, are assigned a new task by Commander Filitt (Clive Owen), who has identified a dangerous and dark presence within the space station. Valerian and Laureline must travel to this section of the station and stop the unknown force from spreading before it threatens to cause harm to Alpha’s entire population.

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Truth be told, VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS isn’t at all difficult to like.

Its intentionally broadly accessible plot and structure will understandably be labelled as unoriginal. And sure, this aspect of the film is surprise-free. Visually however, there can be no arguing that Besson’s film is attention-diverting at the least and unique at its best. How could it not be? In total, there are 2,734 special effects shots and 200 alien species! Luc Besson was inspired by what was achieved by James Cameron in AVATAR. Although this science-fiction action-adventure movie is never really magical to witness as Cameron’s epic film was for many, there are other means to credible entertainment constantly on offer. Take the film’s temperament for instance, which is often light-hearted and incorporates a sufficient supply of sometimes lame, albeit funnier moments. Legendary music composer Alexandre Desplat’s score for the film is customarily brilliant and DeHaan & Delevingne, who share solid chemistry, work surprisingly well together.

This entry-level sci-fi/fantasy flick finds the right balance for a varied audience. The straightforward storytelling and mainstream characterisation won’t make any newcomers to the genre feel too out of this world. As for genre aficionados, although these aspects of the movie certainly won’t blow them out of this world, the more specific details and the cosmic aura of the film is likely to compensate for any lack of imagination in storytelling that is detected.

3 stars

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Viewer Discretion/ M (Science-fiction violence) 

Trailer / VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Moviedoc thanks entertainment One for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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ATOMIC BLONDE

Director / David Leitch (Feature film debut)
Stars/ Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Toby Jones, John Goodman, Eddie Marsan and Sofia Boutella

In preparation for her newest role, ATOMIC BLONDE star Charlize Theron not only worked with eight personal trainers but also trained with Keanu Reeves as he prepared for his action movie, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2. In fact, there is a lot of JOHN WICK in ATOMIC BLONDE, including the feature debut of uncredited JOHN WICK co-director David Leitch.

Based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart, Charlize Theron stars as undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, who is sent to Berlin in the late 80’s during the fall of the wall. There, she is tasked with two key assignments by her boss, Eric Gray (Toby Jones). She must investigate the murder of a fellow MI6 agent, whom she was close to, and recover a list containing the names of several double agents, which was in the possession of her colleague.


A couple of possessions that are no secret in this spy movie is its very stylish visual design and dynamic music score. These post-production cosmetic enhancements certainly give the film a facelift, though ATOMIC BLONDE can’t always keep up with the coolness constantly being exuded by the one and only Charlize Theron. 

In much the same scintillating high level of form here as she was in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, Charlize is reason enough to buy your ticket for admission to ATOMIC BLONDE. Atmospherically, this is a spy action movie that is easily absorbed. The glitzy and glamourous use of fluoro colour, its heavily used soundtrack and a sharp and slightly darkened sense of humour is undeniably fun to watch. From this arc, it’s a little bit like last year’s SUICIDE SQUAD. Though let me tell you, unlike that film, ATOMIC BLONDE does not hold back on the violence. Or the sexier stuff either! Fortunately, and again much like the JOHN WICK movies, ATOMIC BLONDE showcases a number of impressively choreographed fight sequences and action stunts, all of which are led from the front by an extremely hard-working Charlize Theron. I know, I just won’t shut up about her! Unfortunately, where ATOMIC BLONDE does let its guard down to an extent that is felt, is in its pacing and narrative department. It’s during these times that the reliance on its most notable features are just too heavy. 

Don’t be surprised if in five to ten years from now, John Wick and Lorraine Broughton appear in the same film, or film universe at least! If this and Wick’s last chapter are anything to go by, that might not be such a bad idea at all!

3 stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ Restricted (Strong violence, coarse language and sex scene) 

Trailer / ATOMIC BLONDE

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

Director / Michael Bay (Every TRANSFORMERS feature film on the planet and THE ISLAND)
Stars/ Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Isabela Moner and the voices of Peter Cullen, Gemma Chan, Erik Aadahl and Frank Welker

As TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT begins, you can be forgiven for thinking that you’ve entered the wrong cinema. Set thousands of years ago and featuring mythical characters who usually reside in completely separate movies, it becomes evident from early that we are being treated (or burdened, pending your feelings) to a double feature for the price of one, over the next two and a half hours.

This fifth film in the franchise is set to be the final TRANSFORMERS film for series director Michael Bay. But it is far from being the final TRANSFORMERS film! In fact, rumour has it that this franchise will be getting inducted into its own cinematic universe! So while there is clearly an endless supply of CGI and budget ($260 million alone for this instalment, making it the most expensive film of the series so far!) allocated to TRANSFORMERS, it looks set to stomp into a new direction, as indicated by THE LAST KNIGHT. To back that statement up, there are no writers from previous TRANSFORMERS films contributing to the screenplay or the story conjured up in this fifth chapter.

Finally, to the plot. And yes, there indeed is one! In fact, there are many! It goes something like this – Transformers are no longer living among us. Optimus Prime (still voiced by Peter Cullen) has returned home to Cybertron, which has been destroyed and is in need of repair. If he can obtain a certain artefact from Earth (also known as Unicron) and bring it to Cybertron, then he will save his planet and further empower its leader, Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan). If successful, humans and Earth will be destroyed. To save our world will require the combined efforts of a few familiar faces including Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), an inventor, and William Lennox (Duhamel), who now works for the newly assembled TRF (Transformers Reaction Force). They will eventually meet and partner with new additions to the franchise, which include astronomer and historian Sir Edmund Burton (Hopkins), a 14 year-old orphaned girl, Izabella (Moner) and an English professor, Viviane Wembly (Laura Haddock who you know as Meredith Quill from the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY films).


A decade has already elapsed since TRANSFORMERS first premiered on the big screen. Since then, the next three films in the franchise – REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, DARK OF THE MOON and AGE OF EX-STINKS-ION (see what I did there!) – have been just okay, at best. For its truest fans, TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT could very well be the most divisive movie of the lot. It is also marginally better than the three films before it!

But first, in order to grasp such feelings towards THE LAST KNIGHT, audiences must surrender to the unapologetic ridiculousness of it all. Should you understandably choose to be resistant to its ridiculousness, you will struggle to enjoy a single minute of the next 149 ahead of you. One counteractive mechanism employed by the script in order to quash any upheld resistance are its regular humourous interjections. Though less of a majority of them will actually strike a chuckle, they do continually remind us that above all else, THE LAST KNIGHT is never trying to be anything beyond purely lame fun. If the going is better than expected for you, there’s a strong chance that the utterly incredulous plotting has something to do with that. Unlike the very recent release THE MUMMYTRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT doesn’t take itself seriously at all, nor does it over-complicate its several plot strands. Furthermore, considering its lengthiness, which doesn’t really hit until the two hour mark has arrived, the individual plot trajectories keep the film moving at a reasonable pace. Even the action sequences feel a little less repetitive than what we’ve seen previously from this franchise and contribute slightly towards the mediocre entertainment on offer.

Admittedly, some things never change. TRANSFORMERS is still overlong and self-indulgent. Probably more so in THE LAST KNIGHT than ever before – The hyper-extended last half hour being the epitome of just that and having you wish that Michael Bay would get it over with already. But much to my surprise, there is more amusement and mild entertainment made available than expected.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (action violence and coarse language)

Trailer / TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film..

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DESPICABLE ME 3

Directors/ Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin, Eric Guillon
Starring the voices of/ Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Jenny Slate, Julie Andrews, Steve Coogan, Trey Parker, Russell Brand, Pierre Coffin and Miranda Cosgrove

The most recent get-together with everyone’s favourite DESPICABLE ME characters, the minions, didn’t quite manage to get the best out of the little yellow henchmen in their very first feature film. As expected, the novelty of MINIONS placing the minions in a starring role quickly wore off. They get another shot at it in 2020. Until then, they return to their original support role in the third DESPICABLE ME movie.

In DESPICABLE ME 3, Gru (Steve Carell) learns that he has a twin brother whom he never knew existed, named Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell). After finding, then meeting Dru for the very first time, the twin siblings catch up with all they’ve missed out on over the years. When Dru reveals a plan to steal a diamond in the possession of Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former child star who resents Hollywood for axing his show, it tempts Gru into returning to past ways.


Take one look at the choice of films currently being screened at cinemas that rely on mainstream movies, and you’ll quickly notice an abundance of sequels, remakes and films based on or spinning off previous works in dominant force. Although this third addition to the animated comedy series doesn’t offer an ounce of originality, it does just enough to keep the attention of younger ones mildly diverted.

Throughout the consistently paced central plot involving Gru and Dru, there are the usual cutaways that give the minions valuable screen time to give the movie a burst of energy and a good laugh when needed. They get up to their usual antics in DESPICABLE ME 3, which features a number of scenarios that will bring moments of joy to adults and kids alike. Perhaps the favourite of them all will be the time that the minions accidentally find themselves standing centre stage on the set of a reality TV program. We can be thankful that the minions find good form again in DESPICABLE ME 3, for the main plot of this movie lacks the creativeness in writing needed. Separately, an annoying feature that may only be noticed by select members of the audience is the needlessly over-the-top animation and vocal work attributed to some of its characters.

DESPICABLE ME 3 isn’t as good as the two previous films, yet is an improvement on MINIONS and should provide a reasonable level of entertainment to families who remain devoted fans of the DESPICABLE ME franchise.

2 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ PG (mild themes and animated violence)

Trailer / DESPICABLE ME 3

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film..

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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THE MUMMY

Director / Alex Kurtzman (PEOPLE LIKE US)
Stars/ Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe and Jake Johnson

Universal Pictures commence their Dark Universe film series, which will revive its monster characters over past years, with this third remake of THE MUMMY. The very first cinematic production of THE MUMMY in 1932 received both positive reviews and success at the box office. Although gathering mixed reviews, the 1999 remake starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz grossed over $400 million worldwide off an $80 million budget. Back then, it was a lot of fun to watch. Despite already earning back what it cost to produce, this $125 million re-telling of THE MUMMY starring Tom Cruise is easily the worst of them all.

An unnecessarily, overly convoluted plot begins with an ancient Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who is discovered in present day Iraq by a soldier, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), and his partner, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), after being buried alive thousands of years ago. Soon after the discovery, archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Willis) and Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) join forces and must try to stop Ahmanet from carrying out her evil plans.


At best, THE MUMMY should have been (almost) two hours of entertaining escapism. At its worst, that escapism you’re seeking is the exit sign in the cinema. So bad is this shoddy remake, it may even trigger the hierarchy of Scientology to revisit Cruise’s association to them! Although the lacklustre performance from Tom Cruise is the most annoying he’s been since that infamous couch jump on Oprah, THE MUMMY has several head-scratching outcomes to blame for the mess that it is. 

If there is just one lesson to be learned from 2017’s THE MUMMY, it’s that more isn’t always merrier. Split between writing the screenplay and the story, there are a total of six writers that have worked on this fantasy/action movie. Experienced hands that have penned the script for a number of very good movies that include WAR OF THE WORLDS, EDGE OF TOMORROW and DOCTOR STRANGE. One of those writers happens to be the director of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION and the first JACK REACHER film too. Even director Alex Kurtzman, whose name you may know from the STAR TREK and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS writing departments, has partly written THE MUMMY. Their combined efforts has executed a script filled with many absurdities, has minimum sense of adventure, just one action sequence (set on a plane) that is worth remembering and is barely about its titular character. Contributing to the carnage is Kurtzman’s continuous misjudgement of the use of several flashbacks and visions had by Cruise’s character. In particular, the attempts to inject out-of-place humour involving Jake Johnson’s character pull up every centimetre as short as Johnson’s co-star.

An unacceptable first instalment to a rather forced movie universe that seemingly exists purely in order to rival Marvel. KONG: SKULL ISLAND, all is now forgiven.

1 star

Viewer Discretion/ M (supernatural themes, violence and sustained threat)

Trailer / THE MUMMY

Moviedoc thanks Universal Pictures for the invite to the screening of this film..

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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WONDER WOMAN

Director / Patty Jenkins (MONSTER)
Stars/ Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis and Robin Wright

The newest superhero to join the cinematic universe is unveiled in this fourth instalment of the DC extended universe. WONDER WOMAN, which is the first female-dominant superhero film since 2005’s ELEKTRA, has been in development for over 20 years. In that time, plenty of names have been attached to direct, including Ivan Reitman and Joss Whedon. After accepting the offer in 2015, Patty Jenkins is the first woman to direct a superhero film with a female protagonist.

An origin story for Wonder Woman, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, who stars in several films belonging to the FAST & FURIOUS chain) is an Amazon princess living on an island paradise, which is inhabited by female warriors. A trained and highly-skilled fighter, Diana learns of World War I when a pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crashes his helicopter nearby. Enraged by the destruction that is occurring on the planet, Diana leaves her idyllic abode to use her superpowers and bring peace to the people, fulfilling her destiny to become Wonder Woman.


Like most origin stories, WONDER WOMAN travels right back to Diana’s upbringing and childhood years. During the opening act, we learn of the influence that her Aunty (Robin Wright) and protective mother (Connie Nielsen) have on her as a child. The script moves along quite swiftly during these earlier sequences, which also explains how their island nation came to existence. The introduction of Chris Pine’s character brings with it a more light-hearted approach and adds plenty of playful humour to the mix, a welcomed facet that remains intact as Diana acquaints with Steve’s secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), in war-ravaged London. As it continues, the plot gains some extra muscle as Steve resumes his mission and by more heavily involving the films antagonists. 

Everything happens mostly as expected in WONDER WOMAN. The closer it gets to arriving at that 141 minute duration, the further away it is from its best work. The final hour, which goes heavy on the special effects, does contain some well-choreographed stunts, but shifts gears into auto-pilot action mode and overdoes it as a result. Partly written by BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and MAN OF STEEL director Zack Snyder (who is set to direct the upcoming films JUSTICE LEAGUE PART 1 & 2), the script can’t camouflage its formulaic structure or its clichés as strongly during this latter stage of the film. However, just as expected, the constant presence of an iconic and strong female cast in a role normally occupied by the opposite gender is always refreshing to watch, sweeping aside anything and anyone who dares to stand in her way.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (mature themes and action violence)

Trailer / WONDER WOMAN

Moviedoc thanks Roadshow Films for the invite to the screening of this film..

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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BAYWATCH

Director / Seth Gordon (IDENTITY THIEF, HORRIBLE BOSSES, THE KING OF KONG)
Stars/ Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Jon Bass, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach and Priyanka Chopra

My expectations of BAYWATCH were extremely grounded before entering the cinema – just hope that the next two hours would provide some silly, lame but fun and guilty-pleasure viewing. The opening act of BAYWATCH plays out just this way and reassures everyone that it isn’t meant to be taken seriously at all. Until it all becomes seriously bad!

The 1989-2001 TV Series that BAYWATCH is of course taken from became one of the most watched television shows in the world, after initially being cancelled at the end of its first season. Playfully making fun of and grossly exaggerating cases from the original series, BAYWATCH stars Dwayne Johnson and Kelly Rohrbach as Mitch Buchannon and CJ Parker, characters who were first made famous by series stars David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. The plot in this cinematic adaptation sees Mitch face off against a hot new recruit, Matt Brody (Zac Efron), a medal-winning Olympic swimmer who joins the team of passionate lifeguards. When evidence of a local crime washes up on the bay they patrol, Mitch and Matt are forced to combine efforts as they work to solve the crime, struggling to put aside their competitiveness and egos in the process.

 


No one, not even the charismatic Dwayne Johnson, can save BAYWATCH from drowning in its own dump. Once the terribly lacklustre plot begins to surf a wave of thoughtlessly written dialogue and overplayed scenarios, the film finds itself caught in a strong current of worthlessness that it just cannot swim out of.

The basis of the storyline penned for BAYWATCH is really the beginning of its demise. It is so thinly written, basic and lazily conceived that it never stood a chance to hold up for (almost) two hours. As a result, several scenes that exemplify the awkward and over-the-top flirtations shared by our lifeguards and a witless battle staged between macho man and pretty boy is what dominates far more screen time than acceptable. These scenarios do provide some mild laughter to begin with, but lose their mojo very quickly. What may have been a funny idea on paper turns out to be as fun to watch as swimming at a beach that is filled with seaweed! As BAYWATCH continues its decline, the poor quality starts to surface in front of the lens too. Dwayne Johnson (probably the best asset of this movie) and Alexandra Daddario (who barely looks interested) did previously work together in SAN ANDREAS and fare much better in that film than they do here. This is not only a poor choice from Zac Efron, who is building a pretty unconvincing resume, but is perhaps the poorest form we’ve seen from him. Though he is not as inept and ineffective as Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, as the films villain. And finally, two insensitive and unforgivable jokes – one aimed at Stephen Hawking and the other at our very own Steve Irwin, place BAYWATCH beyond resuscitation.

Fans of the series may find a little more joy to come than I could from the teasing nature of the film. But in very similar style to CHIPS, another film based on a TV series released earlier this year, BAYWATCH self-destructs and is one of the worst releases of 2017.

1 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ MA15+ (strong comedic nudity and coarse language)

Trailer / BAYWATCH

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures and Hoyts Cinema, Melbourne Central for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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