fantasy

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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A MONSTER CALLS

Director / J.A. Bayona (THE IMPOSSIBLE, THE ORPHANAGE)
Stars/ Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell and the voice of Liam Neeson

A monster is indeed calling, but not with the same intentions that most monsters are noted for. 

The original idea for A MONSTER CALLS began with British writer and activist Siobhan Dowd, who was sadly unable to finish her novel of the same name due to the terminal illness that claimed her life. From there, the writer of this film’s screenplay, Patrick Ness took over.

The monster that inhabits A MONSTER CALLS comes in the form of a very large and branchy motion-captured tree voiced by Liam Neeson. In a tone that is just as potent as he adopted over the phone in TAKEN, the tree monster sternly advises twelve year-old Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) that he will tell him three true stories, each with a separate meaning very relevant to Conor’s current existence. After the three stories have been told, Conor must tell a fourth, which will reveal the truth behind his greatest fear.

Featured on the 2013 Blacklist of most liked unmade scripts, A MONSTER CALLS is a beautifully rendered motion picture.

As most of you reading this will likely be aware, one of the central characters in this film is succumbing to a terminal illness. Understandably, parents may feel that a movie with such a sombre theme that also features a monster as the main character is definitely not for children. Though there should be considerations made for younger audiences heeded as suggested by its PG classification, A MONSTER CALLS is in fact a mightily accessible, involving and valuable film for most age levels. Just how this has been achieved is why this is such a great film. The writing is honest and mature, the visual work has been compellingly detailed and young Lewis MacDougall gives a gutsy lead performance, to name a few reasons.

Quite astonishingly and respectably, A MONSTER CALLS refrains from being saddening throughout. Rather, emotions are kept at bay until just when the timing is right for the inevitable emotional catharsis that awaits. However, thanks to its structure and fine execution, even these heartfelt moments of the film are therapeutic in nature. Any concerns that may be had regarding what sort of mood this wonderful film will leave at its conclusion can be erased by the role of another essential character, played by Sigourney Weaver. Although she possesses a hardened exterior, Weaver’s kind-hearted grandmother is a vital contributor towards enabling Conor to overcome those fears in his own story. 

This film is definitely worth seeing, even if that has to be once its run at cinemas is complete.

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ PG (Mild themes and violence, some scenes may scare children) 

Trailer / A MONSTER CALLS

Moviedoc thanks entertainment One for the pass provided to see and review this film.

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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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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..

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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..

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KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

Director / Guy Ritchie (SNATCH, SHERLOCK HOLMES, THE MAN FROM UNCLE)
Stars/ Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou and Aiden Gillen

What we have here in KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is an extremely plain story that bathes in a pool of CGI, applies heavy cosmetics in post-production before making its entrance onto the big screen, carrying some excess baggage with it.

Like the 2004 KING ARTHUR film starring Clive Owen, this rendition is also based on Arthurian legends, albeit loosely here. Elements of the fantasy genre are incorporated and heavily relied upon in the story of a young boy who is denied his birthright to the throne at the hands of his evil uncle. When his father is killed, Arthur flees his home and is raised by prostitutes in Londinium. As the years go by, Arthur (now played by Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam) learns street fighting and must prepare to face his uncle, Vortigen (Jude Law) in order to fulfill his legacy and return to the throne.


The release of KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD marks the first instalment of a planned six film series. A plan that is looking less likely now after its box office disaster in the US where it has grossed just $18.4 million in its opening week, from a $175 million budget. While it does have a highly impacting cinematic presence, which is as noticeable as a person operating a chainsaw inside a library, it becomes obvious from early that this film is attempting to superficially entertain its audience. Entertainment that only occasionally masquerades its very bland plot.

Guy Ritchie applies his usual flair and frenzied style to the story of King Arthur, which at times compliments but most other times confounds his film. Fantasy elements added to the Excalibur myth do give this repetitive genre another dimension, but are nonsensical in scripting and execution. The very simple story has its narrative shuffled and scrambled so much that it forces viewers to seek refuge more than they should in the visual pizzazz of the picture. Even frequent jabs at the funny bone can’t spur the laughter intended from its audience. The acting department is also a mixed result. Charlie Hunnam does an okay job as the titular character. Jude Law, in his third collaboration with Guy Ritchie, comes off best. But Spanish-born actress Astrid Bergès-Frisbey (featured in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES) in one of her very few English-speaking roles to date, falls embarrassingly short of being satisfactory and often delivers her lines in an uncomfortable and unusually robotic manner.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD might undergo a heck of a facelift, yet it remains a mess. A randomly entertaining and artificially attractive one, at least.

2 ½ stars


Viewer Discretion/ M (fantasy themes, violence and coarse language)

Trailer / KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

Moviedoc thanks Roadshow Films and Village Cinemas, Crown Casino for the invite to the screening of this film.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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GHOST IN THE SHELL

Director / Rupert Sanders (SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN)
Stars/ Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Peter Ferdinando and Pilou Asbæk

GHOST IN THE SHELL may be an original adaptation for Hollywood, but it is certainly not original material. The source material dates back to 1989 when a seinen manga (youth comic) series was first published in Japan. From that time, GHOST IN THE SHELL has produced various media adaptations starting with a feature film in 1995, followed by a PlayStation video game in 1997 and finally the TV Series in 2002. There is evidently enough popularity for this Japanese media franchise outside of its own country for Hollywood to produce its very first version, of likely several.

Set in the near future, a horrific accident has granted the films protagonist, known as The Major (Johansson), a rare opportunity to be the first of her kind. Hanka Robotics, a Japanese artificial intelligence technological company, has used cyber-enhancement works to her body in order to save her life. Still in possession of certain human components, Hanka officials recognise unlimited potential in their new specimen and place The Major in the role of a soldier to take down the deadliest criminals in the city.

“I don’t think of her as a machine. She’s a weapon.” #GhostInTheShell 03.31.17

The most reliable source of truth in assessing Hollywood’s version of GHOST IN THE SHELL will be from this franchise’s true blue aficionados. Critiquing it from the perspective of an outsider to all previous works, I left the cinema impressed by not only how visually and aurally immersive this science-fiction film is, but also by the sustainability of the storyline. 

This is a consistently entertaining and very solid film from Rupert Sanders, whose career as a director is beginning to take flight after his previous movie, the visually strong SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. Filmed in parts of China and New Zealand, it is a dazzling display of visual aura accompanied by a mostly electronic score that enriches the atmosphere. This futuristic and grim looking city of skyscrapers is artistically and vividly illuminated as though a permanent Melbourne White Night or Vivid Sydney were in force! Pleasingly and surprisingly though, these facets of the film are closely matched in competency by the accessible journey undertaken by its lead character. This equally important constituent of GHOST IN THE SHELL is able to maintain momentum courtesy of its well-judged pacing, by resisting any temptation to be overly complex and the integration of a formidable adversary to The Major (the antagonist from the second season of the TV Series).

And with the controversy of whitewashing in its casting earning more popularity than it deserves for GHOST IN THE SHELL, Scarlett Johansson helps to sweep these aside with a very sturdy lead performance. At the very least, see before you judge. 

3 ½ stars

Viewer Discretion/ M (science fiction themes, violence and stylised nudity)

Trailer / GHOST IN THE SHELL

Moviedoc thanks Paramount Pictures and Village Cinemas, Crown for the invite to this film screening.

Review by Moviedoc / “LIKE” on Facebook – Moviedoc

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