Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets – ‘Space Is MAGIC’ – Trailer

Luc Besson is nothing if not ambitious and Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets is his most ambitious feature yet, but I am concerned.

The movie, based on a French comic book written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières, is likely unfamiliar to most Americans, which is likely why the director spends quite a bit of time in the trailer telling the viewer what it is they’re going to see, and what it’s  based on.

If I were promoting the movie in the United States I’d  bypass the origins of the characters–which domestic audiences are likely unaware –and instead concentrate on two things:

  • Spectacle

Valerian appears to be visually spectacular, as if Besson took the visual esthetic of The Fifth Element and combined it with Star Wars and Avatar.  Movies are all about diversion and this is an aspect that–in promotional materials–needs to be played up (it goes without saying that he movie itself will hopefully have a story that matches the visuals) even more than it is in this trailer.

Promise a visual experience like no other.  And sure, it’s likely not to be the case –I have seen few, if any, movies to actually live up to such hype–but it doesn’t stop movies from saying it, so Valerian might as well do the same.

  • Competition

Valerian cost somewhere between $170-200 million dollars to produce and while I expect it will perform strongest in Europe (where familiarity with the source material is likely greater) I wouldn’t discount it doing well in most international markets.

How well it does domestically depends upon when it is released, and perhaps more importantly, what it is released against.   It it performs (domestically) like Universal’s The Mummy, which had Wonder Woman to content with, then it had better do as well as that movie did internationally (despite not starring an actor with the international pull of a Tom Cruise) or there might be troubles for EuropaCorp (Besson’s production company, though the movie is released domestically via STX.).

Though if Valerian has a month or so alone (and there’s no Spider-Man: Homecoming waiting in ambush) competing with smaller releases it’s likely to do just fine.

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‘The Mummy’ Likely To Die A Slow Death

Remember 2014’s Dracula Untold?  That Luke Evans starrer was originally supposed to be the first movie in Universal’s Dark Universe imprint till they did a ‘Green Lantern‘ and changed their minds.

Though based on reviews coming in for Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy reboot they might have been better served by going with their original plan.

Indiewire’s David Ehrlich calls The Mummy, “…the worse movie Tom Cruise has ever made–it stands out like a flat note on a grand piano.

Robert Abele, writing for The Wrap says that “(The Mummy)…is an out-of-the-gate stumble that doesn’t even have the sense to sport its own so-bad-it’s-fun personality. It’s the same loud, excessive strain of blockbuster that’s cursing multiplexes, barely qualifying as horror, adventure, fantasy, thriller or even Tom Cruise vehicle.

Which isn’t to imply that all reviewers disliked the new take on a classic horror character.

Jeff Grantz of Heroic Hollywood says that “Overall, I really enjoyed The Mummy.  I think that this was an excellent start to the “Dark Universe…

Mixed reviews are nothing new, though what’s problematic for The Mummy is that the negative review are extremely negative, while the positive ones appear filled with caveats; so expect The Mummy–despite the presence to A-list actors like Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe–to slowly sink beneath the desert sands.

This is a manifestation of the issue I discussed on Screenphiles, namely that Universal, with Dark Universal, is trying to make stories that are bigger, grander and more epic than they have any reason for being.

The Curse of Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios is one of the most successful movie studios today, if profitable, reasonably-budgeted movies are the metric–if you consider a $200-250 million reasonable–so much so that some within Disney were rumored to be disappointed with the earnings of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which took in $1.4 billion at the box office–so if that’s a curse, it’s probably one that rival studios wish were a pandemic.

Unfortunately for the competition, in a way it is.

The reason being, other studios have begun to mimic what they perceive is Marvel’s secret sauce, but can’t seem to get the formula quite right.

For instance, Sony was attempting to create, a la Marvel, an integrated cinematic universe featuring Spider-Man.

Things began well enough with The Amazing Spider-Man, though the weakness of the plan became evident in 2014 with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, when Sony decided to share Spider-Man with Marvel Studios.

And while I use the word ‘sharing;’ I get the feeling that Marvel Studios is running the show–especially since the the Sony Spider-Man movies are being supervised by Kevin Feige (the head of Marvel Studios) and Amy Pascal (former head of Sony Pictures).

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The Living – Review

“The Ties The Bind Are Nurtured By Blood”

Jack Bryan‘s The Living is a pretty impressive thriller that revolves around a man, Teddy (a virtually unrecognizable Fran Kranz, Cabin in The Woods) who after a night of drinking beats his wife, Molly (Jocelin Donahue).

He had no memory of it happening, but Molly’s bruised and bloody face speaks for itself.

It’s not said explicitly, but it seems that this was not the first time that he had hit his wife.  So her mother, Angela (Joelle Carter), and brother, Gordon (Kenny Wormald), are fed-up, and respond in desperate and unexpected ways, setting in motions events that move rapidly beyond their control.

What works especially well is that the biggest names are Kranz (who’s nothing like the character he plays in Woods) and Chris Mulkey, neither of whom are exactly household names.  This is a benefit because, in such a small, almost intimate story there aren’t any stars big enough to pull viewers out of the movie, would which would probably be the case if we were watching Tom Cruise or Charlize Theron, for example.

If you’re looking for a taut, well-acted thriller you could certainly do worse than The Living.

The Living is currently on Netflix, because some people will do anything for family.

Tom Cruise: Going Boldly

You know what?  I honestly think that Tom Cruise is a bit of a nut, and the feeling of well-being he often attributes to his faith are more than likely the insulating effects of money and influence.

That been said, you have to give the guy credit because most any other actor–with the possible exception of Jason Statham–would have either let the stuntman handle the dangerous stuff, or rely on CGI to get the job done.

And in some instances I am reasonably safe in saying that he does just that.  Yet, as the video shows, Cruise is hanging from the door of an airplane that’s in the process of taking off.  Now keep in mind that he’s tethered to a safety line, which will be digitally removed–but it’s an awfully thin one–and that if the stunt were to go in any way pear-shaped the likelihood is high he would be killed.

Though the likelihood that he would fall was probably pretty remote, but doesn’t change how absolutely terrifying what he’s doing feels for me watching it, never mind having to do it.

Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation – Teaser Trailer

As someone who’s enjoyed the television show that the Mission Impossible movies are based on it has always bothered me that the movies are essentially the Tom Cruise Show.  Sure, there’s a supporting cast, but unlike in the series, they’re there entirely to support Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.

I understand that he’s a big star–though by no means as huge as he was when this series began–but the ensemble nature of the series is what made it so interesting.

As it stands, I enjoy the movies, but it’s Mission Impossible in name only.

I was also reading an article somewhere that implied that the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue may have ta name change because it’s already taken.

I am not sure that I buy that, if only because–if the fifth Mission Impossible is successful, which is highly likely–then another movie with ‘Rogue’ in the title won’t make a whit of difference.

Now, if they were going to put ‘Mars’ in the title, I could see why the producers of the upcoming Star Wars movie might want to consider a title change because from Mars Needs Moms to John Carpenter’Ghosts of Mars, it’s the kiss of death.

And let’s not forget John Carter, which was based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars.

‘Ouija’ Or (The Terror Of Diminished Expectations)

I caught Ouija last weekend, and it was okay; by which I mean that it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve seen (which barely qualifies as praise).  It had moments of interest, though thematically as well as visually it played out eerily similar to movies like The Conjuring, Annabelle and Insidious (which were also produced by Blumhouse Pictures, which I hope is just a coincidence).

What happened to the days when horror movies weren’t afraid to take a risk or two?

When a movie might actually do something that might offend someone’s sensibilities, but as a result end up at the very least an interesting exercise, if nothing else.  And the thing is, it’s not about money because movies like Ouija, The Conjuring and Insidious–which I use purely as examples–aren’t particularly expensive, which in the past often meant that filmmakers could do something a bit out of the ordinary because no one was going bankrupt if the movie tanked.

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