Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is the Pick of the Week

This week's new releases include a a sci-fi epic from Luc Besson, an animated film from France, a slew of silent films, most of Monty Python, and more.
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It's funny how time messes with your mind the older you get.  My mind is filled with all of these wonderful little snippets of memories.  I can wrap them up in short story form and tell you all about them.  But if you were to ask me to place them inside my own timeline precisely, I’d be at a loss.  That time from high school to just post college - a time that was so important to me back then - has all become a blur.  This is especially true when remembering the movie I saw back then, movies that were incredibly important to my growth as a movie appreciator.  I can no longer place them in anything resembling a perfect timeline.

Take La Femme Nikita, for example.  I remember watching it.  I remember it being one of the first foreign language films I ever saw.  I remember how it opened up doorways into world cinema.  If I had to guess as to when I first saw it, I’d guess it was post high school as I hadn’t quite gotten into foreign films before then.  If my memory can be trusted, then I saw it at my parents' house on Bravo back when Bravo used to run commercial-free foreign films.  That might mean college, but more than likely it means just post college when I moved back home until I figured out what I was doing with my life (or more correctly found a job that could support me as I’ve still not quite figured out what I’m doing).

None of this really matters, but whenever I hear the name "Luc Besson", those memories of La Femme Nikita come flooding in.  I owe a lot to that film and its follow-up Leon: The Professional (which was in English, but is full of quirky Luc Besson style, and is awesome). Besson helped me see a world of cinema beyond what I knew was possible.

It is also these films that make it so difficult to accept where Besson’s career has gone since then.  I was never as enamored with The Fifth Element as many of my friends were (though it has grown on me in subsequent viewings) and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is delightful, but other than that, he’s mostly made dreck.  I’d say he’s had more success as a writer (and certainly that is true if you count box-office receipts having written some of both the Taken and Transporter franchises) but there is nothing in that long list of IMDB credits that points to the magic of Nikita or The Professional.  

By most accounts, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is not a return to form for the director, but it does intrigue me.  Based on a comic book, this was a labor of love for Besson having grown up with the comic and wanting to make a film of it since he first got into making movies.  That it got very mixed reviews and was a failure at the box office (despite making some $225 million) has got to be disappointing for the director.

It stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as a couple of intergalactic space (and time-travel) agents who are assigned to a massive space station on which live millions of creatures from a thousand different planets.  Presumably bad stuff of epic proportions happens and they must stop it.  It also stars Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Rutger Hauer, John Goodman, Elizabeth Debicki, and Mattieu Kassovitz.

It might just be terrible, but with that cast I’m hoping old Luc Besson can pull of something wonderful one more time.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Leap:  Animated French film abut a young orphan  girl with a passion for dancing.  It's been showing up in my suggestion queue in Netflix for months.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard:  For the longest time, I seriously thought this was a sequel to that Timothy Olyphant movie from a few years back.  Instead, it's a Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson action/comedy in which Reyonolds plays a world renowned bodyguard tasked with protecting Jackson’s hitman even though they have been on opposite sides of numerous battles over the years.  Critics panned it pretty hard, but I’ll give those two actors a chance, anytime.

The Villainess:  South Korean revenge flick promises loads of killer action.  Steve Geise has our review.

Jabberwocky (Criterion Collection):  I’m a fan of both Monty Python and Terry Gilliam as a director so it's surprising I’ve never seen this.  Criterion is giving me the perfect reason to remedy that.

Jungle:  Daniel Radcliffe stars in this adventure drama about a young man seeking adventure in the Amazon jungle who gets lost from his friends and is forced to survive without a knife or a map or anything, really.

Since You Went Away:  Terribly dull war drama from David O. Selznick.  Not even Claudette Colbert could keep me away as you can see from my review.

The Fall: Series 3:  The first season of this crime drama starring Gillian Anderson and Jaimi Dorman was excellent.  Season 2 had its moments but was marred by bad writing and really stupid character decisions.  I keep telling myself to give Season 3 a try, but I’ve yet to convince myself.

Fritz Lang: The Silent Films: (1919-1929):  The complete silent films of German cinema's supreme stylist. A twelve-disc collection including Metropolis (1927), Die Nibelungen (1924), Spies (1928), Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922), Destiny (1921), The Spiders (1919), Woman in the Moon (1929), Four Around the Woman (1921), Harakiri (1919), The Wandering Shadow (1920), The Plague of Florence (1919)

My Journey Through French Cinema:  A personal journey from director Bertrand Tavernier through his love of French films.  I too love French cinema and I’m hoping this will be a nice introduction to some films I’ve not heard of.

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