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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Review

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Time to check out a recent Sci-Fi film by the name of Valerian. I remember seeing the trailer a few times but being skeptical as to whether it’d be good or not. It looked like the kind of movie that would rely on weird environments and good visuals over the story or good characters. I wasn’t really wrong on some of that and the characters are pretty bad, but the film is reasonable. At the very least the film is pretty fast paced.

The film starts off with our two main characters, Valerian and Loreline. They are tasked with collecting a money hedgehog and do so after beating up everyone involved with the transaction. During a universal peace conference they are attacked by a group of blue beings who were thought to be long extinct. The heroes head off to stop them but they may be in for a political war that is above their pay grade.

Valerian is unfortunately a pretty bad main character. He’s a serious flirt who even has a playlist of everyone he has “conquered.” That’s as bad as it sounds. His next target is Loreline and he is slowly breaking through her defenses. Even aside from his morally disappointing personality, he isn’t even that strong. He is portrayed as an elite agent who never fails and that’s why he is supremely confident. Yet, in his first mission in the film he has to be rescued by Loreline because he made a bunch of rookie mistakes and got wrecked. It’s something that happens a little too often in live action productions where the hype characters simply can’t live up to their reputation. He just never becomes a good character which is unfortunate.

Loreline is the main heroine and I can’t say that she is any better. She is also supposed to be a hype character as well as the “tough” one in the group. This is quickly negated as she loses to Valerian in wrestling during the opening minute. She gets her ”burns” in as she mocks him and his playlist but knowing about it just makes her inevitable pairing with Valerian even worse. She also spends the entire film glaring which is certainly trying a little too hard to be tough.

It’s the side characters who are a little better as is sometimes the case. The main villain is a political General from the army who covered up a bunch of murders. He keeps his confident persona even when being attacked and threatened. He makes a good speech at the end and is always many steps ahead of the other characters. He was playing chess while they were playing checkers. One weird moment was when he was kidnapped though. The whole time I figured it was part of his plan, but it seems unlikely by the end. I guess he just wasn’t ready for the aliens to make their move.

Naturally the film has to force in a very long strip show scene which introduces a shape shifting character. Not only is this the worst way to introduce a character but this is a sci-fi trope that needs to die. It seems like a bunch of alien based films love to show off the costumes or cgi by including a scene like this or set pieces where everyone forgets to dress out well. It’s something that should never happen as if you feel a need to show off your animation then it probably wasn’t very good to begin with. The character is all right I guess but her role is rather small and needlessly tragic. I didn’t really see a point to her dying. It doesn’t work for shock value since we didn’t know her and from a narrative perspective it had no impact on any of the characters.

This film apparently had a really big budget and I think it was misplaced. Through my followings with RWBY, I’ve gotten to see a lot about how a budget is spent in terms of animation and how it is often not worth it. You can spend a significant chunk on a cgi landscape with a lot of NPCs in the background. Those guys don’t matter so why spend budget on them? I’d say that a budget should be spent primarily on fight scenes, backgrounds are secondary. This film had some nice backgrounds, but a good chunk of it was in a very ancient desert planet and then on a beach with no technology. So I’m assuming that the bulk of the budget was spent on Valerian running through various worlds in the quick 5 minute scene. Using up a huge budget on a minor scene is just not worth it and using practical effects would possibly have cut the budget in half then. The sci-do guns look good and the fight scene where Valerian takes on a bunch of ogres was good. Use the budget for that instead and have a super speed battle where he is zipping around then at lightning speed and dodging energy blasts. Now that would be hype!
I have to question how useful the cannon tech from the first scene was as well. Sure, the villains were pretty scared of Valerian and he was invisible so they had a hard time hitting him but he was still there and would have been destroyed if he couldn’t jack out. An impressive piece of tech to be sure and virtual reality has certainly peaked in this universe but the heroes may want to start thinking of better security options.

The robots made for pretty good minions for the main villain. They would have been perfect if they had also been bulletproof. As it stands, Valerian was able to dish out the pain against these guys but they got a lot of the aliens in the process. The aliens really shouldn’t have just walked outside while defenseless in front of the enemy. They were practically asking to be shot and I get how they’re pacifists and all, but at least do the peace thing behind the magical barrier. Alls well that ends well for the survivors though so at least the race isn’t extinct.

As mentioned earlier, Valerian’s best strength is in the film’s quick pacing. It’s over 2 hours, but the movie never drags on and you’ll stay entertained the whole time. It may make its share of mistakes and so I wouldn’t call it a good movie, but at least it’s a fun one the way that Resident Evil is enjoyable. The two are still in completely different leagues when it comes to quality as well. I think there could be some potential for a sequel here since there’s a lot you can do in space, but I want them to head to a high tech world that can take advantage of the future setting. Also, give the main actor/actress some more sleep before filming next time. They look dead tired in every scene of the film to the point where I’m sure they must have gone through many takes for each scene.

Overall, Valerian is one of those movies that just tries to throw a lot of things at the screen and hopes they will stick. Unfortunately it is very 50/50 in this regard. The film needed more action scenes and choosing a desert planet and then a beach planet when the film is supposed to be futuristic was a mistake. Get some better characters and then we can really begin thinking of a sequel. Until then, this film will need to stay under the radar as we open the way for other sci-fi films. If you just want a film where you get a future setting then I suppose this is a film worth checking out. There weren’t too many films that take place in the future this year. If you want a better film about the future, check out the DBZ Trunks movie.

Overall 5/10

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Goku vs Ken Kaneki


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Suggested by Anime Slip Stream Ken Kaneki is a strong fighter and excels at close quarters combat. His bite would certainly be fatal to many opponents. However, I wonder if he could bite through Goku’s aura. Even if he could, landing that hit will be nearly impossible. Goku’s speed is far greater than that of Ken’s and his attack power is also on another level. Ken would need a crazy boost to even come close to stopping this Saiyan. Goku wins.

Invisible Woman Review

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It’s time to look at an old sequel. Everyone knows about the Invisible Man, but who knows about the Invisible Woman? The film seems to have fallen under the radar although I can see why. It’s not exactly a masterpiece and can be rather forgettable but at the same time I thought it was decently fun. The film goes by quickly and there’s not too much to dislike here. Granted, the characters can be annoying which I guess it fairly major, but they’re not extremely bad or anything like that.

The film starts off with a crazed scientist finally coming up with a good invention. He can now make people invisible. His benefactor, Mr. Russell isn’t too pleased with Gibbs for wasting money on such an experiment but the old man is sure it will work. He writes an ad in the paper but since he isn’t willing to pay the test subject only one letter comes through. Kitty is willing to take the serum as there’s a lot she can do with being invisible. Then scientist agrees, but only barely because he tries to stay away from girls. The experiment is a success but instead of waiting for Russell to come in Kitty decides to get revenge on her boss. A lot of shenanigans occur but then a gang breaks in and they decide to kidnap Gibbs. Can the Invisible Woman save him or are they all doomed?

The gang is honestly very out of place here. The whole film is really a light hearted comedy with Kitty just having fun with her powers. As such, the villains are about as serious as the kidnappers in every Air Bud movie. They aren’t exactly a threat and we even get a long scene where Kitty knocks out every member. Being invisible is honestly an incredible ability to have for every day life and you would be almost unstoppable in many situations. The villains are even driven to tears at times. Given that they are used for comedy I suppose they weren’t that bad, but I was still surprised when they showed up at all. It’s not like they really affected the outcome much at all.

Kitty was a fun lead though even if she was a little too rebellious at times. She makes sure to drink as lot even when keeping a low profile and should probably be a little more harsh with the professor if she wants to stay consistent. She did a decent job of getting back at the boss even if she may have let him off a little easy there. At least he did have a change of heart so she certainly made the working environment a lot better for the rest of the models. It does seem like a pretty bad job though so they should probably just have left a long time ago.

Gibbs may be a scientist but he isn’t very smart. He doesn’t realize when villains are around and holds a grudge even when you save his life. He’s exactly the kind of ingrate you would typically want to avoid to be honest and I never felt sympathetic to him. Sure, Russell doesn’t believe him, but I wouldn’t either since this guy has apparently been wasting money for many years. We can’t forget that little detail and have the guy slip it under the rug. He better product results and until then it makes sense that his funding is cut. Russell went from being rich to apparently having no money now.

Of course, I won’t bring out the violin for him either. Apparently he’s one of those guys who plays the field and goes for a lot of rebounds. A bunch of characters sued him for a bunch of things and apparently they keep winning since he’s losing money. He never seems like a particularly great guy. The banter between him and Kitty is all right at best, but it’s a little generic and doesn’t make him any better. After all, Russell is insulting her looks just so he can goad her into becoming visible again. The film didn’t go for any easy pitfalls like having her appear at inconvenient times at least. That would probably happen if this film were newer so it’s another good reason to stay retro.

When you think about it, not a lot happens in the film though. Act 1 is just Kitty messing with everyone, then the villains arrive and she beats them up. The film is over an hour, but it doesn’t feel like that. Of course, this is a good thing since it means the pacing was on point and the movie never dragged on but at the same time you could also make the argument that most of the film could be cut out and nothing would actually change. That’s just how it goes I guess, at least she didn’t go crazy like the last Invisible Man though. She kept her sanity through and through.

One thing I’d do to improve the film would be to have a few scenes of Kitty messing with Russell. She scares the boss and spooks Russell’s assistant but she never actually gets him. Knocking him out or giving him a startle would at least give her a leg to stand on during their verbal confrontations. Meanwhile, I forgot to mention the butler. I thought he was a well written character and easily the most likable character in the film. He gives Russell some good advice and while he is always retiring you can tell that the guy really wants to be helpful. He does his best to always be there for Russell during the tough times. A fun ending would have for him to have become rich by placing some stocks in the right place or something and then leaving on a high note where Russell and Gibbs wonder where they went wrong. A sequel could then be about them turning to a life of crime with the invisibility serum.

Overall, The film is a little generic and doesn’t do anything noteworthy, but it doesn’t really do anything wrong either. The writing isn’t particularly good and the characters can be one dimensional, but they are still working with a good script. Cutting out the villains may be a good idea, but they didn’t really hurt anything either. If you’re looking for a fun film where the heroine gets to use some super powers and overall look more impressive than the main guy this is a good film to check out. Especially since the guy doesn’t even seem like nice person. Just don’t go in expecting a serious film, that’d be your first mistake.

Overall 6/10

Handa Kun

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It’s time for another spinoff although this one is a direct prequel. It’s about Handa back in his school days and as always he is having a tough time fitting in. As someone who was never the biggest fan of the village setting I can definitely see this one passing the main series. Of course, it will be a little limited in what it can do without causing issues in the main title, but there’s still a lot of room to explore here. I’ll have a review for the series when I finish it.

Overall 7/10

Magic Kaito

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I’ve finally started the Detective Conan spinoff, Magic Kaito. This series follows the adventures of the mysterious Kaito Kid, except he isn’t as mysterious as he seems. I never cared all that much for him, but he’s actually a pretty bad character here. Still, the art is pretty solid and I’m hoping for some Conan appearances. It’s off to a decent start though and the fact that there are people here with actual powers is interesting. I’ll give it a review when the series finishes.

Overall 7/10

Freaky Friday Review

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Freaky Friday has always had a very solid premise. What if you could literally live a day in someone else’s shoes? You can use such a plot to show that things often appear to be easier than they really are. In real life this can most certainly be the case. Some who look like they’re having a great time may actually be struggling with something and others may actually just be having as much fun as they appear to be. There are quite a few variations of this. Gender Swap, self explanatory, Age Swap, switch with someone older or younger, Time Swap, switch with someone from the future or the past, and the only bad one, Animal Swap, self explanatory. Nobody wants to see a human act like an animal.

The film starts by showing us the strained relationship between Annabel and Ellen. Ellen is going through that rebellious phase where she is being tough to deal with for no particular reason at all. She is excelling at sports but her grades are slipping fast and her eating habits are terrible. Meanwhile Annabel is doing her best to run the place despite that but it’s been a long day and she has numerous chores not to mention that her husband Bill is always getting into trouble and she has to bail him out. Annabel and Ellen wish they could swap places and so begins the craziest day of their lives.

I definitely think this genre always has a bunch of potential. Honestly I’d say the Your Name version has more potential since their lives are very different so they have to try and adapt. Not to mention that they are unaware of who the other person is so it’s not like they can rely on memory. With the mother and daughter combination, their lives aren’t very far apart. In theory they have probably seen each other’s lifestyles many times. There’s still a lot you can do here, but that’s why the gender swap typically has more potential than the age swap, but you could argue that the main variable is having the characters not know who they are swapping with. The film gets around some of that by having the main character be rebellious. In theory she makes sure not to tell Ellen anything so at the very least her school life will be a surprise.

So who has the edge here? Well, I’d say that the Mom should be able to assimilate a lot better into the lifestyle. The school problems should be a breeze. Naturally I can see how the sports and water skiing would be a problem but for the most part she will do just fine. On the other hand, Annabel is doomed right from the start because she’s likely never cleaned in her life and by shutting herself off from everyone she doesn’t even have any basic intel on what a normal day is like. Basically, Annabel put herself in this bad predicament.

At first I was a little confused with the Dad. He comes off as a big of a condescending jerk in the beginning but these moments come as flashes. I thought the film was trying to make him a nice guy and the execution was off or the film didn’t age well. However it turns out the film was playing him up as an antagonist from the start so I’ll give the film some props here. It was handled very subtly to the point where the film could have find either way. Taking him down the villain path definitely makes sense because he is pretty extreme by the end. He forces his daughter to go water skiing for the big party by tricking her into it. He has a secretary who also gets a little tricky but Ellen put a stop to that. If anything the Dad gets off rather light by the end. Nothing actually happens to him and there is no real indication that he has changed as a person. At least both heroines are aware of his personality a little more now so maybe they will change him.

One of the most intense scenes in the film was definitely the soccer game. These kids apparently play really dirty and actually throw elbows to the face and blatantly trip Ellen. I could have sworn there was a punch to the face as well but I cannot confirm that. Needless to say this was Ellen’s worst scene. She just stands around and lets them beat her up for a while. When she finally gets up and decides to play, she scores for the wrong team. That’s something I’ve never quite gotten since you’d think that you would notice everyone telling you to stop. Why would you still go through with it? That’s one of the few scenes where you can’t really sympathize with Ellen. She blew her whole team’s chance at winning the championship and even though it’s played for laughs I’d say that this is the saddest scene in the movie.

The climax is a very long car chase which was certainly interesting. It does overstay its welcome after a while though and I have to question just how well Annabel was driving. Don’t get me wrong, I always thought driving was a whole lot easier than people always make it out to be but she made a big deal about not being able to drive beforehand. Then she is able to out drive the cops with ease in the next scene. The cops were good with snap judgement though like when their car split in two they made sure not to be close to the center and quickly got out to make sure their respective partner was okay. That’s what I expect from the trained professionals.

One subplot that certainly isn’t very good is the next door neighbor. Annabel likes him so she decides to put in a good word for herself after transforming but things get a little iffy here. Romance is one thing you need to completely avoid in age swapping films for obvious reasons. Ellen’s reputation has been absolutely tarnished here. The neighbor also didn’t have a real reason to be in the film. It’s not like he added anything so taking him away wouldn’t affect the story. If you’re going to add a character just for the fun of it, they have to be good. The house maid is a nice example of this as she shows up just to mock Ellen a lot and never steps outside of her comfort zone. The maid knows what she is being paid to do and won’t do anything extra. She just wants to go get a drink with the money she earns.
Freaky Friday is a decent comedy film but Sue holds it back quite a bit. She’s not even remotely likable and it’s always sad to see someone’s life being sabotaged when they can’t even do anything about it. Talk about tragic right? Even Annabel’s friends seem rather mean with how they pranked her after getting the correct answers. Sure, Ellen lost all of her common sense in the scene and for most of the first half as well but maybe transforming just does that to you. It could be a side effect.

Overall, Freaky Friday is fun and it doesn’t drag on. The pacing is solid and the concept is sound. It may drop the ball at times by going for too many plots and not having the two characters meet while in different bodies though. It’s not a perfect example of the genre and is lacking in replay value as there’s not much reason to watch it again. That being said, I’d likely recommend it if you like the genre. Just be prepared to be annoyed by Annabel, who doesn’t have any good moments in the entire film. There’s never a chance to feel bad for her.

Overall 5/10

The Black Cat (1934) Review

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It’s time for a big team up between the big horror actors of the old days, Karloff and Lugosi. Although in the actual movie they are going up against each other with two travelers being caught in the crossfire. Suffice it to say, we’re in for another old school horror film where the main characters are terrible and the villains spend more time bantering than actually doing anything. We’re definitely at the right film.

So the film starts off with Peter and Joan taking a train for their honeymoon. It’s all going well until a mysterious man shows up and asks if he can share the room. Peter already gives off some red flags since he isn’t intelligent enough to refuse. Once the couple appears to be asleep this man, Vitus, attempts to get a little too comfortable with Joan. Peter wakes up and glares at Vitus but doesn’t do anything reasonable like kicking this guy out of the car or even becoming big time enemies. Instead he decides to forgive and forget. One thing leads to another and the couple follows Vitus to the mansion of Hjalmar. The old man is a big time enemy of Vitus since he stole the guy’s daughter and murdered his wife. Vitus has come here to get revenge while Hjalmar wants to take Joan since she is the reincarnation of the late wife and he aims to use her vessel as a way to bring her back. It’s all pretty twisted and clearly we are watching two villains go at it. It’s hard to pick any one of them to root for.

This film is fairly dark and not in a natural atmospheric way, but in an artificial gritty sense. Characters are tortured both on screen and off screen. Vitus’ family certainly gets the short end of the stick since they are all murdered by Hjalmar. The ending is even someone getting skinned alive. You can tell that while this is an older film, it’s not one of the classier ones. It’s going for the shock value scenes and it takes away from everything else.

Alas, it wouldn’t be a terrible horror film without an animal showing up in some capacity right? Well, Vitus is afraid of cats so the other villain always uses this against him. Vitus will destroy the cat but it just comes back for more since it has 9 lives. As a result, not only is the scene terrible but it’s pointless. The cat phobia never actually does much and at the end of the day it’s just a random excuse for the film to bump off a cat. Pretty disgraceful if you ask me.

I suppose the writing is decent although you will have to stretch your disbelief to its absolute limit. The whole point of Vitus coming over is to murder Hjalmar and he has dozens of opportunities to do so. In fact, his subordinate is an inside agent working for Hjalmar. He is Hjalmar’s only minion so the two of them can beat the old guy easily. Instead Vitus is constantly content to simply watch things play out and just go with the flow. There’s no narrative reason for Vitus to totally disregard his actual mission for 90% of the film.

As for Hjalmar, he is just as bad. He already murdered the first two people he was with so now he wants Joan even though it’ll probably just be to murder her at some point. Considering that he never poisoned them or anything the same question about waiting rears its head. Why not just destroy them right away or in the dead of night? It’s his house and the main characters are gullible enough to actually go to sleep at night. They’d be easy pickings.

We also can’t forget to talk about Paul and how terrible he is. He gets knocked out several times and never puts much of an effort. The only time he is finally able to air up the nerve to do something he manages to shoot the guy who was trying to help Joan. Clearly he isn’t good at reading body language but I can’t honestly say that I was too broken up about the whole thing since Vitus is basically still a villain in my book. Paul just comes off as really incompetent. Even after seeing how shady everyone is he decides to leave Joan by herself while he sleeps in a room way down the hall. He was just accepting this until Vitus came over to switch rooms. What this means is Vitus would have been in the room next to Joan and since the connector isn’t locked he could have gone to her room whenever he liked. Did I mention that Paul was terrible yet? You get the idea of why this guy was so bad. He doesn’t even understand a threat when it’s being blatantly said right in front of him.

Unfortunately Joan is no better. Not only is she fainting too much, but she gets possessed rather easily. I can’t blame her for falling off the rails after this since Paul lets the villains inject her with something while she asleep. Joan just never seems like a real character during this adventure. She ends up being in a state of shock throughout the movie instead and lets everyone else make decisions for her.

While the premise of someone going to get revenge may sound good on paper it’s clear that the execution is just off from start to finish. Subtle banter between the villains is a decent concept even if they are really trying to destroy each other. At the same time, it just gets unrealistic if it goes on for too long. We could have also been given a motivation for why these two are to be locked in combat without going full tragedy. Considering that Vitus basically knows for a fact that the other guy is guilty you’d think he would make a move of some sort before he is put in a bad position. You just end up questioning the characters quite a bit here. The highlight would be the Chess game. I definitely wasn’t expecting such high stakes for a mere board game, but if that had to be the case then Chess is naturally the perfect pick.

Overall, This definitely isn’t a good film and the other Black Cat films I’ve seen seem to have had more quality. The actual Black Cat in this film certainly doesn’t get the respect he deserves. What really buries this film in the long run is the fact that it is too dark at times and there is nobody to root for. The main characters certainly aren’t very smart and make all of the wrong choices while even the villains don’t seem to think things through. The polite banter that I like from these films only hurts it in this case since these characters should be doing something as opposed to doing nothing.

Overall 1/10