Fantasia Film Festival: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Sometimes you gotta step into the mainstream and take in a 3D film.

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That being said, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a true genre film. It hits all the beats of your regular sci-fi movie, some of them several times. It also hits the mark for 3D movies giving us a million of things to look at. Luc Besson creates this world of bright colors and a million species introducing us to Alpha, the City of a Thousand Planets.

Yes, there will be aliens here. And I’m not talking about how alien (ha ha, ok bad joke, I will shut up) Valerian (Dane DeHann) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne) look as supposedly badass cops. Also, the source is the original comic titled Valerian and Laureline. If you didn’t think that was going to go well you could have just titled it THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS and that will be that.

Nevertheless, this is a genre film. We have our introduction adventure where our heroes prove their mettle, and the real mission once we’ve gotten to know them. The problem is they look like kids where everyone else here is an adult. Everyone is literally older than them. I was more willing to accept the aliens in the movie than the leads. The suspension of disbelief is a little forced there.

That being said, what the movie promises, it delivers in spades. There’s thousand of colorful aliens everywhere, of every size and color imaginable. The action is the usual fare, there’s a big cameo I won’t tell you about – ok, it’s Rihanna. Don’t worry, you’ll recognize her right away.

Recommended for exactly what you want out of it, a time to switch off your brain and just swim in intergalactic bliss. There’s something of a political plot and message there and the movie tries to put a love story, but nothing heavier than the 3D glasses you’re wearing. There’s an audience for this film and they want loud and bright, which is the reason why the light story and the young casting doesn’t really interfere. I’m not really a fan of 3D as a feature yet, but I see why it does add a dimension (Thank you! I’ll be here all week) to it.

That will do for now.

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Fantasia Film Festival: Bitch

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Meet Jill (Marianna Palka). She’s a housewife with four children. She keeps them dressed, well fed, gets them to their schools, cleans the house, does the laundry and makes dinner although her husband hardly makes it home on time to have it. Jill is miserable. She wants to go on this painting retreat and clear her head off. But that’s not happening so she’s trying to hang herself from the ceiling.

Meet Bill (Jason Ritter). He’s screwing a co-worker on company time. He’s postponing meetings and he will get across to doing his work eventually. When an entire floor is being sacked and Bill loses his fuck buddy, he tries to save her job. His boss is completely ok with rehiring that entire floor, as long as Bill resigns. Bill is not resigning. And his wife just asked him if she could go on a silly painting retreat. How selfish of her.

Welcome to director, writer and actress Marianna Palka’s Bitch. That title works in so many levels in this movie. The most obvious one is for Jill’s breakdown as she disappears from her life. She’s moved to the basement, where she barks, growls and snaps at anybody who’d come near her.

But there’s another, far more despicable, whining, self-deluded, egomaniac and worthy recipient: Bill himself. The more we get to know Bill and we do get to know him a lot, is too much. I have to give major compliments to Jason Ritter on creating the most useless self-serving chauvinistic slacker on screen. He’s literally the embodiment of a caricature, the trope of the husband who doesn’t know what schools his kids go to, their birthdays or the fact there’s still a kid in the car while he’s calling his wife a bitch.

Jill’s sister Beth (Jaime King) jumps into helping. But she soon realizes that she’s got little to no support from Bill, who finally gets an specialist to look at Jill. When she tells him that Jill needs special psychiatric care, he just demands a prescription so he can get his “selfish wife” to stop acting up and get back to her role as anchor of the family.

The kids are big part of the movie here. We get the sounds of the TV blaring cartoon noises in the background as the newly made single parent tries to do what he’s never done a day in his life: parenting. But it is heartbreaking when the kids realize how useless his dad is.

First is Max (Rio Mangini) who watches first hand when his father decides to bolt on a whim. Seeing the kid go angry at his dad when he comes back later is heart-wrenching. Then it’s Tiffany (Brighton Charbino – Lizzie from THE WALKING DEAD) when she tries to have a heart-to-heart chat with her father and realizes he’s tuning her out like he does with her mother.

But when Bill’s other woman shows up at the house, Beth is completely livid. It’s time to act and she finally does. Jill’s parents and Beth are taking this up with the authorities. They want full custody of Jill so they can give her proper care. And it’s time for Bill to grow up, grow a pair and be a parent to his kids. It’s time for Bill to stop acting like a little… ok, let’s leave it there.

Recommended for humour, satire and genuine self-reflection on the nuclear family. Actually, the one great thing about this movie is how bad you’ll want to punch Bill in the face, which is a great credit to Jason Ritter actin chops. You can see a hint of his father, the late comedian John Ritter, in some of the faces he pulls.

That will do for now.

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Fantasia Film Festival: Animals

Beware of talking cats.

Photo by Wojciech Sulezycki

Do I tell you anything about Animals or do I allow you to discover it for yourself? Giving you enough reasons to convince you to watch it without taking the joy of discovery is the challenge of finding a movie like this one. Fortunately, I can’t come up with a description that will do any justice to it.

Nick (Philipp Hochmair) and Anna (Birgit Minichmayr) are going on holiday. Nick has been unfaithful, so they’re trying to get away from everything. Unfortunately, they end up hitting a sheep in the middle of the road.  That’s the gist of it and yet I am telling you so little there.

There’s a door in Nick and Anna’s flat that is locked and can’t be opened. The woman that Nick was seeing, Andrea, has jumped out of a window. Her husband, Tarek (Medhi Nebbou), is in despair and knows about the affair. There’s a door in Nick and Anna’s holiday cabin that is locked and can’t be opened. Mischa (Mona Petri) is watching over Nick and Anna’s flat. Tarek thinks that Mischa is Andrea.

Director Greg Zglinski co-writes with Jörg Kalt and offers us a creation that is just twisted and a bit off in a delightful way. There’s so many little things to work out here that I feel like I’m fidgeting with an entire panel of buttons, levers, switches and toggles. The narrative seems to change as the movie goes along. It’s like a memory revisited in time that no longer remains the same.

This is kind of movie is really hard to make. It’s a slippery slope in which a misstep and you end up with a complete nonsense of a film. Play it too safe and you’re boring. Keeping this kind of movie afloat and having your audience engaged is walking on a tightrope on fire. And yet the movie makes it across without losing the thread.

Highly recommended, specially for fans of the unusual and unexplained. I will have to mention David Lynch here, because this is just up the same twisted alley. The caveat is that you’re only going to enjoy this movie if you’re willing to put up with the unusual and offbeat. The seemingly disconnected events do have a pattern underneath the surface. I’m going to have to do a more in-depth analysis of this movie later on.

That will do for now.

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