Luc Besson

Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

The Fifth Element director Luc Besson returns to the realm of sci-fi with an expansive, super-expensive adventure whose creativity overshadows its more uneven elements, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. The movie is based off of “Valérian and Laureline,” a sexy French comic book series featuring a pair of futuristic crime fighters who travel through space to uphold the law. What could have been a movie full of new philosophies and themes ends up just being really pretty and having no substance.

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Movie Issues: Lucy

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Movie Issues: Lucy

Lucy is the new film by director Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element) staring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. Lucy is a woman living in Taipei, Taiwan, who is forced to be a drug mule for the mob. A drug implanted in her body inadvertently leaks into her system, which allows her to use more than the 10% of her brain’s capacity, thus changing her into a superhuman. As she transforms into something unknown and new, she decides to turn the tables on her captors to become a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.


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Movie Issues: The Family

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Movie Issues: The Family

The Family is based on the novel Malavita by Tonino Benacquista, directed by Luc Besson (Léon: The Professional, The Fifth Element) and executively produced by Martin Scorsese. This mob comedy finds a mafia boss and his family relocated to a sleepy town in Normandy (France) under the witness protection program after snitching on the mob. Now out of place, the family has a hard time letting go of bad habits and solving their issues the “family” way, all while trying to stay undercover so their former mafia ties don’t track them down.

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The Transporter

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IMDB: “This film is about a man (Jason Statham) whose job is to deliver packages without asking any questions. Complications arise when he breaks those rules”

Cinerina: “This film has the best car chase I have ever seen and I hate car chases. Also the action is excellent and Jason Stratham is perfect and why ruin it with a random unbelievable romance?”

I guess if I were you, I wouldn’t necessarily watch the preview, read those blurbs, and then run out to see the movie. That’s why I get at least 450 words to tell you why you will have a ball in this film! He’s a professional getaway driver, an interesting cinematic profession by any standard, and damn can he drive that BMW. I was seriously impressed and stimulated and I am always bored to distraction by car chases and the like. It was breathtaking! It’s either a BMW 735 or a 765, depending on which character you believe, and I suspect they will sell a zillion of them (even though it’s the 1999 model). His is all tricked out, of course, as one would expect a professional transporter like him to have. So, whiz bang action stuff, no problem. But is it interesting? You bet, with a little mystery too.

It transports you all right, to a world of excitement, action, and intrigue, and it’s worth nearly all of your money. Sure, there are some leaps of logic, etc, but it IS an action movie, and it justifies most of it very well. Can I just say oil fight? Oil fight! Maybe it was cribbed from a Bruce Lee fight but who cares? It’s great. Super editing, including sound editing. Wow! Tension! Suspense! Pow pow! Hey, what did you expect? “Mesmerizing, tour de force!” Nah. But it is seriously a blast to watch and experience. Really! The fights are up at Jackie Chan’s level and our hero is actually non-lethal in his approach, all tough talk to the contrary.

The film is marred, sadly, by two elements: a weird kind of horrible Chinese rap soundtrack and a weird, kind of horrible pseudo romance. Honestly, sometimes a romantic story line does help an action film (Michael Biehn and his unconsummated urges for Terminator’s Linda Hamilton and Aliens’ Sigourney Weaver), but sometimes, even when it serves the plot, it just gets in the way. Chinese rap is less useful.
The Transporter’s ersatz omance with Lai (Shu Qi) seems thrown in purely for the Caucasian audience. We weren’t buying it, either.

Directed by Cory Yuen & Louis Leterrier and written and produced in large part by Luc Besson (Fifth Element, The Professional), The Transporter is slick, well-paced, and tons of fun. I wish it had come out a month ago when it was still hot and boring, but I’m glad it’s out at all.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 10/11/02
Time in minutes 92
Director Cory Yuen and Louis Leterrier
Studio 20th Century Fox

Comments Off on Messenger, The Story of Joan of Arc

Messenger, The Story of Joan of Arc

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If you liked Braveheart, you should like The Messenger. It’s chock full of long, vivid battle scenes, terrible injuries, terrible deeds, and epic cinematography (though, somehow, not as huge as Braveheart). However, if you liked the Fifth Element (also directed by Luc Besson) you will see none of that wacky tongue in cheek comedy here – The Messenger is a very serious film. This is one of its virtues, however. Besson, a French man, is very passionate about his paean to Jeanne d’Arc (though it never explains the of Arc part of her name) and his love for his mother France is very deep. He imbues the film with glory and xenophobia and righteous fire in the name of 15th century warriors who died trying to free his country from the English pigdogs, and it saves The Messenger from being a scene chewing vehicle for his then-wife, Milla Jovovich.

Milla is beautiful, so beautiful you can see why she is the revered virgin of legend and also her charisma to make tough and scratchy soldiers follow her. Jovovich also really sold me on her belief – she is the heart of the film and therefore had I not believed her religious fervor I would have been snoozing through it – but she really digs in and gets down with her revelations and I believe her performance totally. Her passion and Luc’s passion for the project is what made this movie go from a 13th Warrior kind of mish mosh to what was actually a pretty cool (if weirdly cast) small epic.

John Malkovich, as the Dauphin de Steppenwolf (how does he keep getting roles that demand dialect and then Chicagoing his way through them?!?!), has the right feebleness of character and strength of ego to play the rotten Dauphin-cum-King of France – if only he didn’t sound, well, like himself. One amusing moment is when the Dauphin says, “If only I could be someone else,” and of course with Being John Malkovich playing across the hall, this was an added funny bonus. He and, of all people, Dustin Hoffman, lend some American star power to the film but I think they are wildly misplaced. Hoffman’s credit is The Conscience, and it’s an interestingly used concept, but the second he shows up, the film starts to drag drag drag. When he’s gone, we’re caught up in the story again, watching Milla work her onscreen magic and, even knowing the outcome, hoping it will be OK for her in some way at the end. But when Hoffman shows up, it’s Sphere all over again.

Faye Dunaway, looking even more like an alien than normal with her French Renaissance headdress, sleepwalks her way though the film – it’s never clear what we should make of her, and it’s not really all that important, I guess. The central relationship is between God and France and Jeanne and it’s when the movie gets into the nitty gritty with that, it’s at its best. That, and some seriously cool camera work with the battles (watch for a cool catapult section) and the painstaking production design of the battlements and weapons. The reason to see The Messenger is of course the messenger herself, and Milla’s Revlon (Maybelline?) commercials will never quite look the same – Buy InstaCurl ReadyLash Mascara – God wants you to! But she is more than her gibberish-spouting chosen one from Fifth Element – she is a scripture spouting chosen one who really believes in what she is saying. It’s actually quite enjoyable overall.

MPAA Rating R for strong graphic battles, a rape and language.
Release date 11/22/99
Time in minutes 148
Director Luc Besson
Studio Columbia TriStar

Comments Off on The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element

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Wow. This is actually as cool as it wants to be. It is not a typical American film – in many ways it is extremely French, but it is this novelty that makes it so interesting. (It is in English) I hate to use the word “neat” because it does not adequately capture it, but think of an 8 year old kid looking into a microscope for the first time and using the word “neat” because he doesn’t have the vocabulary to say “fascinating, unique, interesting, pretty…”

Bruce Willis is by no means treading any new ground with this role, but it works perfectly in this version of the future (2259). Think of this future as a better-maintained, more peaceful Blade Runner – but this movie is not like it. It is different from other movies in the same way that Blade Runner or Brazil are different, but it is more rooted in a kind of mythos than just cold hard technology.

It’s not all explosions and sexy women like an American action film. Previews made me fear it was colorful and silly, but it is only colorful and….and NEAT.

Luc Besson directs a movie that would never have been made in the US because the lowest common denominator would have demanded at test screenings to change all the things that make this movie fascinating.

Ian Holm, Milla Jovovich, and a score of interesting creatures (and Ruby, a manic DJ who annoys his way into your favor) in these beautiful settings make this movie worthwhile.

The overall message in and of itself is not all that original, it’s the presentation that makes it worth seeing. This movie did not open Cannes *just* as a publicity stunt. The music is different, the sheer volume of information and plots is different, and it all works great.

Don’t get me wrong – some of you may go and just think, “This is too much, too busy, too many things!”

But despite the fictional quote from the Emperor about Mozart’s music having too many notes, some times too much is really a wonderful thing. Go see it, get together and talk about it. It’s really good. Pay full price to get in, too. It’s cooooooool.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/12/1997
Time in minutes 127
Director Luc Besson
Studio Columbia Pictures