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Tag Archive: Alexandre Desplat


Review by C.J. Bunce

In that niche area of dystopian dog movies (that’s the adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and his Dog and… ?), Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs not only soars to the top of the list, it’s a great film in all sorts of categories: it’s new, yet a classic children’s story, it’s a timely political allegory, and it’s a solid movie about dogs.  We knew Anderson had a grasp on animals in his surprisingly good Fantastic Mr. Fox, but audiences will soon learn he also understands dogs and dog behavior.  The trailers don’t really prepare moviegoers for what lies ahead.  Sure, it’s about an island of exiled dogs so of course audiences are in for a bleak ride, complete with at least one dead canine, lots of dogs in peril as well as many mutilated and diseased.  Yet Isle of Dogs is surprisingly grand in scope, thought-provoking, and even heartwarming.  And epic–don’t be surprised if you start thinking about the closest Martin Scorsese or Stanley Kubrick movie while you’re glued to the screen.  Despite some witty dialogue in places from Anderson’s smart script, this is less comedy and more drama than his past efforts.

The dystopian world is better realized, bigger in scope, and yet more personal than typical futurist visions, beyond that dismal hopeless doom of Mad Max, The Postman, Escape From New York, Twelve Monkeys, Snowpiercer, Looper, Logan’s Run, and District 9.  Isle of Dogs is probably closer to WALL-E and Planet of the Apes in feel.  Isle of Dogs is gloomy and dark and bleak, but it offers a ray of hope for the future from a 12-year-old Japanese boy named Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) and a freckle-faced, high school exchange student named Tracy from Ohio (Greta Gerwig), both out to defy an autocratic government’s ban on dogs.  That’s thanks in major part to the vivid, eye-popping world of future Japan filmed by celebrated Aardman Animations stop-motion cinematographer Tristan Oliver (A Close Shave, The Wrong Trousers, Chicken Run), and the encompassing sounds from this year’s Oscar-winning composer for The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter series, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Golden Compass).  As to the stop-motion, audiences can marvel at how far Hollywood has come since the Ray Harryhausen era.  The film follows Anderson’s design choices first seen in his Fantastic Mr. Fox and only continues to add to the unbelievable magical movements carried forward by Aardman’s achievements.  And instead of a typical Romantic, programmatic score, Desplat’s best choices can be found in his use of loud, almost frightening Japanese taiko drums, Fumio Hayasaka’s haunting theme from Seven Samurai, the more celebratory bits from Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije, and a simple recurring dog whistle.

Anderson offers up admirable tributes to Japanese culture and film, everywhere from costume design to modern TV reporting stylings, to Hayao Miyazaki themes and Akira Kurosawa landscapes, to traditional imagery like beautiful ukiyo-e on walls and cherry blossoms floating by at the right time.  Isle of Dogs finds a firm footing on the children’s classics shelf of your film library, alongside Roald Dahl’s Mr. Fox but also his Willy Wonka.  It also has much in common in tone with Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal.  The political allegory is thick and layered, a mix of the nuanced and the obvious, a mirror reflection of society that you’d have found years ago in a Frank Capra movie.  Science is mocked, scorned, and worse.  Experts are traitorous and immigrants are exiled.  It’s also graphic in parts at a baser level, showing an animated meal from a dumpster with creepy crawlies that may make your stomach turn, plus an open chest surgery, bloody, torn body parts, and dogs with missing eyes and open wounds.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This weekend sci-fi and fantasy fans finally get to see French director Luc Besson’s singular vision decades in the planning as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets arrives in theaters.  An adaptation of the fifty-year-old, popular, French comic book series Valerian and Laureline, the film delivers in a magnificent, grandiose way only Besson could deliver.  As with his sci-fi classic The Fifth Element, Besson–who also directed Lucy, The Professional, and La Femme Nikita–has added another genre-defining film to the list of must-see sci-fi movies.  If there’s any criticism due, it may be that the film in places is too much like The Fifth Element, but where Valerian falls short, it makes up for it with wall to wall action and alien creations that look nothing like anything Hollywood has ever produced.  It’s rounded out with spectacular production design by Hugues Tissandier (Lucy, Taken, The Transporter) and a riveting score by composer Alexandre Desplat (The Golden Compass, Argo, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

  • Best use of 3D cinematography in a movie to date?  Check.
  • Best visual depiction of strange new worlds and new alien life in a film to date?  Check.
  • Best hold-onto-your-seats spaceship rides through these strange new places?  Check.

Credit Besson, WETA Digital, Industrial Light and Magic, and hundreds of other visual effects, special effects, make-up, costume and prop creators–Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets looks like nothing you’ve seen.  Combine 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and The Fifth Element, and you’ll have an idea of Besson’s big screen epic filled with all sorts of wonderful images.

Valerian is a snapshot of a day in progress in the life of two cocky space pilots.  The leads are two attractive, snarky and sassy, young and very modern, would-be lovers in a typical “will they or won’t they” set up–Valerian, played by Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-man 2, True Blood), and Laureline, played by model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad, Anna Karenina).  Besson peppers the landscape of the big action sequences with the bare threads of their relationship, showing us if their relationship has room to be anything else beyond mere partners.  Beyond their through-line is a race to uncover the mystery behind an Avatar-inspired race of willowy peacelovers ravaged by war.  How are they related to a vision seen by Valerian, and are these peaceful people really the good guys or the bad guys?  But most of the time Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets is a non-stop rollercoaster ride as the leads assemble clues and rescue each other a time or two, as they try also to rescue a missing commander and uncover the mystery behind two unusual items in their possession: a rare magical pearl and a wide-eyed, pint-sized creature with extraordinary abilities.

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2001: A Space Odyssey.  Star Wars.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Blade Runner.  The Fifth Element.  Each one of these movies stretched our imaginations in new directions, providing us with new visions of what the future could look like.  Luc Besson, the director who gave us the spectacular worlds of The Fifth Element, is back this summer with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  His latest trailer provides a look at some stunning cityscapes and space views, reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking world in Blade Runner and Besson’s own work on The Fifth Element.

Then there are the alien costumes and make-ups, the real and digitally-created characters.  Again, only The Fifth Element had so much diversity in its creativity and vision.  The only odd choice is the focus in the trailers on Valerian as “Based on the groundbreaking novel that inspired a generation.”  This makes sense for a European trailer, but U.S. audiences will be puzzled seeing this statement learning about the graphic novel even the most diehard of comic book aficionados have never heard of.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on Valerian and Laureline, the French science fiction comic book series from the 1960s, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.  Get an advance look at the original source material before the movie comes out here.

valerian-comics-and-movie

The 1967 comics and the 2017 movie.

In October 2015 we reported here at borg.com that director Luc Besson was looking for a few good outfits to feature in a dinner party scene to take place in a city of millions and a myriad of humanoid alien races.  So he hosted a costume design contest.  The diverse and futuristic winning designs from the contest can be found here.

Besson, who also directed La Femme Nikita, The Professional, and Lucy, made a long-lasting statement in sci-fi fashion with his characters from The Fifth Element.  From Milla Jovovich’s body-taped Leeloo, to Bruce Willis’s orange-clad, understated everyman Korben Dallas, to the over-the-top Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod, from the striking opera singer Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn), to Gary Oldman’s creepy and villainous Zorg–the movie is a visual spectacle.

We now have the next trailer for Valerian, and it keeps looking better and better:

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valerian-trailer-b

Now in post-production, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on Valerian and Laureline, the French science fiction comic book series from the 1960s, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières.  Get an advance look at the original source material before the movie comes out here.

valerian-comics-and-movie

The 1967 comics and the 2017 movie.

In October 2015 we reported here at borg.com that director Luc Besson, best known for his outlandish style in the 1997 Bruce Willis/Milla Jovovich sci-fi classic The Fifth Element, was looking for a few good outfits to feature in a dinner party scene to take place in a city of millions and a myriad of humanoid alien races.  So he hosted a costume design contest.  The diverse and futuristic winning designs from the contest can be found here.  Besson, who also directed La Femme Nikita, The Professional, and Lucy, made a long-lasting statement in sci-fi fashion with his characters from The Fifth Element.  From Milla Jovovich’s body-taped Leeloo, to Bruce Willis’s orange-clad, understated everyman Korben Dallas, to the over-the-top Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod, from the striking opera singer Diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn), to Gary Oldman’s creepy and villainous Zorg–the movie is a visual spectacle.

valerian-trailer-a

Besson may be the only director to give Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner a challenge for the best-visualized future cities.

We now have the first trailer for Valerian, and it is everything we hoped it would be:

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