Kneel Before VOD: November 7th
Luc Besson finally got to make a Fifth Element sequel. Well, not really, but Valerian, with its high concept, higher budget, sci-fi effects, and cast of quirky characters, is about as close as we can hope to get. Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevingne are miscast as a duo of space police brought in to put a stop to a plot to destroy Alpha, a peaceful hub world that contains an amalgamation of hundreds of different alien races’ knowledge and home to millions. The effects are genuinely thrilling at times, and the cast does the best they can to create a truly unhinged oddity.
It didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but The Hitman’s Bodyguard managed to be a surprise success and satisfying action comedy in the middle of the summer movie season. The premise is easily explained in the title, a security agent is assigned to escort a notorious hitman for a day, and not all that interesting. But where the film sets itself apart is its stars. Watching Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson have fun while cashing a paycheck is a delight.
After Elysium, I was ready to write off Neill Blomkamp forever, and the reviews of his third film, Chappie, didn’t change that decision one bit. But, as is the case for a large amount of critically panned films, a vocal minority champions it and I eventually give in. And dammit they’re often right. Chappie is pretty good. Sharlto Copley is as fun as ever as the titular police robot reprogrammed to have sentience. Chappie has to learn to cope with the new world while outrunning the police with the gang that reprogrammed him, who he eventually becomes friends with.
Amazon Prime: The James Bond Collection
This past week saw the addition of a majority of the James Bond films to both Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus. The collection includes the entire tenures of Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton, and George Lazenby; the only Bond not totally represented is Daniel Craig (Spectre makes an appearance). That’s forty-two-odd hours of watching the suave British spy talk, shoot, drink, and generally outsmart the bad guys all in the name of the world’s safety. There are still two years to wait until Agent 007 returns to the big screen, so you’ve got plenty of time to relive (or experience for the first time) his past adventures.
Hulu Plus: Kung Fu Hustle
Prolific Chinese actor directed, co-wrote, and stars in this action comedy that hilariously sends up Hong Kong martial arts cinema while providing some great fight scenes. Chow is Sing, a hopeless loser who poses as a member of a gang that controls 1930s Shanghai. The gang doesn’t take kindly to this and comes to make it clear that they are in charge, and Sing has to build his skill set to stop them with the help of a few of the town’s residents who are secretly martial arts legends. The film plays like a live-action cartoon more successfully than anything I’ve seen that attempts the style.
HBO Go: Get Out
Maybe the year’s best horror film and certainly the most relevant, Get Out is a smart and tense socially conscious thriller. Jordan Peele’s smash hit directorial debut stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a photographer who's been invited to his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents' house to meet them. When a mysterious annual event happens to begin during the visit, Chris starts to realize that there might be something sinister behind the happy faces worn by Rose’s family. Here’s hoping that the abnormally weak Oscar race this year works out in Get Out’s favor, particularly for Kaluuya and Peele’s original script.
FilmStruck: Listen Up Philip
Jason Schwartzman is a popular author awaiting the release of his sophomore novel. Disillusioned with the press tour, he instead takes up an invitation to stay at his idol Ike Zimmerman’s (Jonathan Pryce) home. This anxious dark comedy is certainly uncomfortable, if not outright hilarious. Schwartzman plays well into his niche of neurotic jerk and Elisabeth Moss is, as always, enchanting. Another of Alex Ross Perry’s films, The Color Wheel, was also added to FilmStruck this week.