Guest Review – LEAP (2017)

guestpost
Directed By: Éric Summer
Written By: Éric Summer
Runtime: 1 hr 29 minutes

I had no idea what I was getting into when I volunteered to review Leap! for this blog. I just saw that the screening was on a morning I had free, so I said I could go, then looked it up and realized it was a cartoon movie about ballet, which made me a little nervous. I’d never reviewed a kids’ movie before, and I didn’t want to be too hard on it, but I also didn’t want to let certain things slide just because the film is aimed at a younger audience. Fortunately, this movie gave me plenty to work with to strike a happy medium.

Leap! follows French orphan Felicie (Elle Fanning) who runs away from her dreary orphanage to Paris with her best friend Victor (Dane DeHaan) to pursue an education in ballet at the Grand Opera house. She steals the identity of a rich, spoiled girl named Camille (Maddie Ziegler) to secure a place in a ballet class, where she auditions for the coveted role of Clara in The Nutcracker and is trained by the once-great ballerina turned house cleaner Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), who teaches her to hone her enthusiasm into skill, and helps her understand where her passion for dance comes from.

Overall, this is a nice, original story, if a bit cliche. However, there are several bits of dialogue that feel awkard and unnecessary, but because the film was originally written and released in French, it could be a translation issue, or they needed filler for the animation when the English dubbing didn’t quite match the French in length. Most of the characters are well-written, although Victor’s subplot of being in love with and being “friendzoned” by Felicie throughout the movie made me roll my eyes regularly. This is a kids’ movie; why does there need to be a romantic subplot between two characters who have barely entered puberty? Maybe it’s too much to expect a movie with a boy and girl being friends with no romantic inclination.

Most of the acting is well-done. Elle Fanning and Dane DeHaan hold their own in the leads, and it’s a lot of fun hearing Kate McKinnon in a villainous role rather than a comedic one; she has such a rich, expressive voice that works perfectly for Regine, the cruel, controlling mother of Camille. Carly Rae Jepsen as Odette and Maddie Ziegler as Camille are both a little wooden in their performances, considering neither of them have much acting experience (voice or otherwise), but they’re not awful. Some of my favorite performances actually come from minor characters: Luteau (Mel Brooks), the head of the orphanage; and Nora (Shoshana Sperling), a friendly, quirky ballet student in Felicie’s class. They only have a handful of lines, but they made me laugh the hardest.

Of course, I can’t talk about an animated movie without talking about the animation itself, which is mostly beautiful. There are tons of gorgeous wide shots of the scenery, lots of fun action scenes, and incredibly realistic detail, especially in the clothing and hair. My one critique has to do with the characters’ faces, which are the most cartoon-y part of the animation. While that’s not a bad thing- it gives the film a unique look, and I prefer the cartoon-y faces over the horrifying, uncanny valley style you see in movies like The Polar Express-it does look plastic-y and doesn’t allow for much facial expression, which is a pretty big problem.

Lastly, I have to compliment the soundtrack, which is so fun and upbeat. I was a little hesitant about having so many modern artists in a movie about 19th century France, but all of the songs they use are very fitting of the tone, and the one used in the finale (Cut to the Feeling by Carly Rae Jepsen) is so enjoyable that I’m willing to forget Call Me Maybe ever existed.

While this movie has some obvious flaws, it’s one of the most enjoyable non-Disney animated films I’ve seen in a long time. If you have kids, it’s definitely worth seeing.

laura_review


Have you seen ‘LEAP’? Well, what did you think? 

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets review

Luc Besson is not a filmmaker I would consider a favorite of mine. In fact, the last film I saw that he directed was The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc way back in 1999. Sure I’ve seen the films he produced and wrote such as the Transporter and Taken series, while I did enjoy some of those films, I would only consider them “guilty pleasures”. I was never fan of his cult favorite Leon: The Professional and I mildly enjoyed The Fifth Element. He’s now back with another big budget sci-fi adventure film that’s based on a supposedly popular French comic books; although I’ve never heard of these comics before.

Set in the 28th century, the film opens with a group of alien beings who looks kind of like the Navis from Avatar and skinny human super models, enjoying their peaceful lives on a distant planet when suddenly space ships started clashing into their lands. Then we’re introduced to a couple of very young looking humans named Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne). At first it looked like they’re on vacation at some remote beach but it turns out they’re special agents whose mission is to find something important and bring it back to their superiors. They met up with other agents on some planet and got in some trouble while trying to retrieve the product they were told to retrieve. Once they got what they needed, they headed to a planet that’s full of alien beings and humans living in harmony and the film spent most of its runtime on this city/planet.

If it sounds like I’m not sure what the film’s really about then you’re correct. The film has no coherent story or character development. It’s full of cool 3D effects and that’s pretty much it. Written and directed by Besson, I believe his only motivation was to make a very cool looking film and show off his 3D shooting skills. I love film that has great visual and 3D effects but I also want to see good story and interesting characters; this film contains neither. The film also lacks, of all things, good action scenes. In fact, I don’t recall any memorably action sequences at all.

I’ve never read the comic books but I assume the lead characters probably look quite different from the actors who portrayed them in the film. DeHaan and Delevingne both look like they’re 16 year olds and I find that hard to believe they’re some kind of special agents. Also, they have zero chemistry and their bantering throughout the film sounds forced. The supporting characters were also forgettable except Clive Owen, who happens to be the villain but he’s on the screen for only like 5 minutes, such a waste of his talent here.

I wanted to say something positive about this dreadful film but I couldn’t think of anything else besides the cool looking 3D effects. It’s one of the most excruciating films I’ve sat through. I would highly recommend you stay away from it.

TedS_post


So have you seen Valerian? Well, what did you think?

Rental Pick: CHRONICLE (2012)

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a big fan of the found-footage genre, which is often used in horror or sci-fi movies. So when this one comes around, I was only mildly interested in seeing it. But the good reviews piqued my interest and y’know what, going out of one’s comfort zone can be quite rewarding 🙂

The story is pretty straightforward, three Seattleites high school friends somehow gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery one night. It’s not fully explained how they gain these powers, but that’s beside the point. Soon, the three boys bonded over their newly-found powers, and the scenes of them discovering the powers are quite fun to watch. You sort of live vicariously through these characters, especially in the exhilarating flying sequences. Now who hasn’t wished they could fly at some point of their lives? What started out as whimsical and fun soon takes a sinister turn, however. Never has the saying ‘it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye’ been more aptly applied here.

The found-footage film-making style lends itself well to the story, as one of the main characters, Andrew, is a loner kid who seems to only communicate using his handy-cam. He’s the quintessential troubled boy who lives with his cancer-stricken mother and a disillusioned, abusive former-firefighter father. As if life at home isn’t hard enough, he’s also bullied at school. After seeing the documentary Bully, these bullying scenes are even more heartbreaking and you truly feel for this kid. His two friends however, Matt (who’s actually Andrew’s cousin) and Steve, the popular guy who’s running for school president, live seemingly problem-free lives.

So it’s no surprise that this incredible discovery affects Andrew the most. On the way home from school one day, Andrew uses his power that sends someone in the hospital. Surely anyone who’s been tailgated or harassed by a careless driver can relate to that scene, but the incident prompts Matt and Steve to enforce a ‘rule’ that they should not to use the powers whilst they’re angry or for evil purposes. For Steve and Matt, the powers are just something cool to have, a new talent they can use for fun, such as freaking people out at a toy store using their telekinetic powers.

But for Andrew, the power feeds his growing anger and resentment, and it quickly overtakes him. It doesn’t help matters that Andrew’s telekinetic abilities seems to be the strongest of the three, perhaps because he’s just naturally the most gifted out of them all, and it could be because he spends more time perfecting it. My husband likens his ability to X-Men‘s Jean Grey, who could be incredibly powerful when she puts her mind to it. Andrew also shares some similarities with another mutant with a dark past, Magneto, whose life is in turmoil following the death of his mother.

What I like about Chronicle is that the superhero theme ultimately speaks more about our humanity and moral conscience at the core. When something out of the ordinary happens to us, whether good or bad, we all have a choice in how we deal with them and those choices are what affects us and those around us, more so than the circumstance itself. The film’s sense of realism also makes the story and characters very relatable, after all these three boys are as ordinary as they come.

The script did a good job in getting us care about the characters and provides some depth that transcends beyond the gimmicks of its precarious concept. The special effects is pretty good considering its paltry $12 mil-budget, it’s nothing spectacular but does its job and serves the story well.

I’m also impressed with the performances of the relatively unknown young actors. Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan have good chemistry together, and all of them have only done mostly TV projects and various small projects. DeHaan, who looks so much like a young Leonardo DiCaprio (circa This Boys Life), has the most challenging role out of the three and he’s more than up for the task.

Now, I’m not saying this is a perfect movie of course, there are quite a few plot holes about the extend of their powers and all that, not to mention the clichéd stereotypes on some of the characters. There are also some of the absurd choices some of the characters did that aggravate me, but not to the point that derail the whole movie.

The quibbles I did hear from some reviewers are that the ending seems extreme and overblown. It’s a warranted sentiment though I actually don’t mind them as the conflict has been hinted more than once. Plus, Andrew’s musings about being an ‘apex predator’ that shouldn’t feel sorry for crushing its inferior prey would inevitably lead to him doing some horrible things. I do feel that the finale is quite violent for being PG-13, that battle scenes both on the air and on the ground around the Space Needle are fierce and brutal. It’s heartbreaking to see what the powers cost each of these kids and what happens when certain powers falls into the wrong hands.

Final Thoughts: Chronicle is a pleasant surprise for me. It’s a worthy sci-fi fantasy that’s grounded in realism and has more emotional weight than meets the eye. It’s a pretty impressive achievement from director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis in their feature film debut.

4 out of 5 reels


Somehow I get a feeling this will be another polarizing movie, so if you’ve seen this, I’d love to hear what you think. If you haven’t, are you willing to give this a go?