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Review: Gemini Man

Written by Darren Lemke, Billy Ray, and David Benioff, and directed by Ang Lee, “Gemini Man” is an Action oriented thriller with a dose of Science-Fiction thrown in for good measure. So, this one is a mixed bag. More so than any other movie this year, for me anyways. Will Smith has had a good year with the “Aladdin” remake and next year’s new installment of “Bad Boys” looks like a long awaited return to a ridiculous set of films that should be, if nothing else, a good time at the movie theater. That’s the mindset I was in after walking out of “Gemini Man”, having had a legitimately good time at the movies- even though there were some jarring aspects to the experience. Low expectations are to be sought out friends and fellow movie-goers, they will do more for you than any hype or word-of-mouth. Having heard that this one was a bit of a stinker at the box-office I went in seeing if this one would fall into the category of “So bad it’s good” movies. Not so, the film was well directed and the performances were competent enough for the story that this film was trying to tell. The writing however, was bad. That’s actually the worst part of the film, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Will Smith’s Henry is an aging assassin, and as the opening scene dictates, he’s still the best as what he does- even though he himself spots his skill slipping. After getting too close to a civilian death for comfort, Henry decides that it’s time to retire his trigger finger. As with all movie assassins that decide to hang it up for good- Henry’s pulled back into the action before too long. After getting a hint of some shady business surrounding his last target from a fellow former brother-in-arms, Henry’s off on the scent of conspiracy. From there Henry is pursued by his own agency for “knowing too much” and gets another old friend (Benedict Wong) roped into the search for answers when he quickly spots an agent (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) surveilling him nearby. Once they all agree to find out why their own agency is chasing them down with deadly intent, the three agents find themselves being pursued by a familiar face.

Which is where the action kicks up a considerable degree. The motorcycle chase scene in Colombia between Will Smith and his Fresh Prince-era clone is one of the most exciting sequences of the whole movie, it’s well directed and feels frantic and chaotic. This exemplifies the best asset of the film (aside from two Will Smith performances), constant pursuit with increasingly brutal tactics from the “Bad Guys” of the movie. The film wisely keeps the pace and speed of the film high, which is good because otherwise the writing would have stood out more than it already did. Which leads me to my biggest complaint about this film: it’s way too predictable. From the first moment you see Clive Owen’s Clay Verris in an office barking orders and threats, you know almost everything you need to know about him, he’s a brutal and efficient Villain- with a capital V. Everything about the “old man fights his past self and conflicts with him ideologically” theme of the film is surface level psychology and just a fun excuse to experiment with that shiny new de-aging technology. Which, by the way, was somewhat impressive in execution. I’m not quite sure how they filmed Will Smith grappling with himself on the ground- but some curiosity behind the filmmaking process won’t balance out your film when a more thoughtful script may have been a better solution.

“Gemini Man” doesn’t use all of it’s actors as well as it could have, and its definitely an easy one to plot out if you’ve seen enough movies, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my time with it. The plot and hook of the film may not be the most innovative or as memorable as they’d like it to be, but there’s some good fun to be had with this one as long as you’re okay with turning your brain off for a bit. Thankfully, the film puts all of its dramatic weight on the shoulders of Will Smith’s acting abilities, but it isn’t quite enough to distract from the flaws in the storytelling. However, if you’re just looking for some good escapist fun at the movie theater, you could do far worse than this one.

Final Score: 1 Person, made from another… person

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Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Written and directed by Luc Besson, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is an ambitious adaption of the French science fiction comic series “Valerian and Laureline”. Cited as one of the many inspirations for “Star Wars”, “Valerian and Laureline” adds another dimension to the complexity of adventuring through space-they often police the timeline as well. However here in this adaption we only get traditional sci-fi flair. Which in itself is fine, a script could easily get over complicated by adding time travel in the mix. Anyways, this film almost entirely takes place in Alpha, a gigantic space station initially built by humans then added onto over time by the inclusion of other alien species tech and starship capabilities. Fast forward roughly five hundred years into our future and you have a massive sprawling structure floating through space. Alpha contains each species contributions to this effort and because of this it contains many different kinds of environments and species thriving there.

That is what is best about this movie adaption, the spectacle of it all. The world that Valerian and Laureline live in and move through is fascinating, and the pace at which we are introduced and sped through it all is akin to a stellar theme park ride. However if you’re not the kind to be wowed at visually creative sci-fi ideas, costumes, alien designs etc etc-you may not find much to enjoy here. While I personally enjoyed this film for the all the visual treats, there is not much there when it comes to the characters or plot.

Let’s get to the elephant in the room; Dane DeHaan is a good actor, I’ve seen him perform quite competently in other films, but he is grossly miscast as Valerian-the atypical classical hero that gallivants the universe conquering evil while also adding a litany of names upon his wall of sexual conquests. Dane, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you. Maybe in five or ten years once he grows out of his wiry build, maybe then-but not now. Cara Delevingne fairs better, she is more believable in her performance and she has vastly improved from her last role in the slogfest that was “Suicide Squad”. However, there is simply no chemistry between Laureline and Valerian. Maybe there is a different relationship between the two in the comics, but here the nonexistent chemistry is hard to ignore as the film wants you to believe in the love these two characters share, even while both of them vie for the role of charming rogue.

In the end this was a fairly enjoyable, if a bit predictable, sci-fi romp even amidst the visible issues at hand. It’s a solid film that may not receive sequels- but I hope it does, there’s room to improve so I would welcome another effort.

Final Score: Three Doghan Daguis