Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

I’m 34 years old. I’m no different than most other 30ish year olds in that I like to be in bed before 11pm. It takes a lot for me to stay up past midnight and last night I wanted to stay up well past midnight to watch Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in 3D. Needless to say I am glad I saw it.

Valerian is a weird, wildly innovative imaginative science fiction film. A lot of people are going to compare the film to Avatar. For my money Valerian is leaps and bounds better because after I left the movie theater for Avatar I completely forgot everything about the story and no shots stood out; I did enjoy the immersive experience but Avatar felt like a roller coaster ride in that after you get off you move on with your day.

Valerian, like Avatar, is no means a perfect film in regards to story but the fact Valerian is nothing like I have ever seen before. At times characters are literally jumping from one fully defined world to another in a matter of 1-2 seconds. It is astounding to think how much thought and time must have been spent to create these worlds. There are several action scenes where I was in total aw because I literally never anything like it before.

The story is about two government cops (Laureline and Valerian) who go undercover to retrieve an extremely rare artifact that has been stolen. Upon retrieving the artifact they start to uncover that there is maybe more to this artifact.

Valerian is played Dane DeHaan. He’s always been brilliant in smaller supporting roles. On the surface he didn’t seem like an obvious choice for this role but I walked into the movie theater anxious to see his performance. DeHaan is miscast in the role. The movie says he’s a playboy who has had many female conquests. To be honest he doesn’t have the charisma or charm to accomplish such a feat.

I looked at the box office numbers and it does not look good. I think there will be many factors why this happened. Having the wrong actor in the lead role has to play some effect on this. Suppose if the Guardians of the Galaxy did not cast Chris Pratt. I bet if they casted anyone else the movie would not have been what it is now.

But back to what has me the most worried. Obviously the low box office numbers is not good for Valerian’s backers but this is even worse if you love movies. There is a segment of the population who hates how superhero movies dominate the box office and how they hate how Hollywood is afraid to take chances with unconventional films (I am one of these people).

Well, this is weird unconventional film and the face no one went out to watch it only confirms Hollywood’s rationale that they don’t want to take risks especially when the budget is $200 million (which is what it cost to make Valerian).

After talking to some of my friends, who are the target audience for this film, the consensus feeling I get is apathy and the primary reason for the apathy is because critics gave the movie a low rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The fact Valerian only has a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes makes dislike and lose faith in movie critics. You can already tell I am not a professional critic but I don’t know how anyone can see this film and walk away with a recommendation, “I don’t think people should see this film.” This is mad. For the visuals alone this is something everyone should see on the big screen. The fact that a large percentage of critics have panned this film has made me realize now, more than ever you should think for yourself and not rely on whether on critics to be the gatekeepers for the media/movies you want to consume.

I promise you if you see this movie there will never be a dull moment and you will be entertained the entire time. If I was to give this a percentage rating (on a 0-100% scale) I would give this a 88%.

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Land Ho! Movie Review

I love Aaron Katz’s movies. The simplest descriptor of the types of movies he makes is on the surface, they’re not about anything, focusing on the¬†idiosyncrasies of day-to-day life. However, I always come away with a small profound emotion about what I just saw (not in pretentious way like the last two Terrence Malick movies). Katz’s latest film Land Ho!, who he co-wrote and co-directed the film with Martha Stephens, is an absolute joy. A quick aside: I haven’t seen any of Stephens’ films, but I want to.

This is the first time Katz has written/directed a comedic film. Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn are the two leads and they are both hilarious. They’re an odd couple. Mitch (Nelson’s character) is a¬†boisterous, foul mouthed ,charismatic recently retired surgeon. He takes his brother in-law Colin (Eenhoorn’s character) on a trip to Iceland. Colin, an ex French Horn player and retired banker, is very measured when meeting new people, but once gets to know you will let down his guard and will be very playful.

When they get to Iceland they stay in the city and travel more and more to remote areas of the country. I challenge anyone to see this film and not want to go Iceland afterward. The hikes they go on are breathtaking. As I watched the movie I constantly looked at my dog and thought how awesome it would be if we were there tomorrow.

This is a road trip movie, but it’s not formulaic. I loved the counter play between Colin and Mitch as well as the irony of using foul mouthed jokes behind the beautiful Icelantic landscape. There are no major long lasting revelations by any of the characters, which is true with any trip. However, each character learns something from the trip, but the most important thing is they will have a better and stronger friendship after the trip, which I believe is the best part of any road trip. This movie is a must watch; I give it my highest rating.

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Robert Stephenson’s Second Major League Start

Yesterday Robert Stephenson, the Reds number one prospect, very quietly had a very good box score against the Rockies at home: 7 IP, 1 ER, 3 K, 2 BB and 3 H. The question how did he earn those numbers? Was he dominant? How did he look overall? Should he be stashed in leagues with a deep bench?

After last nights start Stephenson was sent back to Triple-A so he will not have an immediate impact for fantasy, but with the likes of Jon Moscot and Alfredo Simon in the Reds rotation it’s only a matter of time before Stephenson receives a long look in the majors.

Throughout his professional career Stephenson’s biggest roadblock to success has been command. Since joining Double-A he’s had walk rates no lower than 11.2 percent (which was last year in Triple-A). After watching his start against the Rockies I’m not surprised his walk rates have been that high. Of the 24 batters he faced, eight of them had hitters counts.

The biggest reason why he had so many hitters counts was fastball command. His fastball can top out 97 mph, but when he was throwing the fastball faster than 94 they were mostly for balls. He was able to throw more strikes with a lower fastball velocity.

When he was able to get ahead in the count that’s when he could throw that really good curveball for swings and misses and to generate weak contact. From my noticed there were five swings and misses out of 14-15 swings on the curveball. What was most impressive was the curveball was effective against both righties and lefties. He also featured a split-changeup that showed promise, but he wasn’t able to throw it for strikes so I didn’t a good gauge of how good it could really be.

Bottom Line: Stephenson is going to be in the majors this year. When he arrives is entirely on him. Last year the Reds used nine rookie pitchers (Stephenson was not one of them) so the Reds are not hesitant to use young arms. If he starts to throw strikes consistently he could be up as early as May. If he continues to not throw strikes it could be a late second half call-up.

If he can have a walk rate in the 7-8 percent range he should be an every week starter in 12-team mixed leagues (in most weeks) because he should have plenty of strikeouts and since he pitches in the NL he’s going to face a lot of bad offenses. He hasn’t shown a lot of strikeouts in the majors, but his minor league number suggests there’s a lot of room for improvement. He’s going to be a WHIP and Wins liability, but the strikeout potential is too good to pass up. If he was able to throw 200 innings I think 175 strikeouts is his floor. That may not sound like a lot, but only 26 pitchers had that many strikeouts last year.

If I was in a NFBC league and I had a roster spot to spare I would pick up Stephenson and stash him.

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