Posts Tagged ‘Scarlett Johansson

14
Aug
14

Lucy REVIEW: There’s Something About Lucy

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What is she really doing there? It’s like she’s trying to play an electric harp.

Just to make this clear, Lucy is an incredibly stupid movie that makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever.

But Lucy is also maddeningly, a gloriously achievement in film-making so out of control that somehow it transcends being a “bad film” and is in actuality a disaster so precisely calibrated to writer and director Luc (The Professional, The Fifth Element) Besson’s insane vision that one can’t take one’s eyes off the screen.

I mean, for example, take Transformers 4. I know that ain’t the full title but I don’t care to go back and figure it out nor remember it. There came a point where I wanted to walk out of the theater. But the A/C was working like a Godsend so I sat there for three hours being pummeled by uninspired, rote CGI. If I had rented the DVD at home, I surely would’ve turned it off at the 2 hour mark.

But not a moment like that happened with Lucy… As the plot continued to spiral into completely illogical ludicrousness, I still couldn’t figure out where the movie was going. Part of the “credit” goes to Besson’s screenplay, but most of the “credit” should go to Scarlett Johansson—who also single-handedly proves that women can lead a comic-book hero film. Because not only is Lucy essentially a superhero origin story, it also made a shitload of money.

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You guys didn’t see Captain America: Winter Soldier, have you?

Lucy is the tale of a young girl in Taiwan who is turned into a drug mule by Korean gangsters. They surgically insert a big bag of some blue drug in her body (reportedly a synthesized version of the stuff that makes fetuses grow so quickly) to smuggle into the US. The bag breaks and she slowly gains more and more access to the remaining 90% of the human brain, which the movies tells us, mankind isn’t evolved enough to use yet. (The science behind the whole 10% thing is also kinda dubious to begin with but let’s just go with it for now.)

Johansson is truly a marvelous actress. Unlike her role as the Black Widow in the Marvel movies, she actually doesn’t do very much gun-shooting or ass-kicking here. Most of the time she’s sitting in a room, a car, or airplane, just staring into space, calculating whatever it is her brain feels the need to calculate. And she still somehow remains a character that is compelling and sympathetic. She’d be a wonderful Terminator.

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Those characters actually mean: “Do not urinate and defecate on floor.”

As stated before, Besson incredulously shoots for the Kubrick/Malick moon as well. His mind must have become so gloriously warped in self-indulgence that he typed any old thing that popped into his head while working on the script. Maybe he was on drugs and experienced a helluva trip because somehow we explore deep space, early man making fire, the dinosaurs, scenes of different species of animals procreating, the rest of human evolution and history… Perhaps concepts this zany would have worked better in outer space like The Fifth Element, which contains similar themes, albeit, subtler.

And did I mention the film only takes about 90 minutes? Hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel because Lucy is the summer’s most charismatic female character and I’m kinda curious what she’s up to right now. (SPOILER: She kinda turned herself into a giant black stalactite computer with a handy USB drive. She’s also…everywhere, capable of sending you text messages if you think about her.)

So here lies the rub. Yes, Lucy isn’t very good. Practically every friend I know who’s seen the movie has hated, hated, hated it. I don’t blame them. But it’s also shockingly and audaciously watchable, something that can’t be said for Transformers 4. In another time, Lucy would have been a classic, prime candidate for MST3K.

Lucy is currently playing in theaters everywhere.

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25
Jun
14

Review: Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson takes a trip to indie town as she portrays an alien (?) on a mission to seduce men in Under the Skin.

Scarlett Johansson takes a trip to indie town as she portrays an alien (?) on a mission to seduce men in Under the Skin.

When you envision art house films, I’m sure many people conjure up things happening on screen that just make no sense. People doing things for no apparent reason, films that have very little dialogue, something with off the wall sound effects or score that just puts you in a really weird place. While movies that challenge the audience to think can put a moviegoer on top of the world, films that overdo it just make your head hurt by making the viewer ask the question ‘why?’ too damn much.

Such is the case with Under the Skin. While there is a very loose assemblage of a story, character motivations aren’t clear and the film challenges viewers to piece together what’s going on on their own. While my brains weren’t fried while watching Under the Skin, I did find myself scratching my head one too many times wondering what it all was trying to say. There’s definitely some high concept stuff going on here, and if I have to venture a guess some of it involves the exploration of what it’s like to be a human as well as sexuality.

So what exactly is Under the Skin about? Well, it stars Scarlett Johansson as an (for lack of a better term) otherworldly being in the body of woman wandering the Scottish countryside picking up men. While at first things appear to be sexual in nature, things take a dark turn when this being lures men into a dark space (literally) and under the pretense of having sex with them, kidnaps them to another dimension and destroys/devours/absorbs them. It’s really not that clear what happens to these unfortunate fellows that fall victim to this trap, but they go in expecting one thing, and never come back out.

While it may read as twisted, in the film things are a lot more vague with no real explanation given for why men are being lured into this space. What adds another layer to all this is that men who are chosen need to meet certain criteria to be selected–usually those who are unattached, live alone, and have no family. Are these types of men more sexually aggressive than others? Is that why they are being targeted? The film doesn’t really say, but it does give Johansson’s character serial killer like tendencies the way she selects men that probably won’t be missed.

Again I can’t be certain, but if I had to venture a guess, a big part of this whole thing has to do with Johansson and her peeps studying us humans. While a majority of the film is spent following her hunting down men, several other scenes in the film depict her observing reactions of ordinary people. One scene in particular she purposely falls down and just lies there on the ground. Passers-bye stop and offer assistance to see if she’s alright, but we never quite know why she does what she does. In another strange and creepy sequence, we see her stand idly by as someone drowns while another person tries to rescue them.

While a lot of this weird stuff goes on for more than half of the film, things change when Johansson encounters a man that is different from all the men that she’s selected previously. She seems to take to take pity on this soul and after the encounter her character and motivations seem to shift towards understanding what it’s like to be a human–as if she wasn’t doing this before. Things such as taste, what it’s like to be taken care of, what it’s like to have a sexual experience, and even what it’s like to be afraid Johansson’s character seems to experience for the first time after this pivotal encounter.

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One thing I will give the film huge credit for is its score. Right from the onset you are put on unnatural footing by the wistful and somewhat synthetic score. Throughout the film suspense builds with many long and slowly building notes that not only increase in volume, but in pitch as well. Coupled with the vague storytelling on screen, most of the time I had a heightened sense of awareness just from the score alone.

At the end of the day though, I was entertained by the technical aspects of the film more than I was the story; which for me is problematic. While I don’t think you’re supposed to relate or even identify with the Johansson’s character, without anyone’s motivations, I never understood where the film was really going. Was this otherworldly being ensnaring these men to feed off of them in some way? Was she doing it for kicks? Was she studying them? Was she exploring what it was like to be a human being? And why did this being have to look like Scarlett Johansson for?

While I think my second to last question might be the most insightful one, who’s to say with the vagueness of it all. Under the Skin is definitely a challenging film to take in, so I give anyone credit who ventures to check it out. Though it is very picturesque, well shot, and creates a wonderful sense of foreboding and tension with its score; I needed a bit more from the story to get under the film’s skin. For me, it was all above the surface really.

Cinematic Scene: Going Under the Skin

"Cinematic Scene” is a new element to reviews. In an effort talk about some of the more technically creative and/or emotionally charged scenes in the film I’ve decided to break off a specific section at the end of each review to discuss these noteworthy scenes. Whether it’s fancy camera work, brilliant use of special effects, or heart wrenching acting; I will pick one notable scene from the film that you should pay attention to.

“Cinematic Scene” is a new element to reviews. In an effort talk about some of the more technically creative and/or emotionally charged scenes in the film I’ve decided to break off a specific section at the end of each review to discuss these noteworthy scenes. Whether it’s fancy camera work, brilliant use of special effects, or heart wrenching acting; I will pick one notable scene from the film that you should pay attention to.

So what exactly does happen when men get lured by Scarlett Johansson‘s feminine wilds into another dimension? While this may sort of venture into spoiler-ish territory, in the grand scheme of the movie describing this scene doesn’t really give anything away. But, on the off chance you’re extra cautious, proceed with caution after the break . . .

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ScarJo is not amused by this SPOILER ALERT.

A couple of times in the film we see Johansson’s character lure men in to an alternate space that is completely black. While on several occasions we see both of them disrobe and the men sink into the floor, in one instance we get to see what happens after the guy gets sucked under. In the scene, the newest victim to succumb to the trap finds himself floating in a liquid like state. As he looks across the dark expanse he spots another victim, seemingly the last person that fell prey to the same trap. Though it’s dimly lit, you can sort of make out that the life seems to have been slowly sucked away from this guy since he looks wrinkly.

Then, before you have a chance to fully take in what’s going on, the guy vaporizes in a jump cut and in his place all that’s left is his skin. It just floats there like a deflated human balloon; eerily flapping back and forth with the current. It’s a really striking scene save for the fact that a dude was just vaporized. It’s also so abrupt that it keeps you off balance but at the same time blows you away as well. Technically its really creative and though creepy, there is sort of an elegance to it.

Under the Skin was released yesterday as a digital download via iTunes or Amazon. It will be released on Blu-ray/DVD on July 15.

2.5/5 stars // rated R // 1hr 48min




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