Lucy


Viewed – 26 August 2014  Cinema

I went into this a little bit apprehensive.  For a long time now it seems I have waited for director Luc Besson to wow me again, at least on a par with his sci-fi opus The Fifth Element, even if I wasn’t quite expecting something as genre defining as Leon.  This director who in recent memory has stuck to producing and writing credits, has failed to really get his mojo back.  The trailer to this latest offering however held promise.  It had current hot property Scarlett Johansson in it, and had all the high concept cool I had grown to love about Besson’s work.

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Johansson plays Lucy, a seemingly ordinary girl with a few suspect friends, staying in Taiwan who gets unwittingly involved with a group of gangsters, headed by Old Boy star Choi Min-sik.  Before she realises what’s going on, she’s drugged and wakes up in a hotel room, quickly discovering a bandage around her mid section, and is informed she will be a human courier for an experimental drug that has been concealed inside of her(!).  However shit goes down as it normally does and soon Lucy is feeling the affects of this drug that begins to open her brain to greater than normal ability, gifting her with various super-human powers like telekinesis and the ability to transform her hair colour … to start with.

This is flashy, stylish and very much a fun ride for Johansson and it’s clear Besson loves the concept.  Johansson captures vulnerability, bad-ass toughness and out of control mania with ease, whilst delivering some very cool action ‘beats’ along the way.  Morgan Freeman is also on hand as a scientist, but doesn’t really do much out of type for him.  Stand-out moments involve a great car ride (I won’t say ‘chase’) and some trippy special effects (Lucy seeking out a telephone call by weaving her hand through the various phone signals), and that bit in the airplane toilet … wow.  However this was also a concept begging for restraint, needing the breaks applied now and then (I really wanted more of Lucy kicking ass) but Besson instead applied the accelerator and in the closing moments – it got pretty insane.  Choi Min-sik in his first American movie may lack any English dialogue but still had presence to spare … with a great entrance suitable to his legacy. 

This was very enjoyable despite shortcomings (why was Lucy chained up in that cell?), so for Scarlett Johansson fans and anyone after something a bit different – I say check this out.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Top Ten Actors


That I’d watch in pretty much anything.

Inspired from a post over at Where The Wild Things Are and then also at Cinema Parrot Disco, I have chosen to compile the idea from both male and female ‘actors’ rather than doing separate lists… mainly because I was struggling with ten for actresses without being swayed by their attractive qualities…it’s a bloke thing.

Emma Stone

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Favourite movie:  Easy A

Leonardo DiCaprio

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Favourite movie:  Catch Me If You Can

Christoph Waltz

christoph waltz

Favourite movie:  Inglorious Basterds

Marianne Cotillard

Marianne Cotillard

Favourite movie:  Inception

Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Favourite movie:  Almost Famous

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

Favourite movie:  Boogie Nights

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Favourite movie:  Born of the Fourth of July

Edward Norton

Edward Norton

Favourite movie:  Fight Club

Samuel L Jackson

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Favourite movie:  Pulp Fiction

Cate Blanchett

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Favourite movie:  Blue Jasmine

There are many more, but these are the ones I tend to find myself watching regardless of what role they are in, and the movies mentioned above are the roles I have most enjoyed them in, not necessarily their best.  For actors I tend to avoid…the list is shorter, but I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black and to an extent … Ben Affleck.

Is Luc Besson back?


Once he was one of my favourite directors, but after the double hits of Leon and The Fifth Element, his hyped Joan of Ark movie failed to strike gold at the box office.  Ever since he been best known as a producer and writer, being responsible for such hits as Taken and The Transporter, but apart from an underwhelming directing turn on French Indiana-Jones-like movie The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec, and the poorly received comedy gangster movie The Family … he’s not really got his mojo back in years.

I’m hoping the imminent release of his Scarlett Johansson high-concept thriller ‘Lucy’ changes this.  By the looks of the trailer, it would appear so.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes


Viewed – 31 July 2014  Cinema

The last reboot of the fabled POTA saga was a refreshingly different take on the mythos, letting us in on a backstory that was only ever hinted at in the classic movie franchise.  It was the Apes movie we as cinema goers deserved, further pushing from our minds Tim Burton’s earlier, ill-judged remake.  This follow-up starts ten years after the events of the first, where we meet a group of surviving humans (lead by Gary Oldman), living in a tower in a destroyed and mostly abandoned San Francisco.  The virus that spread at the end of ‘Rise has wiped out much of mankind all but for a few immune who hope to take back a world that seems to have left them for dead.  Their only chance is to travel through the red forest to the Hoover Damn, where it’s power could reignite hope.  Only problem is a tribe of scientifically-advanced apes, lead by Caesar (Andy Serkis) stand in their way and want nothing more to do with humans.

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Again this is a visual tour-de-force.  The mostly CGI apes have become even more convincing (albeit for a couple of moments) and small little details in their expressions and varied personalities all help create characters that look and feel alive.  Caesar this time has an adolescent son  and a new born baby to worry about as well as growing tension amongst his tribe as humans begin to invade their territory … who does he side with and who does he trust?  It’s a strong message and also a worryingly believable concept if our closest relatives were to suddenly ‘evolve’.  Good support on the human-front comes from the recognisable but name-escaped-me at the time Jason Clarke (Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty) and also Oldman who regrettably didn’t go psycho bad-guy on us … but was decent regardless.  But this clearly was about the apes, and for a movie to be so convincingly carried by CGI characters, despite the performances that exists underneath all the techno-wizardry, is a revelation – especially when at times it really affected me emotionally (Caesar’s relationship with his son ‘bright eyes’…).  To back up the performances, we have several action sequences even if the movie lacks a rival to Rise’s Golden Gate Bridge stand-out scene – but this time around I found this more a character-piece, and we do get a great villain, whose identity I won’t spoil for you.

It’s been said Andy Serkis, who also played Gollum in the Hobbit / Lord of the Rings, as Caesar really should nab himself an Oscar, and with such a layered and powerful turn, I can’t disagree.  This was a brilliantly-conceived and intelligently put together sequel to a genuine surprise of a reboot … and I for one can’t wait for what comes next.

Verdict: 5 /5

Oculus


Viewed – 17 June 2014  Cinema

Some movies it’s good to go into totally blind.  No viewing of trailers, no reading of reviews.  Although I had heard this was meant to be pretty good as far as the glut of supernatural horrors of late, ala Insidious and The Conjuring.  This tells the tale of a young twenty something guy (James Van Der Beek look-a-like Brenton Thwaites) freshly released from a psychiatric hospital following an incident in his childhood.  Reunited with his sister, she reminds him of a promise they made when they were younger, and following an auction, sets up a night of observing what happens in the company of an antique mirror, that may or may not hold within a dormant, malevolent entity.

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The movie skilfully and cleverly jumps back and forth from the present and to that fateful night when the siblings were just children, and the events that lead up to the guy’s incarceration.  This is spooky, has some great ideas and two very strong performances, especially from the gorgeous Karen Gillan (yes, former Doctor Who assistant) as the guy’s elder sister.  It plays on your perceptions, twists your head into wondering if what you see is happening or just in the character’s heads, and throughout various red herrings and freaky encounters really got me questioning what was going on.  It’s certainly a horror that keeps you on your toes, and some hallucinations, including a memorable light bulb / apple mix up as well as some Ring-like creepy woman moments all made for a genuinely unsettling experience. 

It doesn’t get as nasty or as disturbing as some horrors can be (probably a good thing), and could be seen as more an exploration of the adverse affects of a childhood trauma and the transition into adulthood.  Yet the always scary concept of a possessed mirror and along with the time jumps … meant this horror fanboy came away rather impressed.

Verdict:  4 /5