Lucy (2014)

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Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-Sik, Amr Waked

Screenplay: Luc Besson

89 mins. Rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and sexuality.

 

Lucy, the new film from occasional visionary Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Family) is the tale of a young woman who becomes more than human thanks to an experimental drug and a situation she couldn’t have imagined falling into. Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) is Lucy, who has become a drug carrier to appease her boyfriend. When the drug she is delivering ends up in her bloodstream it awakens her full brain capacity and starts turning her into the Star-Child. You remember Star-Child, right? From 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yeah, well, this movie kind of just rips that off, but don’t worry, there are also bits of Limitless in there, too.

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Luc Besson’s major fault as a filmmaker is that he comes up with great ideas, but sometimes, he is a bit late to the game, and when he does get there, he can’t always formulate the ideas into a workable piece of art. Not all his films are like that, but it is a trend I am starting to see with the writer-director.

Scarlett Johansson is reduced to playing an unemotional machine by Act II, which depletes all the emotional resonance that she is capable of. Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Dolphin Tale 2) is relegated to reading out of a textbook for the entirety of the film as Professor Norman. Really, the only character I found myself even marginally connecting to by the midpoint of the film is Pierre (Amr Waked, Syriana, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), a cop caught up in Lucy’s mission to ascend to the next plane, and even he isn’t given enough fleshed-out time to really do anything.

The visuals are cool but they feel like they’ve been taken from better films. The screenplay (which took nine years to get off the ground) doesn’t offer anything new to the genre and just sort of falls flat.

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I wanted to like Lucy, but Lucy just didn’t like me back. Near the end, like Johansson’s previous Under the Skin, the film started to win me back, but it was too little too late for me. There are better films that play with these themes, so experience one of them instead.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Transcendence (2014)

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Director: Wally Pfister

Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman

Screenplay: Jack Paglan

119 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality.

 

When longtime visual perfectionist Wally Pfister decided to make his directorial debut on a project produced by colleague and master filmmaker Christopher Nolan, I think I wet my pants in excitement. And why not? The film, Transcendence, seemed all too perfect to fail. The screenplay was part of a shortlist of amazing unproduced screenplays floating around Hollywood. The director had proven himself visually. It had an all-star cast at the front lines of major players in the business. It couldn’t fail, right? Then, reviews started coming in. The film immediately dropped down to “rotten” on the famous tomatometer, and I started to get concerned. Finally, my chance to see the film came, and I knew I had to form an opinion all my own.

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I saw it. Oh, I saw it.

Transcendence is the story of the Casters, Will (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Tusk) and Evelyn (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige, Iron Man 3). Will is dying, and Evelyn will do anything to save him. So when Will comes up with a controversial theory concerning crossing his living mind with a technological super-computer in order to leave his withering body of flesh to exist amongst cyberspace. Longtime friend Max (Paul Bettany, A Beautiful Mind, The Avengers) helps the Casters achieve their goal only to second-guess his decision when Will’s mind wants more input. As Will’s consciousness continues to expand into new avenues of human psyche, a more horrifying truth comes to light for Evelyn: is this thing still her husband anymore, and if not, what has it become?

I want to like this movie so much. I really do. It has fine performances and the dialogue isn’t bad. The real issue of the movie is the pacing. After the first third of Transcendence, it slows the hell down. Seriously. There is a whole middle of this movie that has stuff going on but doesn’t feel important, which leads to an underwhelming ending trying to be deeper than it is. There are issues.

After Will’s consciousness begins learning and becoming something greater than itself, we see him experimenting with humans to progress both humans and itself, but I didn’t feel the stakes. I knew they were there, but I just didn’t find myself caring about them, which disappointed me. Maybe if the film pulled me in more, I would have found myself rooting for a solution, but Evelyn Caster doesn’t take up the lead as far as cathartic characters go. I wanted her to figure out what we had all figured out, but it took too long. On the other hand, Max has entrenched himself with known terrorists to try exposing this experiment to the public, so he wasn’t as likable either. Then you get Cillian Murphy (TV’s Peaky Blinders, Inception) and Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, Dolphin Tale 2), who play Agent Buchanan and Joseph Tagger. Seriously, who the hell are these guys and why do I care about them. They bare no weight whatsoever on the plot or anything going on. They merely observe. They just exist. Why? Exactly. These roles seemed more like a favor to Pfister than anything else. Yeah, I liked The Dark Knight trilogy too, but I wouldn’t take an easily worthless character to show my affection.

Then, there is the ending. It tries to be the ending to Inception or perhaps The Dark Knight Rises. It tries to compel its viewership into discussing exactly what happened. The problem here is that it feels so forced. It feels shoehorned when it could’ve been a simple explanation of what Max thinks happened without trying to imply anything. Just let us have the info that we have attained and let us use that for watercooler talk. Instead, the film leaves a dry taste on the tongue that leads to simply nothingness.

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I want to love this movie. There are so many parts of it that I do love. Many of the actors turn in fine work, and I didn’t have any issues with the visual presentation of the film, but I think good ol’ Wally needs to learn about pacing.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Wally Pfister’s Transcendence? Did you login or shut down? Let me know!

 

September 2014 Preview

I just want to get this out on the table. I have not seen any of the films on this list. This is only an assumption of the films’ merit based on the information I have on them. But, I should point out that I have a pretty good knack for this kind of stuff.

 

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Before I Go to Sleep

This is the story of Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!, Paddington), who gets into a car accident which causes her to have deep memory loss. She awakens every morning with memory loss. Then, one day, the memories flow back to her, and she questions the nature of the car accident and what really happened. I can see this movie trying to do the kinds of things that Memento got away with. The problem being that this film would really have to have a unique style, and from what I have seen, it isn’t really there.

 

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The Identical

Twin brothers (both played by newcomer Blake Rayne) are separated at birth and lead different lives. One of them becomes a famous singer, the other struggles between his love of music and his place in his family. This movie puts a lot of faith in Blake Rayne, and he doesn’t have the ability to carry this movie. It has a nice supporting cast in Seth Green, Ray Liotta, and Ashley Judd, but can it carry? Probably not.

 

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Mary Kom

This is based on the real-life Mary Kom, a female boxer of Indian descent. I’m not saying this film will be great. I’m not saying it will be bad. I’m saying it will be meh. The plot should be very interesting, as Kom had a very interesting life, but the crew isn’t anyone memorable.

 

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Horns

I’ve been waiting a long time to see Horns, from the incredible horror film director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D). It also happens to have some really good source material with the novel by Joe Hill. Daniel Radcliffe rounds out this crew starring in the film as Ig, short for Ignatius, a man who awakens one morning to the discovery of two large horns protruding from his head that give him dark thoughts and powers. Horns has the potential to be the standout horror film of the year, and a great way to get into the mood for Halloween.

 

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Ned Rifle

Ned Rifle is the third film of a trilogy. No, I actually knew very little about the previous entries before discovering this third film. The first film is Henry Fool, and the followup is Fay Grim, and the the trilogy follows these same characters. Ned Rifle is the son of Henry Fool and Fay Grim, and this is the story of Ned trying to murder his father. From the footage I have seen, I wouldn’t mind watching this trilogy, but I would say watch the other two and if you like them, I have very good feelings about Ned Rifle.

 

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Dolphin Tale 2

Wow, this movie looks terrible. I mean it, really bad, but then again, I have been saying that about the first film for a while now. If you enjoy Dolphin Tale, you will probably still buy a ticket and have a good time, but I’m going to tell you that you are wrong.

 

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The Drop

I just want to point out that this is a beautiful poster. If the film is even partially as good as its poster, I’ll get chills. This is based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, and like everything else he touches, it will be good. Lehane is known for his crime stories and thrillers, and chances are, the plot will have some difficult and disturbing turns along the way, but this is worth the ticket money. It also contains the final performance of deceased actor James Gandolfini.

 

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No Good Deed

Don’t see it. See The Drop!

 

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The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner has the ability to be the next Hunger Games. It is the story of Thomas, a young man who awakens in a maze with several others without any memory of what exists outside the maze. Together with the other maze runners, he must escape the maze and discover the purpose. Someone see this and tell me how it is. I’m feeling good.

 

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This is Where I Leave You

This seems like a good one. We have Jason Bateman and Tina Fey leading a breakout cast full of interesting personalities as four siblings return home to sit Shiva after the death of the family patriarch. Honestly, it just seems like much more interesting dramedy concept than I have seen recently.

 

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Tusk

I’ve already spoken about my thoughts on this movie. It has so many talented people adding to it. I just have no idea how a movie like this is going to work. This is a risk.

 

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A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson hunts a kidnapper…

I’ve gotten into this habit of understanding that Liam Neeson kicks ass. Not all of his films do, but Liam Neeson kicks ass nonetheless. In order to properly decide the merit of a Liam Neeson, look at the release date. Non-Stop came out in February. Not great. A Walk Among the Tombstones releases in September. I’m thinking a hit.

 

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Finding Fanny

Finding Fanny is a road trip movie, and a pretty generic one at that. Skip.

 

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The Equalizer

Damn, I loved watching the television series The Equalizer. That series was awesome. Denzel Washington is perfect in the role Robert McCall, an ex-spec op who wages war on the Russian mob. Antoine Fuqua knows this kind of film and it is going to rock. I’m pretty sure.

 

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Believe Me

This is the tale of a bunch of college students who fake a church group to use donation money to pay their student tuition. Man, this movie is going to piss people off. I have nothing against the subject material, but I have seen footage and am doubtful about the technical aspects. It doesn’t look very cleaned up. I’m leaning on skip.

 

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The Good Lie

No. Nope. I don’t think so. Probably not. No.

 

So there you have it. Here is a final tally.

Best Bets: Horns, The Drop, This is Where I Leave You, A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Equalizer

On the Bubble: Before I Go to Sleep, Ned Rifle, The Maze Runner, Tusk, Believe Me

Likely Misses: The Identical, Mary Kom, Dolphin Tale 2, No Good Deed, Finding Fanny, The Good Lie

 

As before, these are the tools. Use them however you wish. What do you think of this month’s releases? What do you want to see most? Let me know!

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