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

Brick Mansions (2014)

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Director: Camille Delamarre

Cast: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA

Screenplay: Luc Besson

90 mins. Rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material.

 

Remakes are really not worth it.

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Brick Mansions is a remake of the earlier film District 13, and suffers from being just like everything else. It stars the late Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) in his final finished role as Damien Collier, an undercover detective in future Detroit who wishes to take down criminal kingpin Tremaine Alexander (RZA, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, G.I. Joe: Retaliation). Along the way, he meets Lino (David Belle, District 13, The Family), whose girlfriend has been taken by Alexander. The two form an unlikely partnership to take down the notorious crime boss. Also there is parkour. So yeah.

The thing that made District 13 so great was that it has a unique visual style and some great action. Brick Mansions has neither. It has a badly derived plot that seems to get lost in itself before realizing that nobody is really paying attention to it. It has Paul Walker as a lead, who can’t do much with this poorly outlined character. His dialogue wouldn’t be realistic no matter what Walker had done. David Belle just plain can’t act. Yes, he can parkour, but should that mean sacrificing a lead performer for some action? Then there is RZA. I actually like RZA for the most part, but not in this movie. He isn’t likable. He isn’t menacing. He just isn’t anything.

I know a lot of people see a movie like Brick Mansions for the action, and the fact that most of the action here is without CGI is pretty cool. What doesn’t help is constantly playing with the edit and slowing down or speeding up the action and fights so that it seems less real than it actually is. All director Camille Delamarre (The Transporter Legacy) needed to do was capture it on film, but he fiddled. He fiddled hardcore.

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This film just feels uninspired. The ending to it was so laughably stupid that I actually had to rewatch it to make sure that I didn’t miss something really grand that made the whole thing worth it. It didn’t. I didn’t have much fun watching it at all. I know it is perhaps wrong to think on an actor’s last films after they die, but you hope an actor can leave this life with something strong to cap it off. Brick Mansions was a disappointing fare, and I really hope that Furious 7 will be a strong finale to Walker’s legacy, because I liked him. I just didn’t like this.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Camille Delamarre’s Brick Mansions? Did you leap in or drop out? Let me know.

 

31 Days of Horror: Day 19 – Dark Shadows (2012)

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Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Bella Heathcote

Screenplay: Seth Grahame-Smith

113 mins. Rated PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking.

 

For horror fans, the 1966 television series Dark Shadows is a pretty big deal. For soap opera fans, it is also a big deal. A dark brooding and eventually supernatural based soap opera, Dark Shadows was so far ahead of its time that it didn’t really take off during its initial run. It didn’t really take off during its revival either. In 2012, director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Frankenweenie) brought a reimagining to the big screen from a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith (TV’s The Hard Times of RJ Berger, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). It, too, did not take off. So how does a movie with this much going for it, a new and promising screenwriter, a talented director behind the camera, and explosive leading man Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Into the Woods) as a lead, fail so much? Truth be told, I rather enjoyed it for all the reasons you should.

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Depp portrays Barnabus Collins, a privileged man who took too much for granted. He loved and left women like the voluptuous Angelique (Eva Green, TV’s Penny Dreadful, Casino Royale), and he paid dearly for it, for unbeknownst to Collins, Angelique was a witch who cursed his beloved Josette (Bella Heathcote, In Time, Not Fade Away) to walk off a cliff and turned Barnabus himself into a vampire and had him buried for all eternity. Around 200 years later, Barnabus is awakened by random happenstance and returns to his beloved home of Collinwood Manor to find distant relative Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer, Scarface, The Family) and her family residing. Collins’ family name has been tarnished by the still living Angelique who has taken the town of Collinsport for herself. As Barnabus tries to put the pieces of his afterlife in order and bring his family back to their stance in the community, he is bewitched by the Collins’ new family tutor and caregiver Victoria, who bares a striking resemblance to Josette.

This movie succeeds at what it is trying to be. Much like the adaptation of Rock of Ages from a few years ago, this film is not rounding the bases to Oscar glory. All it wants is to remind you of cheese from which the original Dark Shadows bore and is what it is so beloved for today. Dark Shadows was not a great television series ever, but we love it. Why? Because it is so much fun. Exactly. Not because it was filled with nuanced performances, but because it was filled with such lovable (or unlovable) characters. I think people didn’t do their research for this film (surprise, surprise, those same people didn’t expect Sweeney Todd to be a musical) and they expected something dark and brooding, perhaps for akin to Edward Scissorhands or Sleepy Hollow, when really this is more attuned to Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, being dark comedies with dark undertones.

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Now the film is far from perfect. Some of the performances are wooden, while others come off as over goofy. The cinematography is nothing particularly special. The music and visual effects are rather fun, but the film isn’t going to be remembered or rediscovered as perfect, but it is just a good time. This is a movie I should have expected to fail, but I had faith in moviegoers. If you saw this during its initial release, I advise you to give it another go, because it wasn’t all that bad. It is, ironically, rather lively.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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