Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucy: Because She Got High.

Memorable quote upon leaving the theater: "I thought that bitch had superpowers--she was just high!"

And there you have it, folks.

But really, Lucy ended up being a pretty decent movie, ableit not the mind-blowing Matrix throwback I was hoping for.

Lemme essplain.

The plot revolves around young Lucy, a (grad?) student who is living in Taipei for some reason. We immediately kick off with her boyfriend asking her to deliver a package to the front desk of a hotel. She declines. He makes her. She ends up getting enrolled in a sick drug lord's scheme to be a mule for some new drug. After accidentally getting beaten up in transit, the drug begins to leak--and Lucy goes whack. We find out, after she gets the pouch removed from her lower stomach, that the drug is a synthetic form of a substance that mothers produce when they're pregnant. The hormone/chemical/whatever enables your brain to prep itself to learn all of the rudimentary tasks that you acquire as an infant. And Lucy's packing a good amount larger than the average. Consequently, she gets the gift of using a "higher capacity of her brain" than the rest of us do, and learns some insane tricks (please see: suspending humans in midair, putting crowds to sleep, time traveling, literally falling apart, and more!).

nbd, everyone can do that..

When I saw the premise for this movie I thought it looked crazy cool. Scarlett Johansson has more than earned her acting chops as a badass playing Black Widow in The Avengers, and I was intrigued to see which route they would end up taking with the whole concept itself. But what you get amped up for in the beginning tapers off as the movie plays, and it ends up being a little lackluster by the end.

First half of this film was totally on point. Interesting choices made with the editing sucked me in right off the bat. As Lucy talks to her boyfriend, her responses are intercut with stock film images of wildlife hunting, being entrapped, and generally being in danger. The cuts also give us some information about Lucy's beau and their partying habits. Interesting direction for a mass-audience studio film, and it was refreshing to see some playfulness in editing for a genre that is usually pretty one-note.

The whole beginning half, actually, draws you in because you don't know what to expect. Even immediately after the drugs take effect in her system and Lucy is semi-robotic, we see her making decisions with 20% of her brain that we usually only get to see in assassin flicks. And it's cool!

Girl on a mission.

The problem with the second half is just a matter of jumbliness. The drug lord is trying to hunt Lucy down, Lucy's trying to give info to these scientists, she befriends a French cop that we become momentarily invested in, and then we get to see a brief history of time itself. What I went in expecting was to see a bunch of crazy-cool things that she'd be able to do with a large portion of her brain. But with the way the movie plays, she ends up being so much bigger than humanity itself, that the plotline that we're all focusing on (the drug lord one), gets lost in Lucy's existential fog.

Basically, the main thing keeping you awake in the second half is simply wondering what happens when she reaches 100% of her brain's capacity (and by that point--I mean, good Lord, she can do a whole lot).

Like seeing cellular signals and weaving through them
like the air is a giant iPad screen.

I would've liked to see this one's beginning stretch a little more and have her doing much less transcendental nonsense by the end. If we can't comprehend it, then why are you showing it to us? I rest my case.

6.5 outa 10. Not half as crazy-awesome as I'd thought it would be, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first half. Good acting from Scarlett Johansson as well!

**EDIT** Also, it must be said, there is no evidence to support the claim that humans only use 10% of our mental capacity. That is all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Ok, Seriously, Why Doesn't Anyone Call Them Monkeys?

Seriously, the word "monkey" maybe happens once. Why. Does anyone in real life ever actually use the term "ape???"


So, disclaimer going into this review: I saw this movie on about 4 hours of sleep and I've been seeing nothing but action movies lately, so my opinion may be slightly skewed. However, I've got to say that I wasn't crazy impressed by anything but the aesthetic of this movie and I don't understand why everyone is stopping the presses talking about how "AMAZINGG!!?@" it is.

I mean the poster art is cool and all but...

The movie basically picks up where the first (remake) left off. Sort of. In the time following the first movie's progress there has been an outbreak of what is called "simian flu" (people getting reeeal creative with all these various 'flus' popping up all over the film industry...). As a result, the human population is a mere fraction of what it once was. By contrast, when we meet up with our ole pal Caesar (voiced by Andy Serkis, the guy who made Gollum so famous..), his ape community is thriving. They've been living in the forest for upwards of 15 years and thriving as they develop ways to communicate via sign language as well as voice, albeit primitively in the case of the latter. Their world is shaken up, however, with the arrival of a human scouting group looking for an old dam that could provide electricity to their severely diminished city community. After the arrival of the humans, old prejudices arise and threaten human survival as well as peace between the apes.

Let's start with the good things about this thing: um, it's beautiful. The CGI effects are straight crazy. Straight. Crazy. Especially in the more villainous characters, who you can tell they had a grand ole time creating.

PS He's not real. He was made by a computer.
Just a small reminder in case you forgot.

The acting isn't bad either. Nice to see Keri Russell picking up a big role again and Gary Oldman is always fun to watch. New guy Jason Clarke okay.

But other than that I found this movie to be hugely predictable. From the overly-humanist (speciesist?) character that is all about shooting all of the apes down before they can hurt the human population to the apes that are basing all of their interactions with humans on their tortured lab days, we got nothing new under the sun here. It's a very basic "fear of the other" principle that meets its predictable conclusions at the end: wow, both humans and apes are neither wholly good nor wholly evil.

Yeah I'm bored.

I also found the usage of another pandemic in the film to be boring. From Resident Evil to I am Legend to Godzilla to Walking Dead, we've all seen the broken-down visages of cities that have experienced huge drops in population. Overrun with vines, dirty, lack of government, etc. etc... Seent it. Gimme something different.

More power to them for trying to make a bigger message out of an enormously predictable plot. (I mean...we ALL know that the apes eventually win.) But it's such a tired, used, plot that the movie ends up being kind of...-sigh-...boring...

It's only been like 15 years. Even Chernobyl doesn't look this run-down...good lord...

I dunno. Maybe I'm jaded from watching too many action movies lately, or else I'm spoiled by having watched a bunch of futuristic dystopian movies that have been way more impressive, but I found Planet of the Apes to be a little lackluster.

Conclusion: 6.5 outa 10. Shmeh. Didn't hate it but still can't understand what the huge reaction to it has been. Obviously none of those people saw any of The Hobbit films...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Snowpiercer: Because Bastille Day.

For those of you who may not be aware, Bastille Day is basically the French equivalent of Independence Day. So called over here (in France they just call it July 14th Day, much like our Fourth of July) because of the storming of the Bastille that set off the whole French Revolution, it commemorates France's political switch from monarchy--woo!

So what better day to watch a revolutionary tale than Bastille Day?

Snowpiercer is the tale of a train. In a post-apocolyptic world, the train is the only thing holding the remnants of the world's population. After humans released a chemical into the atmosphere to remedy global warming, the plan backfired and sent the world into another ice age. The train is all that is left.

Circling the world on a series of interconnected tracks, it is kept running by one thing and one thing only: "the eternal engine." But all is not so well on the Snowpiercer. Passengers living at the tail of the train are having a hard time surviving, and have been for the 18 years that the train has been running. Fed protein bars by the regulators of the train, they are not allowed beyond their caboose car,  are perpetually filthy, and are essentially treated like prisoners. Rising up against the hierarchy of the train is Curtis (Chris Evans) and his band of misfits. Tired of the unfair treatment they receive, he embarks on a mission to take over the engine at the front of the train and to win better conditions for his co-passengers.

Assisted by security specialist (and one of my favorite Korean actors)
Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song)

I was immediately intrigued after seeing the trailer for this. It seemed hugely different than the majority of the films out right now and with a star-studded cast--what more could you want!?

I was NOT prepared, however, for the massive amount of violence that greeted me in the theater. Good lord. So many deaths. And I mean, I guess I should've seen it coming. No revolution set up in earnest ever really worked without a huge amount of sacrifice--but still. Lots of battles.

And they use axes, for God's sake.

I will say, though, that the fascinating thing about the battles on the Snowpiercer is that they must take place within a confined space, and that they must be mindful of doing the train damage. (I mean, come on, it's their entire life source. If the train dies, no one wins.) Consequently, there are a bunch of wild card battle scenes that take you totally by surprise simply by the way that they are fought.

Apart from their revolution strategy, what I liked about this one is that the general plot of the movie is hugely original. The concept of living in a thousand-car train is thought-provoking in and of itself, not to mention the problems that one would encounter in regards to class equality. To be fair, the movie is based on a 1980s French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige, so it's not completely original. (Fun fact: "perceneige" en francais means "snowdrop," like the flower.) But still, as the movie plods on and you move up and up in class and rank, you begin to see the horrendous contrast between the squalor and inhumanity in the last car and the pointless excess of comfort in the first classes. And should you forget, there is a damn memorable tale told by Curtis in one of the final scenes that makes you just...woah. Nothing anyone has ever done could merit the conditions of the lowest class. And having that sort of class contrast wrapped up in something as compact and simple as a train is pretty genius.

It's a greenhouse.
Jk lolz, it's a train.

The train itself is pretty memorable as well. On the journey throughout the train, you go from a car that resembles a shanty town of bunks and rags to an elementary school car to a high-luxury car that houses people in the lap of luxury. Throughout the train you see things such as how they recycle water, sustain plant life, feed the people, and survive.

All in all, this movie was pretty great. Different, refreshing, smart, and chilling. Highly recommend if you're in the mood for an intense ride.

8 outa 10.