Lucy (Review)

 

“The important thing to note is that, whatever you think of the film, it’s apparent that it’s the exact movie writer-director Besson set out to make.  He knows how ridiculous it is and he knows how ridiculous you will think it is.”

 

 

by Jason Howard

When reluctant drug mule Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) accidentally ingests an exorbitant amount of the product she’s being forced to deliver, she begins evolving at an incredible rate and develops physical and mental powers beyond that of any other human.  With the help of a scientist (Morgan Freeman) who specializes in both the study of the human brain and having a silky smooth voice, she attempts to figure out exactly what is happening to her, while also taking down the syndicate who put her in this mess to begin with.

Okay, let’s just get it out of the way right now – yes, we all know the whole “humans only use 10% of their brain” concept that the majority of this movie is based around is a myth and a fallacy.  You can stop saying it.  You weren’t the first to say it, and you’re not particularly clever for having said it.  Much like, 15 years ago, when you were also not the first person to let everyone know that nothing in that Alanis Morissette song was actually ironic, despite your constant attempts to do so.

Lucy 
Written & Directed by
Luc Besson
Cast
Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi
Release Date
25 July 2014
Jason’s Grade: B

Some movies that base themselves in “science fiction” put themselves in a position to also have to adhere somewhat to “science fact” because of the realistic vibe they are attempting. Lucy is simply not one of those films. In order to enjoy a movie like this, you don’t have to accept that the events contained within are realistic in our world, but rather that they make some sense in the reality of the world that is created within the film itself. Does Lucy do that? Of course not – this is a Luc Besson movie, after all. Not a lick of it makes any sense whatsoever, but it’s still a heck of a lot of fun. Most films, when dissected, would have a hard time being believable, but it seems that it only becomes an issue when the opportunity to appear slightly smarter than the average bear presents itself. Otherwise, we tend to just love it, hate it, or feel indifferent about it based upon what’s presented onscreen. You should do the same here.

The important thing to note is that, whatever you think of the film, it’s apparent that it’s the exact movie writer-director Besson set out to make.  It’s obvious that he is fully aware of how ridiculous the movie is and it also appears that he’s in on the fact that you are going to find it ridiculous as well.  In fact, it would seem that he’s absolutely counting on it.

He imbibes the film with a rather healthy dose of humor, much of which is directly derived from and decidedly pointed at how outlandish everything is.  The first act finds stalwart scientist Morgan Freeman removed from the central story as he gives a university lecture on the brain’s capacity.  The juxtaposition of the questions posed and answered with the beginning of Lucy’s plight and even some nature footage makes for a funny and somewhat unique intro to the film.  In fact, for a while, I believed that this structure might have remained throughout.  It would have been a bit of a risk and may have pushed it too far into the odd, but it sure would have been a welcome try.  Then again, we also get a silly (but great) scene in which our Lucy meets the world’s first Lucy, so I don’t believe odd was a major concern.

Besson is also smart enough to let Lucy develop her abilities gradually as the film progresses.  An on-screen graphic cheekily keeps the audience abreast of what brain percentage she is currently at.  The trailers might lead one to believe that she wakes up one day as a full-blown superhuman, but it’s not quite that fast.  You might question how quickly she masters these newfound skills, and certainly the means by which she obtains them make no sense, but, fortunately, again – it doesn’t matter, and the film only makes a half-hearted attempt to explain how it’s possible.  The very lean runtime of only 90 -minutes has no room for such trivialities and you won’t miss them here.  If this had been an origin story for a new superhero (which, in a lot of ways, it’s not that far off from), then maybe we’d spend a bit more time with the why’s and how’s.  But, as it stands, it would be unnecessary here.

Nothing’s perfect, of course.  Scarlett Johansson is quite good as Lucy in the early stages, but the more she evolves into a superbeing, the more it seems that the only acting direction she was given is to stare blankly while cocking her head slightly to one side.  Even worse, Morgan Freeman is pretty wasted in a role that actually becomes decreasingly interesting as the film rolls on.  Min-sik Choi as the head of the bad guys that put Lucy into this situation, and Amr Waked as a cop forced to help her get out of it, fare the best, acting-wise, but the performances are never the spotlight. The effects, choreography, cinematography, and music all do the heavy lifting here, and the further the script moves into cheesy territory, the more those elements are ramped up for the ride.

JASON’S FINAL THOUGHTS:

Yes, I am fully aware that I, myself, have been guilty of calling out a movie as not being particularly good when the facts they present within don’t quite check out. But, each and every film must be judged on its own merits and its own set of guidelines, and sometimes the absolutely ridiculous works in their favor.  Lucy is one of those instances.  I’m sure that many will continue to rant about how Besson is just continuing to perpetuate the myth that humans only use 10% of their brains (probably based on the trailers alone, as opposed to seeing the film before judging it), but the perpetuation would really only hold water if Besson was presenting this film as some sort of fact or diatribe or trying to make a point of some kind.

The reality is that the whole brain thing is really only used here as an entry point to watch Scarlett Johansson kick a whole lot of ass and as a fun little countdown timer throughout the runtime.  Sure, any element of a movie is open for complete and total scrutiny, but if your insistence on remaining uppity is held in higher personal regard than your ability to just relax and go along for a fun ride (on certain films), then I feel bad for you.  You don’t have to like it (many won’t), but it’s usually only fair to go in with a set of standards that match the intentions of the film.  It’s no masterpiece, but it is definitely a blast if you give it a chance to be.  I know that saying “turn off your brain” for a movie is a cop-out, but in this instance, at least dial it back to 10%…

True Blood: Season 7, Episode 5 (Recap)

Lost Cause (Spoiler Warning)

This week’s episode of True Blood had a decent mix of everything, as one would expect at the midway point of the final season. It managed to cover all the bases in an attempt at pleasing everyone and at that it most definitely succeeded. As well as finally getting to see Eric with his hands wrapped around Sarah Newlin’s neck, there was the big surprise at learning Bill Compton is the latest victim of Hep-V. Now that Alcide has gone to the great kennel in the sky, with Eric and now Bill ready to purchase land fit for growing crops and raising livestock, Sookie is gonna be without someone to have sex with for the first time in ages. Unless a cure is found for Hep-V, poor sookie will need to start hunting for another non-human to share her bed. Animal, vegetable or mineral; Sookie ain’t the fussy sort.

True Blood
Created by
Alan Ball
Cast
Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Chris Bauer, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Nelsan Ellis, Joe Manganiello, Deborah Ann Woll, Carrie Preston
Episode Release Date
20 July 2014
Ed’s Grade: B+

Even though there are countless people dead because of the crazed and infected vampires, everyone saw fit to give Alcide a sendoff in the shape of a party at Sookie’s house. Sookie is still trying to cope with her loss and the last thing she wants or needs is a house full of happy mourners. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what she gets thanks to Lafayette.

Much is revealed at the partay, with Bill having several flashbacks which I guess were designed to show how good he was in his pre-vamp days during the Civil War. After the writers establish his previous good nature, a shocked Bill learns of his infection when he looks in the mirror after taking a shower.

Even though it’s pretty inappropriate to be making marriage proposals at an event such as this, it doesn’t prevent Andy Bellefleur from asking Holly to be his lawfully wedded wife. Before Andy goes down on one knee, Jason quickly offers sound (and very funny) advice to Adilyn and Wade: “A word to the wise; I don’t know if you two are f*cking or not, but if you are, it’s gonna have to stop right now.” Andy’s proposal speech to Holly is heartfelt, but she tells him “yes!” before he even reaches the part where he asks “will you marry me?”


Just before Andy popped the question he went to Jessica who was standing outside due to her still feeling guilty. Andy makes up with Jessica telling her life’s too short, and that she should come in and join in the festivities. James is feeling neglected by Jessica and while he and Lafayette are out on the porch discussing James’ feelings, Lafayette asks him if the guy who turned James was also his boyfriend. It turns out he was.

Now that Jessica is free from her constant feeling of guilt, she goes looking for James to share some love. She finally finds James with Lafayette in a compromising position in their SUV. Shocked, Jessica runs to Jason and tells him what happened, resulting in Jason rescinding James’ invitation to the house. It’s not long before Jason and Jessica are following suit. Can you remember the first time the pair made love? It happened on Halloween night in season 4 episode 9 and you can watch it here.

While Sookie’s party is in full swing, Eric and Pam are hunting for Sarah Newlin. They start off at Fangtasia, where an angry Willa demands to be released from Eric if she agrees to tell him where to find Sarah. Eric does so and then learns Sarah has a vampire sister. This is the same sister Sarah told the world was killed by a vampire, and the reason she was trying to rid the world of the undead. When Eric and Pam find the vamp sister they discover she too has Hep-V, and she’s also very willing to help them kill Sarah. They travel to Dallas because Sarah’s parents are attending a political gala in honer of G W Bush. They have to get past the security, so Eric dons a suit and ten gallon hat, with Pam in a sparkly dress. Uttering another classic line, Pam complains “I look like a republic*nt.”

At the gala, Sarah finds her mother and begs her to hide her from the Yakuza, but she’s too late. while Pam and Eric are hunting for her at the gala the Yakuza arrive in numbers and start shooting up the place, killing everyone in their way, including Sarah’s mother. Just as they catch up to Sarah, she runs right into Eric in a slowed down scene, almost exactly like the one where Sarah Conner runs into Arnie while she’s escaping from the mental hospital in Terminator 2. Eric grabs her by the neck and begins to squeeze but he has to drop Sarah so he can kill the three Yakuza men who are about to shoot at him with automatic guns. Eric quickly kills two of them but the third he viciously rips his lower jaw off. That’s how it ends with Eric so we’ll need to wait for next week to see what’s in store for Sara. I can’t wait! You can watch the old Sarah Newlin from season 2 here.

I’m actually surprised at how good this episode was, with it bettering even last week’s. We have only five more to go but it’s shaping up to be as good as it was at the beginning. Let’s hope so!

by Ed Blackadder

Details for next week:

Episode #76: Karma

Debut: SUNDAY, JULY 27 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)

Other HBO playdates: July 27 (11:30 p.m., 2:00 a.m.), 28 (11:50 p.m.), 29 (midnight) and 30 (8:30 p.m., 12:30 a.m.), and Aug. 1 (midnight)

HBO2 playdates: July 28 (9:00 p.m.) and 31 (5:00 a.m.), and Aug. 2 (9:00 p.m.), 3 (8:00 p.m.) and 24 (5:00 p.m.)

A shocking discovery forces Sookie (Anna Paquin) to reassess her recent involvement with Bill (Stephen Moyer). In Dallas, Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) and Pam (Kristin Bauer van Straten) forge an unlikely alliance in their hunt for a shared nemesis. Andy (Chris Bauer) bickers with Holly (Lauren Bowles) about their children’s behavior; Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) shares a vision with Lettie Mae (Adina Porter); Jason (Ryan Kwanten) owns up to his true feelings about Violet (Karolina Wydra); Sam (Sam Trammell) finds himself in a quandary regarding Nicole (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).

Written by Angela Robinson; directed by Angela Robinson.

An Interview with Actor Eric Goins (AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire)

 

Actor Eric Goins plays Larry in the new popular drama Halt and Catch Fire from AMC. The show features the talents of Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy and Mackenzie Davis to name only a few. Eric Goins took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Influx Magazine about his character.

 

by Patrick Coffey

Do any of you remember that old, made-for-TV movie made back in the 90′s from TNT called Pirates of Silicon Valley? Well, if not, you missed out, cause it’s freaking awesome.  But have no fear – there’s a new TV series on AMC called Halt and Catch Fire, and the story goes along the same lines.

Halt and Catch Fire takes place in Dallas in the early 1980′s, at the height of the computer silicon revolution. The characters are similar to real-life computer pioneers of the period, like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The issues the show characters face are not unlike the ones originally faced by said historical figures.

I think one of the best things about Halt and Catch Fire is the way the writing and production team thematically approach the 80′s. It’s not just cliched piano ties and mingling some yuppies in with some big hair new wavers, in order to exploit the show’s time setting. Instead, it uses the familiarity of what the 80′s were, as a backdrop for storytelling, which is, I think, what good storytelling about a specific time period should be.

I had a chance to chat with Halt and Catch Fire‘s Eric Goins, the actor who plays Larry, and we discussed the show and what the future may hold, which was very Back to the Future of me, if you really think about it.

Patrick CoffeyPlaying in an 80′s television period piece like this must bring back some memories. What’s your fondest memories about that time period?

Eric GoinsThe 80′s were such an interesting time in history. An era in which people weren’t quite as cool as we thought we were. Who can forget parachute pants, penny loafers (with the penny), and the history defining mullet haircut?  I’m fond of all those memories and happy to report that I sported the ‘business in the front/party in the back’ haircut through much of the 80′s. What really stands out for me about the 80′s is the budding excitement about a new wave of technology surfacing around us. Progress was happening in areas of our life that would eventually change the way we live forever. And I love how AMC has captured this pioneer spirit with Halt & Catch Fire. The show really explores an entire culture of society functioning with one foot in the past and one stepping towards the future.

PCThe 80′s were pretty goofy and light-hearted, the best I can remember (with exception of the whole fearing nuclear war). What did you do with this character set in the 80′s that you would have done differently if you were doing the same character written for the present era?

EGThe most obvious differences for Larry are his wardrobe and his hairstyle. I had a lot of fun working with the wardrobe and hair department on this show. Apparently, clothes weren’t the same size in the 80′s as they are now because it seems like all my XL shirts on the show are a good bit tighter than the modern-day fit. Or, maybe it’s just the few extra pounds I put on for the show? Employees in the 80′s also tended to stay at their place of employment for much longer than today’s standard of job changes seemingly happening every year or so.

Many people spent 40 or more years doing the same thing every day of their professional career and retired after years of loyal service. This idea allowed me to play Larry with a certain comfortability at work and a loyalty to Gordon and the tasks at hand. But that comfortability can easily become complacency; a lack of personal ambition almost; as Larry has moments when he irritates Gordon while listening to headphones and playing with a television watch or while providing the drum roll for the big BIOS boot up. The 80′s were full of good productive work combined with good ole’ fashioned fun. On set, there was actually a little jingle about the three engineers, Larry, Stan, and Ed. As we walked to set, the wardrobe department would sing “It’s the three best friends…that anyone could have”. I wish I could write the musical notes to the jingle. It’s a better story that way. It all comes with the territory when you’re a Cardiff Company Man and that’s Larry!

PCWhat’s it like to be on a show on AMC? I mean Breaking Bad, Walking Dead… is there much pressure?

EGAs a matter of fact, there is a certain level of comfort that comes with working on an AMC show. Being surrounded by such a talented and experienced group of working professionals gives everyone a lot of confidence, that we have everything in our favor to start out with. And my job is to walk in Larry’s shoes all day and, as Larry, I have to stay focused on his needs and his pressures so the fact that we are doing a television show fades into the back of my mind. As long as I show up and present my best portrayal of Larry in every scene, I have done my part in this very big machine and the rest is out of our control.

PCYou’ve been in most of the episodes in this series; is it safe to assume your character is here to stay? And while on the subject, has it been picked up for a second season?

EGMuch like Larry at Cardiff Electric, that information is above my pay grade. I’m optimistic that we will see a second season, and I hope that Larry continues to play a role in the story. He is a Cardiff Company Man, after all.

PCI read in your IMDb bio that you’re a student of Hapkido. Can you kick people’s asses?  Actually more important than that, I read that you spent years in the corporate world before becoming an actor; how useful is that experience when playing a character like this?

EGI kick my own ass a lot but that’s a story for another time. Working in the corporate world did give me a great deal of real world experience in understanding corporate culture and nuances. I feel I take a great deal of insight into the role of Larry because the politics and the hierarchy that plagued the 80′s are still alive and kicking in today’s corporate America. It’s just that now everyone can make their moves against each other faster and even anonymously sometimes thanks to today’s technologies. I can relate to every character of the show because, at one point or another, I worked with someone just like them during my corporate world experience.

PCLast question: Your acting career has allowed you to work with some of my favorite musicians growing up; Ice Cube and Rob Zombie. Were you a fan of these guys musically and did it make you audition a little more fiercely for these roles?

EGI approach every audition with the same fierce intensity and preparation. You have to if you hope to work in this industry. That being said, I’m a huge fan of just about everything Ice Cube has done. Rob Zombie was really cool to work especially since it was a horror film. I’ve had the opportunity to work around some incredibly dynamic people and almost everyone I’ve met has been incredibly generous as professionals. I’m thankful for every day that I get to do what I do!

AMC has definitely got a history of success with unique dramas, handling themes that people could never have imagined to be successful in the past. With dramas that feature meth-dealing chemistry teachers, to the walking dead, will a period drama based off of real figures in history be their next hit? Well, only time will tell, unless of course you can get your hands on a DeLorean with a flux capacitor and a way to generate 1.21 gigawatts. Great Scott!

Top 10 Best Picture Winners (List)

 
The constant debate over what film won Best Picture, what film did not or which film got snubbed of a nomination will never end. The reality is, the winners won and its our film history. There is not much point in arguing about it, so let’s share it, discuss it and preserve it for future generations. The beauty of movies is, they are not mine or yours, they are ours.

by Paul Booth

Top Ten Best Picture Winners

1) 12 Years a Slave (2013)

In an Oscar year with tough races for Director, Actor, Actress; there was simply no choice for the top prize outside 12 Years a Slave. I enjoyed other nominees like NebraskaThe Wolf of Wall St. and Dallas Buyer’s Club, but it was time the Academy and voters picked a film based on humanity, not box office or stars.

2) Platoon (1986)

America was only 12-14 years (if that) out of the Vietnam War and thankfully a small distribution company would take a chance on an unknown director (but Oscar-winning’/known screenwriter named Oliver Stone). Stone had served two tours of duty in Vietnam, so he had a vision for Platoon, no director could have. Super Oscar-nominated performances by both Tom Beranger and Willem Defoe.

3) Marty (1955)

It has to be the most simple winner of the Grand Statue in Oscar History. It’s about an insecure man who loves with his mom and is trying to find love. Insecure about his weight, Ernest Borgnine brought such truth to the role of Marty, he also won a Best Actor Oscar. This was the first movie to be based on a television show/teleplay.

4) American Beauty (1999)

The film that stormed theaters and changed audiences evaluation of their own personal demons, was the perfect film about how we all hide our demons and (sometimes) who we really are. Excellent cast, Oscars for Directing and Cinematography as well. Only one word to describe this movie, brilliant.

5) Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

One of the most influential films to date, spawning young directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to make movies. It is a P.O.W. movie on the surface, but is not depressing. It picked up seven Oscars including Best Director for David Lean and this film boasts one of the best movie endings ever filmed.

6) Giant (1956)

This superbly epic tale of oil and greed, stand the test of time and when you view it, you feel you are watching a documentary about two of our former Presidents who made their life on oil. Not a political film, just a true testament to the genius of Director George Stevens. Stevens also won Best Director, his second after the brilliant, but scary master-piece A Place in the Sun (1951).

7) Annie Hall (1977)

It beat Star Wars. It was the birth of Woody Allen as a mature filmmaker and it launched a fashion revolution thanks to Diane Keaton’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Annie Hall. A brilliant film about the realities of dating. It was one of the last movies to show audiences preferred story over explosions.

8) Argo (2012)

The arrival of Ben Affleck as one of the great film director’s of his generation. Argo is based on a true story of Government officials who helped rescue some hostages in the Middle East. This is a must see movie, so no need to spoil you with the plot and ruin Affleck’s brilliant vision (although he was not even nominated as Best Director). This movie is also Produced by George Clooney.

9) One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

We all know this movie. We love it or hate it or have seen it too many times. It is worth a view for the humanity director Milos Forman gave to the patients “society deemed insane”. This film was Nicholson’s first Oscar, brought foreign director Milos Forman his first Oscar and like Argo was Producer by Michael Douglas. Douglas became the first actor to win a Producing Oscar and to this day is the only actor to win Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars (Wall Street, 1987).

10) Rocky (1976)

The only best picture winner to destroy its own legacy with five sequels. This first instalment was written by Stallone and starred Stallone. He had a chance to be like Orson Welles or Woody Allen and write, produce and act in good films. Instead, by his own admission “I got sucked into the cars, mansions, money and women, I stopped caring about my craft.” Sad, there could have been something great. Good movie, do not miss Rocky, but Stallone became the real life version of filmic idol Marlon Brando’s character in On the Waterfront “I could have been a contender.” Yes, Sly, you made one heck of a movie, then blew it.

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An Interview with Uwe Boll (II)

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  “I think most filmmakers are like actors – basically whores who sit there and wait till they can get paid to just direct or act. “ – Uwe Boll       by Jason Howard Last year, right around this time, I had the pleasure [...]

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