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Lucy

In This Just OUT on July 25, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Lucy-posterWhile my wife was out of town, I went to see “Lucy.” It really was science fiction, as I had to imagine that ScarJo needed a brain to get what she wanted.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson from “Under The Skin”) is an ordinary party girl living in Taiwan and hooking up with the wrong guys. The last one made her drop off a package to some bad people. So bad, they turned her into a drug mule and surgically implanted their new synthetic compound in her abdomen. When the drug pouch ruptures, a massive overdose enters her system and starts an evolutionary chain reaction in her body.

Lucy gets smart, real smart. She starts to use more and more of her brain, tapping into the uncharted capabilities. The contrived character of Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman from “Oblivion”) spends most of the movie making sure we have a scientific basis for what we are seeing. I felt like there was going to be a test at the end of the movie.

Lucy uses her newfound knowledge and skills to take revenge on the criminals that made her this way, instead of using it for math, or science or the arts. Also, as she becomes a super human, she loses her humanity. She becomes emotionless and the fun party girl is gone.

Writer/Director Luc Besson (“The Family”) has put together themes and characters from his two best movies. Lucy is the magical pinnacle of life, much like Leloo from “The Fifth Element,” and she drives like Frank Marin from “The Transporter.” Besson’s writing is generally great, but his direction… not so much. With “Lucy,” he adds editorial images along with the narrative. He can’t just tell the story, he has to tell you what the story is about and what to think about it using cinematic flashcards.

I am willing to accept the kaleidoscope of imagery as style, but at the end of the 83-minute film I felt cheated. I could see all the plot points as if they were up on the Professor’s chalkboard, but the humanity of the story was lost. This makes it more of a pure sci-fi flick, even though you were on non-stop roller coaster ride. I enjoyed the ride, and it was thrilling, but I think there is more to life.

I am not a snob about these things, and I did like this movie. It’s a popcorn movie with an old school Star Trek-style plot, and for that I will give it 3 stars out of 5. Somehow they took the sexy out of Scarlett Johansson, and that’s an evolution I am not looking forward to.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 http://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Tammy

In This Just OUT on July 19, 2014 at 7:19 pm

tammy-poster.jgpI wanted to see a great movie today, but I went to “Tammy” instead. It was convenient, brief (96 minutes) and, like most broad comedies, front and center on the menu. Also, I am fan of Melissa McCarthy (“The Heat”), and since this is the first movie written by her and directed by her husband (Ben Falcone from “Enough Said”), I wanted to give it a chance.

The movie starts off like “Jerry Maguire” (Cameron Crowe – 1996) as Tammy loses her car, her job and her husband in the first 10 minutes. She is going to leave town for the umpteenth time, though she has never made it more than 10 miles. This time she has her grandmother Pearl (Susan Sarandon from “Cloud Atlas“), along with the old lady’s car and wad of cash. Alright, I thought: show me the funny.

Now it’s a road trip movie, except they don’t know where to go or how to get there. Unfortunately that is true for both the characters and the movie itself. A road trip movie does not have to go anywhere to be good, but the characters have to get somewhere.

So much of the movie was “on the nose,” like when Tammy’s grandmother told her, “You are at a crossroads here.” It was like when Fozzie Bear and Kermit came to a fork in the road and it was an actual fork, but not as funny.

The whole movie was a string of amusing bits that made me smile and only made Tammy more and more pathetic. There was no revelation of why she is the way she is, and if she will ever change. She careens through her life with fits of anger and frustration peppered with sullen moments of feeling sorry for herself. She does not have to win or save the day, but she needs to be interesting; if not, she could just be hilarious. The set up, the punch line, and smart-ass retort for 96 minutes just did not get it done.

The movie was not horrible. I mean, it went down like the sliders at Chili’s, and still left you hungry. McCarthy’s last few movies were much better and funnier than this. She needs to stick to adlibbing lines in other people’s script. Therefore, I must give this movie 2 stars out of 5. Stop going for the easy jokes like they were low-hanging cheeseburgers.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 http://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

In This Just OUT on July 12, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Apes-PosterI set my clock for “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” today and the result was alarming. They are not monkeying around this time.

All that experimental brain testing they did in the last movie that made the apes smart also unleashed a viral infection that killed off most of the humans. Over the last 10 years, Caesar (Andy Serkis from “Death of a Superhero“) and the rest of the zoo escapees have multiplied and created a beautiful home in Muir Woods Park in Marin County. So the movie glossed over some critical things like 6 billion people dying and how the apes got a building permit in the Park.

A small group of genetically immune, human survivors remain in San Francisco. They are struggling with diminishing resources and need electricity to try and connect with other survivors.

Separate but equal was working just fine until Malcolm (Jason Clarke from “White House Down”) and his team enter the ape world to restart the hydroelectric power plant at the dam. Caesar senses their desperation and agrees to give them access. Many of the other apes do not share Caesar’s trust of their former oppressors. Caesar’s understanding of humans is an asset and a liability.

“Ape shall not kill ape” is their number one law. For humans, thou shall not kill shows up sixth on the Commandments list, as if humans still follow their original rules. We can see the parallels in societal evolution and family values. The quest for power and the burden of leadership is universal. Hate has to be taught. Therefore, both species lack trust and the will or strength to forgive. Malcolm and Caesar share this vision, but most of the others can’t see past their angry fists.

The values we teach our children are more important than anything else we could achieve. I know I learned that everything radical starts in California. This movie attempts to keep the threads of the original movies connected using 3-D CGI and stunning action sequences. It’s not as charming as the original, but it looks cool, and maybe that opens the door for some of the thought provoking moments.

They do such a good job with the apes looking and acting like apes, it is hard to see their humanity. That may be the point, that most humans make a snap judgment based upon their outward appearance and do not get the time to know them. You understand their motives and sympathize with their plight, but the only ape I felt any connection to was Caesar.

I applaud the filmmakers for using their special effects to illuminate and not just ignite the powder keg of problems presented in this movie. For that reason, I am giving this movie 4 stars out 5. I will be interested to see what they do with the next revolution.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 http://bashmovies.wordpress.com

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