Friday, September 12, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Director: Jim Jarmusch  

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt

Jim Jarmusch is not the kind of filmmaker that will appeal to everyone because his films are deliberately slow paced, which if you’re in the right mood could be just what the doctor ordered. In my case, Only Lovers Left Alive was exactly the kind of movie I was looking for. You see, this film is populated with mellow characters in no rush to blow anything up or save the universe. Quite the contrary, these guys are basking in their mellowness, and I dug that. It’s a change of pace. Sometimes, modern films seem to be in some sort of rush, like a child who suffers from ADD, always in search for the next big rush. Yes my friends, there’s no denying that today’s audiences are junkies of the rush. But here’s Jim Jarmusch wanting to teach us once again that slowing things down can actually be a cool thing, let’s get retrospective, let’s think about things, let's analyze. 

Only Lovers Left Alive is the story of Adam and Eve, two vampires who are extremely cultured and ancient, they know a lot about everything, their clothes are hundreds of years old. Eve has hundreds of ancient books and is an expert in literature and speed reads everything while Adam is an expert musician who wants to remain anonymous, hiding away from fame. These two vampires are married, but have been living so long that they don’t need to live together. Adam lives his rock and roll life style in Detroit Michigan while Eve lives in Tangiers, Morocco. Their lives are reunited when Adam reveals to Eve that he’s depressed with humanity. She detects his depression, so she flies to him, both reuniting in Detroit. Can these two vampires survive in our modern decaying society?

What I liked about this movie is how Jarmusch uses the vampires eternity to criticize humanity. You see these vampires have seen so many facets of humanity that they can comment, with an all encompassing point of view about where we are now as a race.  They've seen us go through the inquisitions, through hitler, through everything, they've seen Galileo and Tesla suffer for their knowledge, they know just how much cruelty we are capable of, because they've seen it. In a way, so have we because we can read a history book, we can all look back at humanities mistakes and learn from them and evolve, but it seems we are inclined more towards repeating our mistakes then growing above them. I love how both vampires simply drive around Detroit during the night, they see all these abandoned buildings and factories and say “it’s like everybody left”. I gots to tell you my dear readers, I sometimes feel the same way about my own city. So many businesses closed down, so many abandoned buildings, you can see the urban decay taking over. The city is rotting away. It’s life, sucked away. So of course, I connected with these vampires, driving around a decaying city in ruins. Reminiscing about where it all went and if its ever gonna come back.

These vampires are pretty cool, they are so cultured, they remind me of how I wish I could spend eternity, reading books and listening to cool music, just chilling the hell out, when these guys drink their blood, it’s not unlike smoking a dooby or drinking your favorite poison. How cool are these vampires? Well, they hang out with William Shakespeare, who by the way is also a vampire! Ha, awesome. They eat blood popsicles and hang out in rock and roll bars. They wear glasses at night. The only thing is that the state of humanity brings them down. Adam can’t believe how humanity has managed to not only poison their water supply but their own blood as well. He wonders if humanity is still fighting about oil and when the water wars will begin. These guys philosophize about everything, I dug it. Swinton and Hiddleston have great chemistry together, they sold me the part of these two vampires in love throughout the ages. But overall, the cast is awesome, including John Hurt playing an aging vampire Shakespeare.

Jarmusch filmed on location in some awesome looking places, for example, he actually shot in Detroit, a city that is actually in decay. Huge buildings that use to be factories now look like ghosts, haunting a dying city, Jarmusch captured it all beautifully, made all the more dark and brooding because most of the film takes place late at night, when the vampires hang out. Morocco adds a completely different type of background, with beautiful vistas of a completely different type of society. They go to Morocco escaping the masses, escaping humanity whom they appropriately call “zombies”. Watching this film you kind of get the idea that humanity is in the brink of some huge cataclysmic change, like the world will soon turn, like that famous worm that turns when provoked enough. That idea that the world is somehow pushing us to return to an animalistic state of being, like the out of control world we live in is calling out our animal instincts, and pretty soon we won’t be able to hold back. Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is thought provoking, romantic and sexy. In a lot of ways, Only Lovers Left Alive reminded me of this offbeat, obscure vampire film called Blood & Donuts (1995), because of this weird mood that it elicits, this weird aura that only comes from films that take place during the wee hours of the night, the small hours when the creatures of the night emerge. I recommend this film if you want to see something sultry, a film that slows things down to the pace of blood ebbing down a vampires throat.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Expendables 3 (2014)

The Expendables 3 (2014)

Director: Patrick Hughes 

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzennegger, Harrison Ford, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li

So this is the third film in a franchise which up to this point had been going strong, unfortunately, thanks to piracy, this third outing lost a lot of millions at the box office because who’s going to see a movie that’s been out on dvd for weeks before it’s hit theaters right? Sadly this was the case with The Expendables 3, piracy killed its chances at the box office, a similar thing happened with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), everyone had already seen it by the time it hit theaters. But to be honest, you weren’t going to be missing much if you’d gone to see The Expendables 3 in theaters. This movie might have its fun moments, but it’s also the worst in the series. I had fun with some of the inside jokes, but overall, it felt very uneven, like they were just going through the motions. Stallone, Arnold, et al all seem bored by the whole thing. In my opinion, it felt as if they weren’t even trying to do a good movie. Yes my friends, we’re talking about a potential “franchise killer” here; we talking about the movie that kills the franchise’s chances to continue. What exactly went wrong here? A lot of things! If you want to know more, read on my friends!

This time around the Expendables are after an international arms dealer called Stone Banks, played by Mel Gibson. I’m not even going to try and go into story because there isn’t any; it’s all filler between action scenes. By this I mean that they try and give the movie some “drama” but it comes off as forced and clichéd, as if they were giving these characters fake problems simply to fill the movie with running time, it doesn’t feel genuine. But then again, melodrama isn’t something I’m looking for in these types of films, they should’ve just kept the action going, because when these guys try and get melodramatic, it just doesn’t work. So anyhow, at most, what the filler surmounts to is Stallone getting rid of the old guys and gathering a new team to help him catch an old enemy. That’s about it. And here’s the big problem with the movie for me, we came to see The Expendables because we want to see our favorite action stars from the 80’s and 90’s doing what they do best, blowing shit up. I wanted to see more of Wesley Snipes, I wanted more of Arnold and Stallone, I wanted more of everybody! Hell, Jet Li doesn’t even fight in this movie! What a joke, why even bother bringing him in if he’s going to do next to nothing in the film? 

Unfortunately, on this entry they decided to get rid of the old guys we came to see and replaced them for a huge chunk of the movie with a new, younger team. Now I normally wouldn’t have a problem with it, but the guys they chose say nothing to me. They needed to bring in the new wave of action stars. I would’ve included The Rock in there, I would’ve included I don’t know, somebody who represents today’s action stars. Which brings to mind a question: just who are the action heroes of today? Truth is there are not many, which is probably why they brought in all these guys nobody’s ever heard of. Kind of like what they want to do with the new Ghostbusters film. The plan with the new Ghostbusters film is to bring in a new batch of Ghostbusters for the new  generation, and that’s fine and dandy, go ahead and do it, but you know they better bring in some funny guys to replace the originals, or else it’s just not gonna work! Same principal applies with these new Expendables they brought in for this new movie, Sadly, these new guys…well, they just don’t do it for me. Save for Antonio Banderas who steals the show in my book. He was the only saving grace in the film.

What else went wrong, well, they toned down the violence. What the hell where they thinking? I mean, these films are supposed to be a homage to the violent, blood drenched films of the 80’s and suddenly you’re anything but that. Suddenly you’re all about CGI helicopters and CGI explosions? I want to feel the heat in my freaking face! I want explosions like the ones I used to see in films like Action Jackson (1988)! Where you could practically smell the napalm! But no, sadly, I felt detachment. So much of this film is computer generated you won’t feel like your right there in the action. They should have kept the action real and in your face, because that’s what us old action fans crave, that’s what we miss. We want the adrenaline rush of seeing Stallone fight against real freaking helicopters, like the ones we saw in Rambo III (1988). Remember that one? Rambo goes up against freaking choppers on that one! Where’s that type of action? Sad part is that Stallone, who starred in so many of these awesome action films of the 80’s (like Cobra for example) should’ve know better. He should know what we want to see and feel in an action movie that’s supposed to be paying homage to a bygone era of action films. Sadly, The Expendables 3 turned into just another detached, modern action film, which means, its crap. Modern action films simply don’t compare to the glory days of action films from the 80’s. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch The Expendables 3, then follow it by watching Cobra (1986), or Lethal Weapon (1987), you’ll feel a shift in tone immediately. From bullshit to, shit just got real.

"Come on Arnie, let's get this thing over with, the quicker the better.."

So yeah, shame on Stallone for not getting this one right because out of all the people out there, he should’ve known better. He freaking lived through the eighties and was one of the prime representatives of what action films, real action films, were all about. My advice next time would be to get a decent director who understands what these movies are supposed to be about and not some rookie who’s only done one other obscure film. News flash Italian Stallion: the guy behind the camera matters! Also, give us what we want, we want to see our favorite action stars from the 80’s during the entire film, we don’t want to see them for twenty minutes in the opening and twenty minutes in the ending of the film, we want to see an entire film with these guys. And if you’re going to put in new members, at least make them matter! Don’t give us wannabe action stars, give us actual ones. As it is, The Expendables 3 was a slap in the face to its target audience; it’s the complete opposite of what it should have been. You might have a laugh or two; mainly when you hear Arnold scream “Get to the Choppa!”, but for the most part this Expendables film is actually extremely expendable. Next!

Rating: 2 out of 5

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Powers Booth, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jaime King, Lady Gaga

Sin City (2005) is to me, one of Robert Rodriguez finest days behind the camera, it was sheer cinematic perfection, the mood, the images, the words, everything flowed with amazing finesse and clarity. So of course when I heard that Rodriguez and Miller were teaming up again for a sequel, I was more than excited. True, Robert Rodriguez can be a hit or miss type of director, but you have to admit, when he’s running on all cylinders, the guy can make some damn entertaining movies. El Mariachi (1992), Desperado (1995) From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Planet Terror (2007) and Sin City (2005) are all high watermarks in his career. And let’s not forget his more “for the hell of it” films, like Machete (2010) and Machete Kills (2013), two great examples of the fun b-movies that Rodriguez is so good at making. Here’s a guy who understands Pulp Fiction, not the Tarantino movie, but the concept. He knows how entertaining over the top violence can be. To top things off, he’s got a kinetic style of storytelling, with a high emphasis on never letting the audience get bored. He wants to give you that shock, that cheap thrill, he wants you to chuckle and stare in awe at the screen. And on this aspect, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For delivers the goods.

This time around we go back to the seedy underbelly of Basin City via four short stories all written by comic book mastermind Frank Miller. The stories are: A Dame to Kill For, Just Another Saturday Night, The Long Bad Night and Nancy’s Last Dance, which by the way was a story written specifically for the film. On this sequel we get to see many of the characters presented to us in the first film, like Marv, Nancy Callahan, Dwight, Gail, Hartigan and the evil Senator Roark. We are also presented to a whole bag of new ones like the wonderfully conniving Eva, played by Eva Green. She’s the ultimate seductress, using her sensual powers to get what she wants, seducing her way to anything. Welcome to Sin City, a place where nobody is squeaky clean. 

Going back to Sin City feels like I never left, the characters, the images, everything holds a certain familiarity to it. The film still has that distinctive black and white look and the characters talk in that special unmistakable Frank Miller talk. It’s cool to see the same characters again, the only thing you have to be ready for is that certain characters are now played by different actors, for example, the character of Dwight, who was played by Clive Owen in the first film, is now being played by Josh Brolin.  The character of  ‘Manute’, who in the first film was played by Michael Clarke Duncan is now played by Dennis Haysbert. Devon Aoki, who played deadly little Miho in the first film, has been replaced by Jamie Chung, and so forth. They are still the same characters, it’s just different actors playing then. Good news is that since they are all Frank Miller comic book characters, they still look and sound the same, you might not even notice the changes so much.

So this film is interesting because its half prequel, half sequel. Some of the stories take place before the first film, some after the first film. This is the reason why we see some characters who died in the first film back again, the most notable example would be Marv, who dies electrocuted in the ending of the first film. Marv is featured prominently in this film, which is a good move in my book since he was everyone’s favorite character from the first film. He looks just a bit different, but he’s still good old pill poppin’, head chopping Marv. The last story in the film, called Nancy’s Last Stand is a good old revenge tale with Nancy looking to avenge the death of Hartigan, the detective that saved her from being raped, and “the only man she ever loved”. So yeah, you’ll feel like your revisiting your favorite, most fucked up friends. This is the nature of Sin City, it’s not a pretty place; these aren't wholesome characters. The stories that Frank Miller cooks up for these Sin City graphic novels are about greedy, selfish characters, hatred and revenge pour out of their every pore.

Frank Miller gets lots of heat because his stories have been deemed ‘misogynistic’ by some…in the parlance of our times, misogynistic means that his stories display a certain amount of hatred towards women? Um, I’ve read most of the Sin City graphic novels and I don’t really see that at all. Actually, I honestly think that’s just a bunch of horse shit. Let me see, if I remember correctly, Hartigan saves a little girl from being raped…how is that misogynistic? That very same girl grows up, and Hartigan once again protects her from ‘that Yellow Bastard’ who wants to rape her and kill her? This very same girl that Hartigan saves, later becomes a strong female character by going out to avenge the death of the man who saved her. Not misogynistic. Some of his stories actually empower the female, by making them strong protagonists, like in Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For, where Nancy becomes a kick ass revenge hungry female lead.  Sure these are stories about prostitutes, so what, there are prostitutes in the real world so how is that displaying hatred towards women? Prostitutes are a real thing in the real world, especially in the world of Sin City. In the first film, Marv falls head over heels for “Goldie”, a woman he worships with every word that comes out of his mouth. Another character called Dwight protects a waitress named Shellie from a violent, psychotic ex-lover. In any case, if violence is inflicted upon women, it comes from villains, not from the heroes who always protect the women, or love them with tremendous amounts of love and admiration. And it’s not like women are always depicted as being helpless victims, just ask the girls of old town, who can more than take care of themselves. If you ask me, Miller actually displays respect and admiration towards women, not hatred. Miller actually addresses some very real issues about women, issues that need to be addressed and talked about. So get outta here with your self righteous sanctimonious bull crap. These are stories about a town called Sin City, if you can’t take the heat, get out of hell’s kitchen. 

Truth be told, being accused of being misogynistic is the smallest of Miller’s problems; what Miller really received a lot of heat for was for a story he drew and wrote called ‘Holy Terror’; a story that at one point was going to be one of the most controversial Batman stories ever told. At one point it was going to be called ‘Holy Terror, Batman!’ But through the course of creating this tale, Miller decided this was no longer a Batman story, so he changed the main character from Batman into a new character of his own creation called ‘The Fixer’ and printed the graphic novel through Legendary instead of DC.  But originally, Holy Terror was going to be all about Batman kicking Al Qaedas ass and killing a whole bunch of terrorists. The thing with Holy Terror is that Miller lived in New York during 9/11, and it affected him in a big way, Holy Terror was made as a direct response to that. Miller has gone down as saying “I can tell you squat about Islam, I don’t know anything about it. But I know a goddamn lot about Al Qaeda and I want them all to burn in hell”. So yeah, his public hatred towards Al Qaeda garnered hatred from many. Miller knew this was going to happen. He labels the book as “Propaganda” that is “bound to offend just about everybody” But then again, if we look back in time, Captain America and Batman both kicked Hitler’s ass in their own time, so to Miller, having Batman kick Al Qaeda’s ass was just a way to pay homage to those classic politically charged comics and a way to comment on the 9/11 attacks. Does it show hatred towards Muslims? Or just towards a small terrorist group? Is it racist? I don’t know because I have yet to read it, but you can’t expect a review of it here soon. Whatever the case maybe, Miller doesn't back down from his work, he makes no apologies for it, and maybe this is why as a form of retaliation, Sin City 2 has sadly tanked at the box office. I doubt that many people have read Holy Terror, but god knows there’s a couple of sites, and a couple of blogs and articles out there spewing nothing but hatred for it. It could be that this all backfired on Miller and now Sin City 2 is suffering at the box office for it.  

This is all too bad, because to me Sin City 2 is fun times, as fun and mean spirited as the first film was. Many have labeled it as “more of the same” and I have to say that I agree. To me this sequel being more of the same doesn’t bother me one bit because I love the film noir world of Sin City, if it’s more of what I loved from the first film then so be it, I welcome it. I got no problems with these stories being about prostitutes and psychotic characters, this is Sin City, keyword ‘Sin’. If I had to say something negative about the film is that the stories from the first film where slightly more shocking and darker…by comparison these stories feel somewhat less important. It’s not that they don’t chop off enough heads or that there isn’t enough white blood, there’s tons of violence and nudity to garner the film it’s ‘R’ rating, but by comparison, the stories from the first film felt like they had more of a punch to them. But whatever, Sin City light is still Sin City and the film still has enough grittiness, nudity and comic book violence to please fans of the ‘R’ rating. I’m saddened that Sin City 2 has tanked the way it has, there’s no real reason for it to be flopping as hard as it has, it’s an entertaining film. Is it that audiences nowadays have become complete softies that can’t take blood and violence in their entertainment? Has society grown only to accept PG-13 films? Whatever, it’s their loss. I hope they enjoy their umpteenth Step Up film.

Rating: 4 out of 5  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

I grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon show; yes I’m one of those dudes who can sing the opening credits song by heart. The cartoon show was silly to the max, but my preteen heart loved it. I think we all love silly things when we are kids and the turtles cartoon show was one of the many silly things I loved. Later, I discovered the original Turtle comics done by Eastman and Laird, the original turtle creators. Now those were cool comics! Action packed sci-fi fantasy with awesome artwork, in these comics, which were the seed of what we now know as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we were presented with a decidedly less silly (though no less fun) version of the turtles. The turtles in these Eastman and Lair comics were the true turtles. Sometimes I wish the movies would embrace that sci-fi fantasy side of the comic book a little more, but alas, the films still haven’t gotten entirely there yet. In those comics the turtles would travel to other dimensions, drive flying cars, you name it. Eastman and Lairs comics where really out there. 

I remember back in 1990, when they announced that a live action turtles film would start production, the first question that popped in my head was how they hell are they going to pull that off? The idea of talking mutant turtles seemed impossible to translate to live action in my mind. Remember, this was way back in 1990 when movies had little to no computer animation, so my doubts were valid. But surely enough they pulled it off. I remember that first time I saw the turtles on the cover of Comic Scene magazine…I was flabbergasted! They actually pulled it off! They brought the turtles to freaking life! Jim Henson and his creature shop worked their magic, and suddenly there before me, on the cover of this magazine were the four turtles, looking more alive than life itself. It was magic. And that first film still holds a magic to it for me. It’s a simple film, it only cost 10 million to make (can you believe it?) and it had this charm to it. The turtles had charisma, they had personalities. They felt real, tangible. They were there. How do these new Turtles compare to the old ones?

Well, for starters, these new turtles are entirely computer generated images, so not an ounce of what you see on screen is real, which sucks for me because to be honest, what I liked about the originals was that they looked “real”. But whatever, there’s no stopping computer generated images, they’ve completely taken over films, so I’m not gonna fight it anymore. The way they are making movies now is entire sequences are computer generated, and this new TMNT movie is the best example of that, there’s entire sequences that are computer generated! I mean, literally, entire scenes that go on and on and on without a single tangible thing on screen, it’s crazy. It doesn’t stop shocking me how much this happens in todays cinema. In my opinion computer generated images are taking away something from the art of filmmaking which used to be all about shooting something with a freaking camera. Now a huge chunk of a film is never filmed, which is a contradiction if you ask me! But when it’s well made it works, and on this film for the most part the computer animation is pretty spot on and good. So once you get past the idea that you’re not seeing actors playing the turtles, but instead computer generated images, well, I kinda got used to it. My main preoccupation was that they wouldn’t be able to transmit the turtle’s personalities and that we’d end up with a bunch of generic characters ala the Transformers films. Well, I’m happy to inform they did. Still, I felt I got more personality from the portrayal of the characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990).

I guess the big difference between the 90’s film and this one is the budget. The filmmakers behind this new turtle’s film had many more millions at their disposal, and it shows. By comparison, the first film is a small film, yet what made the 90’s film work so well was the chemistry between the turtles themselves and the story, which was about brotherly love, respect…the first film wins in this respect. It has more warmth, more depth, more character. This new one is all about the action and the effects, sure we get some back story, but it’s missing the heart. It failed to connect with me in that way that the first one did. I mean, how about that scene in the original in which the four brothers are mourning Splinter and suddenly his spirit appears in front of them in the camp fire? The four turtles cry and laugh together knowing their master is alive…it’s such an awesome scene with so much heart. Where is the equivalent of that on this new film? There is one scene where the turtles are about to die and Raphael goes on an emotional burst and tells his turtle brothers how much he’s always loved them, but that’s about it. We needed more heart on this new film. And for that, you need a script that goes for the heart, so I guess we could blame the script for not having that warmth that the first film had in spades. It’s why you end up liking the turtles, because they love each other in spite of their differences.    

There’s a scene on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) in which the turtles are all in an elevator and suddenly begin to make music with their ninja weapons which was pretty cool; it reminded me of the silliness you’d find in the old Turtle movies, and in my opinion this new one needed more of that as well, it needed that goofing around from the old movies. In the old movies it seemed like the turtles never stopped goofing around, on this new one the goofiness is slightly muted. Something else I didn’t really like about the new one is the look of the foot clan. On the comics and the cartoons, the foot clan always looked like ninjas…on this new movie they simply look like soldiers with machine guns? Where’s the freaking ninjas? Ninjas were an essential part of the Turtles formula! Hello we’re talking about NINJA turtles? Why take away their ninja enemies? That was a big drawback in my opinion. Instead we get  soldiers with these weird masks…this was not the foot clan I grew up with; shame on whoever made that terrible choice. I wanted ninjas in purple and black suits, but alas, somebody decided to give them an upgrade and we get these crappy looking soldiers. Ugh. And where the hell is Casey Jones? I want my Casey Jones! He was an essential part of the Turtles! They better include him in the inevitable sequel or I’m calling the geek police.

In terms of story, I did like a few things, but despised others. For example, I thought it was very cool how they managed to mix April O’Neil into the turtles past. That was a golden move, now she’s not just a curious reporter; she was actually involved in the birth of the turtles and in their ultimate salvation. In the old ones she was just this nosy reporter who befriended the turtles. So that was cool. There’s these flashback sequences that were extremely similar to the flash black sequence in the 90’s film, where we see just how the turtles grew into who they are now, we get to see how Splinter helps them grow and become ninjas, teaching them the ways of Kung Fu. Unfortunately the whole plot about the big bad corporation trying to contaminate the city with a contagious toxin, just so they could sell them the antivirus and make gazillions felt old hat and warn; all too similar to the plot for The Amazing Spiderman (2012). Actually it’s almost exactly the same exact plot device! Even the whole ending of the film takes place on a rooftop trying to stop the virus from spreading, just like in The Amazing Spiderman (2012), hell,  on both films everything ends with a huge antenna falling down towards an unsuspecting crowd of New Yorkers! So don’t expect much in the way of originality because if you’ve seen the Amazing Spiderman, then you’ll feel like déjà vu with this new Turtles film in terms of story.

But overall, it’s an entertaining film. It’s got action, it’s got comedy, Splinter is a bit more kick ass and stern then the mellow guru one from the other films. Shredder is this giant cyber samurai…but I felt they didn’t flesh out splinter enough. Again we fall into the classic modern filmmaking technique of not giving us a memorable villain. Sure he looks cool with all those blades and the shiny metal suit, but where’s the fire? Where’s the insanity? Nowhere to be seen, instead, Shredder feels more like a tool on this one, again, like in so many modern films (like for example the new Robocop) they take away the mad villain and replace him with a villainous corporate suit; which is so blah, so less fun. So, final words this is a satisfying Turtles film, I just wished more of it had actually been filmed. I prefer the puppet wizardry from the originals; I’m old school that way I guess. Still, it’s not a bad turtles movie, it entertains and it has exciting action sequences. It just needed a few things: the real foot clan ninjas, Casey Jones and some tangibility to it. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Rating: 3 out of 5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) Rating: 4 out of 5

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lucy (2014)

Title: Lucy (2014)

Director: Luc Besson

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

They are calling Lucy a “Stoner Film” and I would have to agree, the film does have an emphasis on abstract visuals, sometimes goint into what I like to call “trippy territory”, or what a more eloquent reviewer would call “surrealism”, these are dream like sequences in the film that don’t necessarily adhere to logic or reason. Luc Besson, the French director/producer/writer behind Lucy has always been a very eclectic type of director, and one of my favorites. He’s made all kinds of films throughout his career, for example, just recently he directed Robert Deniro and Michelle Pfiffer in The Family (2013). He’s also done dramatic films like Leon: TheProfessional (1994), which I still think is one of his best. The one film in Besson’s repertoire that made me think he was the right director for a film like Lucy was The Fifth Element (1997) primarily because The Fifth Element is such an effects driven film, and Lucy is most certainly an effect heavy film. The previews for Lucy got me excited because I love it when Besson does sci-fi, he always strives to show us something we’ve never seen before. He takes his imagination to new frontiers in his films, and I love that sense of escapism he infuses in some of them. So did Besson ‘wow’ us once again like he’s done with his previous films? 

Lucy is all about a woman who is suddenly thrust into a world of drug trafficking, a world she knows nothing about. Yet as fate would have it she ends up as a courier, transporting an extremely powerful experimental drug that makes your brain function at 100% capacity. Problem is that the packet she’s carrying burst open inside of her body! Almost immediately the drug gets into her blood stream and it isn’t long before Lucy begins to experiment what it means to have your brain functioning at full capacity. She soon starts learning everything that the mind can achieve when it is in full power! She starts developing these amazing abilities that she didn’t know she had!

So this film has many good things going for it, first off, it’s all about the visuals, Lucy acquires amazing powers and starts using them, with each passing moment she becomes more and more powerful, which offers us these awesome moments where she displays her new abilities. That’s where the strength of the film is at, in the visuals. Lucy acquires amazing powers like telepathy and telekinesis! Also, in Lucy we go back in humanities history, we analyze humanity, where we began, what we’ve evolved into, why have we done what we’ve done with the planet and all that, which was cool, and of course, all these themes lend themselves for awesome effects that brought to mind scenes from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), actually in more ways than one. Sure, there’s the surreal element, but also because it has to do with collecting all of humanities knowledge in one super computer, which immediately brought to mind the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is also a super computer. Lucy’s plot about the experimental drug that enhances your brain brought to mind Limitless (2011) because both films play with the same idea, the only difference is that Lucy goes a bit further with the idea by entering into the realm of time travel and telekinesis.

The only real let down for me with this movie is that since it comes from Luc Besson, the director of The Fifth Element (1999), well, I was expecting something as epic and huge as The Fifth Element, but in reality, Lucy is actually a ‘small film’ with big ideas. As it is, I was expecting for the film to end with a bang, instead it ends with a whimper, and a promise of future films. It has that kind of open ending that leaves you with a huge question mark in your head. But overall, I had a blast with it, it just needed something extra to make it truly awesome. The ending leaves you wondering what’s next? Kind of like the ending for Highlander (1984) where you are left wondering what the main character is going to do with his new found powers and knowledge. What I’m saying a Besson fan might leave the theater feeling underwhelemed, but overall, Lucy’s an action packed film, with car chases, shoot outs, telekinesis, surreal imagery and thought provoking themes. Plus we have the ever beautiful Scarlett Johansson, who continues to amaze with her beauty and as a performer. I’m hoping they do make a sequel, I’d love to see where else they can go from here because I was left wanting more, which I’m sure was the filmmakers purpose from the get go.

Rating: 4 out of 5      



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